You should know the deal by now – previous instalments here and here. However, I got to tell you: UK Independence Party leadership candidates are appalling at keeping their Wikipedia profile photos up to date. And even worse at uploading large-sized images to their Twitter bio to be crunched down. So you're going to have to give me a pass here on poor image quality. I'm sorry: blame, as ever, the UKIP.
STEVEN WOOLFE (NOT ACTUALLY RUNNING BECAUSE HE FUCKED HIS PAPERWORK, LOL)
Steven Woolfe, the tough-but-fair village copper who seems to have it in for you and your skater mates. "OI!" Steven Woolfe says, as you do kickflips off the fountain at the centre of town. "What did I tell you!" He does a trained forward roll to your position and grabs his walkie-talkie. "Alright, names." He writes all your names down in a notebook. "I'm letting you off with a warning this time, but don't do it again." The vibe is broken. You all disband and go home.
That summer is full of grey, warm nights, the kind where the sun never seems to set even though you never see it; the sky is light and full of clouds, and you walk home under it, in your shirt sleeves, thin rain sometimes pattering on your skin, you dragging your trainers down winding country roads. There's a sense that this is the last real summer you'll be free: your dad mentioned something about you getting a pot-washing job next year to pay for your driving lessons, and you know that when you go up to the sixth form in the next town over you'll be leaving a few of your skater mates behind, to apprenticeships, shop jobs, or Guy, the one nailed-on to spend the next three years trying to teach himself graphic design long-distance while living at his mum's house, getting Really Into 4Chan. Your body is skinny and wonky beneath a billowing Slipknot T-shirt. Thin moustache hairs pepper your top lip. You trundle the last few hundred yards home and tiptoe up to your room, laying in bed for four, five hours, before you finally get to sleep. Everything seems both important and not. Your body aches with the stress of being.
Next day, and you and the boys are practising grinds out by the old abandoned bridge. All you can hear is the sound of rushing water, the occasional plink of a stone into the pool by the end of the damn. You're trying to nail this trick but you can't get the balance right: Guy says your toes are in the wrong position, but he rides goofy, so it's impossible to tell whether his advice is worth taking. Up, a moment of air, down. You can't stick the landing. You clamber up the embankment and shuffle over to the edge of the crumbling bridge. They only made it a few years ago – at the base, large columns rise up out of impossibly smooth and clean yellow-grey concrete, the perfect surface to break bottles and set off fireworks and try to explode spray paint cans by hitting them with a really big burnt-at-the-end stick – but the middle sagged and crumbled before they even had a chance to open it, and the whole thing is condemned. People in the town call it a folly. You dangle your knees over the edge and sit back on the palms of your hands. A moment of peace. And then: "OI!"
The Woolfe has found you, out here by the bridge. He runs up to your mates and does a tactical slide to make up the last couple of metres. "Names," he says, standing up, brushing off the glass and the dust. You know our names, Guy says, but he takes them all down anyway. There are, like, three kids in this town. That's all of you. "Where's the other one, the fancy-looking one?" they all shrug as he looks around. You scuffle back from the edge and lie perfectly still on the remains of the bridge, heart thumping in your chest. Distant, below you: "Well, I'm warning you this time. But don't let me catch you at it again."
The next couple of weeks are busy: your mum takes you to Nottingham to buy some clothes, you have a weekend at an aunt's house for a big family birthday party, you go to a hurdling lesson your school organised for over the summer, but soon you find yourself back on your board, in among your mates again. Someone has scored a really thin, measly looking blob of hash – you're convinced it's just a stock cube or something – but you take a long draw on a joint of it anyway, feel your forehead and cheeks glow tingly as you watch wisps of smoke pool above your forehead and the white sun sets. And then you hear a clattering, and Steven Woolfe scythes through the long grass at you with his truncheon, roaring, "AH–HAH!"
It's drugs, so this time he has to book you. You're bundled into the back of a squad car and the air screams in your chest. What will your mum say if you're arrested? What about your dad? You squeak about on the backseat while he goes out and takes down the names of each of your friends, every possible worst case scenario running through your head. What if college finds out and you lose your place on the photography course? What if you never get a job? You heard about a cousin who got booked for pot once, a black sheep, lived up near Liverpool, and now he's in prison. What if you go to prison? You'll die in prison. You've heard about prison. You're too nice for prison. Woolfe clunks into the front seat. The engine whirrs into life. The squad car crunches on the gravel, out away from the grass, down the shale-covered back roads that lead to home. Back to the end of the world.
The air hangs somewhere between grey and blue now, the moment the evening turns into the night. Headlights on but no traffic. A smooth silence. The car pulls over to one side and the engine turns off. Steven Woolfe turns around in his seat, seatbelt stretched appallingly over him. You're nowhere near home. You're nowhere near life. You just realised you don't know where your skateboard is any more. Woolfe is speaking in a low tone. "I can tell you're a good kid," Steven Woolfe says. "A good, good kid." There's a pause. He puts one hand on your exposed knee. It crawls there for a second. "Yo—you're a good lad." Is he... crying? He motions his head down the road. "Don't... don't get in with them." He's definitely crying. "Don't throw your life away with them." You can feel his heart pumping through the thin paper skin of his palm. His fingers squeeze and claw at you, just for an instant. And then he turns back in his seat and drives you home in silence. Somehow, you know it: the truth envelopes you like a shawl, this is the one moment in your life up until now where everything makes sense. As though whispered to you, a sense of knowing in your head: Steven Woolfe will protect you. Steven Woolfe loves you.
Face of a man who is trying to get a refund on a paddling pool he bought last week at a car boot sale.
1980s-era Blue Peter presenter they no longer invite to the nostalgic cast meet-up episodes ever since Panorama caught her on camera saying, "Listen, I don't mind the flamers, but frankly I'd never want to touch one."
"Embarrassing Bodies superfan Jonathan Arnott, 35, is hoping to meet up with the Channel 4 wart and goitre roadshow once again this year – for a record SIXTH time.
"Jonathan, a University of Sheffield graduate, first appeared on the show in 2012, when Dr Pixie McKenna treated him for a large flap of back skin that had somehow got infected with something.
"He's since been seen by Dr Christian for an ingrown toenail, seen specialists hired by the popular production to look at inflamed hormone pockets in his face and neck, and had a strange stringy piece of flesh and hair removed from the dangly bit between his underwear and his thighs.
"'I'm hoping to see Dr Dawn this time,' mega-fan Jonathan says, with the roadshow expected in Sheffield on August 18th. 'I've not had her and I've heard she's nice – soft, gentle hands, I hope!'
"Jonathan – who refuses to go to actual doctors, during actual GP hours, instead having all of his major medical advice over the past four years delivered to him on pre-recorded TV – is hoping an irritating anal issue that has confounded NHS Direct can be solved by the actual doctors.
"'I reckon it's worms,' says Jonathan, who is single. 'Although it could be a film canister up there as well. Could be owt, really. I don't often look where I'm sitting.'
"'I just hope they get it out,' he continues, the tears softly rising in his face. 'I can't live like this any more. I can't.'"
— Sheffield Telegraph, Saturday August 6th 2018
Your mum's Avon lady is really mad at her. Your mum never really likes Avon, never really asked for it – the Avon lady, your mum's, shuffles round every Wednesday regardless, from where she lives, some mysterious location two or three streets over – and they make small talk at the back door. Your mum, on the stoop of the back door, fag in hand, leaning on the jamb, quietly placating the Avon lady.
"So this is the mascara," your mum's Avon lady, Lisa Duffy, is saying, scraping a thin clump of it across the back of her hand, "and as you can see that goes on smooth as silk." And your mum is going, "Mm-hmm, mm-hmm." Your tea – mash, sausages, gravy from a tin – is congealing on the side. The Avon Lady always comes at dinnertime. "No, I'm alright for mascara." The Avon Lady pauses. "What about foundation? We have a lovely range of true-to-skin foundation." And your mum, keen to shoo The Avon Lady away, keen to watch the Coronation Street she is missing, goes: "Okay." She goes: "I'll have that one, 003."
And The Avon Lady goes: "Well you can't have that yet."
And your mum goes: "What?"
And The Avon Lady says: "You have to fill out this complicated little Avon form, and then I will put the order in."
And your mum, who has already gone to the change jar you have on the side to get out £8 in 50 and 20p pieces, goes: "Oh for fu— no, fine, good."
And The Avon Lady smiles sweetly and says: "It'll be here in about four weeks."
And so the Avon nightmare begins. Wednesday night, little knock, hiya: The Avon Lady is here. "Just letting you know that I put the order in." The order has not come through. But it exists. Out there, in the ether. Avon has been instructed to make your mum prettier. "Alright, see you soon! Ta-ta!" A week later: "Still no foundation, but it's on it's way!" Your mum smiles in silence. "Have I showed you our line of glamour pens?" Another half hour. Your beans have gone cold. Your mum doesn't even wear make-up. Week three, and The Avon Lady is letting herself in now. "Ding-a-ling!" Lisa Duffy says, as you're both sat in the front room watching Catchphrase. "Just got some Avon for you here." Your mum sits upright. "The foundation?" "No," Lisa Duffy says. "Sadly not: they've discontinued that shade. Here's 006." Later, in the mirror, your mum tries the foundation. It's somewhere between purple and brown. "What do you think?" she says. You've never seen her so fragile. This is the woman who made you, raised you, pulled you up from the earth and shaped you into a person. She's the strongest woman you've ever known, will ever know; she's a lioness, she's a Greek God. Her face is brown and purple. "It's... I mean." She snaps and the moon collapses. "It's shit, isn't it? I look shit." Lisa Duffy has broken your mother. Here she is again. "Oh," Lisa Duffy says. "You're not wearing your make-up?" Your mum waves a hand through the air. "No, it— busy day." Duffy hands her a flyer. "We have Avon parties, we do," she says, brightly. "You should come." Your mum promises to look at it. Soon, the phone rings. "Lisa here!" it trills. "Avon Lisa: just wondering if your mum has had a chance to look at my pamphlet?" Your mum is doing a silent cut-your-throat gesture. "Is she there?" You don't know what to do. You can hear breathing. "Yes," you whisper, unaccustomed to lying. You pass the phone over. "Lisa," your mum says, "Hi." When she gets off the phone, 20 minutes later, she refuses to talk to you. That day a rift of trust forms between you that will never, ever heal.
Soon Lisa Duffy lives in your house. She's there on Saturday mornings, tinkling over tea, a spread of greasy lipstick samples fanned across the table. On Tuesday, she invites fellow Avon prisoners over to your mum's house for a party. Soon the sideboard creaks under the weight of contour kits. "But why do you have so much make-up?" you ask, at night, when you and your mum are alone. "I'm thinking we have to move," she says, suddenly, to the air. When the phone rings now, nobody answers it. When the door knocks – the door is always locked now – sometimes you both stand on the stairs and hold your breath. She is there for minutes, sometimes. Once she was there for 20 minutes. She calls through the gauzy window – "I'm just going to pop you a catalogue" – and walks slowly back out down the alleyway. Your mum stays later and work now, finds reasons to be out. She hates this friend she's made through politeness. Lisa Duffy keeps coming to your house at 10PM on Fridays, hauntingly made up and breathless, grabbing your mum by the arm and saying, "Save me, Lorna, I'm on a nightmare first date!" She's infiltrated your life like knotweed on an oak. You cannot escape. "Me and your mum are gal pals, aren't we?" she barks at you, when you climb downstairs to get a glass of water one night, and Lisa Duffy is there with a bottle of £4 rosé and a load of fags. "Love a giggle, we do!"
Soon your mum looks like her, and acts like her too. She streaks blue eyeliner above her lids for low-key Mondays at the office. One time you see her laughing at a pair of deely boppers. The bond she has been forced into has infected her. Lisa is over more and more, cackling in the kitchen, her menthol smoke filling the kitchen. And then one day she slides your mum another pamphlet, yellow and purple this time, like poison. "Have you heard about UKIP?" she says, as if selling an affordable and yet flattering lip kit. "Only, they feel the same about blacks as you and me." And you watch her say it but you can't quite believe the sound. You watch your mum say, "Tell me more."
Dad's new girlfriend hates his motorbikes and she hates you, too. You didn't even know he had a girlfriend until you went over there last month, and suddenly he had a tablecloth down, and some candles, and his guitars had all been moved upstairs. "Ah, yes," your dad remembers, "that'll be Elizabeth. She'll be over any minute, actually." Dad and Elizabeth (never Lizzy, never Liz) met at a sausage-and-karaoke singles night at the local pub and, three weeks later, she moved in. She has a small son she doesn't see very often because he lives with his dad. She likes order and precision. She hates your father and all his things. She's put your dad's Harleys on eBay. "But dad!" you say. He promised you those. Elizabeth snaps at you. "Those Harleys aren't worth anything sitting in the garage," she says. "Me and your father are going on holiday." She's furrowing her brow at the old laptop screen. "Sixteen hundred, it's up to, Terry. That'll buy me that massage day and all." But dad seems happy, at least, doesn't he? "I'm in hell, son," he whispers to you, as you tuck yourself in on the sofa (your room, the spare room, is now Elizabeth's dressing room – your old records were considered "clutter" and put in the shed, where they succumbed instantly to damp). He's standing alone in the kitchen, lights off, staring out into the garden, darkness enveloping him. All he can see is his own tired, sagging face reflected in the mirror of the kitchen window. "I'm in a hell I can't escape by dying." He walks up the stairs like a condemned man. You're up for three more hours, haunted by the sounds of his fucking.
More of these: