Menk, by John Doran

My Future Ain't What It Used To Be

A semi-naked man's guide to dealing with estate toughs.
20 July 2018, 8:45am

My name is John Doran and I write about music. The young bucks who run VICE’s website thought it would be amusing to employ a 40-year-old man who is so unfit he can’t walk to the end of his road without compromising the aridity of his T-shirt.

In case you were wondering or simply too lazy to use urban dictionary, ‘menk’ is Scouse/Woollyback slang for a mentally ill or educationally subnormal person, and is a shortened version of mental. As in, “Your Sergio Tacchini trackie is sick la, look at that menk Doran, he can’t even afford a Walker trackie. Let’s hit him with a brick and push him in the canal.”


And so it begins. Estate toughs, all less than half my age, are playing what appears to be Rollerball in the alleyway directly outside my front door. They have sensed that I have a family and now they are conspiring to make me a short but depressing story on page nine of the Hackney Gazette. The group, who are a heart-warming mix of genders, ages, races and IQ levels, are bound together by a difficult to follow game involving a football and the meagre collection of flowers by my front door. One of them places a casey in a plant pot by my door, then goes to kick it really hard at one of his mates, but misses and kicks the head off one of my roses.

All of the players – literally all of them – are holding their phones to their right ears, each listening to individual MP3s while keeping their left arms outstretched for balance. When the player gets a hit on the ball, it flies into the head of one of the other players; who then howls in agony while their mobile continues to hiss out a tinny rendition of "Gucci Gucci" and lots of other songs that I don’t recognise.

I run through several scenarios in my head, while peering through the nets at them. Most of the scenarios involve me getting stabbed, and the others involve me going to jail and then getting stabbed. Due to the heat in the flat, I’m dressed only in workmen’s boots and Sesame Street Y-fronts. I could genuinely walk out there dressed like this, carrying a tyre iron and shouting. They would almost certainly run off due to the unexpected nature of it. Then I imagine Maria identifying my body and saying: “Yeah, that’s the bell-end.”

I need to rethink this.

After a few minutes, I realise that the game looks pretty exciting, really, and that my flowers were all dead bar the rose bush, what with them being in an alleyway and all. I move closer to the window and watch the game. One of them takes the full impact of the leather football in the face from a distance of less than six foot. He staggers round in a circle moaning to himself and wobbling like he’s about to fall over. Awesome!

I’ve recently finished reading Simon Reynolds’ excellent Retromania and I’m reminded of something he said about the positive nature of having fuck all to do – a nostalgia for a “sensation of tedium so intense it was almost spiritual”. These kids are so bored out of their skulls that they have become innovators and originators. This is brilliant. They are geniuses. They should carry on destroying my shit unimpeded by me. I’ll just go into the other room and eat cake.

Besides, I know how it feels. I was so bored growing up in St Helens, I feel like stabbing myself in the face with a screwdriver just thinking about it. I remember my friend confessing to me one night while we were on mushrooms that boredom had led him to the most pivotal event of his childhood. He came home from school one day with a box full of red noses which he was supposed to be selling around town in the run up to the first ever Comic Relief. He put one of them on his nose. Then he put another on his tongue. Then he got some glue and decided to see how many he could attach to his head. He fitted nearly the entire box on his head and face, just with gaps where his eyes and mouth were.

He ran into his mum’s room to surprise her but she was on the bed with his dad, who had come back home early from work, where they were performing a baroque sex act. He then ran out of the house in tears, head still encased in red noses.

I start laughing. Then I realise I’m stood in the front room next to the window in Sesame Street briefs with my hands on my hips laughing like one of the fibreglass Brian Blessed lookalikes they have outside butchers shops in Yorkshire.

Three of the kids look in through the window. “OhMyGod, OhMyGod, OhMyGod”, says one of them. They all run off, never to return.

The next day when I walk out of the house (fully clothed) I pick up the football which was left in my plant pot overnight and belt it clean over the alley wall and watch it until it sails out of view. Then I walk to work whistling.

Follow John Doran on Twitter at @JahDuran

This column was the inspiration for John Doran's acclaimed memoir Jolly Lad, about the recovery from alcoholism, drug addiction and mental illness. A new expanded edition has just been published by Strange Attractor Press.

You can read all the previous editions of John's Menk column here.