Racial Abuse

OBESE MALE WALKING-SILHOUETTE    I was reading an online about racial abuse on a Manchester tram. A youth suddenly started yelling abuse at a man who was minding his own business. He was in his thirties, dark skinned with glasses and hair in a pony tail. A regular looking guy, I say. The tram seemed to be full as some like him had to stand as there were no seats left.
At first the man ignored the abuse, but that’s very hard when the insults get personal. It was a typical ‘get back to way you came from’, which I always found ignorant and a strange thing to say as most people, and their parents were born here anyway.
Eventually the man did shout back saying something about the youth’s age, as they actually had the cheek to tell him to get off the tram.
People around stayed tight-lipped and silent, but looked uncomfortable. The abuser and his friends moved closer, faces a mask of hate, fingers pointing as they yelled at him. It was shocking to watch. Luckily it was the abusers who got off the tram in the end and people found their voices, many admitting how frightened they had been.
How can people possibly misunderstand what this ‘Brexit’ is all about? How can they presume things of other people and foster hate like that? Personally I think they court trouble. They like drawing attention to themselves and other people. They unfortunately enjoy the drama and violence of it. I’ve no idea what we can do about things like that. Is it possible to educated people who can’t seem to be reached?
I remember a few years ago I was sitting at some traffic when a white van came up beside me. My radio was on and windows were closed as I heard someone shouting. I looked over and the guy in the van seemed to be yelling out of his window. I couldn’t make out what he was saying so I turned down the radio and listened.
Although I still couldn’t make it out, but the tone of his voice was aggressive. I then looked to see what he was actually shouting at and realised it was a Pakistani man walking across the road. I so shocked; what could I do? Sound my horn? Shout back?  Oi! Big nose, and see how he liked it. He then drove off laughing.
It made me think to when I was a child in the late sixties and seventies. I remember there was quite a lot racial abuse about at one point. The strangest thing was that it was accepted then. I now ask myself why I didn’t question it then when I saw it going on around me. I suppose we didn’t have the voice then, and we certainly didn’t have the online media like today.
There were many things back in those days that were blatantly wrong, but weren’t questioned because it was the accepted thing. Sexual harassment at work was a big one. It was usually men making demeaning comments to women who were discriminated against just because they were women. They weren’t allowed to do the same jobs or things as men because they weren’t capable.
I do recall being made a laughing stock in the seventies. I didn’t know what I wanted to do when I left school. I wanted something different than just office or shop work, which was the expected career of girls then. I went to the RAF recruitment office and told them I would like to join up, but what I really wanted to do was become a pilot. I can still see the look on the recruiter’s face as he said there were no women pilots; it was a job for a man. I came out feeling silly, but at the same time wondering why couldn’t I? Why is it a job for a man? My dad, when he found out, thought it was hilarious and told all his friends. My mum just shook her head in disbelief. Almost like, didn’t I know my place? My brother just thought I was an idiot.
I’m glad to say that all that has changed now. Women are equal to men and there is no (or no much) discrimination going on because of sex these days. I believe that the Sex Discrimination act which was brought in 1975 was part of the legalisation ruling by the European Court of Justice. The same people we have just spilt from.
It is a shame the same can’t be said for racial decimation, too. Sometimes we seem to be going back in time just when I thought we had learnt from the past. It’s sad and just as shocking and I just hope going forward we can find harmony.

 

 

 

 

 

A Good Cause

“Ow!” shouted Drew, “That’s my kidney!”
Fiona climbed out of bed, “Come on, it’s time to get up.”
Drew groaned as he remembered. “It’s today, isn’t it?”
“Yes, my darling, it is. So up you get. And before you complain, think of Susie.”
“I know, I know,” he grumbled, throwing back the bed sheets.

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The Village hall was set up for Fiona’s Beauty Box and her technicians Michelle and Fran. Three loungers placed together as Drew looked up to see a glum faced Kev and Steve arrive.
Kev shook his head dismally and Michelle saw him. “For Susie, remember?” She glanced towards the banner. “WAX FOR SUSIE.”
Steve pulled coins from his pocket and Fran laughed. “Don’t say it again. Whatever you’ve got in your pocket won’t save you now.”
“Put it in the bucket,” suggested Fiona grinning. “Especially as it’s annoying you so much.”

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People filed in, dropping their £1 entry charge into bucket by the door.
Ten years old Timmy came in with his mum.
“It’s going to hurt,” he said, “I can’t wait!”
His mum smiled, “As your dad said, it’s a bit of magic.”

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The clock clicked over to the designated hour and the three white faced men sat on their allotted loungers with their trouser legs rolled up to their knees.
Timmy was giggling. They looked so funny. He remembered his mum saying something about a baby’s bum as she tried to get his dad to kiss her leg. Ugh!
Fiona, Fran and Michelle each put cream down the shins of their green-faced partners.
“I think I’m going to be sick,” said Kev.
“Think of Susie,” said Steve, through gritted teeth.
“Aye,” said Drew as he shut his eyes and grimaced.
“Ready girls?” asked Fiona looking at the others.
“Ready” they each said, just as Kev quipped, “Not ready.”
Their screams could be heard as far down as the post office.

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Afterwards a beaming Fiona thanked everyone for coming. “Waxing is now open for anyone to help Fran’s daughter in her quest to find something that we all take for granted. Our health.”
She looked over at the men and thanked them. “You’re a star, Drew, for taking part.”
Timmy looked at his mum. “She said star fruit.”
“You’re making up stories again, young man.”
Timmy couldn’t wait to tell his friends about a new initiation test for their gang. And she did say star fruit.

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Written by Karen J Mossman, originally for a competition where the flash fiction had to contain the words Kidney, Wax and Star fruit.

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The Sweetness of the Seventies

 

Screen Shot 2016-06-18 at 17.53.48In 1973, I was  a teenager and the most important things in my life were music and fashion. I lived in Withington in Manchester with my parents family.

A few of us, including my brother, John, would catch a bus through to Chorlton and then walk over to the Stretford border to an under 16s discothèque. We queued outside excitedly. There was always someone who didn’t know about the neon lighting. It showed up anything white – mostly bras, which always made us giggle.

We headed for the spiral staircase where we could watch the dance floor below. Gary Glitter was at the height of his popularity and we danced to Do You Wanna Be In My Gang and I Love You, Love.

The D.J. was Andy Peebles, who went on to find fame with Radio One. I recalled him turning up one night with his face all scarred and rumours circulated how he’d got into a fight outside.

We walked home through a roundabout, which as full of trees and bushes. Not the sort of place to walk in at night, but we were young and fearless. We didn’t care about the reputation of the area.

The roundabout was the Quandrant and the disco these days is now a B & Q Stores, although I have heard it has recently closed down. Little did I guess some 40 years later I would be living nearby.

The 70s were known for its clothes and everybody loved dressing up. We were no exception with our Penny Round collars, tank tops and flared trousers. We thought we were cool with our feather cuts and bomber jackets.

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My brother and I

Platform shoes were the height of fashion and the place to buy them from was Dolcis. I used to go to a shop in Market Street, where it was considered cool to buy from. Only your mother ever wore shoes without a platform. The trendiest ones I had were made from brown fabric with a platform that resembled a brick.

Boys bought their clothes from Stolen from Ivor and the girls from Chelsea Girl. It did your image good to be seen carrying one of their carrier bags.

One day I went into Chelsea Girl and couldn’t find my size. Timidly, I asked the assistant: ‘Excuse me, but I can’t find anything in 28 waist.’

She gave me a look I remember to this day. ‘We don’t do that big. 26 is the largest.’ I was mortified and snuck out of the shop feeling like an elephant.

John and I, along the neighbourhood kids, played in Ladybarn Park, across the road from where we lived. It had a Lover’s Lane with a roundabout that made a terrific cycle track and I’d even seen kids going round with the g0-karts too. There was an abundance of bushes and trees round the sides which made great hiding places. We’d play British Bulldog and Kick the Can and later smoked behind trees where nobody could see us. I think the odd snogging session used to go on there as well!

Screen Shot 2016-06-18 at 19.05.42At thirteen my friend Julie and I bought our first packet of cigarettes – 5 Park Drive. We found an old tree with a hole to store them in so our parents didn’t find out. Afterwards we’d rub our hands with grass to take away the smell.

Bruce Lee made his first film, Enter The Dragon and David Carradine was starring in the cult TV series Kung Fu. Everybody wanted to learn how to fight.

I fell in love for the first time in the autumn of ’73. His name was Ray, he worked with Steve, John’s friend, and he rode a motorbike. I couldn’t eat or sleep and just lived for seeing him; life was wonderful.

Steve and his mate Karl were impressed with Ray’s Honda 125. They both saved and bought one each. This meant they could travel anywhere and they and met two girls.

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Tracy and Sue came back to Withington on the bikes with them. It didn’t matter that it was illegal to carry pillion passengers until they had passed their test.

Julie and I were in awe of the girls. They were cool and trendy, Tracy particularly. She had her a dark fringe with bleached blonde and heavy black eye liner. She also had a tattoo on her arm. She was different to the type of girls we normally hung round with. She and Sue always wore the latest fashion of midi skirts with short waisted cardigans.

Tracy and I had didn’t have much in common. She was tough in the way she acted and dressed, but when I got to know her I realised she was just like me underneath her hard exterior.

‘What do you think of my shoes?’ she asked one day as we were sitting on the wall outside my house. ‘I’ve sprayed them silver.’

I was impressed.’Wow, that’s cool. My mum’d never allow me to do that.’

‘I needed a new pair,’ she said, shrugging as if it was an everyday thing to spray your shoes. They had a big thick heel and a small platform.

My first job after leaving school as an office junior in offices above Rodgers the Florist in Chorlton. Tracy, Steve and Ray came up to see me in my lunch hour. The lads went to the barbers next door and as they had their hair full of lather, we girls laughed at them. Things like that were funny then

Carl Douglas entered the charts with Kung Fu Fighting and we were all in the grips of KunScreen Shot 2016-06-18 at 18.08.45.pngg Fu Mania. Tracy loved The Jackson Five, and I would watch her dance to them. She looked really good; I wanted to be more like her.

Karl was still seeing Sue, but was two-timing her with my friend Julie. She knew about Sue, but Sue didn’t know about her. So it was complicated. After a while he finished it, to stick with Julie, and we never saw Sue again.

Things between Steve and Tracy were not going well either. Tracy worshipped him, and couldn’t bear to be away from him. I felt sorry for her because I knew Steve didn’t feel the same.

‘She’s getting to be a nuisance,’ he told me. ‘How do I get rid of her? I get home from work and she’s sitting on the doorstep. She won’t take the hint.’

‘You have to just tell her,’ I said, knowing that it would break Tracy’s heart if he finished it.

One day I came home to find the police talking to Mum. The police never visited us. She looked worried. ‘Here’s Karen now. Come and sit down,’ she told me. ‘These policemen want to talk to you.’

I was shocked, this was a bit unreal.

‘When was the last time you saw Steve?’ one of them asked.

‘Last night,’ I said puzzled. Steve was a bit of a wide boy, but he’d never been in trouble with the police. ‘He was here, we were playing cards with me and John.’

‘What time did he leave?’ they asked.

‘About 11.30. Why? What’s wrong?’

‘Can I tell her?’ mum asked. They nodded and mum said gently, ‘Karen, Tracy’s dead.’

My first thought was that Steve had finished it and she had killed herself, but they soon put me straight.

‘She was murdered,’ said the detective. ‘She was found this morning in a school playground.’

I was stunned. Not Tracy.

‘You don’t think Steve…’ the thought was preposterous.

‘He’s gone missing,’ they said. ‘We know he was going out with her.’

‘He was trying to finish it,’ I blurted, ‘She didn’t want to. If you think, Steve…’ I laughed, although it was the last thing I felt like doing. ‘He would never do that. Besides he was here till late,’ I repeated.

It was Friday 13th September 1973. Shock waves ran through us all. While the police were with me, Steve and Karl were at the scene talking to detectives there. They were quickly eliminated from their enquires.

We bought every newspaper that carried the story and went to Karl’s house to read them. The lads, Steve, Karl, Ray and John, were going through every possibility. Who could have done it and why?

Murder was unusual in those days and it made the headlines in the evening paper. Apart from her photograph, there was a picture of the scene, and a single silver sprayed shoe.

The killer was apprehended fairly quickly. Someone she knew who had followed her from the chip shop. Afterwards he had tried to kill himself. We didn’t know if he would pull through and he lay in a coma for days. He did, and was soon convicted with a jail term. Steve said when he eventually comes out, Tracy’s family would be waiting for him.

Kung Fu Fighting by Karl Douglas, reached number one, Tracy would have been so pleased.

Not long afterwards, my parents put the house on the market. We sold up and moved to another area. John and I lost touch with all our friends.

Life moved on, I married, John married, and Steve, I heard, was still living in the area with his wife and family. Karl married my friend Julie and had two boys.

No one ever spoke of Tracy again but once in a while Kung Fu Fighting would come on the radio and I would be transported back. She should be out there somewhere too, smiling as I do whenever someone mentions the Seventies.