Johnny was the kind of guy who'd get you in a headlock then playfully twist and grind his knuckles deep down into the top of your head so that it hurt like hell. Or, he'd put his palms against your ears, push in until your world went silent, then lift you six inches off the ground. At lunchtime he'd twist your arm far up behind your back and walk you around the playground like one of those machines which paint the white lines on a football pitch. And on the school coach, as you sat quietly looking out the window, he'd suddenly elbow you in the thigh, screaming “Dead Leg Time!” laughing, knowing he'd rendered you lame for five minutes. On Saturday mornings he'd knock on your door and greet you with a headbutt that'd burst your nose open. He'd invite himself in, throwing darts at your bare feet while chanting “Dance! Dance! Dance!” Out in the street a pair of strung together boxing gloves would land your way and before you'd even had chance to untie them he'd be about you, a flurry of punches busting your face up good; Johnny dancing around with his arms raised, singing “Champ! Champ! Champ!” In the school yard he'd lead you over to a group of girls, promising you a share of the spoils, then the moment you made your presence known he'd suddenly knee you in the bollocks, laughing as you went to ground. Through watery pain seared eyes you'd watch him walking off with all three girls – an ugly deformed kind of a boy, skinhead, big ears, bleached Levi jeans, brown Bomber jacket and white bouncy sports trainers. From behind you'd fantasize about clumping him around the head with a solid lump of wood, but never did dare due to an irrational fear that he'd only get crazier still. In the front yard, summer time, sitting on granite coloured bins, he'd talk about becoming blood brothers and when you agreed he'd pull his pen-knife across your upper arm and an ugly weeping mouth would open in your skin. He didn't want to be blood brothers; he just wanted a valid reason to stab you. What a boy Johnny was, and what a CV he had:
Johhny Merryfield. Born 1974, Bellshill, Scotland
1983 : Moved to London
1984-85 : Sherbrooke School (Best fighter)
1986-88 : Henry Compton School (Best lower year Fighter)
1988-89 : Elliot School (2nd best Fighter)
1990 : Expelled for pulling a knife on PE teacher.
Became a Chelsea Headhunter
Multiple petty arrests (violent conduct; vandalism, etc)
1991-93 : Hardcore Football Hooligan
1993 : Known Heavy Criminal.
1994 : Knightsbridge Crown Court - GBH. Guilty
1994-96 : Wandsworth prison
1996-98 : Crack addict
1998 : Arrested and charged with murder
1998 : Knightsbridge Crown Court – Murder – Case thrown out,
-2002 : Multiple arrests (theft; robbery; handling stolen goods;
benefit fraud, etc)
Heroin & Crack addict
Oh how I hated Johnny Merryfield. How relieved I was when my own family imploded and split up and we finally moved away. Over the years catching sight of him from a distance every now and again – bouncing down Edgware Road with a black eye and stitches in his cheek; leaving a bar in Chelsea with an unconscious girl strewn over his shoulder; running out of Dixons with a laptop under his arm and tattoos up his neck; looking at knives in the window of the Army Surplus store; getting on the No.11 bus with a bandaged right hand; gripping someone up by the neck and screaming on Goldhawk Road. Then fifteen years after having moved away, of hearing his antics filter through via old friends and newsaper clippings, there I am scoring heroin with him in Donnelly Court. No teeth. Face full of scars. Thin as bones. Broken nose. Walking cane. Shaking hands. Begging and crying for me to lend him two quid so as he could get a rock of white as well. Johnny Merryfield – The bully bullied by life. Scary-no-more. Lifted six inches off the ground by crack cocaine; arm twisted tight behind his back by heroin; brought to his knees, and if I'd have taken out my cock and said “Suck that, Champ! Dance! Dance!.” he would have done it. I gave Johnny five pounds and he seemed confused. It was more than he needed and I owed him nothing, Johnny scored and then quickly hobbled away. I watched him leave. He wore the same bleached denim trousers, only now dirty, out of fashion and an inch too short. His trainers were almost the same, only now a cheap unnamed market version with the back sole flapping off.
“Take care Johnny!” I called as he hobbled away. “And watch out for those Compton boys!”. Johnny didn't look back, just held a clenched hand in the air, like the old communist workers raised fist of solidarity. Not that Johnny was a communist or gave a fuck about things like solidarity, his fist was clenched because it held his rocks, I know, I was clutching mine in exactly the same way. I raised my clenched fist too. “So long, Brother,” it meant, “I'm glad you are as you are.” And I never saw nor heard of Johnny again.
A full Memoirs post will follow shortly...
Thoughts as Ever, Shane. X