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- Louis P. Burns aka Lugh
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by Louis P. Burns aka Lugh © 2000. All rights reserved.
One cold March night about 14 years ago, I was stuck with Albert Grey, an East End loud mouth in his early 40’s, about 5’9” with greasy skin, halitosis, yellow teeth and matted hair. His uniform was untidy and he smelled of pee. It was awful. We were in the brakes wagon near the rear of the Glasgow/London Inter-city sleeper train, Southbound. It was dark, very dark. The main light in the carriage came from a low burning coal stove but there was also a faint glimmer from corridor bulbs that swung as the train hurtled at 110 miles an hour from Glasgow to Carlisle.
My grandmother was terribly sick that month. Sue asked if I could take an electric blanket she had bought her, up to Clydebank on the Westside of Glasgow. I had a free travel pass issued to all railway employees. To be honest it was great getting out of London. The only downside was travelling up to Glasgow and back with Dirty Albert. In his eyes, there was experience and knowledge that spoke volumes as his voice jabbed with righteousness, sounding out the sickness that he was. He was a man who knew about sexual deviancy. He openly flaunted the fact that he was into underage and violent sex. He told me he could get me any amount of ‘snuff’ videos, where the violence was real, if I was prepared to pay the going rate. He also knew a thing or two about manipulating people and said the supervisors let him have these shifts in return for video favours.
This wasn't the first time I had been in his company. He was also assigned to Stratford Railway Depot, London E15, where I worked as a trackman and he was a cleaner. Everyone in the yard had a story to tell about him. It was rumoured; he raped a woman on the Broadway outside Sparrow’s Wine Bar. He was caught masturbating in the toilets at the shopping mall down in Becton. Then there was the story about his stepson taking him to court for sexual abuse. Something about the boy getting a venereal disease. Nobody ever heard the full story.
He did the overtime shifts as a ticket inspector on long haul journeys as a means of cutting his working week down to a minimum. He knew he wasn't liked, and wanted to spend as little time as possible with anyone who knew him.
I hated this man, really hated him. He was a bigot and very casual with his hatred towards the Irish, the Blacks, Jews, Asians and Gays. If you were not from the East End of London, then you were a threat to him, and his anger at outsiders was how he opened every conversation.
“Fuckin Coons, Lou! My life, what’s the world comin' to, eh? Fuckin taking over. Black Cunts”!
In those days, I would have gladly killed a man like Albert but for the fact that death was not my business. As he waffled on about what he would love to do to the gays, I fantasised about what it would be like to kick him out of the carriage. Out, onto the damp ballast shoulders that ran along the sides of the track. I wondered what sound his body would make as it hit the stones then rolled down the steep embankment, or got sucked under the wheels in the vacuum created by the sheer speed of the train.
I could smell his breath as it leaked from his mouth projected by a breeze of hate. Every word he barked smelled like fresh shite.
“You’se Fuckin Irish! Always blowin each uvver up! Fuck's all that about, Lou?
I didn’t reply. If I could have screamed into his face that I had explosives or a gun, I would have taken him on a journey into the snuff trade, where he played the leading role.
All I wanted was to be in bed with Sue. To be safe, warm and loved. To be far from this shadow of a man, whose evilness, infiltrated my head, the longer I stayed in his company. But, rules were rules, and I had to travel in this carriage because the seated cabins were meant for the public.
I went to the snack bar and got a coffee. It was a good way of keeping a distance from him. As I walked towards the middle of the train, I remembered an incident involving Albert that was directly connected to me. It happened on the day after two soldiers were pulled from a car in Belfast and killed.
I was in the depot eating a bacon sandwich. I got on well with most of my work mates but that day nobody spoke to me or Big Rab, a Protestant, from Lisburn. They hated us. Albert walked out from the crowd huddled in the front porch and spat a green gob at me, which landed on my donkey jacket and stuck to my lapel. Everyone laughed. Later, when we were trackside, Jimmy Tomkins, the ganger for No.5 relay unit punched me off their truck down at London Fields near Hackney Downs. He then leapt from the lorry and kicked 7 bells of crap out of me yelling
“Murdering Irish bastards”!
Had it not been for the O’Brien Brothers, who were second generation Irish, I believe I would have been killed.
Cathy the girl, who worked behind the counter on the snack wagon, was also Irish. She had a Cork accent. She smiled when she saw me. She was small, slightly plump but pretty with red hair, blue eyes and high cheekbones. Her uniform was clean and she was well turned out. In her eyes, all I saw was her tiredness. She told me this was her third overnight shift that week. Then she nervously joked about me being stuck, with Dirty Albert, the pervert. Then she got serious and said he scared her every time he was on her shift.
I listened to her talk about how one night he followed her down the whole length of the train as she delivered food to weary travellers. She told me how he grabbed her one night and when she reacted back, he joked with the passengers and said that her bum fell into his hand. On another night, he kept licking his lips and sticking his tongue out as though mimicking oral sex. The girl was frightened. She had only been in England 10 months and was not used to treatment like this.
I made my way back to the brakes wagon and decided that I was going to confront him. I remember being so angry that I crushed the paper cup of coffee and scalded my hand. In those days, I was well built. I had equal amounts of anger and strength running through me. I could have ripped him to shreds and mangled his body if I really unleashed my fury. As I approached the carriage, my heart was banging in my chest. I was sweating and looking for a weapon to bludgeon him. In my mind, I planned what I was going to say.
‘Treat an Irish woman like that ya bastard! C’mere tae I kick your Fuckin’ bollocks in ya hoor ye! I'll fuckin murder ye! English bastard’!
When I got to him, he was seated in front of the stove, asleep. All my rage left me at the moment I needed it most. For the rest of the journey, I never once took my eyes off him. I sat at the other end of the carriage, in a stone cold silence, with my inner whispers yapping at me. These voices only faded as we came into Milton Keynes and
the early light of an English morning that cut through yellow, smoke stained windows.
As the train rolled into Euston Station, he wakened, stretched and farted. He put his
mug into an old shopping bag then he looked and caught me staring at him.
“Wot?” He said.
My response was to hang my head and say “Ah nothing. Nothing at all”...
Albert fell from a train and broke both his legs one night on a return journey from
Southend On Sea. He had a heart attack and died on Stratford Broadway in September
91, but that’s another story.
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