This passage is from Roger Mills 1978 Centerprise book A Comprehensive Education. It covers 1965 to 1975 and his time at Effingham Road School, which he left in 1971. He was part of Hackney Writers’ Workshop and Basement Writers in Stepney.
Almost overnight it seemed teenagers everywhere were going bald. Kids who for the past three years had been chastized for their long flowing locks were turning up to school with their hair so closely cropped that you could see their skulls. They were chatized for this as well.
They had a completely new style of clothes too. Heavy brown boots, sometimes steel toed, sta-press trousers and Jeans with turn ups. Their shirts were button-collared Ben Shermans with braces, regulation red, and maybe a Cromby jacket. It was an ugly fashion, the perfect camouflage for the brick streets they lived in. It was a style so frighteningly close to army uniform that it made you wonder if the people were right who said all kids really wanted was a spell in the army.
The skinheads were attacking on all fronts.
Breaktime. Friday. Under the stairs.
The dirt stained coffee machine rumbled, belched and threw out a splash of coffee. had the cup been released from it’s hatch it would have been Keyhole Kate’s. ‘Blow this,’ said Kate under his breath but undaunted tried again and was rewarded wth a cup of black coffee, half full.
A mob of skinheads had been watching the performance and clapped politely. ‘Thank Gawd for that,’ said their leader. ‘I bin getting awful thirsty over ‘ere.’ All the boys leaned away and walked sowly up to Kate.
‘Be a good kid and give us yer drink will yer?’ he said. ‘I’m gasping.’
‘Why shoud I?’ said Kate. ‘I paid for it, didn’t I?’
”Cause I wan’ it, that’s why you should give it to me. The other reason being that if you don’t I shall punch your ‘ead in.’
Another boy in the group moved impatiently about on his feet. ‘Come on Dave, don’t let’s stay ‘ere, you dunno who’ll come down the stairs.’
‘Shut up Rick,’ said the leader. ‘I’ll give you some bovver an’ all if you don’t.’ He did not look away from Kate’s face, just kept ‘screwing’ him.
Keyhole Kate, braver than he had a right to be, raised the cup to his lips and took a sip. Th skinhead’s face erupted, teeth bared, cheeks bloated like a toad and forehead coming down like a landslide. A fist was held up to Kate’s face and almost immediately turned into a solid index finger. Very slowly he pointed the plump finger at his own head. It was a moon shaped object wth a fat piggy face behind it. His rusty hair was barely visible, like lonely tufts of grass on a muddy football pitch
‘You see this?’ he said grabbing Kate’s shirt with the other hand, ‘you see this, it means something y’know. It means somehting.’
There was a real anger in the skinhead. Real violence. It was all so logical, the Long Arm Law. This boy was a skinhead, skinheads are tough and therefore Kate must surrender hs cup. Kate, shaking now, handed it over and the skinhead drunk it down in one before he let go of Kate.
”Ere come on. Leave ‘im alone Dave. He is in a year above us after all. Let’s go for a smoke behind the bikesheds.’ The boys half pulled, half followed the affronted skinhead to the bikesheds.
Kate wiped the sweat from his forehead and adjusted his shirt front. Surely the most patient of them all, he decided on just one more try at getting a cup of coffee. A coin appeared in his hand and he fed it into the machine. The machine gulped, laughed, mumbled and once again threw the cupless coffee into its full swill dish.
sweet, and sticky.
Three floors up
no nearer to G-d
closer to heaven.
The off season,
long discomix days
Looking out the
at a rusting
It was going nowhere,
neither were we.
but a black t-shirt,
Across her chest
bold in a circle:
Who killed Liddle
Schoolboy skinhead poet Peter Kett is still writing aggro verse in 1971, from Stepney Words II.
Jack The Ripper
I lurk in the doorways of Whitechapel
In the mists
And the narrow roads
With my knife that is as sharp
As knife through butter.
I hide in the doorways
And slit the whores’ throats
Without them making a sound,
And the police are fools
They do not know that I am one of them,
But who would look for a killer
Dressed in the Policeman’s uniform?
Only me …
For I am Jack The Ripper.
Once her bedsit curtains are pulled
she unbuttons her shirt with study.
Carefully and precisely it’s placed
on the back of a chair. The knickers
receive attention, but less.
Her tongue wraps itself around mine.
I am left crumpled, thrown, and a mess.