we start reading it, our recollections prime us. Frodo the Fox and his good-natured Gollum have crossed into Mordor. They trudge on in search of something. A ring? Not
perhaps metaphorically and metaphysically. A dazzle of realization; a platonic ideal; a circularity that resurrects the faded Nietzschean folly of eternal recurrence.
And the cinematic brush dapples the canvas itself. Right up front we are told to treat Cocky and his sidekick as actors. Champion doesn’t just copy Cocky’s battle blabber; he steals his “lines”. A little later, vulpine Hardy dresses down leporine Laurel: “Another fine mess, and so on.” And then we cut away to a combine harvester; we see it on the screen, or imagine we see it, symbolically separating wheat from chaff; it turns a corner and then the scene is done.
We were on to something and now that something is confirmed. “AND... SCENE!” barks a voice from the ethereal director’s
chair. We are not reading a novel; we are watching a film that has been rendered as a novel. Randall and Corvin swoop down and strut about on set like feathered Coens or Wachowskis. They started their career as actors too. Gary and Martin Kemp in raven drag as Krays. Keeping the Borough neat and tidy; swording spivs in snooker halls; drinking tea with Mum. They ran the show in front of camera but now they’ve stepped behind.
So we’re meant to see the Du Noirs as directors. But I bring my exegetic ragbag of experience to the text and I end up with a different view. The biopic of the brutal East End brothers that starred those Spandau Ballet ponces was produced by another beastly pair. Not brothers, these two. Old pals who grew up in pre-gentrified Islington. An Islington of beered-up terrace threats at Highbury. Of fathers, sons and grandsons gulping pints together in corner pubs. Of sharp tacks taking some gullible cunt for a ride. And our two producers were those sharp tacks.
Stories of them abound. They once took Chris Rea’s money and let him make his shitty Ferrari film; they laughed and counted as it flopped. I worked for them twice when I wanted to prove that I was a sharp tack and not a gullible cunt. I made Rolf Harris cups of tea on the set of his forgotten no-budget video. I pretended to be an assistant director for a reality show that would never actually be made, all to get a house kitted out for free. I cackled and drank with them afterwards and listened as they told me how they’d "look after me”. But then I woke up and smelled the lager; it was stale. I haven’t seen them since.
Keeping the Borough neat and tidy; swording spivs in snooker halls; drinking tea with Mum.
The Du Noirs survey the Cocky set from up above. But I see them not as directorial dyad or creative brotherhood. I see them as those nasty, funny, money-grabbing bastards who trod on toes and laughed.
The author of The Ballad of Cocky the Fox and the editor of The Sniffer are known to enjoy a chinwag over a pint. In each edition,
[The publican walks over and throws them out of the deserted pub. It’s 1am on a Tuesday.]
occasional tendency to get off his tits on aftershave and glue. In this installment, you will read a prejudiced attack on a white wine called Fox Run.
Pop it open, pour and hold your glass up to the light. You will see a dull wash of colour that fuses the faded yellow of an armpit sweat patch with the dirty white of a toothpaste stain. Now have a sniff. You feel a flourish of olfactory notes: an old sock, tooth decay, a rotten apple, shower mildew, enuresis. And, finally, a sip. The bitterness of an accidentally chewed ibuprofen tablet; the dirty saltiness of an upper lip licked after a marathon on a hot day; the almost-fizzy sweetness of a glass of orange juice left out overnight; the tartness of un- washed genitalia.
Nothing in the previous paragraph is based on fact. I didn’t even open the bottle. I ended up taking it to a party, dumping it at the back of the fridge and helping myself to a six-pack of Bass instead. I hate white wine
and you’ll rarely catch me drinking it. And, in these rare cases, it will never be Riesling out of principle. Riesling isn’t a grape; it’s a make of power tool.
I can’t, then, make any recommendation about Fox Run. Unless you hate white wine like I do. Then I would advise you to avoid it.
. The language consists of words that express the fox’s emotional state, ranging from very positive (“yiff”) to very negative (“growlf”). In between, in increasing order of negativity, are: yip, yerf, yaff, yarf, growf, growlf. In addition, “murph” means sexual contentment and “yipp” is a sexual proposition. It is no coincidence that all eight words sound like farts, hiccups or burps.
Each edition of The Sniffer features an extract from The Cocky Companion, a Rosetta Stone for decoding the less obvious elements of Cocky's London vernacular. This extract covers the argot of Fit the Tenth. As usual, there is swearing, violence and transatlantic misunderstanding.
To anybody not versed in the ways of London slangsters and gangsters, Nick might be a Nicholas who wants to amputate the last two syllabic legs of his formal-sounding name. Or a nick might be what a bleary-eyed, bestubbled, hungover bloke might give to the skin on his
hamfistedly scraping his razor therealong. But sup- pose you do hang around in horrible musty boozers in the East End. What then? Imagine that you’re at the bar and sitting next to a burly chap who has
babies’ heads for fists and a swallow tattooed on his neck. You might hear him regaling his companion with a tale from his recent past: “When I was in the nick, I fucking ran the show. If I told one of my lads to do over a nonce, it would happen just like that.” All kinds of things can land you in the nick. Nicking, for example. Run up to that car that’s stopped at the traffic lights. Open the driver door, pull the driver out onto the road, get in and drive off. You’ve just nicked a car. Well done!
Carlin protests to Banks, the “daddy” of the jail, who is about to stove his head in with fist: “Leave off, will ya? I don’t give a fuck who the daddy is. I don't want trouble, so just piss off and let me get on with me time, all right?” Later, Carlin corners Banks in the bogs, beats the crap out of him and delivers his delayed riposte: “Right Banks, you bastard. I'm the daddy now. Next time, I'll fucking kill ya.” This isS cu m, the grim and brutal 1979 tale of British borstal life, and this is Carlin, the youthful Ray Winstone’s first dabble in the art of playing London hard nuts. The violent vignette just depicted offers no
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