- by trade
- refers to
- dawning on
Please put your hands together for our next storyteller, Phil Spencer!
Good evening gentlemen.
My name is Phil Spencer, and as you can probably tell from the thick English accent coming out my face right now, I am in fact an Englishman. I’m an Englishman by trade.
Now, I’m an English person who, as a result of choices I made as a younger man, spent a number of years living in the city of Glasgow. Or what my granddad routinely refers to as “The Second City of the Empire,” which is problematic for a number of reasons.
And so this story, like you know, every important story ever told starts on a train. An inter-city trains. A delayed inner-city train in the East End of Glasgow.
So I’m sat there. It’s the early afternoon, and I’ve got what you would commonly refer to as ‘a hangover.’ And the woman next to me gets up with a fistful of shopping bags. She sort of shuffles past me and I moved to the window seat and I inadvertently, but not ungraciously, sort of soak up some of the bum warmth that she’s left behind.
And I look out the window. And suddenly and unapologetically at the sky opens, and it just starts raining. Like sharp diagonal sheets against this train.
Now there is rain, and then there’s Glaswegian rain. Hard, cold, heartfelt drops of water that you wouldn’t want to meet in a dark alley.
And so I’m sat there on his train, and I’ve got tightly gripped into my hands a rucksack, and inside that rucksack is a fancy dress costume because I was going to my friend Paul’s birthday party.
So inside my rucksack, there’s a pair of brightly colored shorts, a dressing gown, and a pair of boxing gloves that I’ve spray-painted gold.
I was going as a boxer to the party.
So I sort of look at the bag, and I look at my hands and…and me dressing as a boxer really is as fancy as fancy dress gets because and I have never thrown a punch in my life.
I just…I’ve never raise my fists in anger. I just don’t think it’s in me to do that.
My friend Sam once told me that I had fists, I mean, I had hands that look like they could kill a man…but they haven’t.
And so I’ve inherited these hands from my biological father who was in the military. He was an army man. He was all sort of like tattoos of Bulldogs and forty fags a day.
So the men in my family sort of know how to drive trucks and shoot guns and do the guttering on their houses.
I however, you know, I opted to avoid the hyper-masculine military lifestyle, and as a result, I’ve grown up into a man who, you know, rarely leaves the house without lip balm.
Now, that’s fair to say that this apple fell very, very far from the forklift truck…or so I thought.
And so my train pulls into Easter House train station, and I get off. The rain is starting to clear, and I’m heading towards the bus stop to go up the road.
When all of a sudden in my periphery, I spot a group of five grown-up teenage lads with baseball caps on with names of US cities that they will never have the financial capabilities to visit, but with more facial hair than I will ever muster.
And so I’m walking down the stairs of the platform, and the gangliest of the crew shouts. “Mate!” and I just ignore him. I carry on down the stairs.
And I think, “You know what, he might not be talking to me.”
“Hear mate; I’m talking to you.”
So I stopped, and I do what any other self-respecting male in my position would do.
I do a little spit on the ground. Yeah?
Just to let them know that ‘if push comes to shove,’ I could get some of my saliva on them.
And so I turn around to see this gang of teenage boys, and I realize that I’m standing face-to-face with my first-ever fistfight.
The irony of having boxing gloves in my bag only dawning on me some years.
And so I look down at my hands, and I realize I’m gonna have to sort of kick-start some silent hereditary aggression and just see what these lumbering clumps can do.
And this young lad takes another step towards me.
And inside my brain I’m thinking “Oh, let’s dance,”
And as he takes another step my neck muscles explode, my eyes go a bit weird, and I’m just like “I’m gonna destroy you,”
And then this young lad leers over me and says, “Hear mate, I’ve got this return bus ticket I’m not gonna use. You can have it if you want.”
Yeah, I know,
“What a cunt.”
And so I take the ticket on mumble, “Thanks,” as I wipe the spittle away from my mouth and the sweat out the gray folds of my profoundly hungover forehead.
And I am making way down the stairs and get on the bus for free, it transpires.
The only cost is the kind of guilt I feel for not suppressing my preteen Pavlovian instincts that was gonna get bashed by the bigger boys.
As so I’m sat on this bus, and my hands are shaking a little bit, my heart is still racing, and there’s a kind of shame creeping into my throat.
And look out the window, and I realized “I’ve left my bag with my costume on the street.”
But I decide not to move a muscle.
I just I just let the bus driver pull away from the curb and drive up the road.
And so I go to my friend Paul’s party not dressed as a boxer, but dressed as somebody who has never thrown a punch.
Paul says it’s quite shit costume.
It’s a costume I was oddly proud to wear.