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November 2019 - Mark Edmondson

Making It

Would you do anything to make it?


When everything is at stake: marriage, money, your house and your reputation, there is no second chance if you lose.


Laurie is determined to prove to the sceptical Sally that he is no loser. But making that transition from naïve impoverished late adolescence to dynamic, confident, solvent manhood is a difficult and dangerous journey for him.


Knowing that taking up a mediocre, predictable career would stifle him, he becomes a high-risk entrepreneur. But the more success he achieves, the bigger and tougher his enemies and challenges become.


Then he meets the most ruthless of them all, the charismatic corporate crook, Chas Wray.


Will he do the deal of his life with Wray or will he just become yet another one of Wray's miserable victims and lose everyone and everything that's precious to him?

Preview

Mortimer went everywhere in his dung brown Oxfam coat sporting his round-lensed, black rimmed glasses; toilet-brush hairstyle and that smug, holy smile you see on the face of a zealous convert.

Those who weren’t potless like me, thanks to having better off parents, saw University as one colossal pleasure zone. Free from the shackles of their fee-paying school, they would throw away their stiff collars, blazers and ties and go down to their new tailors, the Oxfam shop, where they were each kitted out with an oversized coat. The CND badge on the lapel was an optional accessory. Many had signed up to the Socialist Students' Alliance or the SWP. There were those who stuck to type and joined the Young Conservatives while the less mentally stable attached themselves to the Revolutionary Communist Party.

On one of those rare days I made it down to the refectory for breakfast, I found myself sitting opposite Mortimer and we soon got on to the incendiary topic of the day, the miners’ strike, though he was doing most of the talking. Mortimer went on effusively about how much of an exciting week he had had while I poked at some mushy baked beans with my fork.

He and his comrades were assisting the Kent miners: joining them on picket lines and sharing breakfast with them.

‘What? You eat their food?’

‘We break bread with them, Laurie. We want to show we’re right beside the miners every minute of the day…’

‘Yeah, Morts, but they’re relying on food donations, aren’t they?

And if students are going to scoff all their food too how is there going to be enough to go around? Don’t you bring your own?’

‘Oh for fu… sake’ he looked around. ‘Look at the bigger picture, Laurie! We can help them win this and change society.’

‘Into what?’

‘Into a …fairer, more equal one.’

‘A more open society?’

‘Yes, of course.’

‘With a free press?’

‘Yah!’ Morts nodded emphatically.

‘Scargill wants to control the press. Didn’t you hear him on Parky?’

‘Well. They do write a lot of lies. Especially about him!’

‘Don’t you just want to use your new miner friends as cannon fodder for the class war?’

‘Oh don’t be so cynical, Laurie!’ he smiled preparedly at this. ‘No, it’s so exhilarating being with miners! They’re such real, authentic people. It’s like being in the company of rock stars! Ever had that feeling, Laurie? That you’re doing something really worthwhile? Engaging in the class struggle at first hand rather than just reading about it?  It’s taking place before our very eyes! You should join us.’

‘Me? No thanks.’ I was aware of the strain the fluorescent lights in the hall were having on my delicate morning eyes. This wasn’t the time of day to be having an intense student discussion. This was strictly for between the hours of between midnight and three a.m.

‘With you being from the North Country …’

‘The North Country? I bet you’re one of those people who say Home Counties. ’

‘All right, with you being from up t’North …’

‘You’re not supposed to say the ‘t’  ’

‘Being from the working class heartlands you probably know a lot more about the class struggle than me. We’re going on a picket near Newcastle soon. Is that near your home town?’

‘Near Lancaster? It must be quite a deliverance for you, Morts.’

‘What must?’ He took off his glasses and rubbed them on his knitted red scarf. He squinted in my direction.

 ‘For you to escape the clutches of your previously shallow, bourgeois existence.’

‘Are you taking the piss, Laurie?’ he asked politely.

 ‘Even though you will eventually resume your privileged lifestyle …’

‘No, no, just a minute. You’ve got that totally wrong …’

‘While your miner comrades go on to suffer the humiliation of defeat…’

‘No, I’m not having that, Laurie …!’

‘…debt and … let me finish! … unemployment.’

‘Look. I know there are people like that. But not me, Laurie. I’m committed. And we will win this battle.’ He put his glasses back on.

‘Maybe three or four years ago. But she was prepared for this one.’

‘Who?’

‘Maggie. Still, I’m sure the miners’ strike will be marvellous fun while it lasts and will broaden your mind.’

‘Now, that’s quite enough, Laurie! You’re going a bit too far now, I don’t mind a bit of ribbing, but …’

 ‘You may even acquire a working man’s accent which you can use on odd occasions.’

‘And why would I do that?’

  ‘To get you out of the odd scrape! “Gosh we’re in a tight spot here chaps. Let’s switch to common accents. We’ll fool them into believing we’re one of them!” ’

Morts’ face turned a deeper red than the colour of his scarf. Instinctively I raised my hand in case I would have to deflect a blow. I was sure he would at least yell at me but his expression soon changed back to one of calmness and serenity. He looked at me almost pityingly, assured that one day I would understand him and be enlightened. He suggested I should come on the North-East demo with him to see what it really was all about.

Though I never got involved in the strike, the associated social benefits couldn’t be ignored. There was to be a student party near my Broad Street digs after the miners’ demo in the North East, which some students had managed to attend. It had been a very long day. The intrepid students, including Mortimer and his would-be girlfriend, Miranda, a physically robust and voluptuously feminine young woman of county stock, left Canterbury in car-loads at six o’clock on a Saturday morning. Miranda had fortunately secured temporary use of her father’s Range Rover while her parents visited her brother who was doing Voluntary Service Overseas in Ronga Ronga.  The student picketers had decided against hiring a coach as police had already stopped a coach-load of Kent miners at the Dartford tunnel on another occasion.

On arriving near Blyth coalfield, ‘or was it Bradford, I can’t remember’ said Miranda back at the party, they were witnessing a tense stand-off between miners, their sympathizers and police.

‘Brilliant timing,’ said Mortimer joining in. ‘We arrived when it all started to kick off. The noise was getting louder and louder. We were chanting “the miners, united, will never be defeated” and just as we were starting to sing “ere we go, ‘ere we go, ‘ere we go”, the fucking pigs rushed at us. I got this cut on my eye.’ He indicated.

‘And I got manhandled by an undercover policeman! He came from behind and grabbed me here with both hands!’ Miranda pointed to her voluptuous, voluminous breasts, the contours of which could not be concealed by her soft coral cashmere sweater. ‘I don’t think he was trying to arrest me so much as trying to take me from behind!’

‘Are you sure it wasn’t Morts?’ I asked, with mock seriousness.

‘You can never be sure!’ Miranda was the half of the duo who smiled warmly at me. My audacity surprised me. Mortimer, whose face would never have looked out of place munching a bag of oats, shook his head disapprovingly.

‘You think this strike is one big game, Laurie, don’t you!’

I think it’s one big game?’

 Miranda continued, either ignoring or being unaware of our little spat.

‘I’ve never been more scared in my life. But wasn’t it fun! I’ve never had such a bloody good time and it’s all thanks to you Morty, dear. You’re such a sweety!’ She looked again at me and let her gaze linger a while. She ran the fingers of her right hand through her long thick black hair revealing to me all of her porcelain, tanless face and smiled broadly with her perfect white teeth cushioned by her full crimson lips.

Morty suddenly beamed with satisfaction and a sense of accomplishment: though he gave me another admonishing glare for being so flippant and sexist towards Miranda.

I spent most of the rest of the evening wishing I was an undercover policeman.

Towards the end of the party, as I was making my way down the hallway to the kitchen in search of further refreshment, a bedroom door opened. Before I knew it someone had grabbed me firmly by the collar of my rugby shirt, pulled me, yanking me backwards into the room and slammed the door behind. If only I’d kept my mouth shut a bit more, I’d stay out of trouble! Was my first thought.

After turning the key in the lock, Miranda turned me to face her, firmly gripping my upper arms.

‘Now it’s time I felt your collar, you bit of Northern rough!’

I told myself to stay calm. Adjust quickly to this unexpected situation. Pretend this sort of thing happened to me all the time.

‘I thought you were with Morts!’ I half-whispered. ‘You Southern slapper!’

‘Morts, my darling...’ Miranda kissed me fully on the lips and was already pulling my shirt out of my jeans, ‘…has gone home to finish a law essay.’

‘Oh really?’ I grabbed her firmly to me and started to lift up her cashmere sweater. Soon I would see those bountiful breasts. ‘What’s the tit …the title?’

‘Oh, “Sexism in the Workplace” I think. Something terribly earnest. He’s becoming quite an expert on company law.’

‘I’m sure he’ll get an A Plus!’ I said, wondering why we were still discussing Morts and where to start with the firm but large mammaries with their deep red nipples my hands now had tenancy of.

‘By the way,’ she asked as she properly removed her cashmere clothing. ‘What’s a slapper?’ She then whispered into my ear. ‘Has it got something to do with spanking?’

‘Could have!’

This was my third time. I didn’t like to think of the other two times that much. Especially that time with Miss O’Donnell, my R.E. teacher, coming home from the Sixth Form leaving party in the grounds of the Cathedral. (Her idea, not mine). Nor the time I got stuck in the built-in bedroom wardrobe with Jim’s older sister, during Jim’s eighteenth birthday party.

I was thankful that I had been putting some time in the gym recently. Miranda and I made love vigorously for at least an hour and a half until, exhausted, we flopped down on our backs and almost immediately fell asleep. What would she have been like if she had not got up at 5 a.m. that day, driven all the way to the North-East; scuffled with police officers; driven back and been to a party all evening?

When I woke up late the following morning, Miranda had gone out and, according to her housemates, gone with Mortimer to meet her aunt and uncle for lunch. They had come down for a couple of days from Gloucestershire where they were house sitting for her parents.

I saw Miranda again but never really on her own. Mortimer was usually hovering around her like some self-appointed security guard. She would smile at me sometimes, conspiratorially, but my instincts or my usual lack of boldness at the time told me to stay clear. Though at the graduation ball she got very drunk and tried to lure me into the Ladies for a perfunctory quick one. But the omnipresent Mortimer was actually in the Ladies toilet as if he had anticipated her intentions. Was there anywhere she could go without Mortimer?

The following Monday morning I got a call from my bank account manager reminding me of my serious overdraft. It was now the summer of 1987 and up and down the country thousands of lower-middle class graduates like me were starting to look in vain look for gainful employment.

Morts had got a job and looked very self-satisfied with his achievement: though he wouldn’t say what it was or who with, or if anyone had given him a leg up. I wondered if his coyness was an attempt to create an aura of mystery about him or that the job may not have quite been compatible with his political principles.

Whilst an earnestness in me said, so what, I’ll make my own way, there were times when I’d have happily traded most of my sanity to have a father working in the City or an uncle who owned a chain of luxury hotels.

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