by Alan Wills
Based on a true story of a boy’s coming
of age in London’s East End
Wanker: British Slang
1. An endearing term between mates
2. A Con-Man or Jerk
This auto-biographical novel is shockingly explicit, very real, and filled with humor. Readers will pass through the tough Cockney East End of pub fights, cons, dead end jobs, and revisit the 50’s & 60’s and the early days of Rock and Roll.
The story opens with the vicar’s sermon decrying self-abuse. At eleven Alan knows he is speaking directly to him. He and his four mates are inseparable, and emulate Cockneys, by speaking rhyming slang. You will relate to teenage embarrassment, rebellion, and sexual naiveté. This only child is abandoned at fifteen by his parents. Learn how Alan is forced to become self-sufficient, working in outdoor markets, including London’s famous Petticoat Lane. The costermongers and barrow-boys add color and charm as they con the English public, and tourists alike.
We follow Alan’s determination in many different businesses, and discover he was an inexperienced jerk, or wanker, and we live his guilt and justification. He does become business smart, but is an absolute novice in matters of love and sex. His big con shows the inner workings of a wanker, or con-man’s mind. It also demonstrates the entanglement, financially and ethically, that leads this young man to leave all his mates and England on his wedding day, with The Mob and the police hot on his heels. Enjoy!
Confessions of a Wanker is an easy read, as it unfolds in short chapter of connecting short stories. Although funny and light hearted, there are many lessons to be learned from his life, which he refers to as the College of Hard Knocks.
Just for fun, at the end of the book there is an appendix:
Cockney East End Street Language and Rhyming Slang with translations into ordinary everyday English.
Your comments are welcome firstname.lastname@example.org
After the War
“Ga-Aw-D” the vicar’s three-syllable word always gets me attention. I’m looking up at his stern face high above me in his pulpit. His double chins hide most of his white clerical collar. My eyes are glued on his worn black suit straining against his plumpness, and his huge mouth filled with big teeth. I think. This monster could eat a small kid.
“Ga-Aw-D wants you to refrain from self-abuse,” he demands, pointing his outstretched finger directly at me.
My mind questions. Self-abuse? Wills, is ‘e talking about wanking?
No, self-abuse sounds painful and wanking is a release; like floating up to ‘eaven.
“Ga-Aw-D knows when you abuse yourself!” he bellows. “You will go to a fiery hell!”
I’m eleven and a half, standing with three other scouts as the color guard in front of the whole bloody congregation wearing me neatly pressed tan scout uniform with merit badges on both sleeves. I grip the flagpole tightly with both hands, trying to hide behind it. The Boy Scout law rings in me ears, A Boy Scout is clean of mind and deed.
Everywhere I look I sense God, in this massive white stone St. Saviors Church, this Sunday morning. The ‘oly Ghost reads me dirty mind with a thousand piercing eyes.
Me mother has eyes that can see though solid brick walls and around corners. She says God knows and sees everything. Funny, many times I totally forget about Him being around. Ironically, I never think of God while hiding in our outside loo, even though I’m making one more attempt at floating up to heaven. The age-old horror stories of “Wankers Doom,”: hair growing from the palm of me hand, has not deterred me. But “Ga-Aw-D WANTS YOU TO REFRAIN” keeps rattling around in me brain
I close me eyes and try to escape the vicar’s harsh words. Me mind flashes back through time and I see meself at a World War II bomb-site with me older cousins. I’m a happy little blonde, blue-eyed, six year old boy, rummaging through the personal stuff strewn throughout the blitzed homes. I find a small suitcase covered in dust and fill it with my new found treasures. Torn faces in broken picture frames, lifeless dolls with severed arms and legs, and other previously valued possessions of departed owners. I find one rubber shoe, a Plimsoll, and dig with a bent knife in the dirt to find it’s mate. I take off me black leather shoes with the holes in the bottom, that makes me feet wet when I jump in puddles. The dirty white rubber shoes are too big, but Patricia me cousin says I’ll grow into them. She says I can keep the Plimsolls and little suitcase as the boy who owned them is in heaven.
Holding the flagpole, I think, when the suitcase was me most prized possession. In my bedroom I use to talk into the suitcase to the boy in heaven. I was never alone again.
A moment later my eyes spring open and my head jolts back as I realize the human suffering those bombsite playgrounds represent. The overpowering stench of decay returns to me nose and throat, I gag on the memory. I cling to the flagpole to regain balance.
The vicar drones on and on and my eyes close again. I see the train bringing me and me mummy home from being evacuated in Liverpool. I’m five. It stops with a loud hiss of steam. A man opens the carriage door. He sort of looks like the picture that mummy kept next to our bed, but with more lines. I’m a little scared of this stranger. He lifts me down to the platform and says how big I got. I don’t feel big, looking up at huge people all around me. I’m afraid I’ll be stepped on. He throws his arms around me mummy. They hug, and she cries. I think, I hate him for making her cry. Then they kiss. Yuk! Each takes one of my hands as we walk down the platform. They talk about stuff; London bombing, his job as air raid warden, missing each other, and terrible things that happened to some evacuated kids. I touch the toy knife sharpening man in me jacket pocket, and remember how happy we were staying with the old couple, who I called Uncle Bob and Aunt Mary. I go to show Daddy the toy, but change me mind. I keep look up at them but they just look at each other.
Wills, ‘e don’t even know ya ‘ere.
You’re right! I like Uncle Bob better, I think, and not just because he gave me the toy. I wish we’d never come back to London.
The vicar’s monotone voice reminds me of the drone of the German rockets that flew over London during the war. The big difference being, once the vicar stops talking we can all head back to the Scout room for biscuits and lemonade.
Me mind flashes back to 1943, I was three. The air-raid siren wails and my mommy scoops me up and carries me to the dark, damp, air-raid shelter, underground in our back yard. When I wake-up I can’t see I have white stuff in me eyes. She says not to pick at it and calls it apses, as she washes it away. She tells me the loud noise in the sky was from German rockets, called doodlebugs, and that if the noise stops we have to get under the bed quick. Many nights in the shelter we hear the engine stop and under the bed we’d go. It’s a fun game. She’d always hold me tight in her arms and prays to God that we’ll be spared. When we hear the explosion, mommy cries, saying the Doodlebug had blown-up nearby, and Londoners had perished in the flames. She always asks God to save their souls.
I hold the flagpole tight and think, God, will I ever be free of these memories of the war?
I look around the church at all the neighborhood people dressed in their Sunday best. There are many more women than men. Mum said, countless husbands and sons didn’t return from the war. I feel sad as I see the little old ladies with rounded shoulders and hunched backs sitting alone, who still dress in black and never smile. God I ‘ate war!
Every Sunday the vicar says a prayer for their dearly departed. Then, I smile at the younger women who wear blue eye shadow and tight sweaters that show pointy breasts. I watch as some of them flick their hair back, or cough to gain the attention of the few single men in the congregation. I say a silent prayer, God, please! No more wars! Plus help our fifties generation bring happiness back to England.
Wills, it seems like bleeding ‘ours that we’ve been standing ‘ere ‘olding this bloody flagpole. I think, shift from foot to foot. Once again I feel the weight of the war memories pushing down me shoulders and me eyelids feel heavy. I open me eyes real wide and try to empty me mind of war. Like a shuffled deck of cards me mind stops on the school exam that I took a few days ago. Have you ever noticed the questions they ask on school exams pertain to information that you’d swear had never been covered in class? This was definitely the case with me “Eleven Plus” which determines the type of senior school that you attend.
Looking at the exam paper in utter disbelief, I was petrified for most of the first hour. Then it hit me. Wills, The bleeding school board has obviously devised questions guaranteed to eliminate the likes of us.
Your right! What would me Dad’s hero, Field Marshal Montgomery, do?
In Dad’s war stories he says Monty distrusted the obvious, and out-thought his enemy.
Me eyes become slits as I think hard about the exam. Then I feel a smug smile spread across me face, as I know what I must do. Wills, Ignore the bloody questions, and check the answers in systematic order. A cunning teacher would start easy, with ‘free yes answers to sucker ya in. Then slip in a no, then ‘free more yeses, one more no and so on.
That’s the answer! Monty would be proud of me, deciphering this sneaky plan.
I quickly apply me theory, marking the first three questions with a yes, then one no, then the next three yes and another no. I smile; it feels very good being this confident. I quickly finish the exam and I’m one of the first to leave the room. I wait outside in the drab green hall, displaying our school crest Circa 1902, feeling smug. A couple of classmates, “A” students, who we call book-worms, walk out of the exam. On checking me three-yes-to-one-no theory with their answers, it becomes obvious that I could be busted all the way back to kindergarten. Looking down at me shoes I wonder how to break this news to me mother? I hear a familiar voice. I look up and see Danny.
Today as always, Danny’s clothes look as though he has slept in them. One sock up the other down around his ankle, his shoes are a combination of scuffs and mud, his dull mousy brown hair sticks up in all directions. Danny’s face is a bombsite of acne and pock marks, which he continually scratches with his filthy fingernails.
“ ’ow d’ya do then, Alan?”
“Not so good Danny!” I admit.
“Sitting in the bloody back of the class, that was our downfall me old mate.”
“’ow’s that, Danny?”
“Well, information travels on sound waves, don’t it?”
Knowing Danny once built a crystal radio set, I feel safe in agreeing with him.
“So then it makes sense that some info. ‘as long-waves and some ‘as short-waves.”
“Ya, that sounds right to me, Danny!”
“I’m sure Alan, like me, ya noticed that the exam was filled with bloody short-wave length questions? So, as the information never reached us at the back of the bloody class. ‘ow could we be expected to know the bloody answers?”
It made perfectly good sense to me. However, on my return home, my mother is less receptive to Danny’s theory. She keeps asking embarrassing questions, like, “which questions didn’t you understand?” Then she says the typical mother things, “God helps those that help themselves, you know? It’s all up to you, Alan! I’m just trying to help!”
“Wills, ‘ow’s she going to ‘elp ya? I think, as she’s talking. For Christ sake she can’t even understand Danny’s ‘feory of long wave and short waves.
“See mum, Danny’s theory is the exam was filled with short wave questions that never reach the back of the room, where me and Danny sit.”
“That’s quite enough, Alan!” she interrupts “Go to your room without dinner. Wait up there until your father gets home and see if he buys your story of Danny’s waves. Personally, I reckon you are in for a good hiding!”
End of Chapter 1
By Alan Wills
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