The phone was ringing, it was just before 6.30am and the bloody phone was ringing. I was trying to take it all in. I read the front page about six times, every bloody word. They mentioned Roy, the Butchers shop. They didn’t give the address of the shop, thank fuck, just that he used to have a Butchers shop in East London!
They were saying he was the biggest Supergrass of all time. Even bigger than Bertie Smalls and he was a bloody household name in the East End, a bloody bogie man. Everyone hated Bertie Smalls! A grass was someone that you hated, despised, they were lower than low. Now Roy was the biggest of all time!
The phone was still ringing, I ignored it. I went back to the paper shop and bought a copy of every daily paper. It was in the Mail, Mirror and Sun. Not quite the front page as it was in the Express, but still mentioned in all of them. Fuck!
The phone was still ringing. This time I answered it. It was my Mum.
“We’ve just read the papers, is everything ok at the shop?”
“Yeh Mum it’s fine”
“Maybe you should close up for now, what if there’s trouble, what if some nasty people decide that they want revenge and take it out on the shop?”
“Mum, it’s fine, honest. First sign of trouble and I’ll close. I promise”
While I was speaking with Mum, my Dad walked in the shop!
“I’m going Mum, Dads just walked in!”
I hung up. As big and hard as I thought I was, god, was I pleased to see the old man!
“I’ve taken a few days off work, thought you could do with some help!”
For the first time in years I gave my Dad a big cuddle.
As you would expect the day was manic. Everyone wanted to know what was going on. Customers we hadn’t seen in years just suddenly decided to come in and buy something and of course mention Roy!
There wasn’t much I could tell them of course, I hadn’t seen Roy for over a year, hadn’t spoken to him for god knows how long.
The phone rang around midday, Dad answered it. “It’s for you Joe, some bloke about a freezer order”
“Morning mate, what can I do for you?”
“Is that the boy, the Butcher Boy?”
I didn’t recognise the voice, but as soon as he mentioned Butcher Boy, I knew it must be something to do with Roy.
“Yeh mate, what’s up?”
“I’m a friend of a couple of people that you know who are extremely unhappy with their current situation, so, if you hear of the whereabouts of a certain person you let me know, yeh?”
He gave me a number. I wrote it down. Then he hung up!
He was obviously talking about the Cousins.
I had been expecting something, I wasn’t sure what I had been expecting, but I was expecting something. I just got back to work, didn’t mention it to Dad. There wasn’t much more I could do, couldn’t go to the old bill could I?
It did make me think though; maybe staying in the shop wasn’t such a good idea. I closed the shop at 6.00pm as usual, Dad and I went home. I sat down with them and told them that I would give a months notice to Roy’s solicitor. Staying in the shop wasn’t such a great idea! They were both releived.
I called the Solicitor the next morning and gave him the news. He said he would make the necessary arrangements. An hour later the phone rang.
“Hello you old bastard!”
It was Roy.
“Fuck me, the last person in the world I was expecting, what’s it like to be the most hated person in Britain?”
We both laughed.
“Seriously, don’t believe everything you read in the papers, there’ll be a lot more in the next few days, some of it is bollocks. I understand why you want to get out of the shop, its ok. I’ll try to call again but they’ve got me on a very tight leash. If they knew I was calling you now they would go mad!”
Then he hung up, no goodbye, just put the phone down. I guessed he had to go quickly and by “they” he meant the old bill.
He was right; he was in the papers a lot. A few weeks later he was on the front page of the Daily Mirror. This time his information had led to the arrest of a gang who had been holding up Security Vans and cutting their way in with a chain saw!
But he never called again. I closed the shop in August 1978.
I got a job down Smithfield Market for a while then in 1979 joined the Post Office as a counter clerk.
Roy would now have to stand up in court and give evidence against people he had once been friends with.
The Cousins got 10 years each. Colin got 7 years, Gaz also got 7 years.
He had grassed everyone, from a delivery driver to hardened criminals. For his help Roy was given an 18 month sentence suspended for 2 years. He would never see prison.
For the next 15 years I did various work, I never seemed to be able to settle anywhere for more than a year or so. To be honest I missed the shop, I missed the banter, in a nutshell I missed my mate Roy!
I had no idea where he was, what he was doing, how was his life. I had so many unanswered questions. He even entered my dreams at night. Every night. He had been such an influence on me from a very early age; he had moulded me into the person that I had become.
Would I ever see him again?