Chapter Two

Matthew Scurfield I COULD BE ANYONE, all rights reserved.

Share on Facebook Share on Twitter Share on LinkedIn







I lost count of the times I went down to the Mill Pond to trade  medical contrabands, but certainly there was a summer when I was standing with Pip, pint and pills in hand, when suddenly from out of the blue we heard a strange and distant yelling. These yelps and cries, unlike anything I’d heard before, very quickly became louder and more defiant. Everyone became transfixed by expectation, as the sound quickly metamorphosed into the spectacle of a black top hat on the head of a scarecrow, whose arms were outstretched in manic fury, crucified against the skyline. Like a demented cowboy on speed, his legs possessed by wild acceleration, propelled a sit-up-and-beg bicycle with increasing ferocity, towards a packed crowd of summer drinkers at the bottom of the lane. It very quickly became apparent that the rider wasn't going to stop and as if in perfect timing, the throng of gob-smacked onlookers parted, like the Red Sea did for Moses. The cyclist shot through the incredulous crowd, over the top of the mill race and took off in slow motion. The bike and body, as if glued together, landed yards out, in the middle of the river and for a few frantic minutes, just below the surface of the murky water it was possible to see the vague outline of the cyclist still peddling forwards. Very quickly the bike and rider disappeared altogether, leaving a few ripples and the site of a derelict top hat, floating about in the wet stillness as if in mourning for the big splash.  

An electrifying silence descended over the oncoming crowd, augmented only by the push and shove of those who demanded a better view. Every dog, man, woman and child gripped in suspense. The spell snapped, when a body leapt out of the water, on the other side of the river, with a Neanderthal roar. The punters went ballistic. Emo had arrived, cut to the quick and broken everyone down to a common denominator of a stunned and delighted audience.

Emo was a good friend of Pips, so it wasn't long before this wild creature arrived at our side to say hello. The water had sobered him somewhat, enough to tell us how he’d bought several packets of Morning Glory seeds from Woolworths, downed the lot, gone through hell, thrown up and then, with his head and stomach on fire, seized the first bike he could find to make a beeline for the river.

Imo, pronounced Emo, was a nickname taken from the initials of his full name, Iain Owen Moore. Emo had Pip’s distracted energy, but on first encounter seemed more gregarious, dangerous even. Like many of my friends from school, they were from the same impoverished area, constantly having to fight their corner in the classroom, at home and on the street. There was little or no verbal communication in their upbringing. Emo basically learnt to talk from listening to the wireless. Pip had been unable to speak, until Emo took him under his wing and gave him the reassurance he needed to find his voice.

To begin with, I believe Emo found me irritating, a little stuck-up even. Perhaps I harboured feelings of superiority, but I certainly was intrigued by his friendship and his bottle. I did my manic best to keep up with his wild wit. Quite often the energy between us would escalate into a kind of competitive frenzy. Soon after we met we found ourselves, in the heart of Cambridge, among a mixture of shoppers and students going about their weekday business. As our heads began to reel with the buzz on the street, some spontaneous spirit grabbed us and we started an animated dance in the middle of a zebra crossing. Exploding into life, the gesticulations progressed into nothing short of abandoned madness. Hot under the collar and raring to go, we started to strip down to our nakedness. Unbeknownst to us, surveillance technology had begun to infiltrate the city, meaning cameras were eyeballing us from the crenels of the college roofs. Within minutes the police-car screeched to a halt and two burley officers emerged, like space cadets on a mission, from the cockpit. They ordered us to get dressed, which Emo did with a deliberate air of casualness. I tried to do the same, basking somewhat uneasily in his shadow.

It’s hard to believe now, but our long hair and jeans were subversive to the authorities. Emo was wearing sandals, which in the early sixties, especially for a young man of his age, was an extremely rare occurrence. For these policemen he certainly must have looked kind of biblical, because one of them grabbed Emo violently by his hair and referring to his Jesus boots barked out “We know you Moses”; and just as I thought Emo was taking the brunt, the venom shot out with lightning quick reflex and hit me right between the eyes, “but we don’t know YOU”, which pinned me to the seat of my underpants.

For those cynics, who might think I exaggerate for want of readership attention, the playwright and raconteur David Gale bears witness, with a sublime description of Emo’s friendship and his linguistic acrobatics, here!

The extract above is taken from Matthew’s book - to buy click on the cover below