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The Memory Box is my memoirs, currently being serialised on Facebook in the Group of the same name, where readers are free to share their thoughts, memories and photos.


This resource will allow those not using Facebook to read the text and will be updated periodically. 

  • Writer's pictureJoolz Denby

Episode 13

Updated: Nov 25, 2018

I'm not here to make myself out a poor, hard done to angel, brimming with traditional feminine virtues and horribly misunderstood by a cruel world. I've read far too many autobiographies that appear to be there solely to justify the writer behaving like a total shit and wanting sympathy for it. I behaved like a shit quite often, and an absolute horror sometimes but I don't want, or need, sympathy. If people can bring themselves to understand, that's fine. That'll do me.

That I was the product of my upbringing should be obvious to all by now. That was compounded by the horrible experiences I went through at the hands of unscrupulous men, such as my first real boyfriend who was 21 to my 15 and groomed me until I was 16 so he could have sex with me 'legally', as he was terrified of getting into trouble. He was a violent, cruel and probably extremely damaged individual, expert on shaming, undermining and playing the bloody martyr. He nearly killed us both by driving like a complete lunatic, as he fancied himself a pro driver, both on the roads and memorably when he rolled his old car on an abandoned airfield where he was playing at rally drivers. As the car flew through the air I remember thinking 16 is too young to die, but fuck it, nothing to be done about it now. We hit the ground on the roof, bounced, twirled and ground to a halt. Only the roof rack had saved our lives and aside from being black and blue I was unhurt, as was he because he had a full harness seat belt and was wearing a crash helmet. He screamed at me like a mad person while I sat dazed and with that strange sense of distance that comes with near death experiences. We limped back to his mother's house, and she embraced him weeping while ignoring me entierly. Then she showed is her new evening outfit of flame coloured hotpants with a chiffon maxi overskirt and matching crush pleated bodice as if her beloved some had not just neatly murdered the both of us. She looked rubbish in the hotpants too.

This young man's cruelty knew no bounds. He relentlessly mocked my lack of sexual expertise, making me feel as if I was somehow faulty as a woman and inadequate in what the English hilariously  love to call 'the bedroom department',  and once bounced my face off his dashboard because he didn't like my new haircut permanently damaging my front teeth which started to slope backwards, the reason I never smiled openly in photos until I had them fixed a couple of years back and why I now grin like a baboon in every picture possible. I no longer have to look in the mirror and be reminded of that damage.

If I saw him now I'd spit in his face and I honestly don't care what anyone thinks of that. I believed I loved him at the time because he was older, had long hair and a car and I had no idea what love really was. Despite the obvious physical injuries etc, no one in my family ever said a word about this unsuitable beau. I sensed my Dada didn't like him, but even though I thought I loved this idiot, I knew he wasn't a nice person. Like all of us in terrible relationships, I learned to make excuses for my abuser. To protect him. But he taught me one useful thing.  His endlessly whining about how he was owed by the world and unjustly persecuted by uncaring bastards taught me a lesson. You can't cover up what you do or how you behave by whining. No one cares about your 'wounded soul'. They only care about your words and actions. There was a motto someone wrote in my 'autograph book' - a craze that swept our school - when was 11: The word is like sped arrow, it cannot be recalled. When you write that bitchy uncalled for, unasked for post, call that person a stupid, fat bitch or a dirty fucking bastard because you're feeling mardy or envious, you can't take it back. You can hope they'll forgive you. They'll never forget.

I don't intend shying away from all that I've done. The fighting, the drugs, the abusive relationships. I don't like secrets. They rot your innards like a corrosion. I know people, or know of people, who genuinely hate me and wish me dead. Seriously. It's a joke really because most of them haven't even met me. But they're convinced and nothing will change their minds. Of the ones who have met me, I'd say a good three-quarters were as nice as pie to my face. Personally, I can't do that. X always said he knew instantly if I didn't like someone because I was so incredibly polite it was painful.

I wasn't in a secure place at 166. X, whilst no longer dwelling on the glories of Conchita or Consuela or whatever, the Mexicana Marvel, still refused to engage in any public displays of affection, so no hand holding, no hugs, nothing like that. He repeated the old showbiz adage that singers should always appear single so the girls will fancy them (and buy product). He wanted to keep his options open. At this point,  the proto-band were flogging it round the pubs and clubs of Bradford doing scut gigs which whilst hardly romantic or glorious, were in fact wholly necessary in order to train Gav not to walk off stage mid gig in a hissy fit as he did in fact do, moaning about not standing up there making a dick of himself. He couldn't grasp walking off like petulant kid and leaving the band to tough it out made him look ten times as bad. When he stumped off in the middle of a number looking thunderous at one gig in a Working Men's Club, I tried reasoning with him as he pouted in the car park, then I shouted at him. Genuine malevolence flashed in his pretty, dark eyes. I knew he'd get me back, somehow, some day. And he did.

Anyway,  around this time the Bradford music scene (excuse me while I wipe a year of laughter from my eye) was more or less in the control of a bloke I will call Igor. Igor was a prematurely balding poet who was reputed to be the son of a man who sold hair restorer door to door, so naturally was bitter, humourless and self obsessed. He specialised in self promotion on an epic scale and was in a band, the other members of which looked as if they'd been put on stage with cattle prods. He ran a fanzine, and gig nights starring....him, and knew everyone. He once put up a lot of posters round town that said in bold calligraphy,  IGOR - POET, ROCK STAR, COMEDIAN. I looked for the small print that said gigging at so and so on such a date, but it wasn't there. They were just posters extolling his loveliness. He was sick with envy of Ed, who despite being like a hyperactive Jack Russell on bathtub speed day and night, had genuine talent and a deep love of words. Igor believed he should be in, if not run, the Ranting Poets, which of course involved myself as Poetgirl to Ed's Captain Chaos, and Ian, who could write comic poetry like Stanley Holloway reborn. Igor clumpingly wrote the obvious. With a knowing smirk. He never understood why that wasn't  enough.

I was arranging gigs, going with X to screenprint posters by hand, writing and drawing. We went to the student union dance of a weekend and yet still, we weren't part of the scene. We were too scary. Too odd. Uncompromising. Awkward. I was very agressive and spoke as I found, I clashed with the local council over heroin use in the town and lack of rehab facilities for users, which they vehemently denied was happening, it got in the local paper and I and got a rep as a right gobby bitch. X looked like the fifth horseman of the apocalypse: Behold, there came a rider with eyes like unto burning coals and his name was Ambition. We weren't comfortable people. Though I do have to say in my defence I was quite funny. Sometimes.

Eventually, we got the band a gig at a West Indian club in town that hosted live music of all sorts. Igor's band was on. His partner, a dishevelled, pasty girl was on bass. Igor smirked his way through various covers such as the entierly innapropriate for him Teenage Kicks, while his partner looked crosser and crosser and his band looked like they'd rather be anywhere else. Finally,  Igor's girl walked up to him and hissed something in his ear. He answered her. Within seconds they had a full blown domestic onstage, on mic, in front of everyone. It was marvellous. It made Gav look like a model of professionalism. I'd have paid for seats and popcorn.

After this diversion, X and I gaily went to the manager for our money, hardly a fortune but every penny counted. He refused to pay up. In fact, he laughed in our faces. There was a long, sticky moment when I looked at the man grinning and thinking himself very fine indeed, robbing some kids of their money, that he had agreed to pay then decided he'd rather spend it on whatever wankers spend their money on while his wife giggled and picked at her cold sores and I thought, no. I'm not having it. I said this and the look of outrage on the club owner's face was brilliant. Blustering and chuffing,  he reminded me he was 'connected' and I was a dumb bitch messing with things girls should keep their noses out of. He had no idea of my background, of my training by my father or that once I feel an injustice has been done I lock on like a rabid ferret and you have to pry my jaws apart with a crowbar to make me let go. We had a verbal contract, I said and X, furious at being treated like an idiot, agreed.

Fuck your verbal contract, not worth the paper it's written on, brilliantly opined the club owner. He of course was wholly unaware of X's terrifying lawyer brother, the Lee Van Cleef of the English courts. I wasn't. See you in court then, I riposted gaily. The club owner informed me I was now dead but didn't know it, and that if I dared further cross him I would be badly hurt by his pals. He obviously thought I was an ordinary girl, and a nice, middle class one at that who would be terrified by his boasts.

I laughed. If only he knew. I might have had a violent, brutal life of abuse and fighting, but hey. Every cloud has a silver lining and his threats just made me more determined to get justice for X. Oh and of course Gav and the big drummer, not that they gave a shit.

I went home happy. Every good soldier loves a righteous war. X looked at me dubiously. I looked at myself in the flyblown spotty mirror when we got in. My pupils were pinpoint and my face looked like a bad angel's with a flaming sword. No wonder all the men loathed me. No wonder they tried to get rid of me at every opportunity and constantly ran me down and belittled me. No wonder if they could have had me burnt at the stake, they would have. But they couldn't. And I would win. I always won. My honour was at stake. I made X ring his brother. It was game on.

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