I Am Twenty-Four

29th of April 1977 to 28th of April 1978




By Dave Andrews

And so, every day I repeat my day. Plunging deep into the earth as my father and my father’s father did before me.  It was the only thing we had in our village.  The only thing you could do unless you joined up.  Those people never came back.  I am not a fighter though.

But I have attributes:  I am young; I am powerful; I am strong.  As I have grown, I can work harder than my colleagues.  I am happy with this, not as I want to beat them but as I want to support them.  My work is noticed by the shop steward.  He tells me I am doing too much and should ease off.  I tell him I am young; I am powerful. I am strong.  I love my job. I want to do as much work as I can.

The shop steward tells me he knows this, he sees me working.  But he also tells me that not everyone is as young, powerful and strong as I am.  We work in a dangerous place.  We need to be careful and not push ourselves too hard as we need to make sure we go home to our families. 

I am conflicted.  I have so much energy.  So, for a while I try to do as I have been asked.  I try and hold back, to temper my swings, to drill less, to shovel smaller amounts.  To work within myself

But I cannot work like that.

So, we come to an arrangement.  I do my work for half my shift, then I am free to do other things. So, I create my own entertainment for the other half of my shift. 

I start by making my own patterns on the coal face instead of drilling it.  They are beautiful, but temporary.  But I am not alone, and my colleagues need to work.  So as soon as I stop, they are gone in what seems like the blink of an eye, reduced to rubble before me.  As time passes the carvings and shapes grow more intricate, more delicate, as I get better. But they remain oh, so temporary.

Then one day I see it in the half-light.  Backed with the percussion of a conveyor belt and rhythmic machinery smashing into rock, a small passageway, an unused test tunnel! 

So, I shift my attentions to that once I finish my work.  I work my way down my tunnel, working the walls.  Sculpting the earth.  Whittling the supports.  Carving the rock.  Hewing the coal. Making order where there was once chaos.  And chaos where there was once order.

And after every shift, my work survives!  I am an artist! 

My tunnel becomes known amongst my colleagues.  They come and see it when they have a break.  Some like what I have created.  Many don’t.  But they all know why I do it.  So, they can all return home to their families. 

As I go ever further down my tunnel, my art gets better.  But also, as I go down my tunnel but the conditions get worse.  The heat gets heavier as the ventilation doesn’t reach as far.  I cannot create for as long, or be as skilful.  Sometimes I have to just sit when the heat is too much, to ease the sweat stop rolling into my eyes.  I long for an ice cream.  To melt in my mouth and take the heat away.  But by the time I get back to the surface, it is cold and dark.  And there will be no ice cream. 

But as every day passes, I am getting closer and closer to the end of my beautiful tunnel. It takes me longer and longer to get to the end to start. And the heat gets more oppressive and the air stickier so I can do less when I’m there.  I can’t see what I’m doing.  My tunnel is so beautiful!  But I need a new challenge.

I ask if there are more tunnels, but the only ones are a long way back down towards the lift shaft.  I cannot do my work and go there; it is too far. I now know this is too far me as well.

Time to move on.  I need more space.

Though my father and my father’s father worked their fingers to the bone for their families and themselves, this tradition will die with me.  I can no longer be a miner.  I used to love my job.  But as I spent more time in my tunnel, I realised that was now what I loved, Crafting not drilling.  I need to create not destroy. 

So, I quietly pack my bags and say my goodbyes to my family and friends.  “Where will you go?” they ask.  I tell them I don’t know.  “What will you do?”  I tell them about my tunnel.  Some have heard me speak of it.  They have seen my face light up when I talked about it.  They know how much joy it brought me, though it was hundreds of feet underground and only some colleagues got to actually see it in its glory. 

But not all understand.  They don’t think art is a job.  I tell them art isn’t my job. It’s my hobby.  So, they ask how I will make a living.  I tell them I don’t know.  I have some savings, but nothing that will last for very long. But I am young:  I am powerful;  I am strong.  These are attributes that will see me through until I find a new way to live. 

I buy my one-way ticket to London.  When I arrive, it is unbearable.  So many people rushing about.  I find a squat and settle in.  I start labouring during the days, but this soon stops as I find something better.  The nights.  I see different places and different faces to a backdrop of music I had never heard before.  I soon forget my beautiful tunnel.


By Nerys Hucker

By this time, I was back in Liverpool. I liked to stroll at night and pay attention to all the old things, enjoying the little textures of decrepitude and decay. One night, I stood for a while on the round manhole cover at the bottom of Mathew Street, absorbing the mildew-slick darkness around me, all glossy black like a vinyl record of decomposition.

A movement caught my eye: a man emerging from the car park that used to be the Cavern Club. He was dragging armfuls of surveying chains and that, together with his pale grey suit and pasty axolotl face, put me in mind of Jacob Marley.

“Oh man” I said, “You’re not going to resurrect the Cavern Club are you?”

He laughed and said “I’m not interested in any of that “authentic Beatles” nonsense. I have plans here for magnificent structures and enterprises.”

“Good, cos I hate The Beatles. I’ve got a punk band: Big in Japan. Come and see us play over there tomorrow.” I nodded my head towards Eric’s.

“I’ll do that” said the Business Man. “I know people. Very fine people who can help you. I’ll bring them to see you.” He handed me a business card, but it was too dark to read so I slipped it in my back pocket.

The next day, I strolled down Mathew Street again. But instead of the car park where the Cavern Club used to be, there was a shiny colourful building with music leaking out and a big sign on it saying, “The Beatles Experience”. The Business Man was there, counting people in. When he saw me, he smiled and gave me a free pass. And so, I went inside.

In the first rooms there were marionettes of The Four, playing in different venues. A replica of the Cavern, but with strip lighting and every surface moulded in E-Zee Kleen plastic. A recreation of Hamburg - but no texture, no smell of the sea and no whores. In the next room, John’s pure white piano, as unblemished as his life. Oh God, Cilla Black. And everything was interactive and loud. Play this game to make the girls scream harder. Play that game to make the Maharishi float higher.

The top floor was the busiest. It was the location of Hey Food, where diners were snaffling up their Sgt. Pepper’s Lonely Hearts Club Sandwiches, bowls of Penne Lane, and the Salad of Prawn and Yolk-o.

Confused, I rode down the Helter Skelter and into the largest room in the building: the Gift Shop. A never-ending selection of merchandise: plush cuddly toys of the fellas in their different phases; mop top wigs for babies; Co-coa Ca-choo chocolate bars; Let it Bleed sanitary towels (a bit confusing, that); t-shirts printed with Here Comes the Pun.

I managed to find the exit onto the street and at last took out the bone-coloured card the Business Man had given me the night before. In the centre, in large raised letters, was one word:


Underneath, in smaller letters, it said:


That night, I went into Eric’s feeling sick. As we got on stage, I saw the Business Man and his cronies lined up at the back. But that night, the band was really up for it. As we started to play, I could feel their energies coming together into something extraordinary. The Business Men nodded approvingly.

And then I had a vision of our own interactive experience. Of our funny marionettes jerking along to a recording of Taxi in a plastic version of this very room. Of a game of Throw the Lampshade on Jayne’s Head. Of diners scoffing down Pig in Da Pan, with a Skewer Side to Go-go. A gift shop full of Punko Fop! characters of us all. And I looked into the future and saw us on reality shows; dancing on jelly; suing each other in court; playing Butlin’s 70’s weekends. I saw my children performing a ceremonial burning of all my memorabilia.

Ihadtoputastoptoit. Now.

I whirled around and smashed the headstock of my guitar into the back of Broudie’s head. He crumpled as if his puppet strings had been cut. Then I grabbed my guitar by the neck and swung it like an axe, down onto Broudie’s exposed neck, which crimped pleasingly. The music had stopped, but I could still hear it pounding in my head. Everything felt electric, like the first time you are alone and naked with a girl. I tore out the dodgy lead from my amp and pushed it onto Budgie who spasmed and played the most amazing jazz percussive riff. Even when the sticks went flying from his hands, he still twitched involuntarily on the pedals. I picked up the sticks and rammed one into his ear, marvelling at my power as I felt its tip squeeze through the fleshy blancmange of his brain. The other stick went up Holly’s nostril. I was glad of the hysterical strength of adrenalin, as getting this to penetrate him proved difficult and I had to ram it repeatedly with the heel of my hand until his eyes rolled upwards.

Now, Jayne. It had to be something special for Jayne, something fittingly spectacular. I grabbed my guitar again and thrust it at her from behind, right though her delicate torso until it emerged from her chest and her legs flailed in the air. I dropped her and stood breathing hard, looking at my work.

Everyone had gone. There was only a carpet of carnage on the stage, and a beautiful solid silence.
I strode out of Eric’s licking the cocktail of gore from my lips.
And I saw the pool of life.
And I went into it and washed myself clean.
And everything was forgiven.
And a blackbird sang.
And I stood for a while on the square manhole cover on Mathew Street. And I wondered what to do next with my life.


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