We were on Broughty Ferry beach enjoying the last days of summer. Having received a text message announcing, “Hiya pal! Pure lappin’ up the sun doon Ferry beach. The sandy aine, like. Wiz on the stony aine fur a bit but ended up punchin’ a few o’ the swans that hing aboot there in the pus when they got wide. Ferry cunts frown upon fightin’ the swans. Fuck knows how, they’re a bunch o’ pricks. Fire doon ya aunt x”, I took a taxi down and arrived late in the afternoon.
I wandered along from Castle Green at a leisurely pace, enjoying the sun, family atmosphere and the refreshingly cool water of the Tay lapping at my feet. The crowd thinned out the further I walked until I eventually found my friends. Jocky looked like he’d been there since 1950-something. He was lounging in an old deck chair with a knotted white handkerchief on his head and trackie bottoms rolled up to his knees. Wee Jocky the cat sat beside him in his own miniature deck chair and also sported a knotted hanky on his little head. Bob Brannan sat in the sand picking it up by the handful and letting it slip through his fingers with a look of vaguely terrified astonishment that suggested he’d never seen it before in his life and thought it might be some kind of threat. The length of washing line rope attached to the frame of Jocky’s chair and tied round Bob’s waist seemed cruel, but it would, as Jocky put it, ‘stop him runnin’ aboot annoying folk. Daft cunt chased a Border Collie halfway ti’ Carnoustie shoutin’ aboot TK Maxx earlier.’ A couple of blue poly bags filled with cans of Special sat by Jocky’s side, and a cauldron of stovies sat atop a fire build from driftwood. It was a fine summer scene.
I made myself comfortable on a beach towel and accepted the beer Jocky passed my way.
‘Just the two of you is it?’
‘Sorry, just the three of you is it?’
‘No pal, Billy’s doon beh the water building a sand-Dens. He did a sand-Tannadice tae but eh flew high over it and shat on the bastards below, just like in the sang aboot United the Monkees wrote. The Monkees were Derry boys, a’body kens that.’
I shielded my eyes from the sun and looked towards the water’s edge. I saw the “sand-Dens” but there was no sign of my assistant manager. Jocky noticed he was gone too and sat forward on his deck chair. He pulled out a brightly coloured plastic telescope that must’ve been for a recommended age range of 3-7 and scanned the horizon.
‘Aw fur fuck sake….’
I stood up and strained my eyes as I tried to pick him out. Billy was several hundred feet out and waving frantically towards shore. Jocky was the first to react. He was up in a flash, ripping off his trackie bottoms as he went. Unfortunately he wasn’t wearing any swimming trunks, or indeed any form of underwear. He sprinted towards the water then stopped suddenly and turned back towards me.
‘Leigh, di’ yi’ mind Baywatch? Teckle documentary aboot Knight Rider’s summer joab when the talkin’ car went to Ayia Napa to work the bars fur three month? Check this oot!’
He started running in slow motion towards the water, turning back numerous times to make sure I was watching and getting the joke.
‘Thon burd wi’ the tits wiz in it tae! Big Jock’s no’ got any fun bags but the auld ba’ sack’s fair booncin’ aboot here!’
It was bouncing in some style. I shuddered then shouted for him to hurry up because Billy was in trouble.
He waved a dismissive hand at me for spoiling his fun and got in the water. He turned round to face me again and grabbed his cock, holding it at it’s base with his right hand. He started winding it up, swinging it round and round like a propeller. “The Helicopter”. As he built up some speed a passing middle-aged man walking his dog who was clearly and quite understandably horrified stopped to look on.
‘A’right pal? Braw day, eh?’
The man couldn’t muster a response.
‘Bonnie doag that. Cocker Spaniel, is it? Eh’ve got a Boaby Brannan. Lovely animal, but a wee bit temperamental.’
The man followed Jocky’s directional nod, saw Bob tied to the deck chair and suddenly screaming TROOSERS! repeatedly, and started backing away.
Jocky had worked up a spin so fast his cock was but a blur. He jogged backwards into deeper water. As soon as his cock was submerged he shot off like a speed boat, waving at me with his free hand as he went. He reached Billy in seconds flat, grabbed him with his free hand and turned back towards shore. He was back on the sand less than 30 seconds after he’d left it. Incredible.
He dropped a spluttering, slightly distressed but essentially perfectly healthy Billy down in the sand. He let go of his cock and stood hands-on-hips for a few seconds as it wound down from the spin and dangled low between his legs again. Billy sat up and started talking excitedly.
‘Billy saw a dolphin! Fish for tea! Klimpl sha…’
Jocky had kneeled next to him, leaned down and cut him short by administering the kiss of life.
‘Erm, I don’t think he needs that, boss. He’s conscious and actually talking to you.’
Jocky broke the kiss and looked up at me.
‘It’s nae bather, pal, he’ll regain consciousness in a minute. Knight Rider did the damage every time wi’ this move, there wiz nae fatalities on that cunt’s shift. Cunt saved lives while the motor went ti’ perties and shagged burds wha like R&B.’
‘Jocky! Billy saw a dolp…’
Jocky stopped him short again, sealing his lips over Billy’s and breathing air into him as the wee man’s arms and legs flailed around. When the seal was broken Billy started coughing and spluttering, probably more at Jocky’s beer breath than an intake of sea water.
‘There’s the boy! Y’a’right there, Billy? Thought yi’ were a goner there like! Ooft! What did eh tell yi’ aboot goin’ in the water? Eh?’
Billy thought about it for a second before responding, ‘dinnae fucking bather!’
‘Yas! That’s the gemme, pal. Mind it next time, cunto.’
Drama over, we returned to our spot further up the beach. I kept a watchful eye on Billy as he made a start on building sand replicas of the Hilltown Multis that overlooked Dens.
‘Leigh, wee question fur yi’, cunto: what are yir thoughts on mind-alterin’ hallucinogenic substances?”
‘Eh? Why do you ask?’ I enquired, puzzled.
Jocky shrugged nonchalantly.
‘Dinnae ken. Just askin’ like. Never drapped acid or that?’
I was baffled by this unusual line of questioning and explained that as a footballer from a young age I’d never been interested in drugs. A bevy on occasion, aye, fair enough, but nothing illegal. He seemed impressed, nodding and giving me a wee wink. He got out his seat and tended to the stovies, giving them a good stir with a big stick. He spent some time giving them great care and attention, occasionally making whispers of encouragement as they cooked. When he seemed satisfied that they were up to scratch he left them be and called on Billy.
‘Billy, ‘mon get yir cream on, pal.’
Billy bounded over, his smile as bright as the sun in the clear blue sky above. Jocky grabbed a bottle of suncream. Sitting back down on the edge of the deck chair he got Billy to kneel down in front of him and squeezed some into his cupped hands.
‘You dae yir airms and eh’ll dae yir back, wee aine. Cannae hae yi’ gettin’ a’ burnt now, can wi’? Chis’ll no’ be happy if yi’ go back redder than Alex Ferguson’s pus when eh telt him Posh Spice wiz replacin’ him on the Fairmuir dominoes team. Fuckin’ hates that lassie so he does. Cheeky cunt gave iz the hair straightener treatment ‘n’ a’hin’ when eh telt him. Fuckin’ toby.’
Billy stuck his tongue out a little as he concentrated on applying the cream evenly to his arms. Jocky shook the bottle, smiled and said, ‘this is a bit like when eh wiz up at Arbroath in the caravan wi’ Duffy’s missus! Eh’ll tak’ yi’ ti’ Pleasure Land a’right doll, it’s nae bather,’ as he squirted a load of white cream on Billy’s back and started rubbing it in with more tenderness than I cared for.
‘The Jon Bons are ready by the way, pal. Fire in. It’s Granny’s recipe wi’ a wee twist courtesy o’ the Jockster here. As Egon Ronay once says ti’ iz when he fired up fur a gemme o’ John Madden on the Megadrive, by Christ thon stovies are fuckin’ teckle! Ken they are, Egon. Ken they are.’
I dished out a big portion into one of the paper bowls Jocky had brought along, cracked open a Special and tucked in. They were teckle right enough. Very tasty. I finished them off in no time and went back for a second helping.
‘Are you lot not eating some? They’re really good. Compliments to the chef!’
‘We ate before yi’ came doon, but you fire in likes. Enjoy, cunto!’
I ate another bowl and lay back, relaxing in the sun watching Billy work feverishly at his sandcastle. I thought I caught Jocky looking at me intently a couple of times, but when I glanced back at him he turned his head away.
‘What’s up, boss? Something on your mind?’
‘Big day the mo’rin’, pal. Eh’ve got meh tribunal, likes.’
Ah yes. Having been sacked by Dundee earlier in the year Jocky had lodged an unfair dismissal claim. It seemed he felt some conflict about it.
‘Bit o’ a weird aine, like. Big Jock should never huv got the bullet, yiz would be playin’ in the SPL the now if eh hudnae been punted. Didnae matter if Inverness were catchin’ up, eh hud plans ti’ send a squad car full o’ Fairmuir cunts up ti’ batter fuck oot Terry Butcher. Nae danger they’d maintain a title challenge if’ their boss wiz in a full-body cast covered in graffiti sayin’ WHA’S IN CHERGE HERE? DFC #1. Fuckin’ sure Chis wisnae up fur playing an attackin’ formation that aggressive. Hopeless cunt’s been playin’ you on the left weeng fur fuck sake.’
I had to give him that. I was no winger despite Gordon Chisholm’s insistence on playing me there at times.
‘Eh reckon eh wiz treated poorly. A’ cunt at the Fairmuir agrees. Even McLean! So eh took it ti’ tribunal. There’s no’ as much money in darts as eh expected, and bein’ your agent isnae exactly lettin’ iz buy the Tesco Finest corn beef.’
I started mumbling an apologetic explanation but he cut me off.
‘Shut yir pus, Leigh. Eh hate takin’ dough aff the Dee, fuckin’ right, but eh need a wee wedge ti’ tide iz over until either the pension comes in or Wullie Miller comes oot the closet and the bet eh put on in 1982 pays oot. ‘Mon ti’ fuck Wullie. A’body kens, be as well makin’ it official.’
Billy called on me.
‘Leigh! Billy found a jelly fish! Bring ice cream!’
Not wanting him to get stung trying to eat his discovery I jumped up and ran over shouting to leave it alone. Fortunately when I got there I saw it was just a used condom. I got him to drop it and buried it under a pile of sand with my feet. Billy insisted I stay and play with him, so I got down and helped. He’d done a remarkable job with it. Dens looked just like a football ground and he’d made a good start on the surrounding Hilltown.
After a while I felt a strange tingling feeling building up inside me. It started down in the pit of my stomach and seemed to spread slowly yet steadily through my body. I felt it filter through every inch of me. I stood up and took a breath. What the fuck? It was the oddest sensation. I looked over towards Jocky. He sat looking right at me, smiling and nodding like he knew something I didn’t. I tried to make sense of what was going on but came up blank. I looked down at the sandy Hilltown and had to rub my eyes when it seemed as if tiny little people were walking about in there. My eyes moved away from it and attempted to readjust. Wherever my eyes rested there was movement. The sand appeared almost alive. Shapes formed, swirled away then reformed. Everything in my field of vision began to shimmer and pulse.
I sat back down. Billy was looking at me, smiling curiously as he sensed something was amiss. He started talking and it sounded all garbled. It echoed around in my head making no sense. Trying to respond had the same effect. My mouth felt full of cotton wool. When he waved at me his hand left a trail in its wake. I waved my own hand in front of my face and it had the same effect. Objects in motion looked as if they were seeping some kind of energy which then rushed back in before it lost sight of it’s source.
I sat lost in my own head looking at the sand. It was a living, breathing entity. I ran my hand through it and watched a wake push out on either side of the line I made. The wake kept on moving, rippling across the whole beach. Amazi…
‘HIYA LEIGH, HIYA PAL!’
I nearly jumped out my skin. Jocky sat in the sand a few feet away with his megaphone raised to his mouth. Brannan and Billy sat quietly behind him.
‘HOW’S IT GOING THERE? Y’A’RIGHT AYE?’
He smiled knowingly, his kind eyes helping put me back at ease as my heart thundered in my chest. I went to speak but he hushed me.
He put the megaphone down and continued. He radiated good vibes and wisdom. He was a man in cherge. I knew that well enough but hadn’t quite appreciated the depth of it until now.
‘Dinnae worry, pal. Yi might be feelin’ a bit funny but it’s teek-a-fuckin’-leek, ken? It’s nae bather. Sometimes a man hus ti’ take a step ootside himself…..or mibbe a step inside himself…..ti’ find oot wha’ he is and whaur he’s goin’. Ken?
I nodded, both hearing and feeling what he was saying.
He got up and started heading back to his deck chair with Bob trailing behind on the end of the rope. Billy waited for a moment, looked right inside me with his smiling eyes then waved and skipped away after them.
I took a breath and lay back in the sand. The sky was electric. A spark fell away and spiralled elegantly down towards me. I closed my eyes and let the current flow through me.
When I opened my eyes again I was right there in the sand where I’d started. Not all journeys are physical adventures. Much of what I saw, most of what I felt, would make no sense if I tried to describe it. I couldn’t do it justice with mere man-made concepts like words.
While I’d seen things it takes the right kind of eyes to notice and felt all the more aware for it, some of the most vivid moments incorporated elements of my day-to-day normality and left me feeling deeply uneasy. I’d been in a high vantage point watching over Dens and watched as a darkness blew over it like a sandstorm. I’d seen Jocky fighting a hideous beast the likes of which I’d never encountered, and felt very afraid when I noticed a mysterious figure lurking in the background, watching him as if biding its time for the right time to strike. I’d heard a chorus of voices bid someone farewell with a war-time song, and as I joined in with the words I recognised – “we’ll meet again, don’t know when, don’t no where” – I’d looked across the room and made eye contact with…….myself. I noticed I was wearing a football strip. It wasn’t one which Dundee players wore.
I gazed out across the mouth of the Tay into darkness. I was definitely back. I had no idea what had happened, but there was absolutely no doubt something major had just taken place. It was an experience like no other. Though I’d never taken any and therefore couldn’t gauge it properly, I could only describe it as like being on mind-altering halluci……..
‘Hiya Leigh, hiya pal.’
I jumped and turned quickly. No-one was there. The beach was deserted.
It was a hesitant response. The greeting was his but the voice, although similar, wasn’t. My eyes darted around looking for him. Nothing. Just Broughty Ferry beach in the middle of the night, a bloody incredible sand-built replica of Dens, the Hilltown and surrounding area…………
And Jocky the cat sitting in a mini deck chair next to it.
I stared hard at him. He just sat there looking right back at me. It couldn’t have been……
My vision started swirling, twinkling as it began to fade out. My legs turned to jelly and I felt myself tumble forward. My last thought before lights out was that I’d just ruined the best sandcastle ever.
I sat on the kerb outside the building the tribunal was taking place gulping a bottle of water. I’d managed to dust myself down and get most of the sand I’d woken up covered in off. Waking up dazed and confused on Broughty Ferry beach may have been a rite of passage for youngsters who lived out that way but it wasn’t something I’d taken any pride in doing. The well-to-do elderly dog walker whose four-legged companion had woken me with an affectionate lick to the face was none too impressed either, and managed to rattle off quite a speech about “the youth of today” before I managed to get my bearings and make as hasty a departure as I could manage. Thankfully the team had a day off from training and I didn’t have to face the music at Dens, so I had taken a taxi into town and Jocky’s tribunal.
It turns out I didn’t have long to wait before he appeared. I checked my watch. It was still early. They must have sorted the matter out with less fuss than might have been expected. He stood holding court among a small pack of members of the press. He’d sharpened up for the occasion by wearing dress black trousers and a tie. He hadn’t bothered completing the outfit with a shirt, and the football boots didn’t exactly set off what he had managed to get on.
‘What paper are you fae, son? The Record? Train station’s that way, get ti’ fuck. You tae Sun-shine. Ooft! Wee joke for yi’ there! Now fuck off back ti’ Glesgae ya tabloid cunts. Big Jocky only speaks ti’ the Tully, the Courier and the Beano.’
He gave the reporters what they wanted and they dispersed. I whistled over at him and he came across to join me, the studs of his boots clicking on the concrete as he went.
‘You’re finished early. How did it go?’
He sat beside me on the kerb.
‘Started aff a’right. Eh stated meh case and telt them eh wanted £76m compo.’
‘Whit? That’s outrageous!’
He looked genuinely hurt and replied, ‘fuck up ya cunt, Jocky’s worth millions! Think o’ a’ the dough eh’m losing on wages and image rights fur the ‘tache. Eh hud aboot £3m worth o’ 20p pieces stashed in Smarties tubes in the office! Cheeky wee bastard, dinnae “whit!” me!’
I shook my head but said no more.
‘Anyway, eh did meh bit. That wiz that, like. The gig wiz postponed ‘cause thon boy Melville didnae turn up.’
We both paused for a few moments to let that sink in. Without saying a word to each other we both agreed that Melville not showing up for such an event was troubling. As more time passed it grew increasingly so.
We decided to head up to the Fairmuir for breakfast. A lorne roll and a pint was in order. As we walked through the city centre Jocky asked if I had a good time at the beach. He apologised for leaving me but thought I looked like I was having a good time and left me to it. I couldn’t place a reason for the devilish glint in his eye so I ignored it and began pouring out details of my strange, incredible and slightly creepy experience from the previous night. He was most intrigued and highly concerned by some of my visions, particularly the one featuring Dens. I saw real fear in his eyes as he absorbed that bit.
I wasn’t sure whether to be relieved or not when he explained the bit about him fighting a hideously ugly beast may have been terrifying but was in fact just a chance meeting with an old acquaintance instead of a vision in my mind.
“Could nae believe meh luck when Davie fuckin’ Dodds went wanderin’ past. Eh says, “whaur’s meh fuckin’ ten-spot yi half-elephant bastard!” and gave the cunt a kicking. Took £10.50 aff him. That’s the tenner he wiz due and 50p Jocky tax. Teckle!’
I began pondering what had triggered the crazy things I’d seen. Jocky quickly offered his thoughts.
‘The Special must huv been aff, or the corn doag in the stovies. Mibbe the Geordie fella in the clouds decided yi’ needed ti’ see certain things. A wee bit o’ perspective, ken? Maist cunts either never see it or dinnae recognise it when they do. You took it in and’ll mak’ something o’ it. Mibbe it winnae be a dramatic cheenge, but yi’ll remember what yi’ saw and tak’ it forward.’
His voice trailed off to a barely audible mumble and he added, ‘or mibbe eh needed a guinea pig to try the mushies Bomber grew before the Fairmuir boys fire intae them….’
He jumped into the road waving an arm to hail a taxi before I could say I didn’t quite catch that last bit. We dived in and sat idle in the morning traffic. I decided to venture a couple of questions.
‘Boss, does Wee Jocky sleep in the house at night or does he go out?’
‘Wee Jocky likes his kip, pal. They’re no’ called cat naps fur nuthin’. Usually sleeps in the bunk bed in meh spare bedroom. He’s on the bottom, Soapy’s up on top. Suppose he does go oot sometimes, mibbe fur a scrap ootside the Vu or munchies fae the garage or something. Fuck knows. As lang as he minds ti’ tak’ his key eh could nae really gie a fuck.’
I hesitated for a moment and wondered if I really wanted to ask the next question.
‘Has he ever………has he ever talked to you?’
The look on his face confirmed I shouldn’t have asked in the first place. He shook his head, smiling, and patted me on the knee. Apparently I was “some fucking boy”, and “a massive spazzie”.
The mind-taxing events of the previous day and night sleeping rough had taken a toll. I felt washed out and jaded. Had I been my usual self and not slipped into a half-asleep daze as I peered out the taxi window I might have picked up on the phone call Jocky made – “Hiya Jum! Green fur go wi’ Bomber’s gear. The eagle has landed, and it thought meh cat wiz talkin’ ti’ him. Fuck aye. We are at DEFCON Teckle, repeat; we are at DEFCON Teckle. See yi’ efter pal!’ I might also have paid heed to the instinctive uneasy twinge poking at my gut a little bit more as a car with blacked out windows discreetly followed us all the way along our route.
By the time we’d reached the clubbie news and rumours about the tribunal and Melvilles’s no-show were already starting to fly around the city. News travels fast in Dundee, and rumours about the city’s football teams travels even faster.
It wouldn’t take long for the rumours to become ugly facts that would change everything.
Dark clouds were forming over the horizon. Soon they would roll in over Dens and unleash a storm the likes of which the weather-beaten club had never seen before.