Dipsoes, an episode from my orphanage life
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We left Reg at about 3.30 and whipped back to Randy's
digs for some grub. When we were finished, Randy said: "Eh,
let's go and have a bit of fun with the wine-oes." John
wasn't exactly sure what he meant. "Wine-oes ... ?" he said,
"Dipsoes, nut-cases ... they get zozzled on anything,"
said Randy. "The Diamonds have been there for years, and one
of the Penders."
John could remember that the Diamond brothers and the
Pender brothers were among the worst of those who were called
'bonkers' at the orphanage. One of the Diamonds had the
nickname 'Dickie' because he was always scratching his groin.
The other was called Doppie simply because it rhymed with
Dickie. John could remember that one of them had missed a
thumb the first time he and his brother had been given the
job in the pantry, but he couldn't remember which one. They
had to cut the dozens of oblong loaves into slices and put
marg on them.
"I fancy a walk," said Randy, getting up and going to a
wardrobe. He took out an overcoat.
"What about the bikes?" said Paddy, "ain't leaving 'em
parked out there." Randy put his overcoat on: "Bung 'em in
the yard ... I'll show you," he said, making for the door.
They went down the stairs leading up to the front door.
Randy said "Round here," and turned to the left and opened a
gate which led to an alley running between the side of the
house and a ware-house. They pushed the bikes through the
"Bit nippy," said Paddy, rubbing the heels of his hands
together. Randy knew the Commercial Road area like the back
of his hand. After about half an hour of zig-zagging down
narrow side streets they came to a large open square with a high wire fence. Randy said "The gate's around the left over
there," pointing in that direction. There were pale-yellow
street lamps running down each side of the square, half of
them either not turned on or busted. In the distance ahead
on what looked like waste ground John saw a large fire
burning, and some phantom shapes stumbling around. They went
through the open double-gates and moved towards the fire.
"What the fuck is this place?" asked Paddy.
"Houndsditch-Council rubbish dump," said Randy.
It stank like a sewer in the making. They heard some
discordant singing coming from the shapes. "Grief!", said
Paddy, "don't it stink!"
"Well," said Randy, "all the rubbish from the local veg
and fish markets ends up here, and when you get within ten
feet of one of those sods, you'll know what a stink is."
They moved over towards three stumbling serenaders who
were about twenty feet away from the fire. "You won't
recognise any of 'em," said Randy, " ... ain't you dead yet,
Dickie!" he shouted at the group. One of the figures
stumbled around to face them, and made some gesture to throw
a bottle he held in his right hand. He tripped over
something and lost his balance, and both he and the bottle
fell to the ground with a crash.
"Eh! it ain't Dickie," said Randy, "it's Doppie."
Doppie made an effort to rise on all fours.
"You're right, mate!" shouted Paddy, standing over the
prostrate figure, "what a pong!" He placed the heel of his
right shoe against Doppie's shoulder, and gave him a shove:
"Get up, you filthy bar'st'd."
There was every sort of refuse imaginable lying around -
cartons, opened tins, all sorts of fish and veg and waste
Each time one of the Diamonds succeeded in rising to his
knees, one of us placed a foot against a shoulder and shoved
him down again. We knew by instinct that the lower creatures
had been created for the pleasure of the higher. We were
merely doing what nature compels the higher beings to do - to
keep the lower in their place.
Every foul odour of which the body was heir to united to
repel the call to compassion. As they lay in the muck, we
kicked every sort of rubbish in their direction. No sooner
had we shoved one of them to the ground, than we shouted for
him to rise - hindering them to do so by all possible means.
It were as though the situation we all were in, in that
rubbish dump, was a mirror of the world outside.
On reaching the stage of boredom, we decided to finalize
the matter with a baptismal oblation. Water not being
available, we rose to the occasion by using that wit of which
only corrupted genius is capable - we all pissed on the
appropriate spot, and with a degree of accuracy which, if we
had been sober, would have been highly commendable.
Keane, who had omitted to put his overcoat on, said,
"I'm gonna get a warm up", and made his way over to the large
fire on our right about forty feet away. As Randy and I
stood looking down at the lump on the ground, we heard Paddy
call out, "Good grief! Look at that!" Randy and I rushed
over to Paddy. "Blimey!", I said, "Let's get out of here."
I never sobered up quicker in my life. There was an old,
rusty metal milk container standing upside down just at the
body's feet, and in line with it. He must have been sitting
on it. The head and shoulders were in the glowing, red and
white embers. Little puffs of white smoke rose up now and
then from the skull, with a pop and a hiss, as the intense
heat consumed the last vestiges of flesh. We kicked the milk
container aside, and took hold of the feet to pull the body
out of the fire.
"It's Dickie, I reckon", said Randy, "look, his right
thumb's missing. He pointed to the right arm. We pulled the
body away from the fire, leaving a rising cloud of whitish
powder about a foot or so above the ground. After pulling
the body about four or five feet, the skull detached itself
from the body and rolled over to the left, leaving us pulling
a headless corpse. We could all see the humour in this
particular element of the tragedy, and let go of the legs to
have a good laugh. Paddy went over to the scull and gave it
a hefty kick, but his toecap became wedged in it somehow.
He started hopping around on his left leg, but on putting his
hands on the scull to pull it off, he gave out a yell: "Fuck
me! it's bleedin' hot." Randy and I were killing ourselves
"Get a lump of wood, or something - my bleedin' shoe's
beginning to smoulder." By the time we had found a piece of
wood, Paddy had removed his shoe. I put my foot on the
skull, pressed it to the ground, and, pulling out the shoe,
gave it to Paddy. The toecap was almost burnt away. While
Paddy waved his shoe around to cool it down, Randy and I
kicked the skull around. After a while we got bored and went
up to Paddy who was sitting on the milk container putting on
his shoe. He started cursing Dickie for ruining it.
"Where's the bastard - where's 'is fucking 'ead?" We
pointed in the direction where the skull lay.
Paddy picked up the milk crate. He went over to the
skull, and, raising the crate with both hands high above his
head, he brought it down with a crash, smashing the skull to
"That's all the bastard was ever good for", he sneered,
"let's get the fuck out of 'ere."
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