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Great Gatsby 2000

A classic study of Gatty, his loud parties, his illusive booze smuggling racket, his destructive passion for the breathless, careless Dazy, who lives across the pond.


In my younger years Dad gave me some earnest advice that I have puzzled over ever since. "If tha can't say nowt good, say nowt at all. Thas got nowt in yer empty head worth thinkin' abart anyroad, you ungrateful little bleeder". I had been mulling this one over to such an extent that I needed to get out of the hot Sheffield city, past the slag-heaps in the valley of ashes and out into one of the strangest communities of South Yorkshire, the windswept municipal football pitches and broken glass that is Milton Forge.

I squatted a council flat alongside the less fashionable end of Milton Pond. There are actually two ponds one above the other. The white council maisonettes of more fashionable Top Pond glittered along the water, where sunday fishermen mutter and swear softly at passers-by. And the largest of them all, with mock-Georgian bay windows and twinkling Argos coachlights, was Gatty's Place. The one with the Pontiac Trans-Am outside.

He was the barbie king of South Yorkshire, and folks came from far and wide to sample his sausages. To be invited to his parties was a special honour. You would lounge in plastic garden chairs, sipping Carlsberg Special, insult strangers via cellphones and discuss the latest Leeds United results. A scene so significant, so elemental, so profound. The booming trance music from his BMW had a timeless magical quality that kept the whole of our gorgeous council estate awake in reflective reverence for sometimes nights on end.

Gatty himself, despite his not-inconsiderable income, was a troubled soul tortured by his most grotesque and fantastic relations. His young brother constantly, ineffably, got into turbulent trouble throwing stones at the gay guy next door as the poor man drove past each morning. The kid's behaviour tore at his heart; his dreams were haunted by the knowledge that the rocks his sibling whirled were embedded in the fairy's wing. And his windshield. And his rear tail lights. An obscene word had been scrawled on it by a child's hand in thick green marker pen.

One night by the pond I spotted a lone figure in a light-reflecting shell-suit, casually, almost nonchalantly shooting ducks with an airgun. It was Gatty, come out to determine what was his share of the local waterfowl. It was a bright night, and the only sounds were the faint, plaintive questions on 'Who Wants To be A Millionaire' wafting gently on the breeze from a distant living room. The moon was full and the pond still. His pitbull terrier had me by the leg and Gatty came over to commiserate and offer me a Silk Cut Extra Mild, which he lit with an elegant sweep of Bic. Then he stretched out his arms towards a distant green light across the water and fell headlong into the dull platinum ripples beneath us, creating a glittering cadence of shouted obscenities and startled moorhens.

That evening I found out the unutterable truth that haunted him like a tax return. Across the pond Dazy, the mother of his six children lived, gloriously, with a man with a proper job. You could sometimes hear her delicate voice screaming at the young'uns. Tonight all was quiet. A solitary green light reflected across the pond - flashing gently from the top of the burglar alarm box. Her gleaming Fiat Punto Cabriolette was parked invitingly in her open garage. He had long wedded his unwieldy visions to her polo-minted breath, his mind would never romp again across the coal tips like the mind of a dog. He waited, listening a moment longer to her distant car alarm, then he turned like a disordered soul back into his yard, dripping pond-slime silently onto the broken tarmac of his shattered dreams.

Years later, when his house stood empty and boarded-up, I could still faintly hear the booming of his rave music and the endless car doors slamming slamming slamming. Most of the maisonettes were empty now, ready for the council wrecking balls, heady visions of a glorious future now confined to the empty head of a distant town planner. I saw in my minds eye the vast estate bulldozed aside leaving a green landscape stretching away to the ends of time. I imagined the first miners emerging across the rolling plains and saying "Ayup lads, I bet thers coal round 'ere. Get thi shovel, we're digging!"

I also thought of Gatty's wonder gazing across the pond at his lost squeeze. He never believed in the green light - jumping the red was always much more fun - and the orgiastic new by-pass that stretched before him to infinity. It eluded us then and eludes me know. But that's no matter. Gatty now sups his San Miguel from a bottle in his Ibiza bar, feet up, and far removed from the gentle eddies of ever rippling pond-life. Jammy bugger.

To be continued_______________