Gordon Brown

59 Minutes


The bastard kissed the tips of his fingers, reached down and patted me on the head. I looked up and saw the smile leave his face.

‘So different. It should have all been so different.’

I struggled to get up but my attacker and the man from the Spanish photo were good for the game and I was pinned to the floor. The first fist caught me behind the ear — the knuckleduster slicing open my skull. Snap, crackle and pop and the second fist mashed my nose to mince.

Just the beginning. I tried to curl into a ball. Just the beginning.

The door to the room closed as the bastard left and it was time for more pain. The attacker reached between my legs and grabbed at my balls. The squeeze was so hard it felt like one of them burst. A thumb searched for my left eye socket and a forefinger for my right — fluid spurted and darkness fell.

Then they got serious.

Chapter 1

The clock on the wall says eleven oh one. The second hand has crested the apex and we are now into the second minute after the hour and counting. I can’t see it move but, with a fascination that owes everything to my circumstances, I know the tick of that second hand intimately, lovingly, fearfully and a shed load of other adverbs that would bore you to the core.

Fifty eight minutes and fifty four seconds to go. Not long now. There are important things that I need to tell you in the minutes that remain to me. So many things, that we may not have the time we need.

But I will try.

Why? Why will I try to tell you these things? Because I need to tell someone and you are better placed than most, far better placed than most, to listen and understand. Listening is not even your responsibility. Understanding is what you need to do. It is up to me to make you listen. If I fail, you will drift away like the sober leaving the drunk.

But I doubt this.

As we travel together down this short path, there will be a number of questions that you will want to ask. I’ll tell you now that I won’t answer them. I’m sorry I can’t be more co-operative but debate is a locked five bar gate on our trip.

Can you also forgive me if I become a little vague or distracted? My mind may wander. It is inevitable. It is probably essential. My story may need some detours to make sense.

To help, I have left a diary, of sorts, for you to read. It is there beside you. The big black book with the gold block lettering on the spine. Who gave me it is of no great importance. It is nothing more than the sort of gift you would get from a distant aunt at Christmas.

Please do not pick it up. Not now.

So, where should I start? Where would you start with a clock ticking like a time bomb?

‘Start at the beginning and go on. And when you reach the end stop.’

It is a bad lift from Alice in Wonderland but you get the gist.

By the way it is nearly eleven oh two. I must move on.

Chapter 2

I was born in the west end of Glasgow. Partick to be exact. I was never the healthiest of kids. I had a tendency to monopolise whatever bug was doing the rounds. I missed much of my schooling, replacing it with an in-depth knowledge of doctor’s surgeries, hospitals, my bedroom, my grandmother’s bedroom and a private TB clinic. Suffice to say I left school with no qualifications and little prospects.

It would be nice to say I went on to make good and earn my fortune the honest way. An entrepreneur of note. But that would be a crock of crap. True, I made money but I also managed to make a turkey sandwich of my life on the way. I held promise and I excelled in places that others failed but ultimately I washed my life down a large plug hole and watched the water spin away — carrying my heart beats and my ambition to a dark place.

After leaving school, I found employment with a friend of my father. It was menial work. The sort that requires little thought, a lot of graft and rewards you with a thin pay packet.

My father’s friend was a man called George Matthews. George owned an engineering firm on the outskirts of Glasgow that employed twenty men who slaved hard to produce spare parts for the automotive industry. The hours were long and the factory had to sweat for its money. Saturday and even Sunday shifts were the norm for the first two years of my working life. I lost contact with my schoolmates and found it hard to acquire new friends at work.

Being far younger than anyone else in the building my nickname was not very original — ‘Junior’ — and since the work’s recreation revolved around the Lame Duck pub I was, at sixteen years of age, excluded from that particular avenue of respite.

Michael Tolt was my only friend of note from back then. It is Michael, dead these many years, that is, in part, responsible for me sitting here talking to you.

When I joined the firm I was his saviour. In an instant, the scorn that the factory poured upon its youngest member fell from his shoulders and onto mine. I think he always knew this was a shit deal and in compensation he became the one person I could talk to at break time or see outside of work.

He was a fanatic for football, and for Partick Thistle in particular. Over the years he dragged me along to a nightmare collection of games. He never tired of his obsession and was rewarded for his long term service with the club when, on the 23 ^rd October 1971, against all predictions, they took on the might of Celtic in the League Cup final and hammered them four — one.

I still remember standing on the terraces at Hampden Park at half time — Partick were four up against one of the best sides in Europe. To say that there was a party atmosphere wasn’t even close to the truth on that day. There may never be a finer moment to be a Jags fan.

But I had no love of the club and I was the least excited person in the Partick Thistle throng. But the game did bring one defining moment with it. After the match I was permitted entry into the hallowed halls of The Lame Duck for my first drink. Having turned eighteen the day before, the stained floorboards, dank smoky air and rank smell of a million men’s farts were mine for the taking.

Eleven oh four and ten seconds. Time slips past so fast. I must keep my foot on the gas.

I left Matthews Engineering two months later. I couldn’t take it anymore. The combination of poor hours, the lack of pay and the endless insults forced me out and onto the ‘Bru’ — to survive on state handouts.

Neither my mother nor my father were in the happy world about this. They were reliant on my contribution to the house to help offset the mountain of debt they had acquired. No, and let’s be honest about this, the debt was not theirs but my father’s, and my father’s alone, the local bookie being the open drain he so easily poured our cash into.

When I left the job I intended to find other employment as quickly as possible. But Britain was heading for its worst recession since the thirties and with no qualifications, no skills and, probably most damning of all, no

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