Houses were first built at the southern end of Coltman Street in the 1840s. The grand houses at the northern end were completed around 1905 and accommodated affluent middle class merchant and fishing industry families. By November 1980, after the Cod Wars of the 1960s and 1970s and decline in shipping, the northern end has slipped into multiple occupation and dereliction. Travellers’ horses are tethered on a patch of wasteland where north and south of the street converge.
Mick, a photography student at the Regional College of Art, has just left The Eagle pub after his fish and chip supper and is on his way to his rented room in what was once a fine double fronted mansion.
It’s a damp foggy night and everything – trees, street lamps, parked cars and house guttering – drips with moisture. Mick, attracted by the luminescent glow surrounding a street lamp, uses his 35mm Minolta SRT101, loaded with Ilford HP5, to take photographs. It might be a grim street, Mick thinks, but it’s great for photography. Bert Hardy here I come.
Approaching the wasteland, and tethered horses, he sees two men attempting to push a hobbled young piebald pony into the back of a green mini-van. Mick takes a photograph of the men and the number plate and goes nearer.
One of the men notices Mick. What the fuck are you doing? he demands
Just taking snaps, mate.
What if I don’t want no photos taking?
Then I won’t take any.
You the old bill?
Do I look like a copper? Mick asks.
Can we just get on with this? the second man asks.
Isn’t he a bit big to get in that van? Mick asks.
Expert on horses are you?
No, but I do own a mini van, Mick replies.
Get them front legs in, then push him over on his side and shove him in, the first man says.
Have you got permission to take him? Mick asks.
From Pikeys? You having a laugh? This is our patch.
What are you going to do with the pony?
Nosey fucker, aren’t you?
The hobbled pony neighs in protest as he’s forced into the van but can’t kick as his back legs are also hobbled.
What’s he for?
Steaks son. Just like veal, right tasty.
You’re going to eat him?
When he’s dead, the second man laughs and locks the back door of the van.
As the van pulls away, Mick hears the horse squealing and kicking.
At the police station, Mick reports the incident to the desk sergeant, explaining he has photographs of the men and the van.
Stealing a Pikey pony isn’t an offence, son.
You’re not going to do anything?
Good night, son.
A week later Mick finally sees a traveller on the wasteland and gives him a set of prints of the incident explaining that the police didn’t care.
The traveller smiles. I know these men. We’ll see to them. Thank you, friend. Owe you one.
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© Phil Cosker 2021
Phil Cosker has asserted his right under the Copyright, Designs & Patents Act 1988 to be identified as the author of this work. All rights reserved; no part of this work may be reproduced or transmitted by any mean, electronic, mechanical, photocopying or otherwise without the prior permission of the author.
Nice one. I lived on Coltman Street as a student in the early 70’s. It’s about right although I’m amazed Mick walked away with his camera!
Nigel! How good to hear from you. Thank you. Of course you’re right about Mick’s camera! Go well, Phil