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Chapter 2 ("Concerning Hooligans") begins with a quick once-over of the life and career of Patrick Hooligan, a former resident of Irish Court (Alf's neighborhood) whose proper job was as a bouncer at various area pubs, but whose life's calling was apparently "robbing and occasionally bashing" his fellow men, and was a whiz at "tea leafing", or letting his fingers do the walking where loose trinkets were left unsecured. "His existence in the flesh," Rook tells us, "is as well established as the existence of Buddha or Mohamet." Some people would nod with a knowing smirk at that sentence, but never you mind about that, Jack. Alas, all good things--and all bad things, for that matter--must come to an end, and one day Patrick gave a constable one knock too many, put his lights out for good, and left his mortal remains in a garbage cart. That was more than enough; the judge sentenced him to a life sentence, but that didn't turn out to be long anyway. One day not long after Hooligan went in, he fell ill, went to the prison hospital, and never came out alive.

We're told his legend was built from the rude stuff of a particularly average criminal record, but Hooligan had a few things going for him: "It was doubtless the combination of skill and strength, a certain exuberance of lawlessness, an utter absence of scruple in his dealings, which marked him out as a leader among men." (p. 23) From this cult of personality was built the capital-H Hooligan which suddenly entered both the British public's awareness and their language in the summer of '98. Unless, of course, the entire story was a Rook embellishment, which is a possibility very few modern commentators I've found so far seem ready to dismiss. For the purpose of getting through this story, we'll assume Hooligan was at least slightly more real than Paul Bunyan and his big blue ox, but possibly as overhyped by the true believers as Saddam Hussein's WMDs.

From here, we cover at length the Hooligan type, beginning with an oh-the-humanity meditation on what could've been and what could be.

I should perhaps not speak of them as men, for the typical Hooligan is a boy who, growing up in the area bounded by the Albert Embankment, the Lambeth Road, the Kennington Road, and the streets about the Oval, takes to tea-leafing as a Grimsby lad takes to the sea. If his taste runs to street-fighting there is hope for him, and for the community. He will probably enlist, and, having helped to push the merits of gin and Christianity in the dark places of the earth, die in the skin of a hero. You may see in Lambeth Walk a good many soldiers who have come back from looking over the edge of the world to see the place they were born in, to smell the fried fish and the second-hand shoe-leather, and to pulsate once more to the throb of a piano-organ. On the other hand, if his fingers be lithe and sensitive, if he have a turn for mechanics, he will slip naturally into the picking of pockets and the rifling of other people's houses. (pp. 22-3)
Two points worthy of mention here:
  • Y'see? This boy can be saved! Wait, what's he pointing at? Wait, where's my wallet? I wouldn't dismiss the light-fingered out of hand, though. They could have a great future in espionage.
  • "Gin and Christianity." That's a man's combination right there. Forget democracy from the end of a gun, try Jesus from the business end of a green olive. More sherry, vicar?
The text tells us that there were little criminals all over London, but the focus of this piece landed on the neighborhoods off Lambeth because of the sheer concentration; Rook refers to the neighborhood around Irish Court as a criminal "colony", which made them easy to find, if not necessarily easy to catch. The Lambeth Hooligans were a group loaded with grievances against organized society: "Life has little to give them but what they take."

Now that we're acquainted with them as a group, it's time to move on to the field generals. As in most "proper" schools, the one with the strongest personality rules the roost.
The boy who has kicked in a door can crow over the boy who has merely smashed a window. If you have knocked-out your adversary at the little boxing place off the Walk, you will have proved that your friendship is desirable. If it becomes known - and it speedily becomes known to all but the police - that you have drugged a toff and run through his pockets, or, better still, have cracked a crib on your own and planted the stuff, then you are at once surrounded by sycophants. Your position is assured, and you have but to pick and choose those that shall work with you (p. 24)
Even from the other side of the Atlantic, we can safely assume that "toff" is short for "stuck up toffee-nose". And you thought all that Monty Python TV wouldn't come in handy.

Back to generalities of the Hooligan type:
The average Hooligan is not an ignorant, hulking ruffian, beetle-browed and bullet-headed. He is a product of the Board School, writes a fair hand, and is quick at arithmetic. His type of face approaches nearer the rat than the bull-dog; he is nervous, highly-strung, almost neurotic. He is by no means a drunkard; but a very small quantity of liquor causes him to run amuck, when he is not pleasant to meet. Under-sized as a rule, he is sinewy, swift, and untiring. For pocket-picking and burglary the featherweight is at an advantage. He has usually done a bit of fighting with the gloves, for in Lambeth boxing is one of the most popular forms of sport. But he is better with the raws, and is very bad to tackle in a street row, where there are no rules to observe. Then he will show you some tricks that will astonish you. No scruples of conscience will make him hesitate to butt you in the stomach with his head, and pitch you backwards by catching you round the calves with his arm. His skill, born of constant practice, in scrapping and hurricane fighting brings him an occasional job in the bashing line. (pp. 25-6)
The lesson for today: brawling is like touch-typing. If you do it every day, it'll become second nature. We're also assured that if you hired a Hooligan as a "basher" (complete with steel-toed boots for kicking; take that, you Doc-Martens-come-latelys), you'd seldom be let down. I found it a bit amusing that in spite of all this other toughness, they were lightweights when it came to liquor. That's what they get for going in with an empty stomach...

The type also possessed a "two-o'clock-in-the-morning courage which is the rarest variety," and since he's going to have so little of the positive to tell us about his subject, Rook tells us of a time--the time, in his experience--where Alf was above reproach.
One afternoon we were at the Elephant and Castle, when suddenly a pair of runaway horses, with a Pickford van behind them, came pounding into the traffic at the crossing. There was shouting, screaming, and a scurrying to clear the way, and then I saw young Alf standing alone, tense and waiting, in the middle of the road. It was a perilous thing to do, but he did it. He was used to horses, and though they dragged him for twenty yards and more, he hung on, and brought them up. A sympathetic and admiring crowd gathered, and young Alf was not a little embarrassed at the attention he commanded.

'The firm oughter reckernize it,' said a man in an apron, looking round for approval. 'There's a matter of two 'underd pound's worth of prop'ty that boy's reskid.'

We murmured assent.

'I don't want no fuss,' said young Alf, glancing quickly around him.

Just then a man ran up, panting and put his hand over the harness. Then he picked up the reins, and, hoisting himself by the step, peered into his van.

'You're in luck to-day, mister,' said a boy.

The man passed the back of his hand across a damp forehead, and sent a dazed look, through the crowd.

'One of them blarsted whistles started 'em,' he said.

'That's the boy what stopped 'em,' said a woman with a basket, pointing a finger at young Alf.

'That's awright,' muttered young Alf. 'You shut yer face.'

'Give the gentleman your name,' persisted the woman with the basket, 'and if everybody 'ad their rights-'

'Now then,' said a friendly policeman, with a hand on young Alf's shoulder, 'you give him your name and address. You want a job, you know. You bin out of work too long.'

Young Alf's brain must have worked very quickly for the next three seconds, and he took the right course. He told the truth. It required an effort. But, as the policeman seemed to know the truth, it would have been silly to tell a lie.

The next day young Alf had the offer of employment, if he would call at headquarters. For a day or two he hesitated. Then he decided that it was not good enough. And that night he went to another kip. By this time he might have been driving a Pickford van. But he never applied for the job. (pp. 27-9)
And really, to play devil's advocate, why should he? It's your choice: you could be on the clock making money for another guy, or you could be an entrepreneur. An entrepreneur in beating guys up for money. And just like John Gotti, when a Hooligan got pinched by the cops, they always had a "real" profession to tell the man at the booking desk.

We close the chapter with a proper description of Alf himself:
Young Alf is now eighteen years of age, and stands 5 feet 7 inches. He is light, active, and muscular. Stripped for fighting he is a picture. His ordinary attire consists of a dark-brown suit, mellowed by wear, and a cloth cap. Around his neck is a neatly-knotted neckerchief, dark-blue, with white spots, which does duty for collar as well as tie. His face is by no means brutal; it is intelligent, and gives evidence of a highly-strung nature. The eyes are his most remarkable feature. They seem to look all round his head, like the eyes of a bird; when he is angry they gleam with a fury that is almost demoniacal. He is not prone to smiles or laughter, but he is in no sense melancholic. The solemnity of his face is due rather, as I should conclude, to the concentration of his intellect on the practical problems that continually present themselves for solution. Under the influence of any strong emotions, he puffs out the lower part of his cheeks. This expresses even amusement, if he is very much amused. In his manner of speech he exhibits curious variations. Sometimes he will talk for ten minutes together, with no more trace of accent or slang than disfigure the speech of the ordinary Londoner of the wage-earning class. Then, on a sudden, he will become almost unintelligible to one unfamiliar with the Walk and its ways. He swears infrequently, and drinks scarcely at all. When he does, he lights a fire in the middle of the floor and tries to burn the house down. His health is perfect, and he has never had a day's illness since he had the measles. He has perfect confidence in his own ability to look after himself, and take what he wants, so long as he has elbow-room and ten seconds' start of the cop. His fleetness of foot has earned him the nickname of 'The Deer' in the Walk. On the whole, few boys are better equipped by nature for a life on the crooked, and young Alf has sedulously cultivated his natural gifts. (pp. 30-2)
And if you made it this far, you'll realize I just burned off a whole entry on a chapter dedicated to setting the stage. Anything worth doing is worth doing well. And no, I'm not writing your term paper.

Next: More of Alf's biography...and the matter of his mum's friend, the accerabat.


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