I’d known Paul for years. Sitting in Mike Whitton’s kitchen, laughing about it all, it struck me how long ago it all was now. I wondered how Paul’s relationship with drugs was going. I remembered that we all used to joke that he could sniff a line from five miles away.
Before he met Jackie, before all of this, when Paul was about seventeen, he went to Leeds for a night out. Our mate Danny was playing somewhere – I forget where now, and it’s of no relevance. Anyway, after the night, they got on the sesh with Ben Lisle, who would later be my neighbour and co-resident DJ in Leeds, and Ben’s brother, who would go on to be part of a well known DJ partnership and move out to Ibiza. At the time, this was all to come, and Ben and his brother lived together in a house share in Headingley, on Grove Lane.
When the time came for everyone who’d come over with Danny to go home, Paul decided that he would stay on and party with Ben, his brother and their mates. He ended up staying for over a week. What kept happening was he’d ring his mum for money to get the train, spend the money on ket, stay another night, then decide he’d better go home, ring his mum, and the whole thing would repeat itself. I don’t believe he was encouraged by Ben and his brother, either. In fact, at one point I think one of them, or their housemate, was like ‘Who is this guy and is he ever going home?’ Paul told me that. It intrigued me that it hadn’t put him off staying. I thought that was kind of strange and inconsiderate.
By the end of it, including the money she’d given him to go there in the first place, Paul had somehow got nearly a thousand pounds out of his mum, and he was never made to pay her back. He’d tell this like it was a funny story, and back then, because of the sheer audacity of it all, and – I suppose – because it had no impact on me, I just thought it was amusing.
At some point after this, Paul became friends with Malc, a DJ from our home town. Malc used to play regularly upstairs in Ernie’s, where I also used to DJ. He was really talented, and a lot older than us, in his forties. He sort of took Paul under his wing. I guess he saw something in him for the same reasons that I did – Paul was a talented musician; he played guitar and wrote songs. You felt he had potential. Malc took him all over, to gigs in London, Leeds, Manchester, and from what I can gather, paid for the lot.
I remember sitting in Malc’s flat, mentioning something about Paul, and Malc responding with ‘Well he needs to learn to pay for things.’ Not long after this, they fell out completely. It was Paul’s birthday and we all went out for a meal, and he’d hired the upstairs of Ernie’s for a party. Every Friday and Saturday night, there’d either be a night on upstairs at Ernie’s, or someone hired it for a party. Paul had asked Malc to play, and also me and a few others. I’d set up the sound system. I used to set up the sound system at Ernie’s. I wonder who does it now…? Anyway…
Paul’s birthdays were always funny, because we’d all be getting on it and then, all of a sudden, Paul would shout ‘My Mam!’ and we’d have to hide the drugs, and sometimes ourselves, and there would be Paul’s mum with a cake. A truly horrifying moment. Paul’s mum was not in favour of drugs at all, and she mollycoddled Paul – the full extent of which I didn’t know until long later.
This birthday, after the meal, we all headed to Ernie’s. Malc was already playing, to an empty room, and he was pissed off. He’d left the meal to start his set, expecting us all to follow a few minutes later. What happened afterwards wasn’t actually Paul’s fault. A fight broke out between two of the group just as we left the restaurant. Unfortunately, to Malc it just seemed like the final straw after a long succession of events where the piss had been taken. We got there, Malc said his piece, packed up his records and left.
As far as Paul was concerned, it was just that night that caused the fall out, and Malc had been unreasonable and would never give Paul a chance to explain about the fight. I never asked Malc about it, but I realised that there was probably more to it than that.
Not long after that, Paul met Jackie. This was the beginning of a completely crazy time. Jackie was a fair bit older than Paul. She was in her early thirties, had been married, and had two young children. Within a week of them meeting, Paul was living with her.
According to Jackie, after Paul had been there a few days, she’d asked ‘So do you live here now?’ and he’d said yes. He stayed for two years.
I’d never met Jackie in my life until she went out with Paul, although she would always say ‘I’ve met you somewhere before’, and maybe she had – I have no memory for faces (although weirdly I remember most other things very accurately), and you meet a lot of people in this kind of life, when you are playing music out somewhere a couple of nights a week. Then again, I did discover later that Jackie used that line on a lot of people, so maybe it was just something she said. Jackie and Paul both said a lot of things.
When Paul and Jackie got together, Jackie really honed in on me. For a while she became one of my closest friends, and I don’t generally make close friendships with girls, I just always naturally end up hanging out with guys. It’s been that way all my life. I felt a natural kinship with Jackie, though. She made me laugh and we could talk absolute nonsense at length, but also about quite serious things too. She seemed to be on my level. Years later I would wonder how this had ever been the case, but Paul’s mum, after they had broken up, said that she thought Jackie was a very dangerous person because she became the person you wanted her to be, and that this meant that she was a sociopath. I think this is possibly true.
Another thing that Jackie used to do, was that after I’d not known her for very long at all she started buying me presents all the time. The stupid thing is, I remember saying to someone at that time ‘Beware of people who buy you loads of gifts when you barely even know them, they always end up fucking you over’ and then thinking to myself ‘Jackie does that’. I chose to ignore myself, I guess. You should never do that.
Jackie was absolutely lovely to me until the time that I started preparing to move to Leeds. Then she started doing all these weird, nasty things, quite subtle things at first, in a way that made me think ‘maybe I’m just going mad.’ I believe the word is ‘gaslighting’, although I’d never heard of it back then. After I moved here, that was when Jackie started being really awful to me, and I saw it all quite clearly for what it was and I cut her out of my life.
Paul and Jackie were a disastrous combination. I don’t know what Jackie was like before she got with Paul, but, as I’ve said, together they amassed huge drug debts to pretty much every dealer in town, lived in chaos and got evicted from two houses. And of course, Jackie had two small children, which made it more awful. Jackie always said that she didn’t really even do drugs that much until she got with Paul, and I think this actually may be true. Paul had always been a wreckhead and he constantly had a huge debt to one person or another. In fact, usually to his entire social circle.
Together, he and Jackie were in debt to nearly everybody they knew. I’d lend Paul £200, he’d give me a date he promised it would be paid back by, based on previous experience, I’d add two days to a week to that date, then I’d start chasing it up. He’d always pay it back, but then almost instantly there’d be a new debt. This continued in circles for a long time.
Before Jackie, Paul had lived a similarly circular existence, where he’d move into a house share, get heavily into partying, forget the party had to end, leave himself with no money and then exit the house, usually suddenly – once in the middle of a session and via the window – and move back into his mum’s. On moving back home, Paul would launch into a confession to his mum about how he’d fucked up and got into drugs again, and incriminate all his friends, blaming them for the relapse.
In Paul’s mind, there was no difference between taking Es on a weekend and having a full blown heroin addiction. To him, it was wrong, and possibly because of this misunderstanding of what recreational drug use was, he never knew when to stop and approached recreational drugs with the mindset of an addict. You could never explain the difference to him.
He’d been living at his mum’s when he met Jackie, and possibly reaching the point where, although it was lovely getting his dinner cooked for him and not having to worry about rent, he’d grown tired of having to sneak around and being treated like he was an infant.
Ultimately, Paul still did this at Jackie’s. In terms of work, I don’t think he’d ever held down a job very long. If you met him at a party, you’d get a different impression. He did tree surgery and groundswork and would show you endless pictures of a job he’d done, making sure you understood how meticulous and professional he was. At 4am, off your head on Es and ket, this would be either deeply boring or hilarious. He meant it with no irony, though.
The truth of it was, Paul had left school at sixteen, tried to go to college for a short time, left and worked for various people doing landscape gardening and tree surgery, never for very long. His mum bought him all the gear – chainsaw, work trousers, etc., but he could never hold down a job for too long because for all his boasting, the only thing he really loved was the sesh.
Similarly, you’d talk to him – or rather he’d talk at you – and you’d think ‘this guy really loves music’, but did he? He had a natural talent, and he played guitar nicely and wrote songs, but it was the same four songs over and over again, unfinished, for years.
Partly, I was friends with him, because I loved music and I thought he did too. He came to all the house and techno nights, and at some point during the madness of him and Jackie living together, it occurred to me that it was odd that he didn’t mix himself and I offered to teach him.
Also, I was friends with him because he could party forever. I could carry on for days, and it was always good to have a willing accomplice, someone else who never wanted to go to bed either. There was a subtle difference between us, though. I was in education, I’d always worked, since my early teens, and I did things – I DJ’d, put nights on, I was serious about it, and I had plans. So for me, when the party did reach its end, it was no tragedy. I had something to look forward to, things to do. For people like Paul and Jackie, the sesh was all there was. Of course they didn’t want it to end. They had nothing else. Or that was their perspective, anyway. Not that they could have analysed it in such a way.
Of course, Jackie had her kids, but she always put the party first. There were many nights when I’d go upstairs to read her daughter a bedtime story.
Afterwards, Paul would say “Those kids would have been fucked without me” and it’s true that he made them laugh and showed them affection, but neither he or Jackie ever gave them any real support.
Back when Jackie had been married, she’d owned her own salon. This had all gone tits up, unsurprising really, and she always blamed her ex, as she did for many things. She was always trying to take him to court, saying that he was unfit to look after the children. I don’t know him, have only met him in passing, but knowing what I do, I question the truth of it.
Jackie was always saying that she planned to open another salon. She’d even take us all to look at prospective locations for it, as if it was really going to happen. And, of course, she had me design a load of business cards for her.