Bill Bailey

Author, Actor



This hair-raising, action-packed political thriller surges from England and America to contemporary Vietnam as a small group spearheads resistance to compulsory globalisation. A sinister organisation representing commercial interests infiltrates governments and violently opposes all who stand in the way of global dominance by the transnational cartels. The British Labour Party unexpectedly elects a radical leader, which attracts a violent response. As Harvey Gillmore, the international press baron, humiliates and brutalises everyone in his path, the focus turns on the single man most feared by the corporations. J W Haug, an American citizen living in London is the one they now all want to kill. A swift, amusing, sexy, gripping tale that storms through to the climax with an erotic, pulsating beat.



D O W N L O A D  T H I S  E X T R A C T


C O M E D I A N S    O F    V I O L E N C E
B I L L   B A I L E Y

Chapter One


Eventually the feeling of nausea overwhelmed the scalpels of pain slashing through his cortex and coursing down his spine like tumbling razors. Tony Tinkomat staggered like a drunken sailor before his groping hands found the sign post beside the road. He held onto the post and spat. The sockets of his eyes ached as he tried to see the ragged weeds growing at the base. His nausea alternated between rolling waves and gripping spasms. He spat again, trying to rid himself of the sulphurous acid at the back of his throat which coated his tongue and burned the lining of his mouth. His guts were wrenching and cramping, but he could not throw up. Only vaguely was he aware of traffic passing on the road, and even if he had looked up he would not have been able to see properly. His eyes were full of tears, but that was not what blinded him. It was the sizzling pain now arcing from his spinal cord to his optic nerve.

There was no thought in Tony Tinkomat's mind. Not really, not like we normally recognise thought as a familiar jumble of images linked by fragments of language. If Tony Tinkomat had been able to think, he would have remembered why he was holding onto a sign post in the middle of Dartmoor with the desperation a drowning man holds onto the debris from a shipwreck. He would have recalled why he was running and what he was running away from, and that may have given him the courage to bear the hellish churning of his internal organs and the lacerating pain.

Tinkomat was not a particularly intelligent man. Half Greek and half Irish, his body was layered with bulky muscles bloated from past steroid abuse. In twenty five years he and his twin brother Charlie had carved out reputations with the North London Police as two real losers. Petty theft, burglary, extortion with menaces, GBH and finally armed robbery. If the brothers dreamed at all they dreamed of hitting the big time in crime, the same as the Krays years before them. Maybe it was because they, like the Krays, were twins. Whatever the reasons, aggression had always got them what they wanted, even from their earliest schooldays. Together the two of them were formidable as they kept themselves supplied with plenty of spending money, new trainers and portable electronics from their hapless young victims. The Tinkomat twins were not bad looking boys, but sex, too, was more fun when it was taken rather than freely given. All the other kids feared the Tinkomats, and this fed back into the twins' unexceptional intellect as “respect”. In adolescence they encountered other North London gangs, so they armed themselves. And over a period of time coshes became knives, knives grew into machetes and cutlasses before finally giving way to guns. The Tinkomats were in and out of young offenders' units before beginning their prison careers. Strangely, they were never in prison together or at the same time. While one was in, the other was out.

Therefore, on a social scale of values, it was difficult to imagine either Tony or Charlie being anything but magnets of negatives. Not nice, unpleasant, worthless, despicable, nasty, repellent, disagreeable and violent. However, the Tinkomat twins were not psychopaths as some argued the Krays had been. Their father, himself an alcoholic and petty criminal, had taught them, because their council flat was a battleground where only the fittest survived. Those who could bite hardest or were quicker to grab a weapon when the fights broke out were likely to suffer less pain and fewer injuries. And if the flat was a battleground, the estate was a war zone. In a war zone rage is a useful emotion, terror and intimidation profitable tools.

So perhaps the Tinkomat twins were not really stupid. Because they learned their lessons early and, on a small scale, were quite successful. If they had spent their lives on the old council estate, no doubt in time they would have been respected and honoured by the other miserable residents. It was only when the twins sloshed out into what is risibly supposed to be normal society that they automatically clashed with other values, values as strange to them as theirs were repulsive to their new neighbours.

Thus Tony Tinkomat was certainly intelligent enough to remember what demons he was fleeing as he desperately hugged the sign post on a lonely road in Dartmoor. An astrophysicist or precocious polymath would have had equal difficulties under the same circumstances. In fact Tony Tinkomat had done extremely well to get as far as he had come. His last organised thoughts had been single-minded tenacity bracketed with flickers of rage. He had to escape from That Place, and he was prepared to die rather than return. The pain and nausea, however, were considerably worse than what he imagined death to be. Slowly, inevitably, he was weakening, and so was his grip on the sign post. His thoughts weren't organised enough to realise it, but in a very few moments his body was going to take him back to That Place. With each step back the pain would slowly decrease to a mere tingle as he walked through the open gates and returned to his little two room chalet.

He had already let go of the post when car tyres squealed on the tarmac. But Tony Tinkomat did not hear these sounds, nor did he see the door of the blue Vauxhall open and his brother, Charlie, race round the front of the car.

“Here, Tony!" Charlie shouted angrily. "What's the matter with you? Where were you? I've been waiting hours. This is too bleeding close. We'll get fuckin' nicked."

It was only then Charlie Tinkomat realised something was wrong.

"Here, Tone. Whatsamatter? Whatsamatter with you? Tone? You OK? Can you get in the car?" Charlie tugged at his twin brother's arm, whispering urgently. "Come on, mate, come on brother. We got to shift. Like, it ain't going to be long before the screws come looking..."

Tony Tinkomat was crying. "Can't go," he muttered. "Got to stay, got to go back, can't go..."

"Aw, what the fuck're you talking about, Tone? Get your fucking arse into the car before you get me nicked and all. I been waiting fuckin' hours for you up the road, where we said...look, Tone, you got to get in the motor, right?"

Charlie was tugging at his brother's arm as Tony started retching. Slowly he dragged the sick man to the open passenger door of the Vauxhall and pushed him inside. Then he raced back to the driver's side, looking furtively at the other traffic before slamming his door, putting the car into gear and laying more rubber.

Tony was doubled over, desperately trying to vomit into the footwell. His insides felt like hot glue sloshing around with the movement of the car. And there was no doubt about it. Every second he was getting sicker and sicker, something he would not have thought possible.

"Yeah, that's alright, you go on and throw up, Tone," his brother murmured as he glanced nervously in the rearview mirror. "I don't give a fuck. Ain't my motor, and I don't want you hangin' yer head out the window."

"Go back, take me back," Tony gargled through clenched teeth.

Charlie tried to sound reassuring. "You'll be right as rain, get you back to Kentish Town, couple of bevvies down your neck, some fanny sittin' on your face. Tomorrow we'll go..."

It was so sudden Charlie Tinkomat nearly lost control of the car. From a crouched position on the passenger seat his brother's body opened like a flick knife and balanced like a board between the seat top and the front of the footwell. Then Tony began to scream as if devils were shredding his brain like cheese. His fists punched at the roof with sledgehammer force, puckering the metal with every blow.

Charlie pulled the Vauxhall over onto the hard shoulder as his demented brother turned furiously in the seat and bit into the cushions, tearing out big mouthfuls of material. His fists were now pounding his temples with the same force they punched the roof of the vehicle.

"Christ, Mary and Joseph, what they done to you, Tone?" Charlie whispered, more a statement than a question.

Tony Tinkomat turned to his brother, his eyes absolutely crazed with terror and pain. He continued to beat on the sides of his head with the heels of his fists.

"Here, it's in here, Charlie! No use, no use! . Got me stitched up. Thought I'd...thought I could..."

With a dramatic suddenness Tony Tinkomat collapsed against the door. His mouth was bleeding and so were the knuckles of both hands.

"Take me back, Charlie," he whispered. "Take me back or kill me. Shoot me, Charlie, shoot me..."

"What the fuck they done to you, Tone? I'll fucking kill the cunts..."

Tony lunged insanely at his brother, gripping his jumper with bloody hands. "This is hell. Hell, hell , HELL! You got a shooter. Put it in me mouth, Charlie. Put the fucking barrel in me mouth, and I'll fucking bite the fucker. I'm your brother. I'm your brother! "

Charlie was trying to prise off the gripping fingers. "I ain't shooting you, Tone. And I ain't taking you back. You're going home with me, and we'll sort this out, right? Get a quack, he'll sort it out, no bother."

Tony Tinkomat didn't understand a word his brother said. His world was a landslide of pain and nausea, and he didn't even know what he was saying, nevermind his brother. He gathered all his strength and pulled himself close to Charlie's face. Spit and blood oozed through his teeth as he forced each word between his lips.

"Every inch...away from...That Place...I get worse, can't you fucking understand? You start...driving again...and I'll kill you , brother or no brother!"

"Alright, alright! Get off me!" Ordinarily Charlie was as strong as Tony, but he could not shift the bloody knuckles from his jumper. He was being gripped by a demon.

"Turn round, turn round! " Tony screamed. "Turn the motor round! Go the other way! Back! Back!

"Well fucking get off me, then!" Charlie shouted, "or I'll fucking nut you, you crazy fucker! Get off! Get off! "

Tony let go his brother's jumper and grabbed the steering wheel. "Around, now...go back, go back.."

Charlie struggled with the iron grip of the hand now clamped to the wheel. "I can't fucking do nothing with you and this crazy shit..."

Tony let go the wheel, and his body arched in the seat as he beat his temples with the heels of his fists. Charlie checked the traffic before doing a U-turn. The car keeled sharply and threw Tony against him as the tyres screamed again across the asphalt. Charlie used his elbow to batter at his brother's shoulder.

"You'll kill both of us before you're done!" Charlie fought for control of the yawing Vauxhall as Tony commenced punching the roof again, bellowing like a dying animal.

"Fucking hell, Tone. Fucking hell ." It was all Charlie Tinkomat could say as he drove the stolen car slowly towards the unit near Broadmoor. He realised it was going to be really dangerous to get too close before letting his demented brother out of the car. He had no idea what was wrong with Tony, but he was determined he was fucking going to get his brother out of there somehow. There had to be a way, some way. He knew it wasn't proper to do whatever had been done to make Tony like he was. It just wasn't fucking proper.

Tony had sagged back into the gnawed seat, whimpering like a child. Charlie pulled the Vauxhall onto the shoulder and put on the handbrake.

"This is as close as I can go, Tone, or they'll nick me. Are you sure...?"

Tony Tinkomat tried three times before he opened the car door. Fragments of thoughts were beginning to form from the pools of blazing pain. He pushed the door open and stood on rubbery legs.

"Get me out, Charlie," he barked without looking back. "Get me out...get me out...get me out..."

Charlie Tinkomat watched the big sagging shoulders of his brother as he staggered down the road in front of the car.

"Fucking hell," Charlie said again before leaning across to close the passenger door. He let off the handbrake and gunned the engine, executing another U-turn. A driver behind him blew his horn, but Charlie didn't even bother to give the man a finger.

"Fucking hell."

He turned on the radio and found Capital Gold, wondering what the fuck he was going to do.

* * *

"Sin is the corruption of the soul! Like slimy worms in the deep, cold earth, sin eats a little piece of the body at a time. Each little worm just takes a little, tiny bite, but brothers and sisters I wanna tell you that there are millions and millions and billions of these slimy worms. And soon the flesh is a-gone from the body, and the worms slither and slide through and across the bones, a-hangin' from the toes and a-danglin' from the ribs, and they all come a-wrigglin' and a-writhin' to your red, pumpin' heart, and they take a piece and they eat a piece, and they all stand up on their little worm tails, and each little worm mouth starts singin' a song: We got the heart, Satan, we got the heart corrupted, and it's beginnin' to stink and smell and turn from red to black! 'Cause he's taken the sin into his heart, and from there, O Satan, unto his soul..."

Orville Tubbs paused, just catching the echo of the PA system. Before him was a sea of rapt faces and unblinking eyes. The magic was still there. It hadn't left him. His hair was white, and he shook his head like a lion shakes his mane. He felt the sweat fly from the tip of his nose and the point of his chin as he threw back his arms.

"No! I say to you, No! With Christ, the Son of God, you'll turn those worms away and drive them with the snakes of Satan to the river and into the river. Turn from sin, and, brothers and sisters, you will be saved! When you feel the worm of sin, grab it by the neck and wring it! 'Cause, lemme tell you, with Christ there in your heart, ain't no worms gonna eat it, ain't no worms gonna stand on their tails and holler their songs to Satan. They'll be runnin' - I tell you they'll be a-runnin' and a-slitherin' like their tails are on fire , runnin' down to the river to drown theirselves, darin' not to gnaw at the heart o' Christ. And lemme tell you that's just what it is. Your heart is the heart of Christ, and your soul the soul of God His Father..."

Tubbs paused again and wiped his face with the handkerchief. It was a heathen country without the benefit of air conditioning. Even in the shade it was hot enough to pop the rivets on his grandma's corset. He remembered the weather, how hot it was. He had been here in this godless country once before when he was much younger, before he was born again. He put away the handkerchief with a theatrical flourish and leaned forward on the lectern menacingly.

"Now when you go to put your arms around sin, and wrap your legs around sin, and rub sin up and down, up and down...I want all you brothers and sisters to think of who's body you're a-doin' that to. Is it yore body?"

Behind him the choir answered him. "No! It's not my body!"

"Is it yore heart and yore mind and yore soul?" he asked, still leaning forward, shouting now.

"Not my heart, not my mind, not my soul!" The choir swelled and the guitar and organ joined in as the members of the choir began to sway behind him.

"Is it yore lips and tongues and little slitherin', wigglin' fingers?" Orville Tubbs stuck out his hands, every digit a wriggling worm.

"Not my lips, not my tongue, not my wigglin' fingers."

"Whose are they then?" he roared. "Whose are they?"

"Christ, Christ, Christ, Christ the Lord!"

Orville Tubbs topped the choir, pointing at individual members in the crowd before him. "You're His! You're His! You're His!”

Dramatically the choir, the guitar, the organ lapsed into silence. The Minister glared at his audience from underneath his shaggy eyebrows. When he spoke again his voice was low, a rumble.

“And y'all know what that means? Well, I'm a-gonna tell you, folks. You – every one of you – is the sole property of the Lord, my God. He made you, and that means He owns you. From the top of your head right down to the end of your toenails.”

He let go the lectern and threw back his head. “Brothers and sisters, I wanna tell you now, you don't wanna go corruptin' somebody else's property! Somebody loans you a cow, you don't go a-carvin' your name in its hide, or a-pullin' off a leg and eatin' it! ‘Cause it ain't yours! It belongs to someone else! And when the owner of that cow comes back around and sees his cow plumb corrupted, he's gonna turn to you and say, ‘How come you done this to my cow?' And then you have to answer to that man, you have to tell him you done wrong.”

Orville Tubbs leaned over and picked up the glass of pineapple juice. It was warm, but his throat was dry as tinder. He remembered there was a PA system, so it was not necessary to top out quite so high.

He leaned forward again. This time he had a warm smile on his face. “Now maybe you can apologise to this man for what you done to his cow. You can ask him for forgiveness, right? You can say, ‘I won't do that no more,' and, if this is a good man, a decent man, maybe he'll say, ‘OK, I'll forgive you. Just don't do it again.'

“But the Lord is a busy man with a lotta things on his mind, so what you gotta do is go through Christ. You tell Him you've sinned with the Lord's property, and you get down on your knees and beg Him to talk with His Father and explain things, how you've done bad but you're not gonna do it anymore….”

* * *

Twenty five years ago a helicopter crew with Air Cavalry would never have believed what was taking place in the clearing beneath them. Over three hundred native Vietnamese sat with legs crossed in the hot sun listening to an American preaching the Word of God. It would have taken patient argument to convince them Charlie hadn't been threatened or bribed to attend such a meeting. Not only were they listening, they were hanging on every word. Each one would buy an audio tape afterwards so they could have everything, every nuance, translated in order to learn to be Born Again Christians. There were whole families down there, families who had built the huts surrounding the clearing. The huts were mainly single sex dormitories. The big one was a church, complete with steeple, bell and cross. The building beside the church was the residence of the Minister, Orville Tubbs - where he would stay when visiting the community. Nearby were rice fields where the community worked during the week for food and for trade.

This was the Heavenly Christian Mission, Sector A. They had two Sectors now, A and B, both of them located in what was formerly known as South Vietnam. Plans were already advanced for further Missions in the North, but more of the Southerners spoke English, so it was the logical place to start. The Reverend Orville Tubbs was confident the backward peasants, once properly introduced to the Christian religion, would give up the communism imposed by their masters and turn to the worship of God. It would free these oppressed people more surely than all the American bombs during the War. They should have seen the vital truth many years before, and all those young Americans would not have had to lose their lives fighting in this hot and hellish land. You cannot win hearts and minds without first winning the souls.

Or so Orville Tubbs believed. Or said he believed. During the War he rose to the rank of sergeant fighting with the 101st Airborne, a paratrooper. Sgt Tubbs was attached to a transport company, and Tubbs himself saw little action, though he did win a Purple Heart when a falling fuel drum broke his foot. In fact Tubbs was not too pleased to remember his days in Vietnam. Many of his memories were polished and sanitised before he told war stories to relatives and friends back in the States. Because Sgt Tubbs was heavily involved in the black market, selling gasoline to the local wheels back in Saigon. He got the best weed, he got the pick of the whores. Backhanders to officers got him light duty and plenty of rest and recreation in Saigon and Tokyo. When he returned to the States he smuggled in three kilos of heroin. Terrified he was going to be caught, he gave thanks to God when he wasn't.

Orville Tubbs was from Georgia. Therefore, back when he was Sgt Tubbs he instinctively knew there was money to be made in religion. Tubbs came from a dirt-poor family and was brought up in a trailer park. He had little education and even dropped out of high school before graduation. Prospects for the young sergeant were thus very grim. He knew it. And that is why he took the risk of smuggling the heroin. He just needed enough money to bring himself up even with where many others started in life. Yet he did not squander the money. He bought a ten-year-old Ford and rented rooms while he decided what to do, how to invest his money.

Many years ago his mother had taken him to see Billy Graham speak at the football stadium in Macon, and he never forgot the experience. True, he was moved by the passion of Graham's rhetoric, but the young Tubbs also stood near the exit with his mother when the evangelist left the stadium. Graham in the flesh was a living miracle. His suit was light and expensive. Gold flashed from his wrist. Surrounded by bodyguards, Graham slid into the biggest, longest Cadillac the young boy had ever seen before being whisked away to the end of the rainbow.

To be fair, Orville Tubbs was also very religious, a virtue learned from his mother. From his study of the Bible he knew that God moved in mysterious ways. His eye was directed to an advertisement in the Evangelical News and the name Heavenly Christian Mission. That's how he met L Joice Masters, the founder of the Missions. Masters himself was a wonderful, magnetic, godly man, and finally Orville Tubbs had found a place to invest his carefully hoarded money. Tubbs would never have realised the irony of three kilos of heroin helping the early growth of the Heavenly Christian Mission because of the mysterious ways of God in spreading his Word around the globe.

Mysterious ways, indeed.

"How old are you, child?"

"Fourteen," the girl answered in that accent which rolled back the years and memories. Tubbs had spotted her in the choir, in the front row on the end. For an Oriental female she was quintessentially beautiful, with that delicate porcelain face Japanese geishas tried to effect with make-up. Yet this girl wore no make-up at all. Make-up was forbidden in the Heavenly Missions.

Tubbs had asked the Mission Mother to bring the girl around to see him after his sermon. She stood in front of his desk smiling gently, eyes dark and trusting. Dressed in a white frock, white socks and little black patent leather shoes she looked just like a doll. Pubescent breasts swelled under the white cotton, soft hillocks on a body of new and secret valleys.

"And what is your name?" Orville Tubbs sat in a swivel chair. The single air conditioner in the room was set in the window behind him, blowing his magnificent hair into little tufts at the sides of his head. His sweat-soaked shirt was cool on his back.

"Mary Ann," the girl replied, widening her smile. All Brothers and Sisters were given Anglicised names. It was one of the rules decided at the Mission's Annual Conference long ago.

Orville Tubbs paused, studying the girl, his face grave. He narrowed his eyes and lifted his bushy eyebrows. "What have you got to tell me, Mary Ann?"

The corners of her little mouth turned down momentarily. "I don't know, Great Father. I don't..."

"I'm afraid, Mary Ann," he interrupted, "that you did not listen real good to my sermon out there a while ago. The subject of that sermon was sin. Now I had a feelin' all the time I was talkin' that there was some kinda devilment around. Satan was lurkin'. And smirkin'. I can feel them things right outta the air, Mary Ann. A little puddle of sin here. A little pool over there. But when my eyes lit on you, I knew it was more than a puddle or a pool. So that's what I want you to tell me about, little sister."

Mary Ann did not know where to look. Gloomily she stared at the toes of her highly polished shoes.

"You've been with a boy, haven't you, Mary Ann?" Tubbs asked finally.

The Vietnamese girl looked uncomfortable before nodding her head.

Tubbs persisted. "Did he kiss you?"

Still looking at her toes, Mary Ann nodded.

"Uh-huh," the Great Father said as he sat back in his swivel chair. "Now I want you to come around to this side of the desk, Mary Ann. Come on, honey. Don't be afraid. We gonna find out just what the devil done to you. Right now."

The little porcelain face looked quite miserable as she moved around the desk to stand beside the Great Father.

Tubbs cleared his throat. "OK, he kissed you, this boy, right?"

Again she nodded mournfully.

He reached out and put his forefinger on her mouth. "Did he kiss you here?"

She nodded.

Tubbs' forefinger re-joined his hand as it dropped slowly to her breast. He pressed at the side of it. "Did he kiss you here?"

Mary Ann seemed shocked and looked up at the Great Father, shaking her head violently. "No. No, he only, we only..."

He placed his palm over the breast and squeezed. "Did he touch you like this, sister?"

Mary Ann was was embarrassed, searching for words, not knowing what to say.

"Look me in the eye, sister," Tubbs said sternly. "Look me right in the eye and tell the truth."

It worked every time. The girl was frozen in his gaze, trapped like a rabbit in the headlights of a car. All she could do was shake her head feebly as he continued to caress her breast. Orville Tubbs leaned forward in his swivel chair, adjusting his stomach under his belt before reaching down to the hem of her white dress with his other hand. He touched her bare knee before slowly trailing his fingers up her thigh. The flesh was warm and succulent, and he used great self control to stop his hand from shaking with emotion. The beauty of the young girl was nearly overpowering him.

As Tubbs' fingers moved to the top of her thigh, Mary Ann involuntarily jerked her hips back. "Father! Great Father! No one at all, no, he never, ever touched me there! Not there! No, I wouldn't...! I wouldn't ..."

Tubbs dropped his hand from her breast and smacked her buttock sharply. With his other hand he felt the downy softness of her spare pubic hair as her hips lurched forward from the blow.

"You're lyin' to me, sister. I can see it in your eyes. He touched you here. You let that devil-boy do this to you. You let him push his fingers in here, didn't you, now tell me the truth."

The porcelain face cracked in misery, and she felt her burning cheeks wet with tears. The Great Father held her eyes unblinkingly as his fingers probed inside her. Her knees felt spongy. Thoughts and emotions tumbled wildly on an electric landscape. She didn't know what to do with her hands, wanting to push him away, not daring to. A strange, alien heat flushed through her body and accumulated in her belly. His eyes, large dark moons, hovered in the centre of his bloated face below the whiffs of hair standing out like horns above his temples.

"You got to know what sin is, sister," he said in a deep, husky voice. " 'Cause I can see it deep inside you. Now we're gonna get this sin right outta you and purify your soul for Christ. That boy done all this, didn't he? He played with your body, your temple. And that was sin. He entered your temple, didn't he? He pushed right inside through this door. I can tell because that doorway is now all slippery wet. Are you gonna tell me the truth now, little sister? Are you?"

Mary Ann wanted to speak but couldn't, not in English or Vietnamese. She searched desperately for the right words but couldn't find them anywhere. She was still maniacally looking for the words when a strange sound ripped through the silence.

It was seconds later before she realised it was the sound of a zipper.

* * *

Davy Potter leaned his short, bulky body against the front wing of his car, arms folded across his chest. He was watching Monkwearmouth Colliery being raped. That was the word for it. Rape. Already it was closed. Now it was being dismantled - torn, ripped and shorn, its great belly still half full. Potter had been a miner there for eighteen years. So had his father and so had Potter's eldest son. Shipbuilding had been the principal employer of Sunderland, but Potter knew its heart was here at Monkwearmouth, far down beneath the surface of the land and sea where generations of men had toiled for over a hundred years. These formed part of the legendary coals of Newcastle. But this also was the heart of their history. The history of the Durham miners.

The second strike in Durham took place at Wearmouth in 1869, leading to the formation of the Durham Miners' Association. Davy Potter was General Secretary of the modern Durham Miners, affiliated to the National Union of Mineworkers, a direct descendant of those early hard but glorious years.

Now he stood and watched another of the Durham mines being mugged and raped. His family had worked there for as long as anyone could remember. His friends and their families worked there, too.

Davy Potter had been a faceworker and proud of it. Though it was hard, dirty, awful work sometimes carried out on hands and knees, it paid well. It had paid well enough for Potter to buy his own house, originally built by the mine owners before nationalisation for rental to the workers. He never owned a car. The one he was driving today was the property of the NUM, and even that might have to be sold soon.

The only reason faceworkers finally earned good wages was because, since the mid-19th century, the mineworkers had struck and fought and starved to force the companies and the government to pay. Each increase was won because miners stood together, and their families stood with them against lockouts, intimidation, recession, depression, propaganda and the police. Men who co-operated underground found co-operation during a strike natural. Despite this, their victories were few. Gains were made and then clawed back when the union was weakened by unemployment or depressed markets. It appeared to be a never ending cycle. Two steps ahead, one step back. Yet, over the years, with courage and determination, the miners forced owners and government to recognise their rights to a living wage for performing a vital but unpleasant job. Progress was slow, but at least it seemed certain. Until recently.

Because his union, born over a hundred and twenty five years ago, had been attacked by a government determined to destroy it completely. Unsuccessful at wrecking the union, the government turned on the mines like mad dogs. The logic was inexorable. Destroy the mines and you destroy the communities. With no communities you have no union membership, no mutual support, no regimental determination to resist.

Did they really know what destruction of a community meant? Even if they knew, they obviously didn't care. Revenge had to be extracted from the NUM because of its unity and its power. In the early '70s miners had helped bring down an unpopular Conservative government and struck terror into the hearts of men who make their livings through the work of other men. A small lever of power had somehow slipped into the hands of workingmen. That lever had to be ripped from their grasp, and the union must pay the price for its audacity and pride.

Davy Potter didn't know much about history, but he knew enough to know that any victories over the "haves" by the "have-nots" must never be allowed to stand. From Spartacus to the Peasants' Revolt leaders were hunted down to be crucified or drawn and quartered and their heads stuck on stakes at city gates - as an Example To Others. It is a statement. This is what will happen to those who dare to grasp the sacred levers from their betters: humiliation, torture and death.

He watched as a giant crane lifted the winding gear clear of its moorings. Used to lower cages deep into the earth in the mornings and to bring them back to the surface in the evening, this great wheel would now be broken and sold for scrap. That dark hole which stretched out miles underneath the sea was dug by him and his ancestors. It would already be flooded now. Soon the pressure of the earth - that pressure they all fought and conquered at the cost of so many lives - would cave in the tunnelling and seal off once more its treasures from men.

In earlier years Davy Potter's own head would have been nailed to the gates of Durham. These days the torture was slower but more relentless as he witnessed the breakdown of society in Sunderland. There was no shipbuilding now and no coal, as a once prosperous city slid towards desolation, idleness and despair. Local shops closed one by one, and the shop fronts were boarded up. Kids wandered the streets aimlessly, without a future, without hope. In the days of better wages miners and shipbuilders bought their houses, only to watch helplessly later as their value plummeted. No one wanted to move to Sunderland. Most wanted to move out.

Potter waved and smiled to a retired miner on the way to the bookmaker's. The old man's gait was slow because of incipient pneumoconiosis - lung disease caused by the inhalation of coal dust - one of the special ways miners paid for their trade with their health for a country which had turned its back on them. Miners were told by Margaret Thatcher they were enemies of the State, all because they had the temerity to hold out their bowls and ask for more. These enemies of the State carried black lung disease and early rheumatoid arthritis for the privilege of digging wealth from the earth. These enemies of the State fought in every foreign war under the British Crown. And these enemies dared to stand alone to face the full resources of that State which conspired to crush them.

The NUM bent with the force, but it did not break. Hearts were broken, though, men and women were broken, but the union still remained, its banners tattered and splashed with blood. The government was selling off its remaining mines. And the NUM was recruiting new members in those privatised mines.

Davy Potter knew it was a sad sort of civilisation when your only social protection was your union. If they took that away, you were left with nothing. But the union could not help Sunderland itself. It was dying. They had ripped out its heart.

The Durham General Secretary looked across the street again. The old miner had finally made it to the bookmaker's. On the way back home he would break his slow journey with a pint at the King's Head.

Potter sighed and looked down at the toes of his scuffed shoes. No one else had come to witness the wake at the colliery, and he didn't blame them. It was too sad, too bleak. His old home was not far from here. Potter had moved to Redhills, the official residence of the General Secretary, when he won the election eight years ago. Now the house was up for sale and so was Redhills, as the union contracted to a smaller and smaller core, hoping to weather the storms and live to blossom once again.

Times were changing as times always did, but the recent battles had scattered his comrades as the "haves" grabbed back great fistfuls of money from the battered battalions of the working class.

Potter sighed. He had also come out to Monkwearmouth colliery to think. That morning he had received an invitation in the post, a call to attend some conference down South. The prospectus accompanying the invitation claimed the conference was a new intellectual initiative to re-forge company formation and structure. He was about to bin the material when he discovered a hand-written note from Ewan Thomas, urging him to attend.

Ewan Thomas. Now there was a man with integrity. He had met the historian during the great '84-'85 strike. Thomas had written articles in newspapers, appeared on TV, joined pickets all over the country, donated royalties from a popular book, spoke at Galas and was arrested by the police at Orgreve. No non-miner had given more to the devastating strike than Ewan Thomas.

Potter smiled to himself. At first meeting the General Secretary wrote Thomas off as a middleclass tosser, an intellectual who would soon return to his leafy suburban house and leave the embattled miners to their fate. But Potter was wrong. Thomas had the courage of a lion and the bollocks of a bull. His passionate speeches refreshed wilting resolve. He slept and ate in miners' houses and never once patronised them.

Ewan Thomas was special, and Davy Potter certainly owed his old comrade a favour. But middleclass conferences were not his strong suit, and he always felt out of place. After all, few people in the South wanted a miner's opinion about anything. So he expected to be bored, to drink innumerable cups of weak tea and weaker beer and to have to repeat everything three times because no one understood his accent.

Potter sighed heavily. He would go, and after a decent interval he would make excuses and drive back to his beloved Durham where everyone understood what he said first time.

The General Secretary of the Durham Miners looked up just in time to see the great winding gear crash the last few feet to the ground and topple onto its side. He turned then and got into his car. As he pulled away he executed a U-turn and honked his horn at the old miner who was just emerging from the bookies'. He would give the damaged man a lift to the King's Head.