1977. Trying to get home. Pink Lane at night is the straightest path to the main train station in Newcastle. I run the gauntlet of drunks and shivering courtesans that stand in pairs in darkened doorways. My stomach flips at the smell approaching. The stale, malodorous haze of hot-dog stands that snake out along the edge of Neville street. But must keep walking. The stench gets in your clothes if you stay too long. 

A Pink Lane fornicatrix yells out "I'll do you for nothing, pet." 

Nervously, I laugh in response. We both laugh. But I keep walking; only faster. 

Drunken girls block my path. They hover, forlorn and wraith-like in separate tribes. Repeatedly splitting, stumbling and regrouping. It's a bitterly cold night and there's not a warm coat between them. Goose-bumps on Lilly-white skin. Chattering teeth. Coats are anathema in northern drinking culture. And everything is ritual here. Final ritual of the night; the money pool of coins to grab a single taxi. The volume of their voices reaches cacophony. Half-finished sentences eclipsed by half-finished sentences. They look as if they're the same age as me, these ladies-of-leisure. But on closer inspection your eyes begin decryption, unconsciously mapping their Revlon masks. The panda-eyed smudge-circles of mascara. The unblended blusher like apple-red bruises on cheeks. Their noise modulates into song. Almost into: "When I Need You" by Leo Sayer. But they can't get the high notes. 

You don't have to try hard to hear the thrum of a big city at any hour. But there's something more in the air tonight. An anarchic spirit lurks in the background, zeitgeist of the mid-70's. It's a few weeks until the arrival of Punk and it's birth cries have cast their echoes ahead in time. We just don't know it yet. I still have long hair, the camouflage of washed-out denim. I'm practically invisible. Except that damaged people notice other damaged people. That one girl that steps out in front of me. Pins me with a quizzical smile. She's louder than the others and shrouded in a plastic see-thru cape over a leopard print dress. She holds a white platform shoe in each hand and gestures to her pockets. She speaks to me in some strange, garbled tongue - inebriated English. She needs more money for the taxi I guess. But all I have in my pockets is a return train ticket to the coast. I stop and shrug. Notice the gleam of her crucifix. A moment of brief eye-contact - before I continue walking. 

Over the following months, as fate would have it, we pass by each other on numerous occasions; Crucifix girl and me. Eyes acknowledge eyes. Guilty glances. No words. Sobriety provides no dialogue. That 'British thing' of uptight manners. So we continue to pass, day and night on random streets, as ice-water flows in our veins. Then months go by without any sightings. Months synchronous with my change of image. Blue denim becomes black; drainpipe pants. I cut my own hair, very badly and impel it vertically with thick gooey-globs of gel. My jacket is faux leather and covered in button-badges and a full set of Christmas tree lights that still work. I keep the plug in my left pocket. Shoes: black winkle-pickers - impossibly sharp and long. I'm no longer invisible. People stop me to read my badges. Punk is a THING now and I will never be the same person again. For the first time in my life I feel truly free. Punk has given me a voice. 

Most week days I visit the Grainger Market. It's one of my favorite places in Newcastle. It dates from the 1800's and always feels like a place out-of-time. A step through it's doorway and you're instantly in another world. At the time of it's opening it was the largest covered market in Europe. It's survived two world wars, numerous fires and remains the beating heart of the city. There's a vibrancy at work here; a pulse. The people who own and run the stalls observe the same traditions as their ancestors have for generations. Jewelers, bakers, cheese-mongers, florists, butchers. Everything freshly made and prepared. Most of the clientele are old - people who know a good bargain - people who understand the necessity of community. But in time it draws everyone. Even Crucifix girls. 

I see her first in an aisle in the western section of the market, looking worse-for-wear. She resembles a moth that has touched a flame and somehow survived. Wings mostly intact. But scorched a little around the edges. We circle the booth that sells exotic shoes. At first she doesn't see me and I have time to play voyeur. Freeze-frame as I blink. I note bold fuchsia-pink bed-hair and blood-shot eyes. Her clothes are more out-there than mine, but crumpled and reworn. 'Jelly sandals' with glitter embedded in them, Day-Glo leggings, the ubiquitous leopard-print top, transparent cape and crucifix. My first guess is that she's at least five years older than me - a life time's gap in this dynamic. My second guess: that she never made it home from the night before. In current parlance: a dirty stop-out. 

I consider moving on; that ice-water, British thing. But I stand my ground. It's those first words that always present the greatest problem. In 'real life' I'm quiet. So quiet I'm often mistaken for a priest in a confessional. My subconscious says "I'll be your confidant. I'll hear your confession. Step into my office. Take a seat." 

There follows a dissociated blur. All mine. A memory lapse of mere moments. And now we're sitting across from one another in a busy café. The seats are rows of rigid church pews, washed-out green with red plastic upholstery. Crucifix Girl is talking to me in a fast, zestful style. Somehow - I missed the introduction. This time, there's a psychological shift in the way we acknowledge each other. We've met before. I wasn't at threat then. I'm still not a threat. About us old ladies sit hunched before electric heaters - drinking tea - eating toast. Occasionally they pass a disproving glance whilst craning in to catch the details of our conversation. 

People say SO much when you listen... 

Crucifix Girl is big on music. It's her entire life. 

I never dig for the prurient and I try not to judge... 

She loves bands. She loves talking about bands. She loves sleeping with the people in bands. 

I'm the 'nexus of freakdom' - I just listen. Slam-bang, go-for-broke... 

Crucifix Girl has a hit-list. A who's-who of counterculture misfits from the half-realm of the great unwashed. She wants to 'know' them all. She lists their names - many of whom have probably made the Bloomsbury book itself and for far less interesting endeavors. Familiar names that have been 'done'. And familiar names that are 'to be done'. She tells me about the posh hotel in Gosforth were most of these encounters took place. There is no shame in her voice - only excitement. Boundless excitement. 

People are always MORE animated when talking about subjects that genuinely interest them. The things that make them tick. She grabs at her crucifix with frantic fingers. Knocks the table as she uncrosses her legs, spilling our coffee, re-enchanted with each vivid memory. At some point we order food. Comfort food is always cheap - and I need it because I'm way out of my depth. Between anecdotes she pauses to graze on the curled edge of a paper-thin toasted sandwich. A self-amused giggle - then she continues. As she speaks, she clasps the crucifix to her chest like a sacred talisman. 

At some point she seems to dry. The first silence of our encounter. Then I notice she's focused in on one of my badges. And she's grinning. Seriously, manically grinning. It takes me a while to understand. There was a name she was holding back. Her favorite conquest. She's still in his thrall. 

"No.." I say with incredulity. 

She says the name out loud - emphasizing the consonants. Incomprehension on my part. Did I hear that right? 

The 'special man'. Her favorite conquest - 'he was awful nice'. 

As I listened, now in stunned silence, she described how they'd made love. Details that I had neither prompted nor could stem. And whilst they'd made love, her on top at his request, he'd kept that wretched gold cross in his mouth the entire time and it still chained to her neck. Thus, unmasked, the shared kinship of a fellow disciple who'd worshiped far closer to the 'church of man-love' than anyone I'd ever met - or would again. The legacy of the 'Leper messiah'. The crucifix. When she'd grabbed at that thing she wasn't thinking of religion. It was a fetish item for her - like a serial-killer's trophy. And so her anecdote ends and melancholy returns. Back in the moment. Vulnerable once more. 

Her clutch-bag spills out across the table as she searches for something. Pink plastic comb, loose matches - tips caked in lipstick. Cigarettes, balled-up toilet roll. Cosmetics. Yardley Dewey-gloss-red. Individual packets of sugar in dog-eared paper sachets. Tarnished rectangle of mirror. She fidgets. She giggles. She scoops back her hair - watches me, watching her. There's a spark. That man/woman thing. Only for an instant. She finds a ballpoint pen. She writes a phone number along the edge of a blue cigarette coupon. She doesn't say: come back and see me when you're older. Her eyes have already spoken. 

She fidgets again - and she's gone. We never met again. I knew she'd riff on those memories for the rest of her life. DB on top. DB with that crucifix in his mouth as they pressed-the-flesh. Perhaps in a different era (this one) she'd have been an 'influencer' on Instagram and settled for that. 

She might be the name on his bathroom mirror. Written in lipstick and signed with a smeary-kiss. Or just another moment of his time, fast-forgotten. I wondered how many precious young dreams have died in darkened hotel rooms? How many deities, unmasked, undone, splintered in their little-deaths? Their acolytes; ejected from the altar of the inner sanctum. Casualties of weaponized ambition. Never underestimate mankind's capacity for cruelty or kindness. 

Crucifix Girl was the direct lyrical inspiration for:  


Susceptible to caress, 
Frustrating your every breath, 
Larger than life, 
Is love lingering, 

Briefly you close your eyes, 
Shrinking from sacrifice, 
Absorbed in the taste, 
Of love lingering, 

It might be that I'm a fool, 
For ever doubting you, 
I don't know, 
I really do not know, 

Your eyes may never confess, 
Possessed of such emptiness, 
Vacant except, 
For love lingering, 

Subjected your heart to stress, 
Beating beneath your breast, 
Suggests the extent, 
Of Love lingering, 

It might be that I'm a fool, 
For ever doubting you, 
I don't know, 
I really do not know, 

(Music and Lyrics - J.W.Myers 2020)


Today I wore the concrete down, 
With cardboard on my feet, 
The buildings and the signage change, 
But hope is more discreet, 

In Bath Lane where the old men shiver, 
White cider flows in streams, 
I walk these streets, 

Maxy with his slicked-back hair, 
Warming up to fight, 
As Christian Candle-Fingers, 
Sets his hands alight, 

On Pilgrim Street I saw an Angel, 
She was lost in flight ...   
I walk these streets 

(Music and Lyric - J.W.Myers 2020) 


He bites his lip, 
The soothing pain will free his mind, 
And he's awake, 
Face never fits, 
But always eager to blend in, 
So he won't break, 

Belladonna drips inside, 
Unspools his thread, 
Stitches sequins on butterflies, 

Comes the dawn, 
Burning bright, 
Time to fly ... 

Each insult earned, 
His ego will encapsulate, 
And expel, 
He must regroup, 
Diminished by mere sleight of hand, 
'Is he a man?' 

Green-eyes monsters cracking-wise, 
They deconstruct, 
Dissemble and extemporize, 

Comes the dawn, 
Burning bright, 
Time to fly ... 

Do their lies keep you awake, 
As your wings begin to ache? 

Is it time to take some blame, 
Is it time to deal with pain? 

Is it time to fly away, 
Is it time for you to stay? 

Butterfly ... 

(Music and Lyrics - J.W.Myers 2020) 


Behind glasses she's in disguise, 
Her perfume won't hypnotize, 
Her words won't impress you with any feelings, 

Her heart is a Trojan scheme, 
Another piece of someone else's dream, 
In fact it's another one she's longing for, 
Her life's on a knife's edge, 
No magic, no romance, 
No section to say the way she feels, 

She paints the face of a clown, 
Inside she's crying aloud, 
You know she hopes they won't find out, 
Why she had to go away, 
When the mask got in the way, 

Watch the home runner, runner, 
Watch the home runner, runner, 
Watch the home runner, runner, 
Go, go, go ... 
Did she go? 

Blue stockings and horn-rimmed eyes, 
She's not a product to merchandise, 
Her shell is a tight-knit weave of the coldest steel, 

Her life's on a knife's edge, 
No magic no romance, 
No section to say the way she feels, 

She paints the face of a clown, 
Inside she's crying aloud, 
You know she hopes they won't find out, 
Why she had to go away, 
When the mask got in the way, 

Watch the home runner, runner, 
Watch the home runner, runner, 
Watch the home runner, runner, 
Go, go, go ... 
Did she go? 

(Music and Lyrics - J.W.Myers 2020) 


Hands up if you've ever cut a piece of cardboard to fit the inside of a pair of worn-out shoes? I used to walk a lot. So I was 'heavy' on shoes - and Chelsea boots had thin soles.  

Taken together a snap-shot of images and events from 1977 onward. Across the road from Bath Lane art college, where I was a student, there once stood a row of boarded-up shops leading to the edge of the West Road. Rumour has it that the late comedian Bob Monkhouse owned one of them.  

In the doorways of these shops, homeless men would stand all day, in all weather, protecting their 'square'. These fellows would be in their 70's. Far older than the average homeless person you'd see today. In the afternoon they'd have gathered enough money to buy a few bottles of the cheapest cider available and they'd consume it in their doorways, hiding any extra bottles behind their trouser legs. By early evening they'd be rocking backwards and forward, threatening to pitch face-first onto the concrete and there'd be a long stream of urine issuing from them - across the pavement - to the main road. It was a pitiful and constant sight.  

"Maxy" and "Christian Candle-Fingers" are pseudonyms for a couple of the characters on the streets of Newcastle; back-in-the-day. "Maxy" was a regular face up until the mid-eighties. Poor guy had mental health problems but came from a well-to-do family. In the early days he was always immaculately turned-out, with slicked-back bleach-blonde hair, cut short at the sides. He always wore custom-tailored dark suits, more like uniforms - with their own weird insignia, under pressed cream raincoats. Raincoats = Mackintosh. Hence Maxy. You could always find him at the epicenter of some overblown street drama; meaningless verbal fights with fellow misfits which always threatened to spill into something more physical. But never did. It was the drama he craved. The drama and the attention. Which is why it's often helpful to walk fast.  

"Christian Candle-Fingers" was a far sadder (and more rare) prospect. Equally well-to-do, also with mental health problems and a curious habit of wearing tape on the ends of his finger tips (long before Michael Jackson). One day I discovered the reason why. He liked to unwrap the tape and burn his fingers with a cigarette lighter. For full effect, he'd do this in a restaurant while other people were eating. Finger Flambé? Hand Of Glory? All entreaties to discourage this activity were met with stony silence. Shouting, begging or pleading failed to quell his performances - which usually ended with him being ejected from the cafe/restaurant and anyone sitting in his vicinity who might also possess a fire-based trick for an encore.  

Q: Why write about these people? A: Nobody else has.  

The Angel is a dual reference. One to my mother whose once claimed to have seen a 'real' angel (She had paranoid schizophrenia). But also to the decorations strung between the shops in Newcastle at Christmas. Any physical manifestation among those environs would be surely lost.


They pulled you crying from a dry lagoon, 
Shamming death and sorrow, 
Like you always do, 
Singing smoother scales than a lizard's skin, 
No one knows where you end, 
Or where you begin, 
And never the chance to breathe in, 

She the hook and she the bait, the barb, 
Luring prey to torment, 
Neath the Ocean blue, 
Hear lies the forbidden fruit, 
Tasted in the dares that flavored our youth, 
Let's drink to the death of the truth, 

And let's go swimming, 
Under the ocean, 
Trading lives with those in oblivion, 
You were young, 
I waited so long, 

We'll see lovers, 
Bound up in torment, 
Making pacts that will border obsession, 
And all for love, 
What is more dangerous than love? 

How can still waters run, 
Deeper than our love? 
Our lives have just begun, 
We're not the shallow ones, 

Let's go swimming, 
Let's go swimming ... 

What is more dangerous than love? 

(Music and Lyrics - J.W.Myers 2020)

Quelle Liberté? (What Freedom?)

Once in an Absinthe dream,
All problems solved in green,
The ritual complete,
Sugar dripping through a slotted spoon,
Brings the Fairy clouding into bloom,
Summoned forth to charm the venturous,

La Fée; the misfit's muse,
In Bordels, birthed Toulouse,
Sipped from a hollow cane;
The Maiden's Blush so vivid yesterday,
Blends into an emerald disarray,
Rapturously wild and blasphemous,

Who owns you? Quelle Liberté?

Promptly the clock chimes six,
The Green Hour feeds on ticks,
Purloins and wraps them up;
In Wormwood blankets wove in restlessness,
Prolonged sojourns dressed as decadence,
Liberty for rich and poor no less.

Who owns you? Quelle Liberté?

The margins of my mind,
Subdued but lucid, bind,
Defenestrations mount;
Wingless fathers in Bohemia,
Fall from windows to a certain death,
Or saved by angels for a second breath?

Who owns you? Quelle Liberté?

(music/lyrics - Jeff Myers 2015)