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Gary Budden

The Jolly Butcher's Lament

Guilty conditioning eats in the silence
A knock at the door it's the pig man's hatred
Burning holes in your head with his grim reality
It's the family butcher - lock up your family!

- Subhumans, 'Pigman'

It's so fucking loud in here. There's no music so the affluent liberal voices compensate, creating a cacophony of self-satisfaction.

This is unfair. I am, after all, here myself, adding to the din and quaffing ales from Redemption Brewery (Tottenham), Kernel (Tower Bridge), whatever. One of the nicest pints I've just had came from the Windsor & Eton brewery, making me a massive class traitor. I like the BrewDog IPA (Fraserburgh) because the glass says 'Beer for Punks', which is, of course, bullshit. No real punks drink in here. I have stolen two for the house.

I feel as if everyone is sizing one another up, and I certainly do my fair share of regarding the women in the room, their arses clad in polka dots. To be honest, though, the kind of Dalston/Stoke Newington new bohemian 'look' doesn't do it for me and rarely makes it into my masturbatory fantasies. It's something about the bright red lipstick and the alabaster white faces that puts me off. Harshly, a gobby companion of mine describes a woman across the other side of the room as looking like a 'rockabilly tranny in bad drag'. I do laugh, though.

A lot of people have tattoos these days, I ponder, as I gulp down some more guest ale. Not punk tattoos though, not the ones I'm used to. How did this all happen on my doorstep without my noticing? A man opposite me is wearing tight three quarter length trousers and no socks. He looks like a dick. I need a shave, I think, rubbing my hand over bristly stubble. Last week I was singing along to hardcore punk anti-fascist songs in Tufnell Park; now I am here because it is bloody close to my house. Convenience is convenient, I have to say.

My eyes settle on a curious and disturbing painting that hangs on the pub wall. A pig, a horse and a sheep all stand round a bar, clad in butcher's aprons. In front of them lies a plate of human ears and eyes. They seem to be having a good time as they, like me, quaff ale while in the background a multitude of other anthropomorphised beings dance, revel, drink. A sexy feline woman pouts. A fox laughs. I presume the horse is the Celtic god, Rudiobus, out enjoying a crafty pint with his friends. Oinari, the fox spirit, is Japanese, so I'm guessing s/he is an art student living in a warehouse in Dalston. I wonder what his/her portfolio looks like. The sheep being must be Pan, or one of his mates. That makes sense, what with the Arthur Machen link N16 possesses. The porcine-pink god? I have no idea. I'll call him Pigman. I wonder if he's had a crack at Bastet, the slutty looking cat.

The man with no socks has his food brought to his wooden table. A burger the size of my fist arrives, with a steak knife buried to the hilt pinning the whole carnivore's wet dream to the plate. What would Pigman think of such things? He and his friends seem to be dining on human hors d'oeuvres so I guess it evens out.

My companions and I sit in a semi-circle round a square table too small, really, to accommodate us, our guest ales and our packs of nuts. Smoking paraphernalia is everywhere, as no one smokes 'straights'. Rollies all the way.

Pigman comes to join us at the table.

"I've bought you a pint. 'Beer for Punks!" He laughs a boorish laugh.

"Thanks. I'm a vegetarian you know" I say, slightly alarmed.

"Used to be a vegan though, didn't you? Eh? Eh?" He winks as he says this.

"Yes, but I found it too hard, and a lot of vegan types are a bit cultish, y'know?"

"That is true" says Pigman, leaning back and thoughtfully draining half his pint of BrewDog in one gulp. "Cheers" he says, and we clink our 'Beer for Punks' glasses. My companions are lost in their own conversations, and seem not to notice Pigman. I'm surprised he found a chair, as the pub is rammed tonight.

"What's Oinari's portfolio like?", I ask, genuinely curious.

"Really good. He/she is freelancing right now. Getting a lot of work coming in".

"That's good" I say. "Fancy a smoke?"

"Why not" says Pigman. He is surprisingly deft with his trotters as he rolls a cigarette from my pouch of tobacco, without a filter, and tucks it behind his ear.

We step outside the pub, between tables crammed with yet more Thursday night drinkers. I wonder who here is genuinely successful at leading the life they want to live, and who is pretending, on the dole, or being subsidised by parents back in the Home Counties.

I light Pigman's cigarette for him and he takes a deep drag. I do the same. His butcher's apron is smeared with red-brown stains.

"Not many veggie options on the menu, are there?" His rhetoric is a burning accusation.

"I know, I know, this place isn't for me, I'm sorry. I just like the beer that's all."

"It is a good drop" he admits, finishing off his BrewDog. A thoughtful drag on his cigarette. It strikes me that he is quite drunk, oozing controlled aggression.

"I'm gonna glass that twat with no socks". His voice is laden with intent. "The cows don't like him."

"Fair enough" I reply.

He goes inside and I hear the muffled sound of shattering glass and a high-pitched scream, followed by a piggy squealing that can only be laughter.

Wandering inside, I say to my companions "Shall we move on to another pub?"

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