Hang around the Irish pubs of West London for long enough and you’re sure to hear some harsh political opinions. If you don’t watch out, you might even get to holding some of them yourself. The truth isn’t always an uplifting business, but there are no lies in Big Tom, the out of work steel fixer from County Roscommon. He’s just as reliable and much more principled a source of news as you’ll find in any newsagents in this city and he will give it to you for free.
“We know the problem and we know how to rid ourselves of it,” he says, ordering his next double whiskey and stout. Tom hasn’t done an honest day of work on a building site for almost two years and he knows exactly the reason for his hard luck.
“It’s the politicians,” he tells me. ” They’re scum, the lot of them. No exceptions. They’ll have you bought and sold before you even know where you are or what you’re doing with your life.”
These days, Tom lives on the 9th floor of a council block near Acton Town, but life wasn’t always so bleak. Before the collapse of the building trade, nearly a decade ago now, he lived with a wife and two children in a fine house in Ealing; Queen of the suburbs as they call it. He couldn’t make the mortgage payments after the work packed up and wasn’t too long in losing the lot. The wife took the house, the car and the kids. Tom got to keep his boots and his belt.
“I’d deal with them like we did the sheep on the farm back home. What you would do is, you’d grab one by the scruff of the neck and smash it in the brains with a hammer. Then you would slit the throat straight after and let the thing bleed itself to death. Simple.”
“And they wouldn’t feel a thing?” I ask him.
“How the fuck should I know?”
He takes the whiskey in one mouthful and scoops the pint in his rough claw, making a path to the pool table and the chance at winning a few quid against another of the sad sacks on the beer tonight.
Next time I see Tom, he’s being thrown into the back of a squad car, kicking and spitting at the arresting officers. He’d been caught rubbing excreta on the doors of the local council office and wasn’t planning to go down without a fight.
“How are you getting on there, Tom?” I call from across the street.
“At least I’ll have a roof over my head tonight… and maybe a breakfast in the morning. What do you say lads, any chance of cuddle and a kiss before bed?” he laughs before one of the boys in blue smashes an elbow into his face and slams the car door behind him. From the bloodied smile I saw on his face as they pulled away, I’d have sworn that, for the first time in a fair while, Tom had gotten exactly what he planned for.