Over the last two decades, Brian Cockerill has ruled his world with an iron fist. Using nothing but his hands as weapons, he has patrolled the streets, clubs and raves of Britain in order to keep order and to 'tax' those whose ill-gotten gains he sees fit to take a share of. Drug dealers and shady club promoters everywhere know that, if The Taxman is in town, it's time to pay up or get out. All know of the appalling violence this man can exert on his enemies, and of the incredible presence of body and mind that he possesses. Yet despite his appalling record of aggression, Brian is a man who lives by rules and respect - balanced yet unpredictable, he has never used weapons, and those who have used arms against him have barely lived to regret it. The facts of his life are as amazing and awe-inspiring as they are true.
|Publisher:||John Blake Publishing, Limited|
|Product dimensions:||5.10(w) x 7.70(h) x 0.70(d)|
About the Author
Brian Cockerill is in his thirties and is still working as The Taxman, patrolling the streets and keeping them in order. He competes in strong-man competitions and has attempted world records in this arena. He has featured in Charlie Bronson's Solitary Fitness and was the subject of a whole chapter in Street Fighters. This is his first venture into writing.
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By Brian Cockerill, Stephen Richards
John Blake Publishing LtdCopyright © 2007 Brian Cockerill and Stephen Richards
All rights reserved.
OUR FRIEND ELECTRIC
I WAS BORN on 16 December 1964 in Coatbridge, in Lanarkshire. There was plenty of 'black stuff' all around and the coalmines led to many ironworks being built and the area becoming the most industrialised in Scotland. But, with all that long gone, Coatbridge is now a little gem of a town.
When I was three years old, my parents, Mary and Jimmy, followed my grandma and other family members in leaving that little community. We crossed the border and settled in a little place in the North-East of England, between Billingham and Hartlepool, an area as steeped in industrial history as Coatbridge. Soon we were living in a tiny cottage, where we stayed for about three years.
I am the oldest of five children, and then there is Robert – we call him Bobby – and then my next brother, who is called Skinny because he was always that way, and the next one is my sister, Catherine, and we call her Katy, and then my youngest brother, Jamie.
Within a week of moving into our new home, I was in bed with pneumonia. Later my mam told me what the doctor had said: 'I don't think he is going to last the night.'
But I was a fighter, because I got through that night, although I was left suffering from asthma. Now and then, I still get a bit of it, but the weight training and other exercise keeps it at bay. I also suffer with hay fever. I am definitely allergic to cats and horses. It is not the hair itself that causes the reaction, it's the old skin cells that are constantly being shed.
I'm all right with some dogs, but others I'm allergic to. Having two of my own doesn't cause me any trouble. Some days I am completely OK and others, if a dog comes near me, I sneeze. Sometimes I can drink milk and I am fine, but another day I can drink it and get a wheezy chest. It's all a mystery. Certain days in winter it's no problem, but in the summer, with the pollen and the tree sap, it makes my nose run.
When I was young, I panicked a lot about my asthma, but when you are older you learn to breathe better. My mother wouldn't put me on an inhaler, even though the doctors prescribed them, as she believed the old wives' tale that if you get on to them you get addicted to them. Several times there were some very anxious moments when I nearly died and was rushed into hospital and put in an oxygen tent. I always battled through and won. In later years, I credit weight training with giving me a lot of my ability to fight against it.
My father was a pathological gambler. He'd be off laying a bet and losing all of his wages, and sometimes we wouldn't see him for days and weeks on end. Things became so bad that we had to go out into the fields and steal the farmer's potatoes just to survive. Mam would put them in the old type of oven that you see in the black-and-white films. At times our stomachs would growl to be fed because we hadn't eaten for days on end as a result of my father being a waster.
When it became too much for my mother, she would go to my grandma's and get some money, come back home and my uncle would come and stay. Uncle Jerry, only five years older than me, was more like an older brother. He stayed with us a lot and looked after us. Sadly, he has since passed away from cancer.
Our cottage was very basic, with no electricity and no flushing toilets. There were only two little bedrooms and seven of us living there. When you needed to go to the toilet, you had to wade through a mountain of rubbish in the garden and dig a hole.
Although we had running water, there was no electricity to heat it. Bath day was an event in itself, as the water had to be heated up on the gas stove. My mam used to wash our clothes in an old tub with a handle on the side that she used to turn to wring out the water. We were brought up on a wing and prayer, as poor as church mice.
The highlight of our week was when we used to go to our grandma's in Redcar at the weekend. I used to stay with her on my own from time to time. Grandma's house would resound with guttural 'Och ayes', as all my uncles had kept their Scottish accent and there was plenty of rolling the Rs. We kids still had the accent when we went to school in Wolviston, which in those days was just a tiny village outside Middlesbrough, with maybe only 50 or 60 houses, though there were a lot of kids at the school.
At my grandma's we would play in the woods and make tree houses. And when my dad wasn't away giving to philanthropic causes such as the local bookmaker, he used to apply his fatherly skills to building wigwams for us.
Racing around on our imaginary horses, slapping our thighs to make them go faster, we would shoot imaginary bullets at make-believe Red Indians from our wooden guns. Our aim was to save their captives from being scalped, but, of course, the Indians would fight back with their tomahawks, bows and arrows and knives and occasionally wound one of us. When the last Indian was killed, the game was over.
If you told kids about that now, they would laugh at you. I tell my son, Jordan, about the way we lived then and it's obvious he'd be lost without electricity. I might say to him, 'You are in trouble now, get to your room.' Well, I wish I'd had his room when I was a child. He has computers, music and all sorts in there, and nowadays it's not a punishment being sent to your room. But not having things didn't bother us in the 1970s because no one else had a lot either. Then again, we had so little that I was sometimes an outcast at school.
When I was about nine or ten we moved to Hartlepool, to 13 Romaine Park. I had visions of playing with the gangs of neighbourhood kids and revelled at the thought of life in a street.
Best of all, we had electricity! We kids hadn't any notion of what it was, so when you turned it on it was, 'Ah, electric!'
We had the television on all the time. When we lived at the cottage, we had a little black-and-white TV powered by a battery that only lasted two hours before the screen died a charcoal colour. My dad would walk to the garage, which was about a mile away, to get the battery recharged. I remember more than once asking where the telly was and Dad said it was broken and in the shop for repair. But he had pawned it and gambled away what he got for it. One time my mam went down to get the telly and they told her, 'Your husband took it out about three weeks ago.'
At our school in Hartlepool, St Helen's, I used to get bullied a lot and because of this I was always staying away. As the new kid there, and with a Scottish accent, I was desperate to be accepted. All my extended family, like my uncles Taff, John and Frank, lived along the coast at Redcar, and I had no cousins to help me sort things out at school with the bullies.
My grandma and granddad had moved to the North-East of England to escape the rough place they lived in. They had seen how the local children were growing up and turning to crime, so they made the decision to take their family away from all that.
This was similar to how a lot of people from Belfast had moved over here to stop their kids being mixed up in that bullshit of Catholics and Protestants hating each other. Those kids had been brought up hearing adults say, 'You don't like them because they are Protestants' or 'You don't like them because they are Catholics.' They are brainwashed, like robots, and from a few years old it is drummed into them.
Here I was, away from the bad influences but still unable to make inroads into a new life. I was the new kid on the block, plus I was always off school, and like that you can't even make friends. I would be at school six weeks, off six weeks, and then I might be off for two months because I was always bad with my chest, and in and out of hospital in oxygen tents.
I would go to the sanctuary of my grandma's and stay for a few weeks, because in those days you could stay off. It would be great fun to be there, a different world.
I used to walk the four miles to school. Actually, I think it was just under four miles because the criterion for having the school bus pick you up was that you had to live at least four miles away; anything under this and you couldn't get a bus. On that long walk I would think about how I was going to avoid getting bullied, because on the way there used to be a gang of lads, maybe five, six, seven, eight of them, who used to bully me. At school, I used to spend all day thinking how I could get home without them setting about me again. I would work out how to get out of it. One way was to slip through a fence and go along the railway line.
Bullying didn't just mean taking a hiding; they'd call you names too. Telling your parents was a big no-no! You just didn't tell your parents back then.
My mother had five brothers and five sisters and she was the best fighter out of the lot of them. My uncles used to tell me stories of how, when anyone bullied them at school, she would come down and fill the lad in for them. She was a proper tomboy, they said. They also told me that as kids they had decided that one day they would get their own back on her because when it was her job to look after them she used to bray [beat] them.
So, one day, out of the blue, they all attacked her. Uncle Frank was scared to get her, but Taff was beating her up, along with the others. But after the boys set upon her that time, she got them all back, so their plan backfired on them!
Maybe now you can see why I couldn't tell my parents about being bullied. It certainly would have been useless to involve my mother. She wouldn't have given a monkey's, but would have told me to get out and fucking hit them back, because she was such a fighter herself.
Being off school ill so much of the time, I lacked confidence. When you are always poorly or in hospital, how can you expect to have confidence in yourself? Apart from this, I suffered a lot because I was dyslexic. They didn't know about dyslexia in those days, so the teachers just thought you were as thick as two bricks. It wasn't until I was in my twenties that I realised something was amiss and then, when I was told I had dyslexia, the penny dropped.
I wasn't able to read properly until I was 11 or 12, but I can read anything now. I could just about string my words together but the drawback for me was being Scottish: I used to spell words as they sound when Scots say them, with more Rs and Vs than they actually have. Being put in a lower class because of these difficulties only made me even more of a target for bullies.
When I was about ten I met this lad called Kevin Richardson, who was four or five years older than me and lived just down the road. He is still a friend now. Sometimes Kevin used to stay with because he didn't want to live with his uncle. My mam looked after him as if he was another brother.
Kevin had a brother, Terry, and both of them could fight for fun. In fact, Terry was always getting locked up for fighting. He used to have whippets and dogs and we used to go rabbiting. He would also go after rabbits on horseback but I couldn't, being allergic to horses. Terry was into all that gypsy type of stuff.
Although Kevin used to look after me, the verbal stuff still hurt me. Soon after I moved to the area kids had started mocking me by calling me 'Hong Kong Phoeey', the cartoon character. But I thought I was brilliant and until I was about ten I just pretended to them that I was a karate expert. I said I had been doing karate for about five years and had learned it at a karate school. As a consequence, they were all scared of me. Unwittingly, this constant scheming made me a strategist. For example, every time I went to my granddad's at the weekend I would just tell the other kids that I was going to my karate classes. That way I used to get peace and quiet. This lasted for about six months, until they sussed me out and I got a good hiding, but you always have to think of plans to avoid trouble or get yourself out of it.
We moved to another house in Hartlepool around the time of the Bay City Rollers. I remember because everyone was wearing those daft trousers and scarves. I stayed friends with Kevin and Terry and we used to wander about through a maze of bridges, under one and then another. Eventually we would come out near Hartlepool beach, where there were pipes that pumped out all this steaming effluent. We would sit there playing; our feet would be white with this stuff and it was red-hot, but it didn't seem dirty. There I was, playing with chemical waste. It must be where I got my strength.
From the beach we used to collect sea coal for our fire at home. Rushing down with an old boneshaker of a bike, we would fill bags up with it and put them on the bike and push it home.
The problem with this sort of coal, which came from the nearby sea collieries, was that it wasn't pure. You would be sitting by the fire when, without any warning, a piece of coal would explode and spit showers of shrapnel into your face. To help overcome this we used to wrap it in paper and mix it up with proper coal. Back in those days just about everyone had a coal fire and some kids used to collect sea coal and sell it at 50p a bag.
Our next move was to 224 Westview Road in Hartlepool. The road is still there, but not the house. We used to play football in the street 24/7 and when I was about 14 I got offered the chance to see if I was good enough to play for Hartlepool, either as a goalkeeper or a striker. I was offered two trials but I never went to either of them because I just didn't have enough belief in myself.
I was still a skinny, gangly kid, but it was around that time that I started to develop more confidence and to fight back. There was this lad who wanted a fight with me and he was one of the so-called best fighters in the school. I ended up throwing a volley of punches at him and within seconds he was on the floor in a screaming mess. This new approach, I decided, was better than running away and hiding around corners, frightened of bullies.
Before long, I had beaten every fighter in the school and everyone in the area. I wasn't going to be pushed around any more. I wasn't taking any shit from the bullies. That was it. I was the hardest lad in the school, but I didn't flaunt it.
I remember enjoying all sorts of things on the telly, but, when I saw James Cagney films, I wanted to be a gangster. That's the life, I thought. It's better than being bullied. Watching characters like that helped me to turn my life around.CHAPTER 2
AFTER A FEW years, we moved out to a little village between Hartlepool and Middlesbrough called Graythorpe. It was a community of about 100 houses where RAF personnel who had served in the war used to live. The houses were nice and I know I sound like an old granddad here, but it was the sort of place where you could leave your door open. This wasn't because we didn't have anything to steal, not because there weren't any videos and so on in those days; you could leave a bike outside and not worry about it. I had been given a bike by my uncle. He had pinched it and pedalled it all the way from Redcar to Hartlepool, and that was my Christmas present from him.
This is how it was and we never knew any different. I don't consider people who sell £100 tracksuits at Christmas for £15 to poor people that can't afford the shop price as villains. They make a few quid for themselves, but they are also helping low-income people, many of them on the dole, and those who haven't got the opportunity to compete with the higher echelons of society. The kids get a brilliant Christmas out of it and everyone is happy. Their mums and dads might spend £100 in total, but it would have cost many times more if they had bought the same items at the usual retail price. These tracksuits, like perfume and other products sold on the streets and in pubs, are not stolen, though that doesn't mean they're not counterfeits.
Excerpted from The Taxman by Brian Cockerill, Stephen Richards. Copyright © 2007 Brian Cockerill and Stephen Richards. Excerpted by permission of John Blake Publishing Ltd.
All rights reserved. No part of this excerpt may be reproduced or reprinted without permission in writing from the publisher.
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Table of Contents
1 Our Friend Electric,
2 Chemical Bri,
3 Randy Crawford Blues,
4 Fixing on Winning,
5 The Eagle Does not Chase after Flies,
6 Wrecking Crew,
7 The Duffer vs the Tax Man,
8 The Hotter the Flame, the Quicker the Burn,
9 The Mad and the Ugly,
10 Garside vs Cockerill I and II,
11 The Hammer House of Horrors,
12 Instant Justice,
13 The Number One Tax Man,
14 Good Fellas,
15 The Fighting Cockerill,
16 Murders, Kidnappings and Assaults,
17 To Protect and Serve,
18 The Tax Man's Guide to Taxing,
19 Staying Top Dog,
Other titles by Stephen Richards,