A 14 year old boy takes a long walk down a dark alley, on the way to sexual consciousness.
1980. 14 year old Joe lives with his Mum in Romford. He attends a local comprehensive school, where pedantic teachers attempt to install what knowledge they have and Joe indulges with his mate Tim in friendly banter.
Joe's Mum reckons his hair is too long - he needs it cut. She gives him some money and sends him on his way. He ought to take the safe and long way round, via the high street to the barbers, but instead he takes a short cut down the shadowy passage known only as the Battis.
TEACHER: It's from the French word abatis, meaning "a heap of material thrown."
TEACHER: It's a term they use in field fortification for an obstacle formed of the branches
of trees laid in a row -
TEACHER: - with the tops directed towards the enemy.
JOE: What enemy?
TEACHER: There used to be an army barracks next to it yonks ago. During the
TEACHER: Where the Waterloo Estate is now.
JOE: That's where I live!
Joe enters the Battis and, whilst his adolescent body is walking, his pubescent mind is wandering down passageways of its own. Joe's imagination propels him into a plethora of sexual fantasies, beginning in the court of the Emperor Caligula and ending with a strong desire for a young Pakistani guy he spied in the hairdressers' another time…
JOE: The Battis is this long alley what runs down the side of the railway
embankment from where I live in Waterloo Gardens to south street where the
station is, where the barbers is. The Battis -
TEACHER: From the French word abatis -
JOE: Yeah all right. The Battis is the bestest way.
MUM: I've told you -
WARNING: Don't go there!
JOE: It's right narrow. Stone walls on one side towering and the other side has a
steel fence. Sign on it says "Danger of Death."
TIM: Gives me the creeps down there.
JOE: There's nine arches you go through.
TEACHER: Like cloisters.
JOE: Like what?
MUM: They ought to get some lights on down there.
JOE: And on the embankment side, there's eighteen alcoves.
JOE: Yes, that's right!
MUM: Anyone could be hanging round in those.
JOE: Eighteen shadowy recesses.
MUM: You wouldn't notice 'til they leapt out at you.
JOE: Oh for goodness sake, Mum!
TIM: You walk down that Battis on your own? Rather you than me mate! Well
JOE: Seedy? Ain't seedy at all. Not in reality -
All the while he walks and his mind wanders, he defies that voice of warning which resounded - "Don't Go There!"
After the walk, and the disappointment of not finding the Pakistani youth in the barbers, Joe gets on with the quotidian round of his daily life. But Tim is making improper suggestions in their classroom games. Mum wonders what's going on with Joe. Joe warns her - "Don't go there!"
In 10 short, packed minutes, Battis Boy uncovers the secret history of the fantasy life of an suburban adolescent boy with an excessive fantasy life full of desire.
Battis Boy was performed as part of the Paines Plough Later event featuring writing from and about Romford, Essex curated by David Eldridge on Monday 23 April, 2007.