A quiet village in a sleepy part of England is not the place one would expect a lot of gangland activity. Yet being close to Manchester and in an area renowned for its A list of celebrity residents, maybe is isn’t so surprising that rich mob heads and their molls chose to live amongst football players, actors and TV personalities. In houses surrounded by acres of land, enough to house a racing stable or two, families live their secret lives behind security systems that rival Fort Knox. Except for my friend, that is, the youngest son of an ex mobster, who’d chosen to turn his back on the family business and try earn an honest living that didn’t involve extortion, drugs, prostitution, stealing or gun running. He chose a trade that, ironically, often had dealings with the underworld i.e. scrap. So determined was he to make it on his own that in the lean weeks when he first started he lost his rented accommodation, slept in his van, washed in our local pub and relied on friends to help him out with food and a place to crash when desperation set in or the nights turned freezing. With a lot of hard work and hardship the business expanded, started to make a profit and he had cash to flash. Unfortunately for him, the business started to compete with the not so above board ones in the area and the head muscleman of the village, after failing to recruit him, decided to send a message by way of a couple of broken headlights and a shattered windscreen. His dad, now retired, had used up any favours owed trying to get a contract removed from the head of his other son. Who was holed up in the bull-ring in Manchester (even the police didn’t dare to go in there), too scared to come out. So even if my friend had been on speaking terms with his father he would’ve been on his own.
It was through my friend I learnt that the quiet village I thought I’d moved to had a hierarchy of criminals residing there managing small time crime in the area for the Manchester gangs. Obviously I had a rose tinted view of village life. I lived in the community for a number of years and in that time the criminal element was never obvious. But then, as the old saying goes, you don’t shit on your own doorstep.
So when you travel to England and are charmed by pretty country villages complete with quaint houses, cricket grounds, oldie world hostelries and tea houses just remember that superficiality can be deceptive and what lies beneath may be a lot more sinister.