How a life of crime became a really boring business

ME AND Jon went to the place where we had hidden the lead. He bent down into the ditch and slid it up towards me. It was a rolled-up sheet the size of a hearth-rug; I grabbed the end and pulled it up. It was early in the morning. The lead was wet. We unrolled it and tore off a section. We didn't want to be carrying the whole thing round; it was heavy. Somebody might see it. I had the matches. We had everything. The question was: where should we light the fire?

'In the fruit farm?'

'No - too near.'

'On the hill?'

'Too . . . exposed.'

This, for us, was the point of crime - how else, as an adolescent, could you have conversations like this? We felt serious, in control. We were 13. I had never said 'too exposed' and pursed my lips and looked seriously at the ground before. Never in my life. This was great; it was like being in a war comic. Neither of us was leading the other on, exactly, but we couldn't have done this alone. What - stealing the lead, hiding it, getting all the gear together, lighting the fire? On your own? It wouldn't have made any sense.

I put the stolen lead back in the ditch. Then I put the torn-off section in a plastic bag. I felt no guilt whatsoever. Looking back on it, we didn't want to do these bad things for personal gain, exactly. What we wanted was something subtly different - we wanted to be boys who did bad things. We identified with criminals, not because criminals were prosperous, but because criminals seemed to have interesting lives. They were permanently evading capture, for instance - a perfect hedge against boredom. And they always had great things to say to each other. When you commit crimes with somebody, it definitely improves your relationship.

'What about the little wood?'

'Not quite. Just up from that.'

'Perfect.'

We hadn't worked everything out. But nearly. We had the matches, the lead, the cooking pan. We also had the mould, which was the important thing. We walked through the wood, hefting our heavy loads, self-conscious, pretending to be lost in our new roles. The next step was to build a fire. Then we would put the lead in the cooking pan, and hope it melted properly. We weren't even sure the lead would melt.

We did not feel guilty, but we were nervous. What if it didn't work? That was almost unthinkable; if the lead didn't melt, we would have no reason to go on stealing it. And for me, stealing the lead - all that clambering around on roofs - was the most exciting bit. I really didn't want to stop doing that.

The lead had been an accidental discovery. We'd been climbing on the roofs of some old farm buildings, enjoying ourselves a fair amount, but nothing special, and we'd been pulling the slates off the roof so that we could throw them, frisbee-like, into the trees below. This was good fun for a little while. But what next? The experience started to pall. After a bit, we had revealed a large expanse of material underneath the tiles. We poked at it a bit, unmoved. Then we saw a seam where one sheet was joined to another, and pulled it up. This stuff had strange qualities - it was heavy, bendy.

'It's lead]'

'It bloody is, too]'

'Well, that's obvious.'

We fiddled with it for a while. Then we climbed down and did something else.

A few days later, though, we were looking through a fishing magazine - the Angler's Mail or the Angling Times - and we noticed an ad for moulds for home-made fishing weights. They were hinged metal blocks with hollow centres. You poured molten lead into them, and waited for it to dry. Then you pulled the halves apart, and a weight fell out. You were supposed to make them out of old, knackered weights which had been knocked out of shape on rocks and the sides of piers.

For us, it opened up a fantastic possibility, because we could get unlimited quantities of lead. We could, we realised, go into business, making weights and selling them on piers, jetties, breakwaters. We could make hundreds. So we sent off for a mould to make a 5 oz Surf Bomb. A fortnight later, it arrived in the post. We had, of course, stolen the lead in advance.

So this was the moment. We lit the fire, took out the lead, tore it into strips, put it in the pan. At first, the strips of lead just sat there in the bottom of the pan. And then . . . triumph] They started to melt. They began to go runny and shiny at the edges, then they turned from dark grey, stiff things into molten silver stuff the consistency of custard. Absolutely amazed, I tipped it into the spout at the top of the mould. We were beside ourselves; we waited for the mould to cool down, and opened it. Yes] We had a perfect surf bomb, smooth at the edges, shinier than ordinary weights - it was fresher - and worth 20p in the shops. It felt superb. We looked at it, lying in the grass, and laughed and laughed.

We did go into business. We made hundreds of weights. We got good at knowing the optimum amount of lead to put in the pan, and the right size for the fire, and the best piers to sell the weights on, and the right amount to charge (a third of the retail price if people weren't desperate; more if they looked like they really needed weights).

But the lead didn't get used up very fast. We had masses. We did a few more small heists, and one big one, staggering off one night with a sheet the size of a carpet. Soon we realised that what we had was going to last us for ever.

We made the weights for one summer. After that, we couldn't be bothered any more. I think it was because the whole thing had become routine; it felt like work. You got up, you built your fire, you poured the lead into the moulds. The next day, you went to the pier. You sold a few weights. It got so it felt like legitimate business.-

Suggested Topics
Arts and Entertainment
Former Communards frontman Jimmy Somerville
music
Arts and Entertainment
Secrets of JK Rowling's Harry Potter workings have been revealed in a new bibliography
arts + ents
Arts and Entertainment
Fearne Cotton is leaving Radio 1 after a decade
radio The popular DJ is leaving for 'family and new adventures'
Arts and Entertainment
arts + ents
Arts and Entertainment
Public Service Broadcasting are going it alone
music
Arts and Entertainment

Oscars 2015 Mexican filmmaker uses speech to urge 'respect' for immigrants

Arts and Entertainment
The Oscar nominations are due to be announced today

Oscars 2015 Bringing you all the news from the 87th Academy Awards

Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
Arts and Entertainment

ebooksNow available in paperback
Arts and Entertainment

ebooks
Arts and Entertainment
Lloyd-Hughes takes the leading role as Ralph Whelan in Channel 4's epic new 10-part drama, Indian Summers

TV Review

The intrigue deepens as we delve further but don't expect any answers just yet
Arts and Entertainment
Jason Segal and Cameron Diaz star in Sex Tape

Razzies 2015 Golden Raspberry Awards 'honours' Cameron Diaz and Kirk Cameron

Arts and Entertainment
The Oscars ceremony 2015 will take place at the Dolby Theatre in Los Angeles
Oscars 2015A quiz to whet your appetite for tonight’s 87th Academy Awards
Arts and Entertainment
Sigourney Weaver, as Ripley, in Alien; critics have branded the naming of action movie network Movies4Men as “offensive” and “demographic box-ticking gone mad”.
TVNaming of action movie network Movies4Men sparks outrage
Arts and Entertainment
Sleater Kinney perform at the 6 Music Festival at the O2 Academy, Newcastle
musicReview: 6 Music Festival
Arts and Entertainment
Sleater Kinney perform at the 6 Music Festival at the O2 Academy, Newcastle
musicReview: 6 Music Festival
News
Kristen Stewart reacts after receiving the Best Actress in a Supporting Role award for her role in 'Sils Maria' at the 40th annual Cesar awards
people
News
A lost Sherlock Holmes story has been unearthed
arts + ents Walter Elliot, an 80-year-old historian, found it in his attic,
Arts and Entertainment
Margot Robbie rose to fame starring alongside Leonardo DiCaprio in The Wolf of Wall Street

Film Hollywood's new leading lady talks about her Ramsay Street days

Arts and Entertainment
Right note: Sam Haywood with Simon Usborne page turning
musicSimon Usborne discovers it is under threat from the accursed iPad
Arts and Entertainment
A life-size sculpture by Nick Reynolds depicting singer Pete Doherty on a crucifix hangs in St Marylebone church
arts + ents
Arts and Entertainment
Escalating tension: Tang Wei and Chris Hemsworth in ‘Blackhat’
filmReview: Chris Hemsworth stars as a convicted hacker in Blackhat
Arts and Entertainment

Oscar voter speaks out

film
Arts and Entertainment
The Oscars race for Best Picture will be the battle between Boyhood and Birdman

Oscars
Arts and Entertainment
Anne Boleyn (Claire Foy), Thomas Cromwell (Mark Rylance)
tvReview: Wolf Hall
Arts and Entertainment
Tom Meighan of Kasabian collects the Best Album Award
music
Arts and Entertainment
Best supporting stylist: the late L’Wren Scott dressed Nicole Kidman in 1997
film
Arts and Entertainment
Dakota Johnson and Jamie Dornan as Anastasia Steele and Christian Grey in Fifty Shades of Grey

Film

Arts and Entertainment
Mick Carter (Danny Dyer) and Peggy Mitchell (Barbara Windsor)
tv occurred in the crucial final scene
Arts and Entertainment
Glasgow wanted to demolish its Red Road flats last year
architecture
Latest stories from i100
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?

ES Rentals

    Independent Dating
    and  

    By clicking 'Search' you
    are agreeing to our
    Terms of Use.

    The Last Word: For the good of the game: why on earth don’t we leave Fifa?

    Michael Calvin's Last Word

    For the good of the game: why on earth don’t we leave Fifa?
    HIV pill: Scientists hail discovery of 'game-changer' that cuts the risk of infection among gay men by 86%

    Scientists hail daily pill that protects against HIV infection

    Breakthrough in battle against global scourge – but will the NHS pay for it?
    How we must adjust our lifestyles to nature: Welcome to the 'Anthropocene', the human epoch

    Time to play God

    Welcome to the 'Anthropocene', the human epoch where we may need to redefine nature itself
    MacGyver returns, but with a difference: Handyman hero of classic 1980s TV series to be recast as a woman

    MacGyver returns, but with a difference

    Handyman hero of classic 1980s TV series to be recast as a woman
    Tunnel renaissance: Why cities are hiding roads down in the ground

    Tunnel renaissance

    Why cities are hiding roads underground
    'Backstreet Boys - Show 'Em What You're Made Of': An affectionate look at five middle-aged men

    Boys to men

    The Backstreet Boys might be middle-aged, married and have dodgy knees, but a heartfelt documentary reveals they’re not going gently into pop’s good night
    Crufts 2015: Should foreign dogs be allowed to compete?

    Crufts 2015

    Should foreign dogs be allowed to compete?
    10 best projectors

    How to make your home cinema more cinematic: 10 best projectors

    Want to recreate the big-screen experience in your sitting room? IndyBest sizes up gadgets to form your film-watching
    Manchester City 1 Barcelona 2 player ratings: Luis Suarez? Lionel Messi? Joe Hart? Who was the star man?

    Manchester City vs Barcelona player ratings

    Luis Suarez? Lionel Messi? Joe Hart? Who was the star man at the Etihad?
    Arsenal vs Monaco: Monaco - the making of Gunners' manager Arsene Wenger

    Monaco: the making of Wenger

    Jack Pitt-Brooke speaks to former players and learns the Frenchman’s man-management has always been one of his best skills
    Cricket World Cup 2015: Chris Gayle - the West Indies' enigma lives up to his reputation

    Chris Gayle: The West Indies' enigma

    Some said the game's eternal rebel was washed up. As ever, he proved he writes the scripts by producing a blistering World Cup innings
    In Ukraine a dark world of hybrid warfare and murky loyalties prevails

    In Ukraine a dark world of hybrid warfare

    This war in the shadows has been going on since the fall of Mr Yanukovych
    'Birdman' and 'Bullets Over Broadway': Homage or plagiarism?

    Homage or plagiarism?

    'Birdman' shares much DNA with Woody Allen's 'Bullets Over Broadway'
    Broadchurch ends as damp squib not even David Tennant can revive

    A damp squib not even David Tennant can revive

    Broadchurch, Series 2 finale, review
    A Koi carp breeding pond, wall-mounted iPads and a bathroom with a 'wellness' shower: inside the mansion of Germany's 'Bishop of Bling'

    Inside the mansion of Germany's 'Bishop of Bling'

    A Koi carp breeding pond, wall-mounted iPads and a bathroom with a 'wellness' shower