Smiling Through It | The Coffee House Interviews

A couple of months ago I wrote a piece where I imagined that I was being interviewed by one of my own characters, Marcus. It was a lot of fun to write and I wanted to do something else like it. Obviously I couldn’t have another interview with myself so I decided I would flip it. Instead of Marco interviewing me, I’d interview him. This is what happened when we met up in our usual spot for a wee chat…


Interview By James Churchill

I’m back in Liverpool, back in that coffee shop overlooking the Mersey, and waiting for Marcus, or Marco as he prefers to be known, to make his entrance. Punctuality, to be fair, is not his strong suit. He doesn’t take life in the fast lane. In fact, he takes it as slow as possible. The concept of timeliness is one that is alien to him. When he finally ambles in (two and a half cups of ridiculous coffee late) he’s as casual as you like and doesn’t appear to have clocked on that we agreed to meet three quarters of an hour ago. He has an eerily relaxed attitude about him which I pull him up on as he sits down, freshly ordered coffee and chocolate cake in hand.
‘People say life is short but is it really?’ he ponders without directly answering my question. ‘I mean… Four score years and ten is what we’re supposed to get.’ It’s actually three score and ten but I let him carry on. People live longer lives these days. ‘That’s ninety years, nearly a century. There’s plenty of time to do everything you want to and then some.’ That still doesn’t explain how he always seems so chill. ‘It’s just the way I am,’ he answers. I guess I’ll settle for that but he and I both know that it isn’t always the case. ‘Don’t piss me off,’ he laughs. ‘Piss me off and you’ll know about it… I once hospitalized a kid who was ragging on Will.’ That would be Robin, yes? Marco nods. ‘It didn’t stop the little shit though, did it?’ He pauses and asks me how much he can reveal here. I advise him to say no more.

People are staring at us, or at Marco to be precise. They’ve been doing so since he first walked in. He’s not attractive in any conventional sense but there’s something about him. Maybe it’s the expensive clothes he wears. Today he’s in a sort of ‘smart-casual’ get up- An LA Lakers t-shirt (he’ll be the first to admit that he doesn’t even like sport) over which he has a blue blazer jacket. His shoes are brown loafers, well buffed and like new. His socks look ordinary but I’ll bet anything they’re not. I ask how much they cost him.
‘These are cheap ones,’ he replies. ‘I got them from LA and they were about forty dollars…’ At the current exchange rate that’s about thirty pounds, which most of us would balk at for a single pair of socks, especially ones that are just black like his are. ‘I spent my entire childhood in cheap clothes,’ Marco explains. ‘Now I have a stupid amount of money I might as well buy the best and that includes socks.’ I immediately pull him up on his childhood dress sense, which can best be described as nineties hip-hop wannabe- It included phat pants. He buries his head in his hands. ‘Don’t remind me about the phat pants… Worst style decision ever!’ He regains his cool composure. ‘Seriously though, I was just a kid. We all go through phases we regret… There wasn’t a lot of choice for me anyway. It was cheap or nothing.’


‘When I was about five there was a shootout in the street outside my house… A proper, gang war style shoot out like you see in movies. This was in the middle of Lancashire!’


   That brings us neatly around to his childhood on the streets of West Worton, (Lancashire.) For reasons I’ll come to it was deemed safer that he and Will to be brought up there, away from the rest of their family, than anywhere else.
‘It wasn’t pleasant,’ Marco muses. ‘It was tough. Worton isn’t the nicest place in the world and West Worton is the roughest part of town.’ He starts to paint a picture of the sort of place it was. ‘When I was about five there was a shootout in the street outside my house… A proper, gang war style shoot out like you see in movies. This was in the middle of Lancashire!’ He sounds impressed by this but he isn’t. ‘It might look cool in movies and shit but when you’re five years old it is terrifying.’ He carries on with his portrait. ‘I was offered drugs at the school gates… Primary school! I know kids who took them, whose parents bought those drugs without even questioning it.’ Didn’t the police get involved? Marco laughs. ‘They kept coming up with ‘strategies’ to tackle crime in the area but they never worked. They’d take people away, lock them up… But there’d always be someone else to take their place.’ Did he ever get involved in any crime? ‘Petty stuff,’ he admits. ‘Vandalism, graffiti, joy riding… The only time I got caught was when Will and I broke into a car and took the radio. I took the whole rap because Will wouldn’t have survived otherwise.’

Will, if you are unaware, is Marco’s twin, older by a couple of minutes. I point out that despite being almost identical the two are nothing alike.
‘Will can be really uptight sometimes. He’s far too serious minded and when something ends up under his bonnet it tends to stay there for a long time. He’s a twat as well.’ Does Marco ever find himself wishing he were an only child?
‘Hell no. I may hate him sometimes and he might be a twat but… He’s not only my brother, he’s my best friend and always will be.’ And Will feels the same way? ‘He’d kill me if I said I loved him.’ Marco starts doing an impersonation, a good one. ‘Marco… Have you lost your fucking mind?’ He smiles and takes a bite of cake onto his fork. He waves it in the air and makes a comment before eating it. ‘I’m a lot more sociable than he is.’


‘I wasn’t talking to her… I was trying to persuade her not to give me a parking ticket. I left my bike on the road so I could open my office gates and she came over to pull me up. She was… persuasive!’


Marco will make friends with anyone, no matter who they are. He’ll talk with anybody he comes across, from waitresses to random people in the street. I’ve even known him to stop and chat with a tramp who was begging for money. Interestingly, this is how Marco met his girlfriend, Victoria.
‘Not quite true,’ he corrects me. ‘I wasn’t talking to her… I was trying to persuade her not to give me a parking ticket. I left my bike on the road so I could open my office gates and she came over to pull me up. She was… persuasive!’ A smile spreads across his face. ‘I tried flirting with her and she slapped me down and I thought that was it, over.’ It wasn’t though. Marco and Victoria later found themselves meeting in a nightclub and after that the two of them became friends. ‘We were friends for quite a while and I honestly didn’t think there would ever be anything else between us.’ Wasn’t it going that way though? ‘If it was I didn’t see it. I mean, I’d had dinner with her family a couple of times and she’d spent a couple of Christmases at mine but I didn’t see anything special between us. Then one day we sort of ended up getting together. We never planned any of it.’’ Was it strange for him, going from being really good friends to dating? ‘I think it was stranger for everyone else because we’d been friends for so long. Everyone was used to us just hanging out, being best buds. Then suddenly we’re holding hands and all that jazz.’

Besides his brother Will, Marco comes from a family that is, by any standards, large.
‘Now that is something that was strange for me. Growing up it was just me and Will and then we found out we had this big extended family out there; aunts and uncles and cousins and various hangers on. It’s getting bigger too. My cousin Dylan got married last year and my other cousin, Corwen, he’s expecting his first child and he’s getting married sometime next year. So that’s at least three more people on top of whoever else is out there.’ Seeing how big the family is, how close are they? Is it easy to keep in touch? ‘Very easy seeing as we all work together. Dylan and I share an office and Aunt Lilly (Dylan’s mum) is around most days. Most days I’ll call Will or he’ll call me and we’re usually all together at Christmas. Last year was mental because there were eighteen of us around the dinner table. We needed three turkeys just to feed everyone!’ Quite a change from just the two of you? ‘Definitely. There were times when I was wishing it was just the two of us again.’


‘Nobody really knows what happened that night. All anybody found was Dad and Grandpa dead and me and Will gone.’


Marco goes numb. We’re both thinking the same thing. There could, quite possibly, have been a whole lot more than eighteen people around that dinner table. Marco’s great grandfather had a total of eight children, all boys, many of them who might have still been alive today had it not been for a series of unfortunate events.
‘The oldest, Edward, he was born in twenty nine so he’d only be eighty seven this year,’ Marco admits. ‘He might have been alive but at that age you can’t say for certain. Grandpa probably would have been alive. Compared to Edward he’d be positively young. A sprightly seventy one! Dad would be alive…’ There’s a lump in his throat and he finds it difficult to speak. Marco’s dad, Otto, was the reason he and Will grew up in West Worton, away from the rest of the family. Knowing the family were being hunted by an unknown killer he had both of his then two week old sons taken to a safe obscurity. ‘Nobody really knows what happened that night,’ Marco tells me. ‘All anybody found was Dad and Grandpa dead and me and Will gone. Officially, the police reported that Dad did away with us and Grandpa and then killed himself.’ In reality? ‘A fucking lunatic out for revenge! If Aunt Anna and Aunt Lilly hadn’t been married he’d have probably got them too. Because they didn’t have the family name he wasn’t able to trace them. It wasn’t so easy to do that in those days, as I’m sure you know.’

Underlying all this was another tragedy, the death of his mum, and at first I’m hesitant to ask but Marco reassures me.
‘Don’t be… Yeah, it’s difficult not having a mum but it can’t be helped. In fact, I blame Will for it.’ He starts to laugh. Marco’s mum, Claire, died during childbirth and it’s really no laughing matter. Marco soon calms down and becomes a bit more sombre. ‘I was lucky to even have been born at all. Will made such a mess of things that Mum was barely alive by the time it was my turn.’ I ask what he thinks about his mum, does he ever find himself missing her? ‘You can’t miss what you never had… But from what I’ve been told she seemed like a nice lady. I think she’d have been a good mum, stern but forgiving.’


‘There’s always other people around and anyone can come and go as they please; people who work for us or family members or friends needing a cheap weekend away. You can’t go one day without a visitor.’


And what about children of his own? What about marriage?
‘Marriage is out of the question, at least for the moment. We’ve talked about it and we’ve both decided we don’t want the hoo-hah. We’re leaving children in the lap of the gods. If they happen then they happen. Having a son or daughter would be nice but we like life as it right now and aren’t in a rush to change things.’ Does the prospect of children worry him at all? ‘It scares the living bejeezus out of me. Nobody has a clue, really, but what hope do I have? I’ve absolutely nothing to start from.’ He sighs and stares into his coffee. ‘I shouldn’t worry… There’s plenty of people to support me but at the end of the day parenting is a two person job and no more. It will be just me and Vick and she has about as much clue as I do, perhaps a bit more.’

Marco currently divides his time between his work in York, his family seat in Wales (Cythry) and a two room cottage near Nefyn.
‘I love the cottage. My great grandfather bought it for when he retired but he didn’t get much chance to use it. It’s quiet out there and nobody bothers us. It’s about as far from civilization as you can get. Cythry is remote as well but it’s not possible to relax there for long periods. There’s always other people around and anyone (within reason) can come and go as they please; people who work for us or family members or friends needing a cheap weekend away. You can’t go one day without a visitor. Will loves that sort of thing which is why he lives there year round but I get tetchy about it after a while. It kind of makes having a proper love life difficult. It’s impossible to be really intimate with someone when you’ve got to share your romantic dinner with a solicitor, a mechanic, three surveillance specialists and a wannabe wandering minstrel.’ He’s joking about the wandering minstrel, of course. ‘Am I?’ Of course he is!

What about when he’s in York? How does he cope with city life?
‘I love being alone but I find it grates after a while. I start needing to be active. I need bars and nightclubs and…’ Places to buy expensive socks? ‘Yes! York is where work is as well, for both me and Vick, and living a few streets away is handy. I was lucky because before he was killed Dad secretly bought this swanky riverside apartment where he planned to hide us all. It didn’t work out that way but it still came in handy when I first started working there. I was disappointed at first because it wasn’t the old place the family had.’ He’s referring to Marsh Hall, an old Tudor mansion on the outskirts of the city that was firebombed in the eighties. ‘Aunt Lilly bought the land from the family and now she has her own white box there. It’s a nice house but not my cup of tea.’


‘I’m not worried about myself but what if someone comes along and kills Vick? Or Dylan? Or Will? What if they do it to get revenge on me?’


Marco, along with Will, is joint head of the family business- A firm specialising in matters of international security, usually with an emphasis on complete discretion and deniability. Marco spends most of his time running the company’s York branch and with human resources whilst Will deals with the operational side of things.
‘Some people reckon we’re gangsters but we’re really not. Gangsters are usually out for themselves. We’re a lot more mercenary and we’re not completely without morals, no matter what our critics might say.’ The company, in its modern form, goes back to the early eighteen hundreds but evidence suggests the family has been dabbling for far longer. ‘The most common idea, or at least the one that got put about by the Victorians, was that it was started by the Romans in AD 211. That’s probably not true but my ancestors were up to something at least as far back as the Welsh conquest in 1282.’ Is it worrying for him, being at the end of a long line like that? Does he ever feel the need to live up to the accomplishments of his ancestors? ‘Not a bit. What I do doesn’t matter in the long run. So long as I’m happy, so long as I’m able to do a good job I don’t see that there’s much of a problem.’

Marco is chill and relaxed. He’s cheerful almost all of the time. Is there anything that really worries him or keeps him awake at night? He starts to nod in a very slow fashion.
‘In my line of work you make enemies. Look at what happened to Dad, to Granddad. They never caught the guy who did it and he’s still out there. I’m not worried about myself but what if someone comes along and kills Vick? Or Dylan? Or Will? What if they do it to get revenge on me?’ He looks thoroughly miserable at the prospect. ‘What if something I do has repercussions? I’m just doing what I think is right but there are people who will take offence at that. There are always people like that.’ He starts giving me an example. ‘In the seventies there was this journalist called Moira Taggart who had some beef against us because she thought we were gangsters. She went out of her way to try and catch us doing bad things and get the whole family imprisoned. Eventually she managed it and Uncle Seamus had to go on the run for attempting to pervert the course of justice. We were lucky that time and Taggart was small fry but there are people who could do much worse.’ He bangs his fist on the table. ‘God damnit, fuck them though. You can’t let people like that win!’ And suddenly, as though a switch has been flicked, we’re back to the usual cheery Marco.

Some people would find his constant cheeriness annoying. It’s not a façade, he actually is that happy with his life. Throw shit at him and he might beat you up but he’ll smile through it, probably. Scratch deep enough and he does have his worries and his doubts, but at the end of the day don’t we all?


(Image from


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