I knew Terry from being a kid. He was a plumber who worked on and off with my Dad. He was short an stocky with broad shoulders and had a sort of bow-legged gait when he walked. Mad on playing squash and competitive to the point of becoming a black belt at judo.
He was never shy with his opinions, very brusque. But a cheerful and extremely generous character. His greying brown hair always tended to be brushed into a bit of a bouffant which put me in mind of a stumpy Elvis who’d just got off a horse every time I saw him.
Terry always had a tale to tell and would do so with gusto. He would have a twinkle in his blue eyes as he did, because he knew the punch line and just looked forward to shocking you with it. The language was vivid to say the least. And I’d see my dad rolling his eyes, frantically raising his eyebrows while trying to mime to Terry to lower the tone. But Terry would just say “Sorry son, take no notice of me” then carry on regardless, fucking and blinding.
And to a small kid – I was around 7 – having this fella telling you these colourful tales, treating you like you were a mate, part of the gang, was brilliant.
He could talk Terry. Hardly paused for breath at times. Always something to tell you about. Just made him that bit more interesting to be around, and I used to hover about him as he tried to work.
“Come on son your going to have to piss off while I get something done.”
A spades a spade in Terry’s book, and a spanners a spanner. Or a fucking spanner.
“Just pass me that spanner if your helping son. No that’s a screw driver. No, that’s a hacksaw, No, No, The spanner, the fuckin spanner for fucks sake!”
(I probably knew more swear words than anyone else in school. Even the tourettes kid. Thank you terry. I was nearly a legend at 8.)
Terry had worked with my dad on a number of jobs, even fitting the central heating on our home. We had been taken away for the weekend to give Terry the room to get the job done and there are three things I remember about that time.
The first thing, was we had breakfast on arriving for the weekend, in a nice little seaside café. Full English. And they didn’t mess around with portions. Which I would happily attempt.
(That’s probably why flares always looked like drainpipes on me – see Blue Speedo’s and Tartan scarves)
When my breakfast was finally placed in front of me, my feet were literally drumming against the floor like Thumper from Bambi. I had to wait for everyone else’s to arrive before I could start and was sat, quivering, waiting for the nod to begin.
We were sat in booths in the Café and my brother and sister were sat with me, while my mum and dad were sat opposite in an adjacent table.
Finally, everybody’s breakfast had arrived and I set to with enthusiasm. Thinking back I must have been chasing something round the plate, because it was skating around the table as I worked through my bacon, lovely yokey egg, bucket worth of beans, mountain of mushrooms and sausage. Suddenly, with a wail of dismay from me, it diced with the edge of the table one time too many and suddenly flipped over into my lap.
I was sat desolate, uncomprehending, looking down at my breakfast nestling on my knees, holding the inverted plate above.
My beans! My lovely yokey egg!! My mushrooooooms!
Everyone had come to a stop mid meal. Knives and forks poised and mouths hanging open.
I was forced to scoop the remaining breakfast from my lap back onto the recovered plate. I was still looking at it thinking,
“I could probably still eat the bacon and sausage,”
and was casting a professional eye over the recoverability of the mushrooms, when the whole thing was whisked from my table by a frenzied waitress.
I looked after the retreating breakfast with obvious dismay, until my eyes met my mum and dads sat opposite, still sat open mouthed. It was then that I became aware of the bean juice and not so lovely yokey egg soaking into my trousers. I looked back down then back at my parents, raising my eyebrows to begin asking how I was to clean it up. (Actually I was probably weighing up if I could wring the juice out of my pants onto my piece of toast.)
“Go to the toilet. And. Get. Cleaned. Up.”
Not impressed then.
I wasn’t about to ask if I was getting a replacement meal either. The storm clouds were obviously gathering over me. Best avert the eyes, stum up and get cleaned up I thought.
I didn’t get the replacement meal. And they weren’t impressed. What didn’t help was having a visual reminder, in the form of a young lad wandering around behind them, covered in the remnants a full English breakfast.
Nor being reminded he was there by hearing his stomach constantly rumbling along behind them like thunder.
The small mercy that distracted them was the 2nd notable thing that occurred.
As we were being marched around the local sea front, myself ignored but not forgotten, a Tram coupling disconnected from the electric cable above the trolley car, in a shower of sparks. The whole thing swung down and round, and smashed through the rear window. This knocked some poor bugger senseless and he was covered in blood when they helped him stagger off. The food spattered child before my parents melted into the back ground in the face of this situation. For a while at least, purely in a philosophical sense, I was mentally drawing a forearm over a fevered brow, sighing in relief. And I was actually grateful for the man being almost brained and becoming the primary attention point.
Upon returning home, the final thing that struck me was walking into the house to be met by Terry.
“Hows that then?”
It was like a sauna. It was incredibly hot compared to what it had been like in the property prior to that weekend. Terry had obviously been busy and there were signs all over the house where he had removed floor boards to fit new pipes, and new radiators in each room. It was fantastic.
In my eyes Terry was standing there with his hands on his hips, back lit by a hidden light and with a cape blowing vertically in an invisible breeze.
What a hero!
So Terry came and went over the years until finally, I needed some work doing at my own house. I hadn’t seen Terry in some 5 or 6 years so was looking forward to him arriving. I was refurbishing my kitchen, which meant ripping it out and I wanted to arrange a date with Terry to co-ordinate the work. So when I ripped it out, he could pop in and fit the new pipework and I could then throw the new kitchen back in as soon as possible.
I jumped up as I heard the knock on the front door and hurried to answer it. Switching the light on in the hall as it was dark outside, I opened the door to see Terry stood before me.
But my eyes were drawn immediately to Terry’s bouffant. When I first met Terry as a kid, His hair was a light brown, going to grey – slight salt and pepper. When I last saw Tel, it had become more salt than pepper, with matching eyebrows.
The Terry stood before me now was the same stocky man, only, he had a very lustrous quiff-like head, of very dark auburn hair. Which belied his obvious age. As his distinctly flawless dark bouffant, framed his noticeably different salt and pepper eyebrows, and silver unshaven whiskers, which belonged on a much older head.
At first I thought it was a wig and had to suppress the sudden snort of laughter by banging myself on the chest and excusing my cough.
“Can’t shake it Tel.” (Snortcoughcoughcough)
“I really don’t know what’s wrong with me! (Coughcough snort!!)
I hesitated only momentarily then recovered.
“Terry! great to see you mate! Come in! Come in!! Tea? Coffee?”
“Please son. Tea. 2 sugars please.” All a bit sheepishly. While I’m thinking,
“It is! He’s only gone and bought a bloody syrup!!”
I led Terry into the kitchen to turn the kettle on and leaned back against the worktop and chose not to notice His hair. I mean? What could you say?
“that’s a very nice moleskin you have on your noggin there Terrence”
Noooo. He obviously felt he needed it! I daren’t broach it.
“There you go Tel. Tea, 2 sugars. How are you? Its been a few years mate. Really great to see you!”
“Are you goin to fuckin ask me or what?”
“Ask you what Tel?”
(keep eye contact ffs.)
“About me hair of course.”
“Hair T? What about it? You had it cut a bit different? Looking good I must say!”
“Don’t take the piss! You know what I’m on about! Get it off your chest And stop looking at the fucking floor!”
I finally allowed myself to laugh out loud.
“Jesus Tel!! wtf have you done??? Whats your missus said about it? Your grandkids must love it! You must pass as the youngest’s brother!!!”
It turned out that Terry had just returned form Turkey some 2 weeks previously. During his holiday, he and his wife had taken to wandering around a shaded Bazaar during the hotter parts of the day. On one of these wanderings, they had spied a Turkish barber shop.
Terry, inspired, decided he was going to have a traditional Turkish shave, a hot towel, soapy lather and cut throat razor affair. This he duly did, only as the barber completed the job, he effected to notice Terrys obviously greying hair.
“You like? Is nice – good colour!”
He said, gesturing to his colour chart on the wall. Terrys wife was quicker on the uptake saying,
“Oooh! Go on Terry! Get your hair done! It’ll knock years off you!!”
And like Terry said to me,
“It must have been the fucking heat, cos no way would I have even thought about it normally.”
Anyway, Terry agreed and the barber pulled his chart from the wall ranging from really dark to almost white, and holds it to Terry’s head trying to get a colour match.
“This one? Is this one yes?”
He says, indictaing a light brown square on his chart.
“What do you think Cath?”
“Oooh yes love. That’s the one. That’s it exactly.”
“Yeah, that’s right cock. Close enough. Make me young again.”
So the barber set to, tipped Terry back and rinsed his hair, got a bowl out and began mixing his colour concoction, talking to Terry and his wife as he did so.
“You look so young again soon! Yes? New man for lady wife! Ha! Yes lady?! New man!!” Winking knowingly at Cath.
“Ooh you cheeky bugger!” said Cath, but with a embarrassed laugh at the end.
Finally he began pasting the mixture onto Terry’s head, working it in like a professional.
“First moment I had any idea anything was wrong was when he washed this crap off, rubbed me head down and he held up the mirror behind me.” said Terry.
I though there was a hole in the wall behind my head. The mirror was just BLack”
“And then I turned to Cath,” continued Terry,
“I turns to her, and I’m not kidding, she’s sat there wide eyed and mouth open. Then starts rolling round her chair laughing. I swear to Christ I though she was going to fall on the fucking floor!”
It turned out that for all the colour matching, the barber only had one colour. If you lower your eyes to your keyboards, you’ll see the colour of Terry’s hair.
It was Jet black.
Black hole black.
An absence of light black.
The sort of black that frames Mickey Mouse’s head, now performed the same service for my friend Terry’s crown.
It was just a separate entity, haloed round his cranium.
After the initial outrage, (What could he do? Really?) and listening to his wife, while she held him off the barber, in between trying not to wet herself, (she really was laughing that hard) he had no real option but to take it on the chin, or head in this case, and get through the holiday.
The penultimate point of which was, his final day on the beach and removing the hat he had taken to wearing.
When he turned to look, it was to see a man whose voice he had heard, opened mouthed holding a baby who started to cry immediately upon feeling Terry’s eyes fall upon him. Along side them was the child’s older brother and Mum, both sat goggle-eyed staring at Terry.
That was the last straw.
He just put the hat back on, rolled up his towel and left, with the eyes of the family following him.
“I had to lie in the sun 24/7 to try and get a tan dark enough to try to make the fucking hair blend in!!!”
“2 weeks I’ve been back,”
He continued in the kitchen,
“2 weeks and I’ve had it cut 3 times and even dyed the fucking thing lighter! And I ask you, can YOU see a difference? Because I think I still look a right fucking numpty!!”
“Terry, Terry, Terry,”
I began soothingly, as he was obviously agitated,
“Elvis could only WISH, he looked this much like Elvis..”