All posts by Mike Walsh

I began this blog as an effort to keep in touch with my children away at university. Basically writing down episodes I experienced over the years. All true, though names have changed out of repsect to those involved. What suprised me was how much I enjoyed writing them down and how many there were. What I regret, are the funniest stories I haven't worked out how to make respectable enough to repeat....

Fred West The Carpet Layer..

handcuffs

I spent a number  of years shop fitting and bar fitting.

This type of joinery is a mainly clean and a better quality. And dry.No slogging through mud on a sites, hands numb from lumping half-frozen, wet timber to a plot your working on, tripping over everything because there’s no light to see by.

The shop fitting and bar fitting side tends to be working on night clubs, bars, cinemas, bingo halls, shop chains..a much better environment to work in. The only down side can be it tends to involve working away from home, 7 day weeks, 12 hour days or even nights.

I worked for one firm in particular for around 5 years on and off. I’d spend something like 8 months or so, working away, home every 2nd weekend, until I reached a point when I just needed to be at home. I’d just miss my wife and kids too much. Then I’d get work closer to home until that dried up then go back working away..

One job in particular I worked on, in Liverpool, in a place called Huyton. It was a new build large Bingo hall. It was basically a new empty structure, somewhere on the scale of a super market, just ready to be fitted out with bars, podiums, seats and decoration.

I started working on there with my dad and Tex, a joiner I’ve spent a large part of my working life working with on and off. We used to take turns sharing the driving and fuel in travelling to and from the job each day. Others on the job I’d worked with before were some scouse lads, Terry and Gary, 2 brothers. Terry I’d worked with on a number of jobs for the same firm and had had some real belly laugh moments with him. He had a habit when he was sharing a bit of gossip, of speaking out of the side of his mouth, like a scouse version of Popeye. His eyes would be scanning his surroundings while he was shiftily divulging his current tit bit, to make sure nobody else was near enough to hear. Adding to this was Terry’s other 2 brothers, Joe and Paul who then brought their brother-in-law George into the mix. It was really like a family gathering at that point.

Another feature on the job was the table tennis. We would organize a competition during break times. The idea was to get Bob the foreman playing who was incredibly competitive and would do almost anything to win. What Bob didn’t know was we pre planned his turn to play, then who ever was playing him would let him win so that these brew times became longer. He would drop his bat to the table on winning a match point and strut around with his arms in the air on winning. Again.

I’m sure with Queens “We are the champions” going through his head.

And it would be,

“Aww. Bollocks. You win again Bob! I don’t know how you became so good. I (Whoever was playing) just can’t compete!”

Whilst everyone else would congratulate Bob and jeer at the current loser…

“I knew you’d win again Bob! Yeah! You whupped that a loser!! Blimey, no holding you back Bob!! Like a machine!!!”

And this would go on each time he played. The only time it really got seriously competitive was when bob couldn’t take part. Then it was brutal. No mercy. People would be limbering up before a game. Press ups and sit up all over the place! There were bats getting flung down and ping-pong balls stamped on in fury! In particular, the competitiveness between the brothers was intense in the extreme. A couple of time the bats would be thrown down and the lads would be nose-to-nose squaring up over some taunt or dropped point.

“You dirty cheatin’ bastard ya!”

“Who you callin’ a cheatin bastard? Lost again and spittin ya dummy out! You always was a girl – even when you were a kid! You even threw like a girl!!”

“Who you callin a fuckin girl?? Here-” Bat thrown at other brother “- Does a fuckin girl throw like that ya twat??!!”

Then it was “Whoooooooaaaaaaaaaa!! Calm down lads! Its only a game! Lets not fall out ffs!”

“He called me a girl! Wanker!!”

“Who you callin a wanker??”

table tennis

Jesus. And off they’d go again. We spent more time getting between the brothers. We had to spend time fiddling the draws so they didn’t play each other. Trouble was they were more competitive and unfortunately, better than the rest of us, so it wasn’t long before they were playing each other anyway, with the inevitable fall outs that followed.

It cost a fortune in Ping-Pong balls.

Another feature on the job was a local character known as Tony Beep Beep. An utterly pleasant lad. Aorund 20 years old when I came across him. He obviously had his own issues but was always smiling and would stand in the central reservation on the main road shouting,

“BEEP! BEEP!”

And give a thumbs up to passing cars. He was like a scouse road runner. He was made up when cars beeped their horns back at him in reply.

We first noticed him while we were sat in the cabin having a brew and talk gradually died as we suddenly became aware of this young lad, nose pressed against the window, with a slightly manic grin and megawatt stare. And as everyone turned to look who it was, he suddenly stuck 2 thumbs up and went,

“BEEP BEEP!!”

Who. The fuck is that??” asked Bob the foreman.

“Beep beep mate!” Terry shouted back

“Aw ‘ey lad,” he said to Bob, “Thats just Tony Beep Beep.”

And proceeded to explain about him.

“The kids harmless. Just gets a kick out of beeping at the traffic. No worries.”

So Tony would wander onto the site car park shout “Beep beep!” a few times, give the thumbs up, then someone would take him in hand and lead him off again.

“Come on Tony lad, Can’t be wandering around on here son.”

It finally came to a head when we were coming out of the cabin to find him reversing the unknowing contracts manager into a parking spot.

“Come on mate! Come on! Beep beep! Come on! Come onnnnnnnnn-” Crunch. “Aw ‘ey mate, you’ve hit that bollard!”

And off he ran.

Alan jumped out of his car to inspect the damage then turned to watch Tony galloping off. He wasn’t happy.

“Who the fuck was that?? I thought he worked for us when he started parking me up! I was over there -” he gestured to the other side of the car park, “And he shouted me over here and started guiding me in!! Who was that??!!”

“That’s Tony beep beep Alan. On your way out give him a honk on the horn as you pass. You’ll see him in the middle of the road beeping at traffic. It’ll make his day mate….”

“Keep him off this fucking site!”

So that was the last we saw of Tony unless we passed him on the way home where he would be stood, turning either way, grinning, thumbs up and beep-beeping everyone good enough to honk their horns at him.

He was a well known character in the area. I can’t begin to tell you how saddened I was to later hear he was killed in a hit and run. He was a quite vital personality. For his obvious problems, I’m sure its a face that’s missed by many.

The other notable person on the site was Fred West the carpet layer.

Not the Fred west obviously, (Mass Murderer)but a doppleganger who was working on site. And I mean, he was a double of Fred. Which is how he earned his nickname. It wasn’t hard winding him up either. He was bad tempered most of the time and the nickname just aggravated him to new heights.

“Fred, you need to move your rolls of carpet mate.”

“Don’t call me Fred! You know I don’t like it!!”

“Come on Fred, just kidding pal!”

DON’T CALL ME FRED!!”

So as you can imagine. Everyone called him Fred. Brew time Fred. Sugar Fred? Home time Fred..

Fred finally flipped when he unrolled a carpet to find a missing corner. It was something tiny, like a 4 foot by 2 and a half foot piece. And something that small off a roll of carpet 6m x 12m was nothing. It’d be lost in the waste.

Fred was apoplectic. Going off like a volcano.

“That’s fucking IT!!! I’m getting the police in! Called me fuckin Fred once too fuckin often!! Now you’ll be sorry! Ohhh yes! So sorry!!”

And off he marched to the site office. Where, Bob made him sit him down and cool off. Explaining what a fool he was making of himself. Inside nobody took any notice. Fred was always upset. Really, he was just lining himself up for more aggro by making a ridiculous issue.

My dad had other ideas though. He wandered over to where I was working for a quiet word.

“Tex had the carpet. ” He murmured.

“Its in the boot of the car. Cut it off first thing and stuck it in. Its for his porch on the front of the house. Going to wind him up. Pop over in ten, I’ll have him cooking by then. Just jump in and fan the flames.”

So I waited for ten minutes or so before heading over to find Tex sweating already.

“Jesus. have you heard? Freds phoned the police! What are we going to do?”

“What do you mean we? I haven’t nicked some carpet! How do you know he phoned the police anyway?

“Your dads just told me. Fred’s had a rant and shot off to see Bob in the office. Went to phone the Busies!”

And, I still can’t believe this, as he said it, we all turned to look across the site to the entrance on the opposite side of the building. And as we did, a lone copper walked in, took a good look around and walked out again.

“Ohhhhhhfuck.” moaned Tex, visibly wilting.

I looked over his head at my dad with eyebrows raised but he just shrugged helplessly and shook his head. He had no idea why a copper was here either. It was heaven sent.

“Shit Tex! They’re here for you! Christ that was quick! What you going to do?? How far can you run????”

“I don’t know!! Awwwwwshiiiit!”

And it went from there. We gradually included other people into the set up, telling Joe and George. I took them to one side and just said,

“Pop over, tell Tex the police have had you in the office over the carpet. keep him sweating.”

By this point mind it was mid afternoon and Tex really had been sweating on it most of the day. Normally he would bring a sandwich box into work, with the mantra of eating “small but often”. This involved carrying round a sandwich box that would feed an infant school, from which he would have something to eat at each break. At this point Tex had been unable to bring himself to eat anything. Going various shades as each piece of new development was brought to him by different people during the day.

Joe and George jumped on their chance with relish.

“Aw ‘ey lad! They’ve had us in the office!” began Joe.

“Yeah! And their only going to charge us! Said we were last seen near it!”

“Yeah! Said we nicked it! That’s racism against Scousers that is!”

“Your goin to have to come clean Tex!”

You could actually see Tex looking to the heavens mouthing “Thank you God” then.

“Your just going to have to take the rap lads!”

I must admit there was a moments breath-taking pause, as everyone looked at each other as they realized he was throwing Joe and George to the dogs. Then the rest of us just started laughing.

“Fuck me Tex! Your goin to let them do us?? We’re innocent though!!” Shouted George

“Yeah!! That’s racism that is!!” Threw in Joe.

Whilst I couldn’t resist,

“Whooaaa Tex! Jesus! That’s a bit raw mate! No half measures there then! Fuck ya’s all! Your going down! I love it!! You’re bolloxed boys! Tex just sold you down the river! You’ll be in the Chokey before tea-time!!!”

And it went like that till Tex finally had to admit what he was sweating over.

The week before he had been shopping in Asda and spied an electric planer. Having a good look at it he realized the price tag was loose. As were the price tags on other items. So with a bit of careful maneuvering, he swapped price tags.

Saved himself a few bob.

Where it all went wrong was as he went through the till to pay. When asked if he wanted the warranty on the new tool he replied “yes”. So the girl offered him the paper work, he filled in his name and address..

The police knocked on his front door about an hour later.

“So I can’t lads! I’m up in court next week! If I get done for this, I’ll be up shit creek without a fucking canoe, never mind a paddle!!!”

Everyone was left momentarily goggled eyed and open-mouthed in amazement, until it finally erupted in laughter at Tex’s predicament.

“Its not funny!! I’m in the shit here!!”

So while it was extremely entertaining we finally had to tell him it was a wind up.

Strangely enough he kind of deflated and slid down the wall…

Ginger Delight..

Just told he's Ginger

I love quiet.

An Absence of noise.

I  worked in the Lake District on the flood damage to Cockermouth, Keswick, Egremont and Coniston back in 2010, from December – April. And the first thing you notice is the quiet. No traffic in close season. Its a different case when the summer kicks in mind. But during the winter months, places can be quite remote. It can be like sitting in vacuum. The only sound you hear is what you create your self.

Driving was a pleasure. You wouldn’t see anything behind you early morning. Something would pass in the opposite direction intermittently, but bar that it was a wonderful place to be. When I finally returned to Manchester to work, months later, the stress levels shot back up and it took a couple of weeks to acclimatize to the volume of traffic. Every car behind me felt like it was tailgating me, pushing me along. And everyone was so impatient to get somewhere.

Whilst in the Lakes, though, I was fortunate enough to be staying in a lovely B&B run by a couple of geordies who were the most unobtrusive, genuinely kind people  I was lucky enough to meet.

Graham and Gina. (Bacon to die for and the best poached eggs ever)

And Graham was one of those people who inspired you with his own experiences with human nature.

There was a picture on the wall of the dining room which showed Graham and another person, leaning on an Old Land Rover somewhere far away and dry. The sky looked hot and the ground had that dusty, sandy look to it.

When I asked about it he began to explain. Years previously he and his brother had bought an old, ex-council land rover, fitted it out, and driven from Newcastle and right across Africa in it. And the thing that stayed with me is, Graham telling about his experiences of the kindness of people far away, who were desperately poor, and who had nothing.

As I admired the Photos on the dining room wall, he began,

“D’ya know what? For everything you hear about these 3rd world countries being dangerous, They’re made up of people incredibly poor, who, will drop everything to help a completely alien face they don’t know.”

He continued,

“We wrecked our axle on the Land Rover, in the middle of no-where. Completely stranded. No way of getting anywhere. And suddenly people just appeared. Just materialized. And without any prompting they set-to sorting the jeep out. And they strapped a great fuckin log to the axle and it worked. Got us to the next point on our travels where we could repair and carry on.”

And he paused for a moment as he looked into his past.

“What I’m getting at here is this. It was humbling. To see these people with nothing just drop what they were doing to come and help 2 complete strangers on their way. People, who meant nothing to them, who were just passing through they’re lives, to somewhere they’d never see…And they didn’t even hesitate. They just helped in any way they could….

I’m a real believer in Karma and I’ll tell you this. Pass it on man. It comes around. “

I think this view he held was evident in all of my conversations with Graham. We do tend to be eyes down in this busy society of ours, chasing unimportant things, we don’t actually need.

Part of the point I’m trying to get at here is, the lovely quiet. Graham was always busy. But I think he lived somewhere that offered an opportunity to think and really put a value on something. Place a level of genuine importance or not.

Made me try and slow down and take a look around me a little bit more.

Graham and Gina, two genuinely lovely people, never intruded, they were just kind. (Harvington House)

And it’s people like that you don’t forget. Kept me sane while I worked away from my family for 4 months.

But, getting back to it.

The Quiet.

The first time we took the kids away abroad was to Ibiza, and I think it was pure luck we landed in the resort we did.

It was a 16 apartment accommodation and it was, silent. One of the most relaxing holidays I’ve been on. beautiful  flower enveloped balconies, full of geraniums. All the sunbeds laid out of a morning with lovely padded mattresses lain on top. Pure comfort. we made some wonderful friends during that holiday and had some fantastic moments. Most notably was the Octopus latching onto one of the kids legs on the edge of the shore.

(Not one of mine I can happily say. So I just took my time getting there)

The child in question, a young was part of a fantastic welsh family, was frantically hopping one legged around the beach, screaming her head off. She was ploughing furrows in the sand, knocking kids sandcastles over, and generally waving her leg around like Zorro on speed, trying to shake this thing off.

While her dad danced around her, shouting,

“Whats occurin’? WHATS OCCURIN’??” with that fantastic welsh accent.

(Think Gavin and Stacey)

He was wild eyed, almost as frantic as the child, with a bucket and spade in either hand, looking for an opportunity to batter the octopus.

“This should be good I thought.” as I strolled over.

I think in the end the octopus just got motion sickness and fell off, and was then catapulted back into the sea some 600 yards out off the spade. It was like a Jaws with suckers moment, and there was a mass exodus from the water as it flew over everybody’s head.

The other memory is having a sit down meal in by the pool in the evening, surrounded by flowers, clear blue sky with the day gradually cooling down. We pulled an assortment of tables and chairs outside and everyone contributing food and beer.

Poor old Nikki added more than was bargained when after one beer too many, (actually she didn’t drink, I think it was just one beer bless her) led to  her chucking up. There was a general scraping of chairs as she cleared an area of 20 square foot.

Then people tentatively came back and patted her on the back as she moaned, suffering in her own world. I think Kev- her husband – just felt cheated she had wasted one of his beers.

Brilliant holiday. we went back the following year to find the caretakers hadn’t been paid for 3 months.

No flowers or understandably, mattresses on the sunbeds, as they were laundered daily. And the company was nothing like the previous year.

Then we went to Skiathos.

You’d be surprised to find I’m a joiner. I work with wood, machining, manufacturing, fixing. All noise.

I think that has something to do with the yearning for quiet.

But Skiathos was wonderful. So quiet and peaceful.

The defining factor of these holidays for me is spending the time with my wife, Jane and my Kids. We would either be at the pool or beach. And if available go on an excursion to a water park or some other trip.

The kids would spend their time playing in the pool with me or some other kids, or snorkel in the sea, dig in the sand and generally just have fun. But it was a tiny complex and extremely quiet.

Perfect.

Our next door neighbours were a family of 5. Mum, dad, 3 kids, one of whom had fantastically ginger hair.

Enter Giles.

I mean. Come on. Not satisfied with the trials the poor kids going to face in life with his orange noggin, they added to it by calling him “Giles”.

Giles just doesn’t suit an 11 year old. It doesn’t fit the shape. It’s too “Hawhaw” and old for him. And every time he was shouted,

“Gillllllllllllllles!!!”

He would appear, like orange lightening. A blur of tangerine every time he ran past you. He was like a wiry Orangutan. It actually scorched the eyes as he whipped by and made them water.

I thought initially every time I saw him coming from the corner of my eye, that someone was throwing a large Satsuma, as he exploded past me.

We never actually socialized with the parents, but the kids all got on well. And when it became too hot, took to playing in a games room where there was a large plastic Wendy house, pool table and various toys. This was slightly lower down the hill from the pool, and we could keep an eye on the children while they played, or just hear them if they disagreed.

This particular day we heard a commotion then a Crash and wail of a small child, as the wendy house collapsed.

It turned out Giles had been up to no good stood on the roof, while his younger brother was inside when the structure finally collapsed on top of him.

His dad hauled him off back to the apartment with,

“Your’e bloody grounded Giles! No meal for you tonight! Your staying in my lad!!. No telling you is there??”

(I hasten to add, the on site beautiful open air dining area was opposite the front door of their apartment.)

And that was the last we saw of him for that afternoon and the quiet descended again around the pool with the only noise being the kids quietly playing and laughing, and crickets chirping in the heat.

So, later that evening, kids all showered and dressed, ready to go out and eat, we were sat on the porch, just relaxing having a drink when,

“AAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAARRRRRRRRRRRRRRRRRRRRRRRRRRRRRRR!!!!!”

“Giles!! Pack it in! Deal with it for Christ sake!! That’s all there is to it!!”

“AAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAARRRRRRRRRRRRRRRRRRRRRRRRRRR!!!!!!!”

And his father, true to his word, obviously exasperated with the ginger demon, having grounded him was refusing to let him come over to sit down for a meal and was making him stay in. A bit extreme I thought, but obviously a man who carried out his threats. Giles in the mean time just continued throwing himself around the room, shouting and roaring, finally descending into out-right tears.

And for some time we had to sit and listen to the screaming and pandemonium next door. And I must admit, I was slightly put-out to say the least, because the lovely silence was shattered.

My kids were sat huddled around me, wide eyed and obviously frightened, and Jane having finished dressing had come out side,

“What the hell was that all about??”

And I looked down at my goggle eyed children and tried to explain in a way they could understand.

“Its ok kids. Its nothing to worry about.”

And I paused before I continued,

“They’ve just told Giles he’s Ginger.”

The Rapid Red Machine

Volkswagen_Polo_Mk2_Typ_86C_coupe_1989_600_lq_0006
(For Emily, Callum and Holpol)

Having recently written Ice Cream Lies it opened up all sorts of memories. The trouble is, writing just enough of that story, without losing myself reminiscing and heading off into 5 others…

The whole of my growing childhood and family life was, I found, quite wonderful. My mum and dad just seemed to be full of boundless fun and energy. I loved hearing tales from my dad. Of where he had worked over the years, and of the trials and often hilarious situations he found himself in. Or his own childhood which seemed so much more exciting.

I find it a sad fact that as society volume has increased over the years, traffic, population etc,  it’s  been reflected in the reduced freedom of kids growing up from younger ages.

I know I was even more careful with my own kids when they were small and restricted their movement even more. Traffic volume alone  was a deciding factor  for me to make that impact on their lives.

I was lucky enough to spend most of my early adult life, first serving my time as an apprentice joiner under, then working along side my dad. It wasn’t always sweetness and light of course, but on the whole  we laughed an awful lot.

When he died in ’99 it was a terrible and sudden shock that someone so vital in my life, could disappear so immediately and permanently.

I have to say, I still miss him terribly, still have those choking moments, and I still think about him every day.

What I grew to find though was, he’s still there in many ways.

(Although, he’s currently in France these days since Kerry shipped his urn over, which I’m sure he won’t mind)

He left behind so many memories, so many tales for my brother, sister, mum and probably all the people he impacted upon to recall him by.

But what always sticks in my mind when I think about him is a mischievous aura about him. A twinkle in the eye and that smile he had. He had a way of folding his arms. Tucking his hands under his armpits. Like he was too excited, and was desperately trying to hold in the enthusiasm for whatever tale or wind up he was in the process of sharing, without giving away the punch line. And while he was doing this he would be rocking backwards and forwards on his feet.

dad bransby

It makes me literally grin, to think about it even now.

So, What I don’t want you to think is, this is some sad morbid tale. Its not. It an explanation towards the laugh out loud moments I’ve had as a child with my parents. And how its made me approach my own children growing up.

I take enormous amounts of pleasure in making my children laugh. Again telling a tale on the spur of the moment, or recounting something that made me laugh as a child. It’s the scrappy, dirty bits in life that children love to hear about. Or the romantic possibilities that life may hold for them.

I’m a firm believer in keeping children, well, children. Shielding them as far as possible from the sometimes terrible nature of life. I don’t want them going to bed, worrying about global warming. Because everything is so literal with kids growing up. They have no concept of time. They think if they hear something will happen in 3 million years, it probably means a week on Wednesday at 9.30am.

I wanted them to dress up, and Play. Have an imagination, listen to them laugh, un-encumbered by stresses and pressures that adults place upon themselves.

A child can’t hide disappointment or upset and it’s broadcast loud and clear in their eyes. But so is excitement and laughter, and my children may not know it, but its always been an important part of my life to see those emotions shining in they’re eyes.

So, I would tell fibs and make up stories all the time. Anything to keep that naivety and simple pleasure alive for them in a tale.

My son Callum, played football from a young age (He’s 17 now and still at it) and en route to training I would tell him about Brown Bear, who lived locally.(We live in Manchester UK…)

Brown Bear loved curry. It entailed farting. Callum loved it.

Till Brown Bear farted his head cleeeean off.

But then his brother, Black Bear came on the scene. He also liked curry in copious amounts.

You can see where this is going.

This kept him entertained to and from training. These days he has his headphones on while I talk at him.

In retrospect this was his story. His sisters are going to be furious.

(Whichever one of you reads this first, your my fave.)

Which leads me to keeping them entertained. I love my children. More than they could ever imagine. I have loved all the wind ups I have played out over the years with them.

I used to have a car. An old Volkswagen Pole (estate). It was my dad’s previously and I bought it off him when he bought a new car. Tiny little thing. Like a lawn mower with a boot. Or “Trunk” if your’e an American struggling along with the mother language. When the kids were growing up my wife, a nurse, worked nights, so she could be with them during the day while I was at work. Or be free to pick them up from school. She would drop them at my parents and then head off to work. I would collect them on my way home from work and take them home. Two car family.

I would collect them in my Polo which, became more car seat than car, by the time I strapped them all in. One would be in the front and the other two would be back seat. The car took on a life of its own and instead of being a crappy little hair dryer, became,

The Rapid Red Machine.

It be came “Rapid” because any speed over 12 mph sounded like it was doing 300. And as you accelerated it just sounded faster, till we were actually driving along and warp speed 54. We left Captain Kirk on the Enterprise eating our dust. Spocks eyebrows would have been at Emperor Ming height. (See –Dust Mote’s)

Emily would be sat front seat legs swinging like she was going to kick the dashboard to death.

As we drove to and thro each evening the car just got better. It developed “abilities”.

It had a flying button and a height dial.

(This was the de-mister for the rear window, which lit up when you pressed it, and the air blower 1-4 whose blowing noise increased in power and volume as you turned it up)

So we would be driving along and I’d look at Emily, Callum or Holly, whoever was in the front seat and say,

“Should we fly?”

“Oh yeahhhhhhhhhh!!!” (Emily/Callum)

“Noooooooooooooooooooooo!!! Arrrrrrrrrrrrrrrrrrrrrrrrrr (breath) Arrrrrrrrrrrrrrrrrrrrrrrrr!!!!” (Holly)

So I’d press the button to start the hover mode.

“Yeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeah!!” (Emily/Callum)

“Arrrrrrrrrrrrrrrrrrrrrrrrrrrr (breath) Arrrrrrrrrrrrrrrrrrrrrrrrrrrrrrrrrrrr!!! (Holly)

“I’m turning it to one!”

Click!

“We’re off the ground!!!!!”

Emily and Callum looked like epilectics in their bids lean over and try to press noses against the windows. Desperate to see exactly how high we were. But strapped into their car seats, they weren’t going far.

Holpol had pulled her bib over her face by this point, which only muffled the wail of dismay slightly.

I’m going up to 2!!

The exertions of Emily and Callum increased to match the blower volume. Obviously, we were higher already.

“Mmmmmnnnnnnnnnooooooooooarrrrrrrrmmmmmm!!!” (Holly)

‘I’m going straight to 4!!!!! We’re going right up to the stars now!!!”

Thank god Callum and Holly were still in nappy’s.

I think Emily just managed to control her excitement, although the legs were banging away like hydraulic drills, and her head was actually turning round like something from the Exorcist.

“We’re at 4!!!! We’re realllly high now! Wooooooooooooooo!”

“Hahahahahahahahahahhahaahhahahaa! WOOOOOOOOO!!! (Emily/Callum)

“OMFG!!!! Arrrrrrrrrrrrrrrrrrrrrrrrrrrrrrrrrrrr (Breath) Arrrrrrrrrrrrrrrrrrrrrrrrrrrr!!! (Holly)

Then passes out from lack of oxygen.

When she finally comes round, we had to tell her we had landed and were driving home normally now. The hyperventilating breaths finally calmed down as she slowly relaxed against the disappointment radiating from Emily and Callum.

Then, I asked,

“Should we go a Secret Way home???”

This entailed turning up a street before our own, going round the block and coming in from a different direction.

“Yeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeehhhhhhhhhhhhhhhhhhhhhhhh!!!!” (Emily/Callum)

“I fuckin Hate you!!!! I’m never going to see my mum againnnnnnnnnnn!!! Arrrrrrrrrrrrrrrrrrrrrrrrrrrrrrrrrrrrrrr – (Pass out again)

( She was only 3 and a half. Bless. She must have been knackered.)

So, finally, I just wanted to end this on.

Thank you Dad. For everything. I love you forever and I never forget.

And,

I miss you always.

Finally, finally…Just to remember what you achieved..

Ice Cream Lies

icecream 2

What brought the memory back, was seeing a small boy wailing over his dropped ice cream tub. Stood crying, looking down at his Ice cream puddling on the floor, left clutching a sad wooden spoon as a reminder. He was crying for another and his Mum was adamant, “What did I tell you? Sit down with it I said, or you’ll drop it! And what happened? You dropped it didn’t you? Why? Because you wouldn’t sit down! Well, your not having another one!!”

Seeing that tub took me straight back to being a child, and the lengths I’d go to to try and get and talk an ice cream out of my Dad. I think, in fact I know, my Dad took a lot of pleasure out of a good wind up. And a wind up could come in many forms. With his children it took the shape of outrageous lies and stories. I know this is so. I learnt from the best and did it to my own children on many occasions. And laughed every time. My Dads exaggerations were varied and flamboyant. One of my favourates was who he went to school with, (Elton John and Rod Stewart) When asked if we knew anyone famous in class one day, my arm nearly popped from its socket, so energetic and urgent was my waving. “Yes Michael, who do you know?” asked Miss Macarthy, my teacher in Junior 1. “Actually, my dad sat next to Rod Stewart and Elton John in school,” (They weren’t separated from my father just geographically either. Rod was a year younger and Elton a year older.) And smugly proclaimed this fact, looking disdainfully at my class mates, with a pigeon chested pride, that only a 7 year old can demonstrate. Miss Mcarthy knew my dad well and just said kindly, “Very good Michael. Just sit down there’s a good lad” I was probably about 18 before I actually had that, “Awwwww you lyin bastard,” moment. The one I’m going to tell you about though is my Dads best mate, the ice cream man.

Mr. Whippy.

It was that time in the 70’s when two sound’s got an immediate reaction. The Ice Van and the Rag and Bone Man. You’d hear the Rag and Bone Man coming because he advertised his presence in the area by shouting, “RAG BONNNNNE! RAG BONNNNNNNNE!!!” And eventually he would hove into view, sat on his horse drawn cart, with all sorts of clutter on the back that his daily round had brought him. That shout would have people searching through their houses to see if they had anything they wanted to get rid of. Any stuff they didn’t want. Anything from old clothes to any old scrap. If it was worth anything at all, I can’t remember ever receiving anything of financial substance. Usually you’d make a bee-line for him if only to pet the horse. Or, if you were one of the lucky kids whose mum had some rubbish she wanted rid of, he’d hand out sweets in exchange for what you brought him. Which was all the encouragement I needed. The other sound was that magical twinkley music that the ice cream van resonated in the air, casting a spell of its own. You were never quite sure where exactly he was, you just knew he was headed in your direction, as the sound drew closer to your street. You would then be running round in a frenzy,  begging confirmation of a 99 or an ice lolly  from your mum or dad, before the van even reached your own road. Every time the music stopped you’d wait with baited breath, for it to start again, so that you  could hear whether or not he was still heading in your direction… Or had taken a different turn and the tinny, twinkley music faded, stopped, (serving some lucky fat bastard) started again, then finally disappeared into the distant evening.

When he did hit your street, there were small bodies flying out of houses from all over the place, and a queue of hyper kids would jostle out side the van. You would then spend your queuing time trying to decide if you wanted,

A cornet. A cornet with a Flake. A cornet with sprinkles. A cornet and a flake and raspberry sauce and sprinkles.

Assorted ice lollies.  An Oyster. A tub. A tub with a flake. A tub with 2 flakes.

I only ever got a screwball Just for bubbley gum ball on the bottom. I always sucked mine first to see if I liked the flavor then gave it my brother,

“Spit? No that’s ice cream. Whys my tongue blue?  Dunno. I must be dying because you won’t share your Rice Krispies!!  Snap, crackle and fucking pop doesn’t sound so good now I’m dying does it??? ”

.My personal – and I don’t say this lightly – probably Gods favourite too,

A box of flakes, in a tub, with a cornet, raspberry sauce, sprinkles  and a bubbley gum ball rammed on top.

(Just so I could suck it and pass it on) ice cream1 (Fuckin Rice Krispie Tight Arse)

I could happily have lain, draped across the serving hatch, below the ice cream dispenser, with my mouth wide, and a funnel poked in the side, to pour in sprinkles and raspberry sauce as needed, with the ice cream dispenser on OPEN.

Its surprising how quickly you learn mind. I remember  asking my Dad for a cornet, nearly swooning in my rush to get to the ice cream van before the music started up again and he drove off down the road. And my dad said,

“Course you can son.”

WooHoo! “Can I have some money dad?”

“You don’t need money son.”

“I don’t?”

“Noooooo! Have what ever you want and tell him his mate “Mick” said thanks.”

“Really Dad? He’s your mate?”

Best mate son.”

“He is? Best mate?? And I can Have what I want??”

“Yeahhh. Off you go son. Oh. And get me a cider lolly – And don’t forget to say ” His best mate Mick said thanks!”

This to the small thunder clap and retreating dust cloud, as I rocketed away.

I caught the ice cream man just before he slid his window shut.

“Whooaaaa! Mister! Misterrrrr!”

“Calm down son. I see you. What can I get for you??”

No time to think! Too many choices! keep it simple before he drives away!! Jesus Christ I’m hyperventilating!!!

I’llhavea99,Ascrewball,AtubwithaflakeandanOysterpleasethankyouverymuch!Oh!!Shit!!Andaciderlollyplease!!!”

“Jesus kid! Breath! Your going blue!”

It took a minute or two for him to sort the order, passing each item over the service hatch as he completed each work of art.

“There you go son, that’ll be – Oi!! Where D’ya think your going!!??”

“It alright mister. My dad – Mick – said it would be ok. He’s you mate see. Best Mate. He said to say “Thank You Very Much.””

There’s nothing worse in this world, than having something so splendid in your hands, close to being eaten, then having it yanked from your grasp, and being given a message to take back for your dad.

“Tell my mate -sorry, Best Mate – your dad – Mick – to “FUCK OFF.”

“Can you remember that sunshine?”

“Forget the Cider lolly mister! He can do with out!!”

I ended on my knees, arms wide in supplication, looking to heaven  shouting ” Please God! Whyyyyyyyy Arrrrrrre Youuuu takinnnnnnnnng myyyy Oysterrrrrrrrr??”  As he drove off down the road. With and angry note to the previous tinkley music. My dad was flabberghasted when I got back. “He said what?? Ahh I see what happened here. It was the wrong best mate son. I thought it was the other best mate of mine who drives the ice cream van….” My Mum and Dad laughed quite a lot about it. I got my own back. I gave all my mums knickers to the rag and bone man for a lolly pop. I think she caught him further down the street. steptoe horse

Dance Like A Butterfly, Sting Like A Ron

ron

I was pleasantly surprised on Monday to receive a visit from Kerry and Wayne. They were in the process of changing vehicles, having bought a small digger and trailer, and were over to collect and transport it back to France. They had just completed a 15hr grueling journey by car from France, and having arrived at 2am in morning it was a case of straight to bed.

They called to see me Monday evening with the latest updates on their progress in France.

Kerry’s French lessons seem to be slowly but surely paying off. And she is now at least semi conversant with the various dirty old men that seem to be attracted to her, and flirt outrageously in their efforts to woo her. I’m not sure if it has something to do with Kerry’s height, or the diminutive size of the attracted suitors.

They all seem to waver around the 4 foot 6 mark.

I think what attracts them is, the ability to stare at her chest unashamedly because its at their eye level. Also, if it came to passing out vertically, they would do so and literally lean face first  against her bosum.

For example.

She and Wayne were wandering around a market in the center of Cognac, and it being lunch time, the market traders had closed the stalls to sit down with each other, have a spot of lunch and a gossip. Quite a time  established event. As Kerry and Wayne made their way through the abandoned stalls, Wayne watched the traders reactions as they approached. 

The Monsieur’s sat around some white plastic garden tables, breaking bread and having a spot of wine. He noticed one chap spot Kerry and began nudging his friends to bring her to they’re attention.  Then after a spot of winking and nudging he jumped up and made his way to Kerry and Wayne, asking to be allowed to have his photo taken with Kerry.
(the dirty old bugger)
Kerry laughingly obliged and it was a matter of moments before he was asking for a kiss.

God knows where it would have ended but Wayne made a point of straightening his Deputy Sheriff badge (See- There’s A New (Deputy) Sheriff In Town) and the vertically challenged Monsieur retreated, albeit triumphantly back to his gang of work friends who were cheerfully  showing they’re admiration for the little fella having tackled the big red head.

Kez and the market
Rest une noggin on these muffins, Monsieur,” Said the kindly lady…

The second French love experience took place in the supermarket.

While Wayne was perusing the meat aisle, Kerry drifted off looking elsewhere. She had noticed this small, elderly gentleman as she was casting about looking at various items, but hadn’t taken much notice, just that he was well dressed and short.

Personally I’m beginning to believe – on looking at the evidence – that she’s targeting defenceless, horny old men.

This enthusiastic old man had taken one look at Kerry and made a bee-line for her. So when she turned from what she was looking at, she literally tripped over the gentleman.Automatically, her French kicked in,

“Excusez moi Monsieur! Pardonnnez moi!!” (Exscuse me sir! Pardon me!!)

But the old chap, at 80 and a day, was anything but put out. It was then that she realized the reason she almost tripped over him was because he had actually made his way directly behind her to instigate this moment.

And as he opened his over coat to display a bandolier of Viagra, clicked his heels, tipped his head and said something along the lines of,

“Bonjour grande dame. Tu ressembles à un énorme sac de Malheur.”

Hahaha wink wink

“Mais lookee ici, je peux aller toute la nuit comme un train à vapeur de seulement 6 de ces bébés. Une danse de fantaisie?”

“Good afternoon tall lady. You look like an enormous bag of trouble.”

Hahaha. wink wink

“But lookee here, I can go all night like a steam train off just 6 of these babys. Fancy a dance??”

Kerry got the message, and although flattered, had to decline both dance versions.

Which brings me to the Porters dance class.

They had been out for a coffee in the center of Cognac, (Kerry probably on the look out for another old duffer) and while Wayne was quietly sat having a cappuccino, reading the paper. Kerry in the mean time was sat watching some people Salsa dancing in the square. She was mesmerized with the steps, actually moving her feet in time teaching herself the moves. So when  they indicated they were short of female dancers and gestured towards her – would she like to join in – she did what she thought was the only modest thing to do. She made a show of holding her hands to her chest as if to say,

“Who Meee?”

And made to look over her shoulder ready to jump up and say ,

“Oh go onnnnnn then!”

The woman behind her had no such reservations however. With arms waving, she almost bowled Kerry out of her chair and tipped her own table over in her rush to partake. Poor old Wayne had to attempt to enjoy what remained of his coffee while sitting directly in the way of Kerry’s pursed lips and laser like glare, as she stared at the offending lady who was prancing around like a baby elephant (Kerry’s words), thinking,

“That should have been me.”

So, they’ve decided to enroll temporarily in a dance class. Thinking a spot of Salsa would add even more sunshine to their lives. They asked around and were pointed in the direction of this class.

What it turned out it wasn’t, was a Salsa class. What it turned out itwas, was some sort of medieval dance. Average age 400. You know. Stand side by side, hands held daintily at head height, then step together, left, forward, right, back. Then right, forward, back, left. you get the idea? It was like king Arthers court come to Cognac. Not that hot, dazzle, quick step Salsa that they had in mind.

Kerry and Wayne actually gave me a demonstration. They were both all dainty, on their toes, left, forward, right, back etc. The trouble was it just wasn’t in time with each other.

One went through one routine while the other was dancing something completely different. It was like watching two people trying to fly each others kites.

Finally, speaking of dancing.

Kerry and Wayne were on their farm duties prior to their home visit, part of which involves moving live stock around on the farm. When I say live stock, I mean the camel, zebra, horse’s and goats.

This means moving them to a near-by field that they share with the breeding pair of Ostriches (Ron and Nancy, see – Vive Le Garlic, and Sucked Off By A Camel)

To enter the field takes some guile, as Ron, the very aggressive male Ostrich, doesn’t take kindly to people intruding on his love interest, Nancy. If you’ve read previously you’ll know that the entrance to the field is via one gate, with a fence in the middle, which allows access to booth fields when open. The main point here being, you have to weigh up where Ron is before you enter it, and judge whether or not you can open the gate and herd the animals into the adjacent pasture, before Ron notices you and sets off on a mad charge.

All in the nature of protecting what’s his.

I’m much the same with chocolate dipped ginger biscuits.

Anyway on this occasion, gate opened, animals bullwhipped in by Indiana Wayne and gate shut by Ostrich whisperer Kerry, with Ron’s dramatic drumming footsteps getting closer.. When Ron finaly arrives though, it’s to see a now closed gate, and is throwing himself against it in some angst that these intruders have pulled the wool over his eyes.

Yet again.

And – Goddammit – he can’t reach the bastards.

Kerry and Wayne continued herding the animals further into the field laughing at Ron’s harmless rage, as he batters himself against the fence putting a show on for his other half.

(See Nance? See Me? big Ron?? See Big Ron frighten these puny humans! Ron Big! Ron Strong like Bull!!! Nancy In for Ron Time Soon!!! Hoorayy!!)

I think the Porters are resigned to the fact that Kerry handles the Ostriches better than Wayne, while Wayne gets the truck stuck in mud much better than Kerry (to follow).

On this day though, Ron not to be outdone, has obviously been giving some thought to the situation, and with Kerry and Wayne looking on bemused, does no more but gallop deeper into the field, along the now dividing fence. Until he reaches a designated point he’s marked for himself.

He squares himself up to it, squats, then hops some 4 foot vertically straight over it.

Into their side of the field.

The previously bemused Porters can’t quite believe it and are stood slack jawed, until Ron turns round and heads straight for them.

(Yeah. Who’s laughing now?)

It then became a race between Kerry, Wayne and Ron as to who would reach what first. Ron catching them, or the Porters getting to, and through, the gate.

As it was it turned into a rolling launch over the gate, with Ron a close third. Ramming himself into the wood work, feathers fanned out around him hissing like mad.

Kerry and Wayne turned laughing breathlessly, to look back where Ron stood, anger apparent in every jarring crash against the gate. Then as Kerry straightened up he did the only thing left to him. He seemed to clear his throat with a wracking cough, then spit a big elastic dobber in Kerry’s face.

If you don’t know this then I have to tell you that Ostriches eat their own excrement, so I have no need to explain Kerry’s reaction.

“You fucking, fucker, you Fuck fucker!!!!! You Dirty Fucking fuckerfuck!!!”

Kerry is quite soft hearted with animals, but at that moment I think Ron was closer to becoming a really big drumstick than ever before. Even he quailed before Kerry who now looked like she was wearing a terribly fragrant Phantom of The Opera mask.

I mean, this shit caked one side of her face and right through her hair. And in between, with her arms held apart from her body, and trying to spit out what she imagined she had in her mouth, she topped Ron’s rage from moments before and added brimstone..

Wayne, obviously didn’t laugh. Then. Lets face it, he was on her side of the fence. He’d have been better getting in with Ron than laughing in the face of Kerry’s incandescent anger.

As it was, Ron retreated back up the field and hopped himself back into his side, making his way back to Nancy.

(You see Nance? See Big Ron? Spit in Big Haired Lady’s face?? Ha! Hahahahahaha!! Now Ron Big Love time!!!)

So. Apart from the flirting, elderly, diminutive, Viagra ready French men. And despite the jump over the damn fence, (come on) spit in your face big bird, Just dying to trample your ass.

Everything’s going dandy.

As I end this, the Porters are now on route back to France. Having successfully acquired Wayne’s new toy (His mini digger) they will have stopped on the way to rest up. And, being unable to resist it, Wayne will probably be scoring,

“WP loves KP”

in the car park tarmac with his new toy.

wp loves kp

Elvis Has A Close Shave

razor4

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.

“Fuck me.”

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 hair

“Elvis could only WISH, he looked this much like Elvis..”

Blue Speedo’s And Tartan Scarves

blue speedos

We were usually taken clothes shopping as kids on set occasions. I used the word “taken” literally as I don’t think any of us enjoyed it.

C&A. A high street store. On a Saturday. 16 years old with much better things to do.

“Oooooh! These are nice Michael!”

My mother waving a set of blue speedos in the air.

This was back in the day when speedos were still an acceptable item of beach wear.

“Yeah mum. Fine. They’ll do.”

I had again given up the will to live on another shopping trip. Zone out. Get home. Make it ennnnnd.

“Just throw it in the basket mum and lets go. Enough is enough already.” I was thinking.

We were usually rigged out just before Christmas and/or around Easter. It was a matter of pride for my parents.
And I have to add here, that when I say it was a matter of pride, I don’t mean as a reflection of the fact that they could rig us out, but felt they had to rig us out. I do happen to know what my parents sacrificed to get us these things in life, how hard they worked.

And regardless of how this may read (Light heartedly I hope) I will forever be grateful, and hope they both know that. I hope I’ve instilled the same values and appreciation in my own children. In fact I know I have.

I’m a big believer in injecting my kids with guilt..

Easter or Christmas would be one of those periods that triggered the shopping frenzy, or  if one of us was going away on holiday with school, then that would be another reason.

C & A opposite the Arndale bus station in Manchester, was a regular venue. I can’t say I have happy memories of the place. My mum would drag us around trying on various outfits. It was never something you really wanted, but something that your mum thought made you look smart.

And always, and I mean always, we didn’t waste time with changing rooms. It was strip right there in the middle of the shop.

“Try these trousers on. Never mind people will see your underpants. People have seen underpants on telly before.

That boy over there is only wearing his underpants he looks happy enough.

(Note small boy face like thunder on the verge of homicidal rage)

Everyone wears them. Starsky and Hutch wear them. I bet they don’t give their mums gyp. Get your bloody trousers off..”

Its like there were little islands of small boys stood around in clashing coloured underwear.

Things didn’t fit me like they fitted my brother. He could slip into anything and everything flattered him. Flares were in, then Drainpipes, and I can’t say I noticed a difference in style on my frame. I think Flares were Drainpipes on my sturdy figure. And Drainpipes just made my feet go blue.

My Grandad always said I had the thighs,

“Of a big strapping elephant!”

Which was flattering, but with the best will in the world, didn’t make a 7 year old body conscious kid feel better. I was just more aware of the fact that one sudden move on my part and I could trample someone to death.

So we were dragged round various shops, trying on all sorts. It took my mum probably 4 minutes to sort my brother out. Then several hours with me working out if she bought me something 5 sizes bigger, if she could cut a foot off the leegs and take them up a bit. I know my brother hated shopping as much as I did. I remember him as a small boy of around 5, saying to my mum after one of these trips,

“Mum? When I grow up,”

“Yes son?”

“I’m going to buy a shotgun and shoot you..” (true)

(Atari Tennis rage)

That, and another time, hearing a dull, rhythmic clanging from the front garden. Following my mum out to investigate, and finding him with my Dads hammer and her prize brass vase, some 2 foot tall, a big bulbous affair, Knocking the shit out of it.

To the point of having punched 3 holes in it.

And I remember standing there with my mum wailing, and saying “Awwwww Seannnnn!! Your gonna get murdered when Dad gets in!”

But secretly thinking,

“Yeahhh! Smash it! SMASH ITTT! That’ll teach the bastards to make us take our pants off in shops!! SMASH THE FUCKING THING TO PIECES!!!”

(You can see why I lied my way through confession now – see “Bless Me Father“)

One item of clothing I was forced into wearing, was a rather dapper overcoat, that had a tartan scarf through a hoop in the back of the collar. This may have looked good on Sir AlecfuckinGuinness, but on a 7 year old, well…I spent most of my time getting shouted at for hiding the scarf. I hated it, but my mum loved it.

“You look so grown up!”

I’m seven. Seriously. Why would I want to look like I’m a 4 foot 80 year old??

Its one of those items of clothing that just irritated the life out of me. It was tartan. It made me feel embarrassed and self conscious beyond belief. We’ve all, as we’ve grown up, been in put in a situation by an adult, who’s trying to tell you,

“Whooah there. Why so upset?! It looks fantastic! Your friends are going to be so jealous!

(God, please, please strike all my friends blind..)

You look like a movie star!!” (Alec Guinness)

Yeah? I don’t see you wearing the fuckin thing mate.

Its those situations where they dress us in things they like, but things that make us painfully anxious. And its either the fact that its itchy, tight or just plain horrible to the point of a foot stamping tantrum,

I’mnotwearingitIfuckinhateit!”

(stamp!stamp!stamp!)

All because we’re worried someone we know will see us, and next day in school, well…

Its like when I was a small boy, my parents had a thing about woolly hats with huge bobbles on them, and safety mittens, with the string that connected them that ran up either arm.

Bobble hat

For one thing, the bobble was usually bigger than the hat with my head in it, so I walked around with my head drooping off to one side. If I wanted a horizontal view of something I had to flick my head upright and balance it there whilst I took a normal look around. And secondly, if you were wrestling a mate and he yanked one mitten too hard, you’d end up knocking your own front teeth out with the other fist filled mitten.

And don’t get me started on rain.

Any rain on woollen hats or mittens added about 20lb. I was nearly licking my own knee during one particular down pour. And all but wore my knuckles to the bone from dragging them along behind me.

“Awhawww Mum! can I take them off now?!”

“No! You’ll get cold!

(Don’t worry about the chapped hands and sciatica then)

And you look so smart!”

I couldn’t even see her to ask her, without having a count down and launching my head upright.

Mind you, I had the neck muscles of a buffalo by 9.

The other adverse effect this huge satellite had swinging round on my head was, as I would be walking along, trying to flick my head level at strategic points (like crossing the road – didn’t think of that when you were keeping me warm eh mum?) it could develop its own unpredictable whip depending upon how much rain there had been. I wasn’t a physicist. I was 7. What did I know about water retention in wool?? I just had to hope for the best as I whipped my head straight and hope I calculated correctly and it didn’t pass right over to the other knee, and send me through a shop window or something.

Added to this combination was my overcoat and the tartan scarf.

If Someone yanked on this they could set you off like a spinning top And with that bobble the unpredictable momentum could make you carry on for days until you finally drilled your self to a standstill. Either that, or it’d develop a sudden loss of control. like you’d see on a racing motorbike as it corners, and suddenly fishtails left and right, until it whips the rider off in the opposite direction the bikes travelling.

A few times I ended up 20 foot away from my still spinning hat, thinking, Out! I’m Out! only to be told to stop messing about and have it rammed back on my head..I knew how Michael Carleone felt

God help any kid who came within arms length of the wildly flailing mittens as you span. You could flatten your favourite sidekick without even knowing it, until you finally regained control and discovered said buddy comatose at your feet.

The kid could be concussed for the next two weeks with only a knitted imprint stamped on his face to remind him that something had happened, and have no idea what it was..

I also seem to remember a pair of tartan trousers but that may have been over exposure to Rupert Bear books. I may have repressed that memory though.

That fucker Rod Stewart has a lot to answer for.

I didn’t actually get trusted to buy something for my self till I was about 16. Up till then I was dragged out on shopping sessions. So when I was going on a school trip to the south of France it was no surprise to hear the words,

“C&A.”

There was always a dull thud to accompany these word. It was my heart hitting my boots.

So there we were in C&A, stripping off, trying all sorts on. It had got to the point of me just saying “Yes mum” as it didn’t matter what I wanted, if my mum thought I looked like Burt Reynolds in it, then I was wearing it. So, it was in with the shorts, the T-shirts, new under wear, Sun cream and some electric blue swimming trunks.

“You need a hair cut,”

Whoooooah!

I’d been here before. I once let my mum cut my hair before another previous school trip. Having tight curly hair isn’t the easiest thing to cut. You had two styles. Afro or not. I often settle for the “not”. And went to my local barber (Vinny – bless him) And then had to argue with him, on how I wanted it and on how he felt it should look.

He won every time and just cut it to suit himself. I always walked out with a box cut looking like a white Jermaine Jackson.

It was this or let my mum loose, and the one time I did, she took a pair of scissors to my hair, clutching lumps and trying to cut it close to my head. It occurred to me at the time, that the sound the scissors were making, working through my hair, wasn’t that dainty snipping sound Vinny made with his. This was a much more meaty sound. A sound of substance, like she was really getting value for money out of those scissors..

It wasn’t until I was sat at a dinner table in Italy, when I found one of my teachers staring fixedly at me, then asked,

“Are you particularly stressed about anything Michael?.

(Yeah, taking my pants off in public and letting my mum loose with big scissors.)

Because, you look like your starting with a touch of alopecia.”

Fast forward to the South of France trip.

It was a long journey by road, some 27 hours of travelling to reach our destination. A coach full of sugared up 16 year olds bouncing round they’re seats for the first 26 1/2 hours, until they started to pass out.

Amazing how revitalized 1/2 hours sleep can make you.

It also felt a particularly grown up holiday, because we were allowed to drink alcohol on that trip, as the age limit in France was 16.

When we finally arrived at our destination it was blue sky and glorious sunshine. And heat.

Straight away we were inducted in Do’s and Don’ts, shown to the tents we would be staying in then told to unpack, get changed – we were going to the beach!

So everyone rushed into they’re tents to get changed into swimwear. Clothes flying out of bags, sleeping bags rammed to the back of tents, and falling over trying to pull shoes and socks off. I finally found the blue speedo trunks my mum had picked for me, and pulled them on.

“At least they’ll look a good colour in this weather,” I thought looking for a positive.

Only to hear the lad behind me I was sharing the tent with mutter,

Fuck me.”

It turned out the trunks my mum had bought me were actually a thong.

What could I do? My shorts all more or less went see-through when wet, I reasoned I may as well bite the bullet and wear the thong.

I spent the following days allowing people to acclimatize themselves to my two pert buns framed by my electric blue eye patch. Lets face it, I wasn’t the elephant thighed 7 year old from years ago! Oh no!

I was a 16 year old in his prime!! Oh yes I was!!

So I would wear these nearly-budgie smugglers and be proud of them!

Because I had the buttocks to carry them off!

I managed a couple of days before sunburn took its toll, as it would on my expansive J-Lo like derriere.

It was big enough to catch a lot of rays. Near 80 degree burns in fact. I’m lucky to be alive!

I’m sure,

“Died of BBQ buttocks” would not read well.

Common sense finally set in and I made do with wearing my shorts over them.

Tenderly.

Obviously, I should have done this in the first place.

Which is why that particular colour Blue always reminds me of C&A and BBQ ribs.

Finally, when I heard C&A had finally disappeared from high street shopping, I can’t say I shed many tears. I can only say the thought at forefront of my mind was,

“Thank fuck. For that.”

Tram Line Dave…

tdf rain

I was riding recently with my good friend Dave, trying to stay fit as well as help Dave build up his own experience and stamina. This being prior to taking part in a Sportive, an organized bike ride in a few weeks. These events are plentiful and varied in location. Mileage tends to be anything from 20 – 150 miles so its essential to prepare..

Part of this preparation involves learning to control your pedaling, not burn all your energy trying to reach mach 1, and then find you have nothing left in the tank to climb the next hill. That and getting over any road obstacles safely. (especially in the rain, think slick grids, manhole covers – wet steel)

And while constantly scanning the road ahead for any threat, actually avoid getting run over – harder than you think.

Lets face it, your riding something that has no protection whatsoever beyond the good will and common sense of everyone else cocooned in these 2 ton boxes hurtling around you. Thinking you can stop as quickly as they can so its ok to whip round you and nip into a side street.

That maneuver once left me 30 foot further on minus the bike and one shoe. Interestingly, I actually managed to make jovial eye contact as I passed his windscreen and mouth “YouTwatAhahaha.” and give a big thumbs up as I went by. The next thing I knew I was in a ball on the other side of the road.

Usually, some lunatic appears who seems to think that passing you at 60mph with inches to spare is A Safe Thing To Do.

So whenever your on a country road and hear any sound, its an automatic sphincter tightener. The first inkling you get that there’s loon driver coming your way, is the sound of an approaching car being driven with a screaming engine, because obviously, you can’t reach 900 mph otherwise.

Its the most unnerving thing, to hear that traumatized engine rapidly eating up the distance, fast approaching your current location. And really the only best you can do is hold your nerve and try not to hug the kerb. Because, if this lunatic decides he wants to squeeze past you and the car being driven sedately in the opposite direction, the last thing you want to find, is yourself already against the kerb with nowhere else to go…

What tends to happen is these fools whip past barely giving you clearance, and you just try and hold steady till their away in front, then give a frantic hand gesticulation, and splutter out,

(Youfuckingwannnnkerrrrr!)

With the violent draw that buffets and sucks at you from the passing vehicle, I keep expecting to feel my skin tights being rolled up my back and over my head to flap after the disappearing driver, leave me looking like a peeled a banana.

I’ve mentioned Dave before in a previous blog, (see – Optimistic New Years Day Bike ride) Where he finally had the opportunity to give his shiny new bike a whirl. The day had started out reasonably ok, overcast but turned into a bit of a slog with wind, rain and cold all taking a toll. The good thing about the ride though was the sheer distance we put in which was clocking on 42 miles. I put this down to having good company to ride alongside,  because your too busy talking and the time flies. When its like this it never seems to be as draining an effort.

And Dave’s one of those people who’s very easy to talk to because he always has gossip. Its brilliant.

Dave is a bit of a fitness junky. As long as I’ve known him he’s always been heavily into his running. He has that edgy energy, that need for a fitness fix. He’s a typical runners build, you know the kind I mean. With a lollypop head with stick arms and legs. I jest of course. He’s wayyyyyy skinnier than that. I could lend him one of my calves  to create some arse cheeks.

But seriously, he’s always been about the fitness. Always liked to get out and just eat up the miles with an effortless stride.

So to have him transfer his obsession from running to cycling has been a bit traumatizing.(!!)

Fortunately, he’s taken to falling off his bike more than he’s riding it at the moment. The first occasion was on that New Years day ride. And I’d no sooner stopped to check something when Dave turned round and glided to a halt, only to fall over sideways as he tried to wrench his feet from his pedals. I in the meantime was left looking on bemused, as Dave rolled around on his back with the bike in the air, trying to wrestle it off his prone body..

It allowed me to pause momentarily, and just smugly say,

“No, no, no David.

Unclip your feet before you stop.”

(I find Stating The Fucking Obvious – STFO – often helps in these situations)

This superiority complex won’t last so I intend to milk it.

But with the onset of dark nights, I’ve moved indoors riding on a trainer, saving my outdoor riding for a Saturday or a Sunday morning. Riding the trainer entails looking at a wall, imagining the soaring Alps or some such place, while spinning frantically away on a stationary bike. The whole process is mundane to say the least. Boring even.

But – My! GOD!! – you sweat like you’ve sprung a leak.

The major plus is it keeps me off the roads in the dark, keeps me fit and saves me from being flattened by one of those drivers who see’s (or more correctly – doesn’t see) a cyclist until its too late..

And able to keep up with Dave.

Who seems to be able to eat a lot more spinach than Popeye ever managed, before every ride…

In the mean, time Dave has to make do with getting in the gym, (Ha) or chancing the roads in the dark during the week prior to a Sunday ride. (Ohdearyme)

Or run.(Fuck)

Which he does for miles. Its a nightmare. I don’t know what I dread hearing more as we prepare to ride on a Sunday morning.

“Good week Dave? Get anything done?” (pleasedeargodsayNo!)

“Nahh. It was crap pal. Too dark to ride, (Gettiiinnnn!) Gym was to busy, (ThankyouJesus!) So only managed 3 gazillion miles running. I’m gutted.”

(Not half as distraught as I am my friend)

And so, its off we go and the beauty of the whole thing is Dave is just such good company to ride along side. With that energy, It can’t help but encourage you to want to do better yourself.
His enthusiasm is infectious, and shines through the littlest thing he attempts. And he’s always trying to improve. So on the last ride when we went out on, it was no surprise to learn he had gone out alone the previous day to get a ride in before todays outing.

“And you’ll never guess what pal!”

“Tell me Dave. What?!”

“I only fell off the fuckin bike again!!”

“Noooo. Your Kidding!” (note smug smile)

“I bloody did Pal!!”

It transpired that Dave had only managed to travel some 40 yards from his house this time, before taking note of the traffic and deciding the oncoming car was travelling just a touch too fast. So he decided to wait till it passed. Only – and it warms me to picture it – he trifled a mite too long and couldn’t get his feet out of the pedals again.

I spoke to his wife later, who said she heard something but by the time she looked out of the window, it was to see Dave stood road side rubbing his bike down. (New bike – Damage! = arrrrrrrrr!!) But had no idea he had fallen off it and had been lay on his back looking like he was trying to do an upside down rodeo as, he tried to throw the bike off his feet only moments prior.

I’d have paid money to have been the slacked jawed motorist Dave had been waiting to pass by.

“Rolling round the fucking floor like a tortoise Pal!”

I love the way he says things like this. Eyebrows raised and eyes wide in amazement, with mouth open in shock.

He says it the same way if he’s telling you how he tied his laces.

“Made a loop! One over the other Pal!!”

I think its a part of Dave’s charm that makes him such great company.

So off we went on todays journey. A fine drizzle of rain adding to the ride. We left Dave’s house via an assortment of hills starting with his drive. Dave lives in Shaw near Oldam, any direction you take from his front door is “up”. Eventually we had enough of the sheer “Upness” of everywhere nearby and decided to head into Manchester city center then swing out in a round about route, back “up” into Oldam.

So we headed up towards Dove Stones, then swung off to Mossley down into Ashton-under-line. We were passing the new Ikea before we hit the tram lines which have been installed there.

Slick steel, wet with rain.

“Swing out Dave. Not straight on!! Try and come at them as square as possible, so there’s no extreme angle.”

Which we did. And then it was on through Ashton, down into Droyslden until we hit a set of lights. And all the way down, the tram lines had been running parallel to our route. We had been riding side by side, but as we approached the junction I told Dave to take point. What I didn’t realize was the tram lines cut in, across our path to the left, into a tram stop at the side of the road. And Dave being point decided to head straight into them.

Anything metal and slick on the road, if you don’t approach it correctly then your off. Its as simple as that. I just had time to see Dave’s wheels drop into the tram line and go

“arrr….”

and his whole bike flipped sideways, and his back wheel took out my front wheel so I went down with him.

The first thing you do when ever you go down is – jump up! That is, when you can unlock your feet from the bike. The pair of us rolled around for a few moments, then carefully unlocked our feet from the pedals and then jumped up quickly, because – lets face it – you feel a right dick. We were right on a junction with traffic sat waiting left and right of us. None of whom, I hasten to add, actually got out to check we were ok.

(We were ok)

Dave was all,

“I don’t believe it Pal! Again!! Arr! Me arm! Me fuckin leg!! Do you think anyone noticed?”

(Eyes wide, eyebrows raised, mouth open in shock)

Anyway it put paid to that ride, and it was more a case of heading back to Dave’s and getting a cup of tea. While Dave explained upon arriving to his long suffering wife, how he had fallen off his bike again.

Seriously, the only thing missing was Benny Hill music in the background. (*Thank you Stuart)

Unfortunately, the small amount of enjoyment I can take out of every time Dave falls on his arse won’t last. Eventually with the obsessiveness and competiveness that’s driven him in his running, its only going to be a matter of time before he leaves me far behind. And I’ll be gasping out,

“No rush! save the legs!! – Time mate. Time ffs!! Slow down!!. Jesus keeeerist!.”

And I’ll dwindle into Dave’s rear view mirror. So, While it does last, what slight advantage in experience I have  will be taken full advantage of. Starting with,

Not Letting Dave Take Fucking Point

and

STFO.

Columbia rider Mark Cavendish of Britain

Dave doing his normal “arrive home from a ride” wave….The bastard.

Vive Le Garlic (Long LIve The Garlic)

French Old Lady

The Porters have been making optimistic attempts to introduce themselves to the larger community and grasp every opportunity that arises.

There’s an old lady who marches past Kerry and Wayne’s house  each morning like a Gurka. Clad in a high viz vest and woolly socks rolled over her hob nail boots. She’s around 260 years old but stomps past like she’s off to war.

Kerry and Wayne had taken to sitting at the kitchen table waiting for what sounds like the next German invasion force coming down the street.  They then rush out to stand nonchalantly and fix her with mega watt stares until she wilts under the attention and acknowledges them. 

Much garbled French and arm waving ensues as they attempt to convince her they’re harmless, and frantic attempts at communication.

“Film?  4 syllables? Sounds like? Sounds liiiiiike? Chicken? Pig!! Wtf does it sound like??  FFS!!  She’s getting away again!!!”

And the well intentioned,

“Ayup petite vieille dame!  Voulez-vous un pot de conseils pg???

(Ayup little old lady!  Would you like a pot of PG tips???)

Would go unanswered.

So in what may appear like aggressive neighbour tampering, they have begun a clever strategy of picking a particular person to introduce themselves to, strike up a cunningly devised conversation and actually get on talking terms.

They actually practice their lines.

But with  Wayne’s,

“Une! Deux! Twat!!!  (One! Two!! And, well, Twat.)  Building site Fuckanese again coming out.

and Kerry all –

“Bon Le toot! Vive Le garlic!! Hooray!”  

(The good Toot! Long live the garlic!! Hooray!)

(You can take the girl out of Manchester, but…) 

Things weren’t going to plan.

The old lady would march past stoically. With a disconcerted wave and watch them from the corner of her eye till she was safely out of sight,  probably thinking,

“bébé Jésus doux et toutes les vierges! Ces deux fous sont ici encore! Wtf ne veulent-ils de moi??”

(Sweet baby Jesus and all the virgins! These two lunatics are here again!! WTF do they want with me??!!)

So when the Mayor threw a party for the village, it was with some relief that Emily visited and attended it with Kerry and Wayne. She was swept around like a bulldozer blade in front of  them, sweeping up targets to introduce the Porters to.

And eventually caught up to old mother time.

As it turned out the old lady had a healthy sense of humour, and saw the funny side of her persecution. Apparently she had No idea what Wayne had been shouting, but some clue as to what Kerry was trying to communicate. It was with some relief no doubt, that she realised  it was safe to walk past and pause to attempt a broken a conversation.

Also at the party were another couple, Claude and Annette, who had been attempting to entice Kerry and Wayne in conversation. Unfortunately language had been a barrier and a lot of what was being said was entirely missed by the Porters.

Emily translated that when they had been talking to the Porters, they had been telling them that Claude had been ill and was recovering from a serious illness.

(Hahaha… carrot?)

Which may have appeared funny at they’re initial interpretation of the conversation.

(House? Are They saying howhowhow..Haha..?. Horse!??)

But on retrospect wasn’t so side splitting to the Porters when faced with the reality of what was actually being said. And also it came out, that each time  Claude and Annette had been attempting to pass on a joke, it had fallen on a wasted audience, as Kerry and Wayne would be looking at them, eyes wide, smiling and straining for comprehension, only to realize there was a pregnant pause as Claude or Annette would be nodding, eyebrows raised,  trying to encourage them to get the joke.

(…Ha….Haha..ha???…)

(Aw Fuckit)

But again the real humour came to the front when both sides allowed Emily to translate to each party what the other was saying.

Annette was informing Kerry and Wayne that Claude had suffered a heart problem and had been recuperating. And now he,

“was sat on his arse in bed being waited on hand and foot the lazy bastard….”

Claude was also vocal in his explanation that,

The cow had driven him to the heart attack in the first place, and a bit of TLC was only his due…”

Emily had to stop laughing each time before she could translate

They were very obviously dedicated to each other, and have been together for some 20 odd years.

So, It was at this party that Kerry and Wayne had found out that they were actually unintelligible to most of the rest of the community. It was here during their mingling, that they discovered the majority they had been smiling at, waving to and generally trying to speak pigeon French to, had no idea what they had been saying.  

Most meetings had been like scenes from “Allo Allo”.

Which finally leads to the current situation where Kerry has enrolled in intermediary French lessons twice a week in a near by town called Pons. Then re-enrolled in the beginners class. Then re-en-re-enrolled back in the intermediary class because the tutor, although felt Kerry’s French was very basic (think the airmen in Allo Allo), She could however make leaps and bounds with a concerted effort on her part by attending two classes a week. (Tres Bon!) 

Which she has been doing on a regular basis.

Upon one of these lessons Emily and Vinny went with Kerry to potter around the town whilst Kerry took part in her language lesson. They were waiting outside as the lesson ended watching the students leave. Two that caught the eye were a middle aged man and woman, the woman who was wearing a striking red Beret who had obviously embraced French fashion with a passion.

They passed Em and Vinny deep in conversation flashing them a smile as they went by. All Emily and Vinny caught was,

“That new girl is awfully nice! Splendid lady!! By Christ she’s a big “un!”

Kerry followed shortly after oozing excitement. It had obviously been a little daunting, but also exhilarating. Going in as a new enrollee, meeting all the ex-pats already there all learning French creates a sense of unity. But She was just so excited by the new challenge and couldn’t wait to tell them about the new people she met. Two who struck her as particularly enthusiastic and welcoming.

“Kenneth and Penelope! Very well-to-do!! But so nice to speak to!”

Kenneth was a retired major in the army, a marksman by trade, married to the energetic Penelope. They had decided to settle in France 2 years previously, doing similar to Kerry and Wayne. They had taken to the life style with a vengeance that was spectacular in its enthusiasm. Embracing everthing about it and nothing was insurmountable in their view, and they welcomed every situation as a new exciting experience.

Kerry upon meeting them had found their enthusiasm hard to resist.

they had requested Kerry’s details and address, saying simply,

“If we call and your busy, Just tell us! And We’ll go!!”

The whole thing about living in France had been about embracing new experiences. And this was one of them. This couple, who had so kindly sought out Kerry, and invited the Porters into their own established existence were hard to resist. How could you not extend a similar welcome and open house?

It took a matter of days before Kenneth and Penelope managed to turn up at their home. A bit of a shock at first, and Kerry greeted them in the middle of working on the house, the shock of the visit must have worked both ways. Kerry normally of pristine presentation, was mass of explosive hair. Probably unrecognizable from the French lesson.

It must have been an,

“Oh mon dieu! Ses cheveux ont explosé!”

(Oh my God! Her hair has blown up!)

moment for Kenneth and Penelope.

But although they were the visitors, they proved the perfect hosts. Kenneth had a passion for classic cars and the renovation of them. Wayne was sold immediately. So when they were invited to their home prior to Kerry coming back to Blighty, they didn’t hesitate. And as it proved it was a great decision.

Kenneth and Penelope proved the perfect hosts and couldn’t be more inspirational in confirming to Kerry and Wayne, it was the right decision to move. They were Dynamos of enthusiasm for what Kerry and Wayne were trying to achieve. Anything the Porters had to say about their hopes and dreams of their future in France were met by quivering, edge of the seat attention. How can you not persist in your dreams in the face of such enthusiasm??

Personally, for me, once a month Kerry is back to visit and stays with me. So I get to see her. Wayne’s presence is intermittent and I still miss him. But I see him via Skype, or he takes the time to phone. And the pleasure I get out of seeing them having made the right move is immense. Because it is a huge move, and it is a leap of faith.

So, much as I miss them, and I surely do,

I couldn’t think of a better couple to face it together.

Kerry and Wanye

There will be plenty of people looking at this picture, getting up the next day for work thinking, I wish…

Down The Pan

Nails

Years ago growing up, I remember my dad always seemed to be working. Either on his normal day to day joinery or on some private work. A foreigner as they were known. And at time’s the two overlapped into each other.

On some occasion’s he would work during the day,  go straight to the private job, work through the night on that, then go back to his every day job the following morning. Work that day and have the night off. The next day though it would be the same routine, work day, night, day, then home, collapse and sleep. this would go on until complete.

Everyone makes sacrifices for their children but I always felt my Dad went head and shoulders beyond anybody else. He was just always working on something, and if he wasn’t working he was gardening, or running his football team, or taking us out somewhere. Busy, busy, busy.

But he always seemed to have time to do it all.

Bless him.

One of those private job’s was refurbishing the seating area’s in a night club. Rip out the existing, then manufacture new, ready to be re-upholstered. It was a friend of my dad’s, Joe, an on-off work mate who had picked up the foreigner and asked my dad to help him on it.

So off they go from their day job, into the club early evening, work the night. Come morning, back to day job, then sleep. This went on for roughly a week until the job was complete. It was at this point that my dad found out who they were doing the job for. It was pay day and he was waiting with Joe for the gaffer to arrive to pay them. What my dad couldn’t understand was why Joe was hopping around on pins, obviously anxious. Finally this guy walks in, a big time gangster well known in the city, with his herd of heavies in tow. I remember my dad telling me about this and he said,

“My heart sank when I realized who it was, and I’ve looked at Joe thinking, “Thank you very much.” Because I knew, no way would I have chanced working for this guy because of his
reputation

So the boss arrives, barely nods an aknowledgement, then walks round the club inspecting the work with Joe and my dad in tow, with the heavies trailing along like a line of tankers, muttering –

“Very nice. Verrrry nice job lad’s.”

Finally he reaches the end of his inspection, turns to  my dad and Joe, and just say’s,

Now get your tools together and fuck off.”

And that was it. No money, no negotiation, two big bruisers looming over your shoulder guiding you out the of the building. And next thing you know your stood looking at a closing door and a weeks work behind it.

And you’d be surprised how often it could happen.

Only thing you can do is take it on the chin. There isn’t an alternative with these people.

And then you have the good jobs. Some jobs you land on just seem too good to be true. Great craic, great money and worth getting up everyday.

One was a hotel in the center of Manchester.

Now, I have an Uncle who worked with my father at various times over the years, whenever my Dad had enough work available he would give Roy a shout if he needed the job.

And this was one of those jobs. Roy is one of the funniest and sharpest people I know, and has had me laughing more times than I can mention. Or I’ve stood back in admiration that he’s seen a chance or opportunity before anyone else and quietly taken advantage.

But my God he’s also quite clumsy at times.

Now Roy wasn’t a time served joiner, but handy, and  you could carry someone in the job if their capabable and the work isn’t very demanding. Give them things to do that you could keep an eye on, nothing too taxing that requires a lot of thought. Basically nurse them along and help keep them in work.

Part of this particular job required a rip out through out the building. Then it was a thorough refit, bring the building back up to top spec.

Roy turned up to his first day on the job with his basic tool kit – hammer, saw, crow bar and a  pouch to go round the waist to hold nails in, and carry his vintage hammer at his side.

Only, this pouch connected to the belt at the waist, but the pouch pocket was nearer Roy’s knee than his waist. And the hammer hung even lower. So whenever he wanted a nail from it, or his hammer, he was more or less at right angles in an effort to reach either.

“Jesus, change that bloody pouch will you?” My Dad would nag him.

“Nahhh, it’s fine. Quality leather this. Had it a long time this. Been in the family years.”

So Roy persevered with the absurdly low hung pouch. Constantly tripping over the damn thing and leaning over lob sided to reach his cache of nails. Its just a shame  Roy didn’t have one Orangutan length arm to get maximum efficient use out of this pouch. As it was, he was unfortunately blessed with two arms of normal proportions

So when he had his first accident it was no surprise.

He was put up in the roof space, crow-barring remaining timbers, still fixed after the initial rip out. Now this wasn’t a normal roof, it was almost vertical  with large windows interspersed at intervals which had all been broken out and removed. So you could get quite close to the edge of the roof inside, without having to crawl in to do so. And Roy was working right in a corner, crouched down, barring out residue timbers.

Finally, he came across a piece of timber fairly secure right in the corner and was forced to put some serious effort in to remove it. Wrenching away at it, it finally came free and his drooping nail pouch, entangled in his legs caused to sit down with a bump.

Only this bump landed him on a sliver of glass stuck up vertically, left over from the window rip out.

With a noise only a dog could hear, he leapt back off it and found he was spraying blood.

Incidentally, You soon find out who your friends are when your arse is bleeding and you need someone to take a really good look and tell you how bad it is.

Anyway, it was stitches, fruit and soup for a few weeks after that one.

Then my Dad took him on a foreigner he was doing which was converting a roof on a bungalow and builing a dormer into it. It was a tight scheduled job which he was doing on a weekend. So organization and the weather was the key. With the client away to avoid the dust and noise, it was a particularly nice weekend when they began stripping the tiles from the roof. The trick to these jobs is to expose the existing roof, build the new frame work and get it temporarily sealed in the same day if possible. That way even if it rains no moisture can come through the ceiling and damage anything below.

So with Roy helping it was a job that although tight, was easily achievable.

It was a hot day when they started and turned into an even hotter weekend. But opposite the house was a pub with some nice benches outside, and they promised themselves a pint when they finished the following day.

So it was on with the job.

Roof stripped of tiles and felt to expose the area that’s being extended. Cut, manufacture and fix the new roof structure in place, then get the felt over it and temporarily batten it down and fix and seal the new window till the following morning.

The next day dawned bright sunshine again that gradually heated up as the day progressed. During that days work people were sat outside the pub nursing pints, watching my Dad and Roy slaving on the roof. Today would be a case of setting some new joists in place and trimming out the ceiling then break through an access hole to receive a flight of stairs. Then deck out the floor as a finished area.

Then a satisfying couple of pints.

Now people don’t appreciate the sheer volume of thick, choking dust that accumulates in a loft area. Not just that, but the old way of plastering a ceiling consisted of spreading, then trowelling smooth plaster directly onto latt’s. Whilst above the ceiling it was just a mass of excess plaster. Then years of dust accumulates on top.

So my Dad put Roy inside the roof space, passing him in the joists that were to be stacked ready to lay out. But as Roy is manhandling the joists into position, he accidentally steps off the existing ceiling joists hes straddling, and falls through the ceiling with a splintering crash of latt’s snapping, and cascade of plaster hitting the floor below.

Roy is left suspended between the rafters, legs dangling below.

You end up frantically rushing to help, in a mad way, trying to reach the person who isn’t actually going any further because their wedged in position and, maybe (pleasegod), Just maybe, there wont be any more damage…

But by this point what damage there’s going to be, has occurred, and its more a case of getting the person topside so you can both climb down below and inspect how bad it is.

So he managed to drag Roy back up which was an effort because of the pouch which he’s having to drag back through the hole doing more damage as it comes. And when he finally managed to get him back up on his feet,

“That fuckin pouch! Get a new pouch Monday for fucks sake!”

Followed by,

“Where’s your hammer??”

“What?”

Where’s. Your. Fucking. Hammer.”

They both turned to look through the hole into the wreckage below.

There, in the middle of all the black, thick dust, broken latt’s and pieces of plaster, lying nestled in what remained of the toilet pan, was Roy’s vintage hammer.

When Roy had fallen, his lower half had gone through the ceiling, and as it did, the hammer had pushed up and out through its loop and, dropped the remaining distance, straight through the toilet pan.

Smashing it to smithereens.

“Oh. Sheeeeit.”

Then it was a mad rush.

The ceiling needed repairing, the toilet needed replacing and re-plumbing in. But most urgently the scene of destruction needed cleaning up. And then the roof had to get back on schedule for when the  residents returned.

As you can imagine Roy was mortified but these things happen and will do so again.

My Dad left Roy cleaning up while he rushed off to buy a new toilet and get hold of a plumber to come and fit it. It was now a race to get everything looking normal for when the client returned.

So when my Dad did get back, it was with a growing sense of doom he found Roy waiting for him hopping from foot to foot.

“Sorry Mick.”

Awwwwwwww shit. What now?”

What Roy had done in his rush to clean up was begin a mad hoovering session. Unfortunately the elderly hoover couldn’t take the strain and promptly blew up, showering what thick black dust it had managed to suck up, over the rest of the bathroom.

So then it was back out to buy a hoover.

All in all it was an exhausting weekend. Just getting the job back to where it should have been as well as repairing the damage done to the ceiling and bathroom.

What ever profit margin my Dad originally had, went on a hoover, a toilet and plastering a ceiling.

The client returned to find a repaired ceiling and new hoover, but otherwise no damage. And my dad just had to grit his teeth and smile when the client came to him gushing,

“We certainly know how hard you worked. Because the landlord and locals in the pub opposite told us! You didn’t stop, grafting all weekend. You’ve done a fantastic job!!”

“Only, he said after you worked so hard he was amazed you never went in for a pint when you finished…”

“Oh, and you left your nail pouch…”

Jonny Moonshine Rides Again

brogues3

Its surprising what you actually come across that’s been discarded, left behind when people relocate.

I worked on a job in the center of Manchester a few years back and actually spent two years on it. Ripping it apart then refurbishing it, modernizing the internal structure. Its always the same during a refurbishment, and time is spent working through it seeing what can be rescued and re-used.

I was working through one floor with John (See Jonny Moonshine, and Dust motes)stripping door furniture, with John weighing up the value of such obviously expensive handles and locks. The sheer weight of each spoke volumes.

And something John appreciates is value for money, and a bargain.

We reached quite an opulent office – come board room. Obviously a room of importance at one time, looking at the quality of the fixture and fittings, with a beautiful hardwood desk still in there.

The first thing your going to do of course is check the drawers. Who knows what you’ll find? As it was John got to it first and came across a pair of  dusty Brogues that had obviously been there a while. John took one look, shook his head and just said,

“Some people, have more money than sense. What a bloody waste..”

I must admit I had to agree. The were a quality pair of shoes.

But we carried on working through the floor removing what ever we could salvage. 

It wasn’t long before we were due a brew and made our way to the brew room in the basement. This was an odd building to be honest. There were seven floors above ground then four below. So eleven in all, but from the outside you had no idea. The very bottom housed the vaults of the bank that had previously occupied the building.

Someone was missing.

“Where’s Tony?” I asked John.

Tony was the site labourer and would have been working on a different part of the job. And with there being eleven floors all told he could have been anywhere. It being brew time was a point to catch up with each other, and if someone was missing then it needed checking out. As we were standing to find him, Tony came staggering through the brew room door, obviously shaken.

“Jeez Tone! What’s happened??”

He was almost incoherent, nearly sputtering in fact. Getting him to sit down was an effort as he was completely wired and shaking like a leaf.

“Tone! For Christ’s sake whats happened??”

“The lift!”he gasped out. ” The lift! Been in the Lift!!”

“Annnnnd??? Whats the problem? Whats actually happened Tone??”

As it turned out, Toney realizing it was heading towards brew time was making his way down to the canteen, which was on the floor below ground level (-1). Being on the 2nd floor he hopped into the lift to come down the 3 floors. Upon entering the lift though, the doors had failed to close. Toney was then hitting various buttons in an effort to get things moving. Eventually the doors shut by their own accord. What Toney didn’t know was, that the lift engineer was testing the lift. It had been arranged with management, but management had failed to tell anybody else. The test about to take place involved dropping the lift to the basement onto its buffers. This meant the lift would descend (very rapidly) 6 floors.

It must have been like an epiphany for Toney as the lift suddenly dropped away beneath him.

There then followed, (according to the lift engineer), a sudden wailing scream, which began in the distance above him (2nd), swept past him like a formula one car (-2), disappearing into the depths of the lower basement, (-4), where the lift hit the buffers with a satisfying crash.

From this point onwards all he heard was Toney screaming

Getmeout!Getmeout!GetmeoutofthisFUCKINLIFFFFFFFFFTT!!!

That was probably when the lift engineer paled slightly and galloped to the basement like a racehorse on steroids to help Toney climb out on rubber legs, covered in debris from the shattered lights. Then hop around him like a demented frog, whilst Toney came to terms with the fact that he was still alive.

By the way, jumping just before impact is very hard to do, when your feet haven’t actually caught up with the descending lift yet. It’d be like trying to jump in the middle of a jump.

I can’t begin to tell you how hard it was to show any sympathy for laughing.

Eventually, Toney was brought up to the brew room (-1), for a sweet cup of tea, a blanket and a cold flannel. Actually just the tea. And after a significant period of time we managed to prise the tea cup from his hands, to put him trembling on a bus and send him home.

lower deck

I hasten to add shortly after, we were given radios in order to keep track of each other on such a large job. The radios were a godsend and proved essential. I finally fully appreciated their effectiveness, when I walked to a burger bar on Market street with Chris the other site labourer. Upon arriving Chris asked if I was buying anything but I just said no and waited outside. Watching him I waited till he got to the front of the queue and was just about to order, when I shouted down my radio,

“Everyone! Put your hands in the air!! This is a fuckin stick up!! Give me a Big Mac and make it quick!!!!”

I didn’t hang about. I was there long enough to see Chris desperately trying to get his radio out of his coat pocket.

Anyhow the day passed quite quickly, we went back to stripping the door furniture and I left John on the previous floor and carried on the floor above. All the time, entertained through out thinking about Toney’s descent.

I was meeting John later in the evening for a pint with a couple of other friends, so left him in town where he was going clothes shopping. Or, Getting Value For Money.

Now John like a bargain, so without hesitation he headed straight for a large store in town where he could buy lots for little. And never mind the sweat shops in the far east.

If I thought the day couldn’t get any better I was wrong.

I called to Johns house later that night to meet him and walk to the pub about 300 yards from his home. Small talk going, then in and order a pint for ourselves and the group we were meeting. Sit down and start a general conversation. It was then I noticed that John was wearing a new sweater.

“Ah! Got a bargain then?”

“Yep. Dirt cheap. Looks good yes?. Got the shirt and trousers too. Part of the display. Saw it on the Dummy.”

(Your a bloody dummy)

Hey! …Anyway, couldn’t resist it. Must have cost me 25 quid all in. What a bargain.”

And I had to admit, child labour or not, 9 years olds in battery chicken cages not withstanding, this shop had churned out something that looked quite dapper on john who always liked to look smart. Nice cream V-neck sweater with piping to the sleeves and collar, brown trousers and nice shirt too.
So everybody agreed,

“Yeah, looks great John. Good result for the money,”

Lovely shirt John.”

“Your Eyebrows look fantastic tonight john. On a Promise?”

Which john would have loved – having achieved a bargain. And he sat there his normal quiet self basking in everybody’s admiration.

Then I notice a guy come into the pub with his wife. He goes to the bar to order a drink and I’m watching him trying to put my finger on whats tugging at my attention.

And I realize he’s wearing a similar sweater to Johns.

Not only is it similar though, but its exactly the same. And not only is the sweater the same, I realize the guy must have had the very same idea of a bargain and bought the whole outfit.

Cream sweater, (with the piping) brown trousers and a very nice matching shirt.

By this point I’m trying not to laugh out loud. But I’m nudging the others and quietly pointing out the the close comparison at the bar. And its become a knuckle chewing moment of sly looks and sniggers, without saying anything to John just waiting, to see if he notices.

Then in what I can only call a perfect moment, in this huge pub, the guy walks over to us and sits opposite John. And as he goes to sit down, see’s John and John see’s him.

The chap has paused partway between sitting, looking at John before finally lowering himself into his seat.

And he’s obviously having one of those moments where he must have been thinking,

“I don’t fucking believe this.”

He sort of looks at his feet shaking his head, murmurs to his wife who looks up sharply at John then just as sharply back down trying to cram her drink in her mouth to avoid laughing. The guys murmurs something else picks his pint up, downs it in one, tell her to “Hurry up” then they both get up and leave. With his wife sniggering behind him, turning to outright laughter as she gets outside.

Johns just been sat there slightly slack jawed, staring, with head tipped slightly back, down his nose, into space. Waiting for the inevitable ribbing that was coming.

John was slightly crestfallen to say the least. But, once this chap had left there was only one person in the pub looking fantastic. And value? For money?

No contest.

And it was only as we were stood outside the pub saying goodbye later that night, that I noticed John, hands in pockets, (protecting his wallet no doubt) stood rocking to and thro on his heels. And there, on his feet, were a particularly dapper pair of tan Brogues, polished to a brilliant shine.

And I knew, John had found a proper bargain.

Again.

Moonwalking in Manchester.

Terry glove

Eddie, was a bluffer.

Smart, trim, in his early 30’s, very confident. And a Bluffer.

No other word for it. Bluffer. They appear on site and you can see them a mile off. Have no idea about what’s involved in doing a job, because, they don’t need to. Man management is their thing. They manage a job. Co-ordinate. Make things work, organize and grease the wheels so everything runs smooooooth.

Only things don’t go smooth. They gradually slow down and eventually, come to a standstill.

Because the problem with people like Eddie, is they talk a great job, very “Pro-active,” very,

“Can DO!” and “Nothing will stop us! Eh? Eh Lads?? Nothing will stop us!!”

He’s not the one having to overcome his last cock up mind. That’s down to the lads, to “Overcome!” it. with their “Positive!” attitude.

I once worked on a shopping mall where there was a famous sports branded shop. And every morning the manager gathered all the employees to come together in a group to “mentally prepare for the day”.
Then, it was form a circle, rush into the center, jump up, high 5 no one, (because nobody had a clear target) so it was a lot of empty flapping, instead of meaty, determined slapping noises. Then whoop and holler and shout,

“Yeah!”

and

“We CAN do! Not CAN”T do!!!”,

rush back into the center of the circle for another flap at each other, share a cheesy grin and set off to stack their shelves and colour coordinate laces.

And I just thought, “What a bunch of twats..”

Well, Eddie had that effect on me. Every time he came out with some positive spin on some bullshit job, I knew it was another cock up that “We” could overcome.

And I did. I just thought,

What a Twat.”

So under Eddie’s “watchful” eye, the job progressed. Or more realistically, slowed down, mainly down to “Managing” things to the point where we were running out of materials and fixings because they hadn’t been ordered. And now, it was the Lads fault. Lads were laid off because they didn’t have materials with which to complete work. So incomplete work became their fault. Things were on a slow downward spiral. Added to this, the main contractor was beginning to squeeze and they weren’t shy in sacking their own staff, having cleared the decks and brought in a whole new department of foremen and agents.

Insisting on a subby firm sacking one of their foreman would have been minor by comparison.

You could see the stress building round Eddie. Little twitches. The smile getting a bit forced by the minute. The derring do attitude gradually melting away.

And the most foolhardy thing he did, was trying to lay the blame squarely at the door of the guys who can actually pull you out of the shit, the guys trying to do the work regardless of Eddie’s obstacles.

And suddenly, he’d found, he didn’t have many friends prepared to help him out of it.

There will be guys I’ve worked with over the years, who will read this and understand. You cant be a foreman and treat your men like arseholes. They don’t forget.

Because sooner or later, it just becomes a matter of time before your found out.

And Eddie’s time arrived.

Opposite the job was a café. One of those glitzy, shiny new cafe’s built specifically for the brand new apartment block that had been built above it. People would grab a coffee and a wrap on their way out to work in the morning. It was quiet any other time. The fact that our job was opposite must have been a life line because it was busy all day, especially at dinner. Men would sit inside and watch the world go by. The young girl who ran it was a stunner so that may have gone some way towards the business increase too.

This particular Friday was like Eddie’s D-day.

The pressure must have become unbearable to the point where something had to give. I’m always put in mind of Chief Inspector Dreyfus from the Pink Panther films starring Peter Sellars.

Where Dreyfus has finally reached snapping point and his ticks and lunatic giggles have become painfully obvious. And those around him are eyeing each other nervously, waiting to see who’s going to make a dash for it first before he blows.

I believe Eddie reached his very own nuclear meltdown point in this café, on this day.

It began with Eddie sat in the café having a brew with the labourers foreman, a young lad called Justin. Justin had been promoted purely for his willingness to do what ever Eddie said, and only added to the ludicrous state of affairs with his useless contributions.

So, Eddie is sat having his “Plan Of Action” talk with Justin, in the café at the peak of the busiest period in the day. Its crowded, full of people all having their lunch, with the noise swelling as people were talking louder to hear over their neighbours conversations, and suddenly, Eddie leaps to his feet and starts singing. (or more exactly shouting)

“IN THE NAMMMMMMMME OF LOVVVE!!! WHAAAAAT MORRRRRRRE IN THE NAMMMME OF LOVVVVVVE!!!!”

As you can imagine, instant center stage for Eddie. The silence was actually deafening, There’s an odd nervous,

“Ha!”

while that persons mates said

“Jesus, shut the fuck up”

The only other noise is the scrape of chair legs as everybody in his immediate vicinity collectively slid their chairs away from Bono.

Eddie in the meantime just stood there grinning, doing that nodding head thing, where he’s still keeping time in his own head with the music, looking round at various people like he’s just invited the next person to leap up and bang out the next line..

Only as you can imagine, its one of those English situations where nobody wants to make eye contact even with the person next to them. Or (heaven forbid) attract attention to themselves, because nobody knows which way this barmy bastard is going to go.

So, Eddie starts from the beginning, in a slow, low voice, still looking round as if someone is going to join in.

“One man come in the name of love, One man come and goooooo”

Until the girl realizing she has a potential lunatic on her hands, bangs down on her counter and just shouts,

“Oi! Pack it in or get out!!”

To which Eddie seems to give himself a mental shake, apologizes and asks if he can use the toilet.
The girl is as nonplussed as everyone else sat there goes “Umm?” and points down the corridor to the back of the shop, and off Terry trots.

All I could think of was ” This is like Stars In Their eyes. He’ll be out in a minute with ” And tonight Mathew I’m going to be….”‘

And he didn’t disappoint. In spades.

Just as a bit of normality is being established, and people are talking again, (whatthefuckfwasthatallabout?) the door from the toilet Bangs open. Anyone still in the café turns towards the noise, and Eddie leaps out wearing nothing but an apron he’d found in the rear and starts moonwalking.

Seriously.

“Den! Den! Den! Denden!! Den! Den! Den! Denden!!!”

Sliding round the café like he had lard on his feet, bare arse hanging out of the back of the apron.

The girls first mistake was letting him use the toilet. Due to shock.

Her second was due to disgust and shock, when she realized, this naked man had her apron on!

“Get my apron off you dirty bastard!! Wha? Arrr!!! Nooooo!! Putitonputitonputitonnnnnnn!!!

Too late.

Off came the apron and Eddie testicles is putting Michael Jackson to shame. He’s still going for it when the police finally arrive shortly after, managing a final crotch clutching, “Hee! Hee!” before the calming hand of the law guided him towards his clothes.

In all of this he’s been full of beans. Completely good natured. Even stopped moonwalking when they asked him to.

“You lads don’t you like Michael Jackson?”

This all changed when they decided to put handcuffs on him and he went off like a mad clog dancer.

It took 6 coppers to get him in the van. And then the transit was rocking on its axles as terry bounced backwards and forwards off either side of the van roaring.

It eventually drove off still rocking, taking Eddie to somewhere for a lie down.

And that was that. Within a day or two we had a new foreman and things got back to normal.

Until 2 weeks later.

In the mean time we’d been told Eddie had been put away for a rest, a bit RnR in a nice hospital to help him get better.

Until I did my normal thing, and get in work half an hour before everybody else and am sat outside on a lovely, sunny morning, waiting for security to open up and let me in.

Who comes walking down the street.

Eddie.

“Hi Mike!” Cheerful as ever.

All I’m aware of is it’s 6.40am and no one will find my body for at least 30 minutes. I know Eddie has the strength of ten men, but I only have the strength of nearly one.

“I’m back! Today! Ready to get this job back on its feet!!”

And then he just says,

“I’m not fuckin mad you know.”

(I beg to differ mate)

“I was in America. Had some business – with the mafia. You know how it is.”

(…)

“Had to take care of business during the night. Missus didn’t like it. Had to give her a slap. In the kisser. Got lippy!”

(Thank fuck she didn’t know any Michael Jackson songs)

“Phoned the police on me! Got me deported!! Mafia not happy!!”

(Jeeeeeeeeeeeeeeesus)

“When we got back she paid me back by washing me clothes – In Biological powder!!”

(..?..)

“I had an allergic reaction.”

(nodnoddontmakeeyecontact)

“To my clothes. Had to take them off. Had to. It was burning. BURNING!!

(Ohfuckhesgoinoffagain!)

“She washed my clothes in biological powder! BIOLOGICAL POWDER!! SHE KNOWS I”M FUCKIN ALLERGIC TO BIOLOGICAL POWDER! THE BITCH!!

(Hashegotaknife?Ohshitohshitohshit!)

“But I cant stand round talking all day. Work to do! I’ll see you in a bit!”

And off he marches to finds a way into the job.

I, on the other hand, am blowing in a paper bag heading in the opposite direction.

It shortly transpired, Eddie had left his hospital by his own accord – somehow. He was later picked up and helped back there.

I hope he eventually got better.

With a “Can do!” attitude I’m sure he managed it.

Jonny Moonshine

Moonshine2

I first met John while walking around Bury checking out a job as the one I was working on was coming to an end. He was working on the front entrance of a Witherspoons and was machining some material. I got talking to him and it was through him that I started on a bar refurb in Wigan some 3 months later, where I actually got to know him.

This was the job I mentioned previously where I also came across Jimmy, (see “Have You Heard of Jesus?”) the born-again Christian, getaway driver. Its a long story.

I became firm friends with John who is an absolute gentleman. He’s some 30 something years older than I am, always neat and tidy, dapper even, and looks fantastic for his age. He’s a very quiet, private person, with very dry humour. Tends to speak only when he feels its something worth saying.

So if you want someone to keep a secret, Johns your man.

Brew time tends to be a set routine of john with his pre-set snacks, the small-but-often diet. Very particular. Brings his sliced tomatoes in a separate container, then adds them to his sandwhiches because,

“They make the bloody bread soggy!”

He’s old school, that pre-war generation with the stoic outlook. And none of the ridiculous Political Correctness that is so often applied to everything these days.

Why can’t I call it a Blackboard?? Political what now?? It black and its a board!! Talking bloody nonsense!!!”

He wears glasses that he tends to look down his nose through, so there can be a pause as he gives a measured looked at something before answering a question. Unless I’ve wound him up enough to bite.

“Something on your chin John..”

“Be something on your bloody nose if you carry on..” the reply will be whipped back.

And, he has magnificent eyebrow, ear and nose hair that can only come with age, (or wisdom as john likes to think). The barber trims the lot every time he goes for his hair cut. I often imagine the barber with Johns head between his knees, sheering..

I love Johns company. I can relate to where he grew up, as I came from the same original area which only began to change a few years after my Mum and Dad moved, with me in tow, a few miles away from it. In those days, none of the old houses had hot running water. I still remember my own Grandad telling me of Friday night bath nights at Harpurhey Baths, an old Victorian swimming pool with beautiful tiling through-out, though sadly long gone. You went there after a week of making do, stripping down, using boiled up water in the sink, a flannel and a bar of soap.

There were individual changing booths poolside, with a 3/4 wooden door on each. Above, a balcony ran the perimeter of the pool and up here were compartments with baths in. In those days a man came along with a big spanner, loosened a nut at the end of the tub to release the hot water. When he felt it was full enough, he would tighten it to stop you using more than your quota. Then, in you popped had your bath and were good for another week.

Talking to John about these things was like catching up to a piece of the past. Things I had been told about on my grandfathers knee. Not so much good old times because they weren’t. They were hard for all concerned. But a greater sense of community existed. You knew everyone shared the same hardships.

But as I got to know John, he eventually became Jonny Moonshine.

A much better name.

John travels as much and as frequently as possible. All over the world. Loves his holidays. And now he’s retired he tries hard to maintain his 78 year old playboy lifestyle and has recently discovered cruises.He treats it like its his own enormous private yaght. Also, he’s the only person I know who navigates via pub names. And if you were to get directions off him, sign posts would invariably be pubs scattered along the route. This may give the wrong impression. Please, don’t get me wrong John isn’t a drunkard or any such thing.

However he does appreciate a good pint and a good pub. And that’s a vastly different thing.

And one thing he could tell you about is a good pint and which pub he had it in, probably looking off into the distance and smacking his lips as he does..

A couple before his Tea always adds to his appetite he says. Again this is a routine long established and long may it continue says I!

The name Moonshine came about after he visited Tennessee, in USA. The night before flying home, after some hesitant consultations with some local’s, (beer probably had something to do with it too,) John arranged to meet, in the middle of nowhere, 2 shadowy gentlemen, bearing Clay pots. Within which was the real deal Tennessee Moonshine. After paying these kindly gentlemen for their succor, he made his way back to his Motel to show Joan his wife, the beautiful pots and what lay inside. She in no uncertain words, explained to john that trying to board a plane with such obvious containers was likely to lead to johns rapid incarceration, and introduction to American Justice.

So, he decided to buy a couple of lemonade bottles, which he duly emptied and,(with regret it must be said) transferred the contents of the splendid clay pots into said bottles. As the moonshine was crystal clear it was a foolproof plan.

Then, as panic and imagination set in, he decided that the best course of action was, to drink as much as was humanely possible prior to flying. Just in case it was discovered and confiscated en route through the airport. As it happened, he literally sailed through customs. Though at one point, thought he had gone blind due to the moonshine but finally calmed down when he realized he had rested his glasses on his head.

He only managed to actually board the flight with Joan shoring him up on the steps. Once in his seat he slept like one in a coma. Snored like a chainsaw across the Atlantic, and only came to, and regained the use of his legs, and eyes, as wheels touched down in Manchester.

Not long after I bought him a hip flask which, he would bring with him on a night out. Offering “snifters”.

And I can confirm, my legs and lips ceased to work for periods, but there isn’t much else I could tell you, because that whole period is a black hole in my memory.

But then things had a habit of happening to Mr. Moonshine when he had a drink.

It was a similar story when his son “passed” out as a police officer and john went to attend the ceremony. Having watched all the awards, the shiny new uniforms marching up and down, and tasting some of the beverages available, it was a disappointment when the day was forced to end prematurely when it started to rain. Torrentially. And it made for a quick exit for the car.

On entering the venue, there was a central island that you drove around to enter a car park, then walked back around it to the venue entrance, through the building to the parade ground. So when the rain began to fall in volume, John decided that the best and quickest way to the car was via straight over the central island. And, he charged from the doors and onwards over the island, head down at speed.

What he didn’t realize was that the core of the island, was a pond.

He was knee deep before he could stop and he only managed to do that when momentum was reigned in by weeds in the water. His forward movement ended abruptly by diving head first into the pond.

Unfortunately, I can only wish I had been there for that one. Because I would have paid good money to have witnessed it in person.

Another time, he decided he was having family round for a BBQ. which, he wheeled out and held in his garden. It was of course a roaring success. Upon completion, John, having had a few, packed Joan off to bed with,

“I’ll just tidy things away.”

Which he promptly did.

A couple of hours later they were woken, (or Joan was, John was comatose), by a Police officer and Fireman who had been alerted by a neighbour, of all the smoke gradually issuing from Johns house. Joan was whisked from the house in her nighty, whilst an officer risked life and limb by hazarding the stairs to rouse John.

John promptly refused to leave unless dressed, which, it has to be said he did rather smartly. Leaving some minutes later looking very debonair, if glassy eyed, in a 3 piece suit and shiny shoes..(He may have even shaved.)

This in some comparison to Joan, breathing through an oxygen mask, who by this time in an effort to protect her modesty was dressed in a neighbours Donkey jacket, which finished 4″ up her arms, and a pair of size 10 trainers, that flapped on her feet every time she took a step..

It so turned out that John when clearing away, had “cleared away” the still smouldering BBQ back under the stairs where it was normally kept. This eventually set fire to them and was responsible for Coco the Clown and James bond walking into casualty.

I don’t think Coco has ever forgotten.

But I have to say, I still thoroughly enjoy this wonderful mans company and see him regularly.

A fantastic once-in-a-lifetime gentleman.

My friend Jonny Moonshine…

There’s A New (Deputy) Sheriff in Town

sheriff badge

My daughter Emily and her boyfriend Vinny, recently travelled over to France to stay with Kerry and Wayne at their new home. I know everybody on both sides was looking forward to this, having seen little of each other for months, it’s just so nice, to catch up with those you love.

Emily, is a beautiful, amazingly bright young woman and I never cease to feel awe at all her achievements. She’s like a ray of sunshine in my life every time I see her, and never fails to make me smile. (Usually with some ridiculous comment.) She is forever effervescent, very bubbly and always dizzy in such an endearing way.

She is studying at university to be a Speech Therapist and is totally dedicated to her cause. I don’t think people realize just how incredibly in depth the intricacies of the subject are.

To my shame, I know I didn’t. But I do now.

And with an important family member suffering from a serious neurological disorder, I’ve no doubt it fires her constantly, to succeed in this field.

But as she’s in France she was adamant the chance to speak French. Having received top grades at GCSE and A level in French, it was an opportunity to put it to use. And believe it or not, she speaks fantastically well.

Now speaking to her via Skype I know how excited she was to have this opportunity, just hoping that the natives would understand her. To her surprise and what I think Emily never took into account was – that people in France speak french as well!!

Incroyable!

So when the local Mayor held a party for the village, Kerry and Wayne jumped at the chance to introduce themselves to other villagers via – (magnifique!) – Emily.

It was a roaring success! Apparently, my daughter is now engaged to her boyfriend Vinny. This came about whilst having a conversation with an elderly french lady who was partially deaf. She couldn’t quite hear what was (eventually) being shouted, a real cupped ear and squint of concentration moment for the Madame.
With Emily trying to explain Vinny was her “boyfriend’ (mon copain), and the old dear deciding to go for a visual translation to fit her own idea and shouting back,

“Ahh! Oui! Fiance’!! Tres bon!! Fe`licitation!!!” (Ahhh! Yes! Fiance’!! Very good!! Congratulations!!!)

Not much you can do in those circumstances. The shock could have killed her so Emily just shrugged and said,

“Oui! Merci….”

In the mean time she was contending with Kerry and Wayne guiding (Pushing) Emily in front of people they wanted to be introduced to, it was like

“Speak Emily! Speak French! Now!!” Tell them – Me Kerry! Him Wayne!! Indiana!!!” Whilst making frantic eye contact with the target and pointing at Emily.

I’ve no doubt that the old, “Shout Loud” to be understood had been used quite often by Kerry and Wayne up to that point, and having Emily there to translate was a chance to introduce themselves and look normal.

(Oh yeah)

(The whole village are aware of Ostrich Whisperer and Indiana Wayne)

But, it was an opportunity not to be spurned and Emily was walked around and thrust upon most of the village population. And Emily, upon realizing she was understood, (finally), couldn’t be shut up.

She’s been blathering away like a mad French washerwoman for the whole trip. And the only disappointment has been that some French people like the chance to practice their English…

But Emily persevered just for her own enjoyment and probably badgered almost everyone she met into speaking French. I think even if she had met someone who wasn’t French, they would feel obliged to make the attempt, just to try and dispel the disappointment in Emily’s eyes…She has that effect.

In the meantime, Kerry and Wayne have been establishing themselves further into village life. The farm they both help on, owned by Pierre, is a monument to the abstract. With the Ostriches and Camel, there are also Zebra, bison, horses, poultry, Goats and assorted domestic pets..

Pierre lives in a beautiful – what can only be called – a mansion. Ornate and rustic all rolled into one.

He obviously likes a bargain, because during Emily and Vinnys visit, he had cat litter delivered for his cat. (2 tops.) And when I say delivered, I mean by van. Somewhere in the region of 1/4 of ton.

This is an estimate. All I can go off are the 6 wheel barrow journeys it took Indiana Wayne to unload it.

(And that’s not easy in spurs)

This cat can obviously shit like an elephant with a laxative death wish. You wouldn’t want it in your garden.

Also on the delivery were bottles of natural spring water. This being for Mark Antoinette. The goat. Who lives in the basement. Now mark isn’t your normal “Maaaa” type of goat. Without exaggeration he’s as big as a donkey, and goes more like “MAAAAA” in a deep bass. And I think the only reason he lives in the basement is because He chooses to live in the basement. You want to move me? Bring it sucker.

The first Wayne realized he was there was on his initial trip down to drop off the cat litter. It was one of those moments where you walk in, pause, look sideways actually make eye contact with the goat, and realize,

there’s a big fucking goat in the basement

It was a shared experience that Mark handled better than Wayne. Mark ignored Wayne, while Wayne upon realizing he was minus his whip, gave a little whinny, tried to rearrange his legs and get the wheel barrow between him and El Donkey.
Happily I can reveal Mark decided not to trample Wayne.

Anyhow, Pierre is a retired vet and well versed in what his live stock need to stay healthy. And it just so happens that Mark needs bottled water. For what reason I am yet to discover, but it sounds romantic.

In the beautiful rustic kitchen, with the rustic windows and lovely rustic table, lives the chicken. In an apple box on the windowsill. Le Cluck being afraid to leave said windowsill because of the dog who sits and watches it waiting, just waiting for it to get down so it can eat it.

And the day previously Wayne had arrived to see Pierre, only to find him having just castrated a young male cat. On the rustic table. Not for fun I hasten to add, but because it had been, (as all the bastards do,) pissing all over the house. Then it was a quick mop down, brush the bollocks in the bin, bread and cheese slapped on the table and an invitation to “Manger?” (Eat?)

Lots of belly slapping ensued and “Full!” from Wayne.

In the meantime the day to day routine are becoming more established, with Wayne ready to move forward in his animal husbandry.

It so happened that Kerry and Wayne had to move animals around and needed to put the camel, zebra, bison and horse into the field adjacent to Nancy and Ronald’s, two breeding Ostriches. Ron is huge, bigger than the female, very territorial and very aggressive. So care is needed around him. I don’t think people realize how much damage these birds can do. Its not like they’re over size blue tits. These things could quite easily trample you into the ground without to much effort. They may look fluffy, hopping from foot to foot, but they could kick the crap out of you and come back for seconds.

So, if you can imagine, the two fields have a dividing fence but shared gate, that when open allows access to both fields.

Now obviously preparations were needed in order to complete this task safely. And eager to demonstrate their new abilities, they took Emily and Vinny down to watch.

Wayne, went prepared, in his 10 gallon,(tipped jauntily), Spurs, kite like chaps and new Deputy Sherriff badge, looked the ultimate professional. And no doubt Emily and Vinny thought so too.

It was a simple matter of opening the gate and herding in the various livestock. The camel goes first because (of course) the zebra follows the camel. After that someone takes the horse and the bison follows the nag.

But during this as the zebra heads in after the camel, in the background came the dull drumming across the ground.

A quick check over Waynes shoulder see’s Ronald Galloping across the field to confront the intruders. So then its a race to get the horse in and (oh Jesus) the Bisons taking in the scenery. A smack on its arse and its moving again with the “Derumderumderumderum” getting closer.

Waynes just manages to slam the gate closed as Ronald rams into it. Then its a case of trying to keep the gate pushed to, but unable to lock it, whilst Ron is attempting to kick the shit out of it, Wayne and anything else his flailing legs can get to.

I swear, if it had been for a South westerly blowing in Waynes chaps, he wouldn’t have had the strength to hold that gate shut.

Kerry in the meantime is hopping round Wayne as he’s wrestling with the gate and Ron, trying to latch it with out getting too close to El Kung Foo.

Finally, they managed to latch the gate.

I think, nay, I know this months visitors have had a great time. Because without a doubt, Kerry and Wayne always go out of their way to make someone’s stay an experience to remember.

But If you visit and they suggest a little bit of “herding”.

Just say no…

Bless Me Father…

Boxing Gloves

As a young boy I was raised as a practicing Catholic. And when I say “practicing” That probably, was what it actually was.

I’d practice being good and not doing bad things.
I’d say my prayers every night and ask God to keep everyone safe, working through a litany of names.
“Even those people who weren’t part of my family.”
And include in my prayer that I loved everyone just to demonstrate I was a good Christian. And to push my dedication towards world peace further, I would also include “even Mary Mcguire”, a girl in my year at school who, I actually couldn’t stand.
Like God wouldn’t realize…
Same thing every night. Daren’t change it.
It was OCD on a biblical scale

At school religion was an important part (to the catholic school) in the development of young minds. Things had changed from when my own parents were children only slightly. In my day, it wasn’t as common to find a priest as part of the school teaching staff. Instead they came in once a week to teach specifically religion. Hands on. In my parents day, a priest was a major part of the established school environment, and actually taught a number of lessons.
And, have a major influence in your welfare and your perceptions of religion.
It wasn’t uncommon to find a Priest who felt a good thrashing was an essential part of your education in life. And how many unstable minds there must presently be, from that generation out there, currently waiting to “go to hell for their sins”, I just can’t imagine.

When my Dad was at school there were a number of clergy part of the teaching staff and they set demands towards you’re education, soul  and physical well being. For instance. My dad and his brother were part of the school boxing team, (It being a well accepted fact in those days, that kids could knock seven shades out of each other till one wailed “Mother” in an organized competitive venue, and, be much better off for it) (They may have had a point).
But there was never any real money to spend on equipment and you made do and used what was available.

This particular night my dad’s brother, Chris, arrived home after fighting in one of the Monday night, inter school boxing events. Upon walking through the door it was obvious he had been the victim of a particularly bad thumping. Which surprised my dad, as his brother was a rather good boxer.

“Jesus. What happened to you?” was the inevitable question.

“Father Toby. That’s what happened!”

It so followed that Father Toby – who ran the boxing club with the zeal of an evangelist on crack – was handing out glove’s and shorts to the team’s combatants at the start, with the regular,

“May God give you the strength to rip his block clean off my son, “

And

“That wee fella has a glass chin. Say an “Our Father” before you get in that ring lad and he’ll help you put him out cold.”

And then Chris received his shorts and gloves. Upon popping the shorts on he found to his dismay that they were some 2 sizes too big. “Father Toby, these short’s…”

” Get them on Walsh, and thank God that you’re not fighting in you’re underpants and feckin wellies!!

Feckin heathen..”

No negotiation or discussion, just get them on and get on with it.

So Chris dons the shorts and gets in the ring with his opposite number.

Who proceeded to thrash him.

The problem being that Chris is clutching his short’s trying to keep them up, all the while boxing one handed with no guard. And every time, in a fit of temper, he releases the front of his shorts, to try and land a punch, his shorts fell down.

So he’d catch them mid way down, drag them back up and clutch them to his midrif. Until, with wounded pride another fit of temper would make him forget the shorts and begin round housing his opponent. It was catch 22, clutch the shorts – thump,thump,thump. Let go, try and fight, down they go.

Vicious circle.

With Father Toby apoplectic ring side threatening hell and damnation.

When he came home he was battered. With a clip off father Toby as a parting gift.

So, as a Catholic, the church made an impression and part of my early childhood, till I could have a say in it, revolved around the Church. Going to Sunday mass, sat with my grandad, my sister and brother. I’d always start sat next to my brother, until it degenerated to fidgeting finally to messing about. Then we’d get a dead leg each and yanked either side of my grandad.

A whispered,

“Pack it in”

And making a fist  with his middle knuckle prominent, threatening another dead leg. With two dead legs Steven hawkings would have lapped us. Best wait till the first one wore off before getting another..

That was just a Sunday. Saturday would be Confession. On a Saturday we would be taken to church at some point to confess our sins, seek God’s forgiveness, and be forgiven by his earthly representative, (Father Pierre in this instance) And have a clean soul, ready to receive communion during the following days mass. This involved being given a piece of consecrated bread which represented the body of Christ and the sacrifice he made for our souls.

So Saturday was all important in that, to receive the Communion on Sunday, you needed to heal your soul as well as  regain the grace of God by going to confession and “confessing” you sins to God’s earthly representative.

Confession required 3 acts.

Contrition – demonstrate your sorrow for your sins.

Disclosure – Confession of those sins

And Penance – do something to show you regretted doing them in the first place.

The priest would hear your confession, forgive you, then give you a penance – in this case so many Our Fathers or Hail Mary’s etc…

So, in you’d go to the confessional to work off your sins, whilst there were a whole line of real sinners sat outside, clutching their rosary beads, quietly waiting their turn. From my point of view this failed on a number of levels.

Firstly, you were encased in the wooden booth, clad with curtains inside to try and muffle the sound, with a little perforated viewing hatch so you could confer with the priest. It was always dark, quite claustrophobic and there was always this musty smell in there. Some churches did a face to face confessional, where you looked the priest in the eye while you admitted your sins..my eyes would have watered.

And secondly, A number of the priests were quite intimidating, and to find myself in a private booth with one of them, hoping everybody sat outside couldn’t hear me, was quite disconcerting. Being expected to bare my soul and admit what terrible things, I as a 9 year old had done, to one of these priests was unthinkable to me.

I hasten to add nothing terrible ever happened, it was just my own natural reluctance to speak privately of anything I may have found embarrassing to someone, who lets face it, was a stranger.

So, I would lie in confession.

I know this sounds terrible but if its any conciliation as a child I don’t believe I did anything really terrible.

I am, as you can imagine I am going to hell.

So I would go in and be all

“Bless me Father for I have sinned – blahblahblah. I have been rude to my mum, shouted at my brother, not cleaned my room, and I said I feckin loved Mary McGuire again…” You get the picture..

And the priest would then say,

Blahblahblah Say an Our Father in here, then as a penance say 4 Hail Mary’s out side.”

The amount was a reflection of the seriousness of your sins. So then you’d come out and ask each other,

“What did you get?”

“Couple of Hail Mary’s and 3 Our Fathers. You?”

“250 Our Fathers…”

“Fuuuuuuuuuuuck!”

Then the priest would finish with,

“Go in peace your sins are forgiven …”

And off you go, say your Hail Mary’s and you were right for another week.

Anyhow, this week I had Father Pierre, whom I have to say was particularly intimidating to me for no exact reason I can think of, other than the fact that he was always so serious.
I’d done all my confessing, was on the final part and am told to say my “Our father” now, then so many “Hail Mary’s” outside.

So I’d begin,

“Our father who ‘art in heaven….”

Then completely dry up. It was like getting stage fright.

“Um. sorry father, I can’t remember my Our Father.”

And Father Pierre went off like a fucking rocket.

“WHAAAAAAAT!! GET OUT! GET OUUUUT! YOUR A DISGRACE! YOU’RE AN ANIMAL!! AND SAY 15 MORE HAIL MARY’S!!!!”

So I stumbled from the booth, falling over myself in the rush, with what ever anonymity I may have had gone.
Everybody in the pews waiting their turn are looking at me. And you can see. I mean really see , they’re all thinking,

“What the fuck, has that kid just admitted?”

So bad as I feel about telling lies to cover my shame of my real sins. And for forgetting my “Our father” after confessing. Even, for saying I loved Mary McGuire, when I damn well didn’t. I just thank God it wasn’t one of those face to face confessionals.

Because I know deep in my heart, that God or no God.

I would have admitted fuck all.