Saturday, May 30, 2015

MI FIRST TATTOO


I was about 13 now, so I decided it was time for mi first tattoo. You may wonder where such a strange thought would come from, especially from a 13-year-old. Well, I'd grown up looking at tattoos all mi life see, 'cause mi dad had three on his arms. He'd had them put on when he was a young man, just after he came out of the army. I guess he was so pleased to be alive after going through WWI, that a tattoo was a way of celebrating life. On one arm he had a young woman wrapped only in a Union Jack flag. Her right leg was slightly raised as she balanced on a world globe. On the other arm, he had another nude woman, standing straight-legged, holding two flag poles in front of her so one couldn't see her breasts. Underneath that, on the wrist area, he had a heart with two hands in the "hands across the water"pose.

I'd asked mi dad many a time, "Did those tattoos hurt, Dad?"

"Not much,"he sez.

"How did they put them on, Dad?"

"With sharp bamboo needles,"he sez.

"How long have they been on, Dad?"

"Fifty bloody years!"he sez. "I put 'em on when I was young and bloody stupid."

The following week I met a 16-year-old boy who used to go to Ryburn school. When I saw that he had a new tattoo on his arm I asked him where he got it from. "Rex Stokers in Bradford,"he sez.

"Why's it all covered in scabs?"I sez to him.

"All tattoos do that,"he sez. "But you haven't got to knock the scabs off, 'cause the colour will come out if you do."All I needed to know was where the tattoo parlour was. So, I made sure I had the directions right before we parted company.

By this time, I'd been allowed to get a pair of denim jeans, after much arguing and many fall outs with mi mum. Had it been up to her, I'd have been in short trousers until I was 21. This way she probably thought it would give her control and power over me.

That week I took a day off school. I waited until Iris had gone off to work, then I came home from where I'd been hiding out. I got into my jeans and put on a pair of hobnailed boots, a white T-shirt and mi old donkey jacket. Slicking mi hair back in the Teddy boy fashion, I now looked a couple of years older, or so I thought! That's it, I thought, as I stood in front of the mirror, putting the final touches to mi hair. I made mi way down to Sawerby Bridge train station and bought a cheap half return to Bradford.

It took me quite a while to find the place because: number one, the boy I'd met didn't give me very good instructions, and, number two, Bradford was the biggest city I'd ever seen, up 'til that point. I stopped a working man outside Bradford station and he sez, "The street you're looking for is way up the other end of town."

"How long will it take to walk there?"I sez.

"It'll take about an hour if ya walking, but you'd be better off taking a bus ?cause it's a bit difficult to find from here."I'd saved up mi shillings and mi dad had given me 5 bob which to me was a small fortune. So, it wasn't a case of not having the bus fare, it was more a case of value for money.

After thinking about it for a while, I decided to get the bus halfway and I'd walk the rest of the way. Eventually, after about 1 1/2 hours, I found myself sanding outside the tattoo parlour. The sign read:

REX STOKER TATTOO PARLOUR

In the window there were three large boards with tattoo art all over them. The only problem was that the shop window was so dirty from all the coal dust and smog that I could not see them in any detail. I spat on his window and rubbed it with the sleeve of mi old donkey jacket, but all that did was smear the greazy grime all over the place and make it worse.

I was having a few doubts now, 'cause I'd been pricked by needles before when a couple of mi friends and me tried to put on a home-made job with the school nibs and the Indian ink out of the desk ink pot.

Five or six times I tried to go in the door but, each time I tried, Fear stopped me before I could push the door open. "What are you going to do if it hurts?"said Fear. "And what happens if you get halfway through it and can't stand the pain any longer? And if you can stand it and get it on, what's your mum going to say?"The voice of Fear was in full swing now, trying desperately to control me.

Then the voice of Freedom sez, "Screw him, of course you can stand the pain. You're a tough nut just like ya dad, and who gives a shit what Iris sez. Once it's on, it's on. How's anybody going to get it off? And how long do you think you could live with yourself if you chicken out now? Just think what it would be like going home on the train with no tattoo. Screw Fear and screw your mother too!!! It's not her arm. So what say does she have in the matter, anyway? Screw 'em all! If you want to get a tattoo, then get one and that's all I have to say about the matter!!!"

That was all I needed to hear. So, I marched up to his dirty, half-glass door and pushed it open. The door opened into a long passageway and the walls were covered with large drawings of tattoos. I didn't take much notice of them so I wouldn't get distracted, which I knew would give rise to hesitation and, in turn, the voice of Fear would try to grab me again. So, I just kept going until I reached the far doorway where I could hear the radio and the low buzzing sound coming from inside.

There was only one door which was in the left-hand corner of the passage. It was wide open, so I puffed out mi chest and walked straight in. "What can I do for you?"sez Rex Stoker looking up from the tattoo he was wiping with a dirty old rag.

"I come for a tattoo!"I sez to him.

"How old are you young 'un?"he sez.

"Just sixteen,"I sez. "Why? How old do I have to be before I can get a tattoo?"

"Sixteen,"he sez. "Are you sure you're sixteen? You don't look sixteen to me!"

"I'm sixteen,"I sez. "I'm working as a driver's mate. I've been left school for twelve months now."
"All right, lad, if you say you're sixteen, then you're sixteen. I'm asking because I don't want your mother coming down to my shop and getting me into trouble, all right?"

"All right,"I sez.

"Have a look around and see what you want on. I'll be done here in about half an hour."

Rex Stoker was a man of about sixty years of age. He was mostly bald and had a fat face with large jowls and a couple of double chins. He wore thick bifocals and a cigarette was always hanging out of the corner of his mouth, with a long bent ash just about to fall on his ink-covered trousers.

The young Teddy boy who was sat in the old barber's chair was having an eagle tattooed on his right arm. As soon as Rex's cigarette was too small to hold between his lips, he spat it out on the floor and with one hand he lit up another. The rag that Rex was wiping away the blue ink and blood with, looked to me like a piece of old pajama leg. There was no such thing as Kleenex tissues or paper towels in those days. Even the toilet paper was rough and hard. So, the old rags served the purpose quite well. The fashionable Teddy boy who sat in the chair kept wincing his face in pain every so often, usually when the needle went into the skin.

"Does it hurt?"I sez.

"No, can't feel a thing,"he sez, his fingers trembling on the arm of the chair.

"It's a good job it doesn't hurt,"I thought, or you'd be hanging off the light bulb by now!

"Have you found something you like?"sez Rex Stoker, as I look up at all the small ink drawings that are hanging on the walls.

"How much is this swallow?"I sez, pointing to a beautiful red and blue swallow.

"I'll do that one for half-a-crown,"sez Rex.

"All right, that sounds good enough for me,"I sez.

When Rex had finishes the Teddy boy's arm, he sez, "All right, lad, sit ya self down and take off yer jacket. Roll ya sleeve up as far as it will go. Don't want to get ink all over ya white T-shirt,"he sez. "Now, whereabouts do you want it?"he sez.

"On mi left arm,"I sez. "You can put it about there somewhere."

Next, Rex got out an old cut-throat razor, then dipped an old worn shaving brush into a pot of cold water. "I'm going to shave off whatever bit of hair ya got growing there!"he sez, as he sloshes the soapy shaving brush around mi arm in small circles. Next, he gave the old cut-throat razor a few slaps up and down the old leather strap. "I've got more hair on mi arse than ya got on ya whole arm!"sez Rex, as he scrapes off a few blond hairs.

Next, he smeared some white Vaseline on mi arm. Then he picked up the tattoo gun and turned on the radio. The louder he turned up the radio, the faster the needle in the gun seemed to go. When the volume was just as he wanted it, he dipped the tattoo machine in the dirty water and swished it around a few times. Then he shook the machine up and down at his side to get the murky water out of it.

"Don't you need a tracing?"I sez.

"I've done more swallows than ya've had fucks!"he sez as he dips the needle into the ink pot. "Now, this might hurt a bit, so hold still if you want a good tattoo!"he sez.

Oh, shit, I thought. Why did mi dad have to have tattoos on his arms? If he didn't have any, I probably wouldn't want one. But it's too late to turn back now!

"Here we go!"sez Rex, as he pushes the needles in mi arm and proceeds to draw a curved blue line. "How's that feel, lad? Ya all right?"

"Aye,"I sez. "It's not half as bad as I thought it would be!"

"Oh, it will be over before ya know it, lad. This is only a small tattoo."

"How do you know where you're drawing? All I can see is a big patch of dark blue ink everywhere,"I sez.

"I've been tattooing for nearly forty years,"he sez. "I could do it in mi sleep."As the tattoo needle bit into mi skin, I could feel a slight burning sensation, but I kept mi arm motionless because I really wanted a good tattoo. "Yer doing much better than that bloody Teddy boy who was just here,"sez Rex. "I thought he was going to climb up the back of mi old barber's chair for a while there."

After a while, he sez, "That's it, lad. That's the outline done. Have a rest for a minute while I light another fag and wash out mi machine. Then we'll put a bit of colour into it."

"Can you spare a fag for me, Rex?"I sez.

"Aye, all right lad, but I don't usually hand out mi fags. If ya'd have asked for mi missus, that would have been no problem, but mi fags are more important. Here ya are then, but don't ask for another one!"

"Thanks, Rex, you're a real pal,"I sez, as I lit the Senior Service.

"All right, hold still again, and we'll put a bit of red on its chest and a bit more red at the end of its wing feathers,"he sez. "And that should just about do it."Rex smeared on a bit more Vaseline and started to add a touch of red to the now swollen tattoo. A few minutes later he sez, "That's it! That's good enough for me."

After he cleaned up mi arm with his dirty old ink rag and then cleaned it all off with soapy water and a dry towel, mi first tattoo looked great! The lines all looked perfect to me, and the touch of red on the swallow's chest made her come alive.

"That'll be half a crown,"sez Rex. "Chuck it in the tin so I can pay mi rent again when it's due."

"Thanks, Rex,"I sez. "It's a real beauty. I like it a lot!"

"Try not to get it dirty and put a bit of cream on it every day for a week and don't pick the scabs off when they come or some of the colour may come out. Have ya got that?"

"Aye,"I sez, as I put mi old donkey jacket back on.

Just as I was about to walk out of his shop, he sez to me, "Hey!"

"What?"I sez.

"I know yer not sixteen, so if your mum hits the bloody roof, don't tell her who did it for ya. I'm an old man now and tattooing is my only source of bread and butter. If they closed me down, I'd be knackered. I put the tattoo on for ya because I like ya and I know how much it meant to you. So, not a bloody word to anyone, eh?"

"Not a bloody word to anyone, Rex,"I sez, walking out of his shop.

Soon as I was back out on the street again, and I'd checked to make sure no one was watching, I jumped up in the air as high as I could, clicked mi hobnailed boots together twice and then landed on both feet again.

Seeing as I had quite a bit of time to spare, I bought five Woodbines and walked all the way back to Bradford Station and still had forty five minutes to wait for mi train home. As I sat on the wooden green bench in the station, I smoked a Willie Woodbine and slipped mi arm out of mi donkey jacket so I could take another look at mi new tattoo. It was such a great tattoo that I decided to call her ?Susie.' I was still staring at her when the guard yelled out, "The Bradford-Halifax train will be leaving in two minutes! All aboard!"

Jumping off the bench, I found the smoking carriage and climbed aboard. I found miself a good window seat and made miself as comfortable as possible. I took mi old donkey jacket off and put it across mi legs so I could stare at mi new swallow tattoo all the way home.

I'd timed the whole trip so I would get back to Sawerby Bridge about 4 p.m. This was the time Ryburn School got out, so it would not look out of place, a schoolboy walking around the street instead of being at school.

As I walked up the street to Boston Hill, I ran into a boy I knew from mi class. "Where you been today, Dick?"he sez to me. "Have you been sick?"

"Don't be daft,"I sez. "I went to Bradford."

"What did ya go to Bradford for?"he sez.

"To get a tattoo, of course! Why else would I go all the way to Bradford?"

"Yeh, sure, Dick,"he sez in disbelief.

"Oh, you don't believe me then?"I sez.

"Course I don't. That's an outright lie. You're not old enough for a tattoo, for a start, and your mother would never let you get one!"

"Oh, you think so, eh? Well, what does this look like to you?"I sez, as I slip mi arm out of mi jacket.
"Oh, shit, bloody hell, that's a real tattoo, Dick!"

"Of course it bloody well is. I don't tell lies. Why should I? I've got no reason to."

"What's your mum gonna say when she sees that?"

"I'm not going to show her,"I sez. "Not until it's all healed up, anyway."

"Did it hurt, Dick?"

"No, didn't hurt a bit. It was a piece of cake,"I sez to him.

"Shit, wait until I tell the boys about this. They'll never believe me!"

With that, he ran off to tell all his mates, and I thought to miself, "That'll teach him. Call me a bloody liar, would he? He won't call me that again in a hurry."

Before mi mum got home, I did mi jobs and put a long-sleeved shirt on and buttoned the cuffs down so there was no chance of her seeing mi arms.

After tea, she sez to me, "You can wash up the dishes tonight. I've got another little job for Sheila to do instead of the dishes."

"But that's her job!"I sez. "I've done all my jobs, so why should I do more work?"

"Do as you're bloody well told!"she sez. "And don't argue with me or you'll get what for!"She walked out of the room with Sheila, so I filled the sink with water and put some liquid soap in it, then proceeded to wash the dishes.

When she came back in the kitchen she sez, "Get that bloody long-sleeved shirt off! How the hell can you wash the dishes with that on?"

"I can do it easy!"I sez, keeping mi eyes down towards the sink.

"Get that bloody thing off, I said, before I rip it off!"

Oh, shit! Now what do I do? She's sure to see mi arm now! Maybe, if I keep mi arm towards the wall, she won't see it. Very carefully I removed mi shirt, then slung it over the back of the chair that was behind me. "Don't just throw your bloody shirt like that! Now go and fold it up proper,"she sez. There was naught to do now but to turn around. Maybe she won't notice it, I thought.

"What the bloody hell is that on your arm?"she sez.

"It's a swallow. I drew it on mi arm at school today."

"Then why's your bloody arm so swollen and red?"she sez. "Give me that bloody arm here. Let me have a damn good look at it!"As she grabbed mi arm, I jerked it away.

"It's a tattoo!"I said.

"That's not a bloody tattoo. Tattoos are not swollen like that. Show me your bloody arm before I belt you one!"She grabbed my left arm again and took a closer look. "Where's mi bloody scrubbing brush?"she sez. "I'll soon see whether it's a bloody tattoo or not!"With that, she grabbed the scrubbing brush, dipped it in the soapy washing-up water and proceeded to scrub the fresh tattoo.

"Owwww!"I sez. "Stop it! You're hurting me."

"I'll bloody well hurt you in a minute if I find out that bloody thing won't come off. I'll make ya say bloody ?Ow,' you rotten little bugger!"She scrubbed at it again and now it started to bleed.

So, I yelled at her, "Stop it! You're hurting my arm and now you've made it bleed again!"

"That's a bloody tattoo!"she sez.

"That's what I've been telling you for the last five minutes!"I sez. "You can't scrub it off, 'cause it won't come off. It was put on with a machine and ink!"I sez. With that bit of knowledge I gave her, she flew into a fuming rage. She grabbed the bamboo cane and started to lay into me, everywhere and anywhere she could.

After she tires herself out, she sez, "Who the hell did that to you?"

"I'll never, ever tell you!"I sez. "So you're wasting your time asking me!"

"Right, lad! I'm going to see your teacher tomorrow and then I'm going to see the police to see what can be done about whoever put that thing on your arm!"

"You can't do a thing to him!"I sez. " 'Cause I told him I was sixteen and I have no intention of telling you or anyone else what his name is, so you can do what you like!"With that, I ran out of the house and stayed out 'til ten o'clock that night.

When I got home, the door was locked, so I had to knock on it to get their attention. Jim Bailey opened the door and let me in. "What time do you call this?"he sez, as I walk past him.

"Call it what you like!"I sez in an angry voice. He slammed the door and came after me, so I bounded up the stairs onto the first landing. Then I bounded up my flight of stairs to mi room. As soon as I got inside, I leaned the back of an old chair under the door knob so he could not get in.

"Open this door, lad!"he sez when he's finally ascended both flights of stairs, huffing and puffing.

"Go away!"I sez. "I'm just about sick to death of you and her. Why don't you go and call the police and when they get here I'll tell them everything about you two. By the time I'm finished, you two will get done for cruelty!"

Then mi mum's voice sez, "Open this door, Richard!"

By this time, I was in tears and really upset, so I sez, "Go away, you're worse than he is. At least he's got an excuse 'cause I'm not his son, but you, you've got no excuse whatsoever. I'm sick to death of both of you two. You're both a right pair, and if you don't go away and leave me alone, then I'll open the skylight window and jump off the roof. You'll have to find another mug to take your bad temper out on then. Now get lost! Both of you, 'cause I mean it."

Not a word came from outside mi door for ages. Then mi mum's voice sez, "Come on, open the door, Richard. I'm not angry with you anymore."

"Go away!"I sez, and with that I laid down on mi bed and cried miself into the darkness. As I lost miself in the darkness, nothing seemed to matter anymore. I forgot all about Iris and Jim. I forgot all about mi new tattoo and the police and the headmaster. In mi inner world nothing and no one existed. It was full of miself. It's always been like that for me. Even as a child I always knew the difference between dreams and reality.

The next day at school I was the talk of the playground. "Swindells has got a tattoo on his arm!"someone sez.

One boy sez, "Can I see your tattoo, Dick?"

Another sez, "You think you're a smart one, don't you, Swindells?"

Another said, "My brother has got a tattoo and it's better than yours!"

Another said, "They're all jealous, Dick. Take no bloody notice of them, 'cause they don't have the balls to do it!"

Even some of the teachers sez to me, "Someone told me you have a tattoo, Swindells. Can I see it?"After I show them, they sez, "You've ruined your life now. Why would you do such a stupid thing like that?"

My answer was, "Mi life was already ruined, so what difference would a tattoo make to me, anyway? It's only stupid in your eyes. In my eyes it's all right!"

That first week at school with the tattoo on mi arm pushed a lot of buttons. Some of the girls who used to speak now made a wide berth. Only the tough ones who refused to bend to the teachers' whims, said, "That's a great tattoo. I'm going to get one soon!"

At the end of the week, four boys came up to me and sez, "Hey, Dick, will you take us to Bradford on Saturday so we can all get a tattoo? We'll pay your train fare and give you a few fags."

This request from the boys really pumped mi heart, so I sez, "Sure I will. You don't even have to give me any fags if you don't want to. You can just pay the train fare. I'd love to go with you anyway."

That Saturday, we all went to Bradford on the train. The boys were all talking excitedly about what design tattoo they were going to have put on. When the train arrived, we all walked out of the station and waited for the red double-decker bus which would take us to the other side of town to where Rex's Tattoo Parlour was. When we arrived at Rex's shop, before we all piled inside, I reminded the boys that they were all sixteen-years-of-age now, so not to act childish while we waited for everyone to get a tattoo.

I led the boys back down the long old passageway and, after a sharp left at the end, into Rex's Tattoo Parlour. Rex was sat in his usual position, fag in mouth, machine in hand and busily doing the coloring-in of a small arm tattoo. As soon as we all entered his small room he looked up from his work. "What are ya doing back here so soon? Did yer mother boot ya out of the house?"he sez.

"No, Rex,"I sez. "She wasn't thrilled, but it's not her arm, so there wasn't much she could do about it."

"Where'd ya find this motley crew?"he sez to me.

"They're all mates of mine, Rex. They all want to get a tattoo after seeing the good one ya put on mi arm. So, I brought 'em all here."

"I suppose they're all sixteen as well, are they?"

"Every one of them, Rex,"I sez.

"That little fucker doesn't look like his balls have dropped yet, have they?"This little display of Rex's sense of humor made all the boys laugh a bit. It was just as well because a couple of them I could see were now starting to look a little bit worried as they watched Rex fill in the colour of his customer's tattoo.

Rex's arms were completely covered with the old style tattoos. They looked very much the same as mi dad's tattoos, faded and blurred with age. After Rex finishes colouring in the customer's tattoo, he cleans it up and then sez to me, "Which one of these fuckers is first?"

One of the boys called Johnny Brown, who was considered at school to be a bit of a "toughie,"sez, "I'll go first 'cause I know what I want on."

"All right, sit down,"sez Rex. "Ya got any hair on yer balls yet, lad?"This made the boys laugh out loud again. Then Rex sez to him, "I know none of ya fuckers is sixteen, but if ya tell me ya are when I ask ya, then it's none of mi business from then on. Do ya understand me, lad?"

"Aye,"sez Johnny Brown.

"So, how old are ya, lad?"

"Sixteen,"sez Johnny.

"What tattoo do ya want on?"sez Rex.

"Same as Dick got, but put it on mi right arm, in about the same area,"he sez.

Soon as Rex had shaved his arm and lit another fag, he sez to Johnny, "Hold still and don't move yer arm around if ya want a good tattoo."

"Don't worry about me, Rex,"sez Johnny. "Just make sure ya draw it on good."

Johnny could be a bit of a clever one sometimes, because he was used to pushing kids his own age around, but old Rex just ignored him and started to slide the machine across Brownie's arm.

"Bloody hell, that hurts a bit!"sez Brownie.

"Shut ya fucking winging, lad. I've only just started. That mate of yers who brought ya here never moved a fucking muscle from beginning to end. I haven't got going on ya and yer already fucking crying."This embarrassed Brownie a bit, 'cause Rex never knew of his fighting reputation and Rex didn't give a hoot either. He was a real good old gentleman was Rex. I grew quite fond of him in the relatively short time I knew him.

As Rex was drawing a line for the swallow tail, Brownie yelled out, "Ow! That bloody hurts,"and jerked his arm back a bit.

"Now look what ya've fucking gone and done,"sez Rex, as he wiped away the dark blue ink with his old dirty rag. The swallow's tail had a down bent line instead of a slight upward straight line. The other three boys jumped up to see what had happened to Brownie's tattoo. "Do ya want this fucking tattoo on or not?"sez Rex.

"Course I do,"sez Brownie.

"Then sit fucking still!"sez Rex. "Yer arm has been moving up and down more in the last two minutes than mi dick has moved up and down in the last two years!"This little joke made me and the other three boys laugh out loud again. But Brownie could not see the joke in it, because now he had a swallow with a bent tail feather. By the time Rex had finished Brownie's tattoo, he was not too cocky. He put his money in Rex's tin and sat down quietly on one of the wooden benches, asking one of the other boys if his tattoo still looked all right with a bent tail feather.

"Who's next?"sez Rex.

Tony Steal, who was probably the youngest and definitely the smallest, sez, "I'll go next. Put a swallow on mi arm. Right there will do, please."

"What fucking arm?"sez Rex. "Mi old lady's dog has got a dick fatter than yer arm! How the fucking hell do ya expect me to tattoo bone?"

"Come on, Rex, it's not mi fault I've got skinny arms ya know!"

"The fucking things I do for people,"sez Rex, as he spread some Vaseline on Stealie's arm.

"Aren't you gonna shave it first, Rex?"sez Tony.

"Shave fucking what?"sez Rex. "If I shave a layer of skin off yer arm, there'll be nothing fucking left to put the tattoo on."This made Tony laugh. He was a good kid with a great sense of humor. From the beginning to the end of the tattoo, Tony never hardly flinched. "That's good,"sez Rex.

One of the boys chickened out and decided not to put one on, so the remaining boy, whose name was Selwyn Cheetham, sez, "All right, I'll have one put on."

"What do you want on?"sez Rex.

"How much is that sword up there?"sez Selwyn.

"That's gonna cost ya fifteen bob, 'cause there's a lot more work in that than a small swallow."

"All right, put that on mi left arm,"sez Selwyn. Selwyn only had one sister and his mother and father were not poor, so he always had quite a bit of money in his pocket.

"Put ya fifteen bob in the tin, lad,"sez Rex. "And sit down. It'll take me a few minutes to draw out a transfer, 'cause there's a good bit of detail in that tattoo."

When the transfer was finished, Rex wet Selwyn's arm a bit and pressed the new transfer into place. After about thirty seconds, he peeled the transfer off and it left behind a blue print of the curved sword that Selwyn had picked out. Rex rubs a light film of Vaseline over the transfer and sez to Selwyn, "Are ya ready?"

"Ready,"sez Selwyn.

Rex started to tattoo the ornate head of the sword on Selwyn's arm. Selwyn just sat there, not moving his arm a bit, so I thought, good for you, Selwyn, you're gonna get a great tattoo that way.

After about five minutes, Selwyn started to go white in the face. He was quite a rosy complexioned boy, so I knew something was about to happen. About a minute later, he sez to Rex, "Can you stop for a minute, 'cause I don't feel too well."

Rex looked up from the tattoo and when he saw Selwyn's white face, he sez, "Are ya all right, lad, or do ya always look like that?"

"No,"sez Selwyn, "I think I'm going to be sick!"

"Fucking hell!"sez Rex. "If yer going to be sick, then?"

"BURRRRRRRRP!"Before Rex could get the words out, Selwyn chucked his guts all over Rex's dirty floor!

"Fuck me dead!"sez Rex. "I'm a fucking tattooist not a fucking nursemaid! Take the fat little fucker outside for some fresh air!"he sez to me. Then he points to the other three boys and sez, "One of ya little fuckers had better clean up that fucking mess. There's a mop and bucket over there in that back fucking corner. Now fucking hurry up, 'cause I'm quickly running out of fucking patience!"

Outside, sitting on Rex's window ledge, I sez to Selwyn, "Are you all right, Selly?"

"OHHHHH!"he sez. "I'm not feeling real good. Mi stomach is a bit upset."

It was really difficult for me to stop laughing, so, between laughs, I sez to Selwyn, "Come on, Selly, you've got to pull yourself together or you'll have wasted your money and you'll only have the handle of the sword on your arm and no blade to go with it."

"Maybe Rex can make the blade look like it's disappeared under the skin?"he sez.

"No, it's too late now,"I sez. "Look at it, there's not really a great deal left to do. Come on. Let's go back inside."

When we got back inside, Rex was sat in his chair smoking a new Senior Service. The puke had been mopped up and there was a strong smell of Detol on the floor. It was obvious where Selwyn had spewed-up because there was a large clean spot on the floor. The rest of it was dirty. When Selwyn sits back down in the chair, Rex sez to him, "Can we carry on now, or would ya like a fucking bucket at the side of the chair?"This little joke made me almost pee miself with laughter!

Selwyn sez, "I should be all right but I'll let you know if I'm not."

"That's really fucking kind of ya,"sez Rex. "If everybody else that came into mi shop was as kind as ya are, mi whole fucking floor would be clean. I'd never have to fucking mop it again! Bring that mop bucket over here! I don't fucking trust this fat little fucker."

Once the bucket was in place next to the chair, Rex started the machine and carried on with Selwyn's tattoo. There were a couple of close calls throughout the process but somehow Selwyn got himself through it all right. Before we left Rex's Tattoo Parlour, I thanked him very much and apologized for Selwyn on his behalf. All Rex could say was, "I appreciate ya bringing me some business in but don't bring anymore fuckers like that. Those fuckers shouldn't have been let off their mothers' apron strings. Not for at least another five years!"

Going home on the train from Bradford, we all had a great laugh at the rerun of the afternoon's fun. The four boys teased each other mercilessly for the whole of the train journey.

No one else ever put shit on me at school over mi tattoos from that day forward because the four boys told the other kids just how painful it was for them. But by the time I left Ryburn School, at least twenty boys had a lifelong memory of Rex Stoker's Tattoo Parlour in Bradford City.

DICK-LAD THE DENTIST

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Mi sister Sandra sez to me, "My tooths sore Richard and it's loose as well, but it won't come out."
"Which one is it?"
"This one at front."
"Let me have a look"
"No, you'll hurt it."
"I promise I wont. I just want to see it."
She opened her mouth to show me and I sez, "Which one is it?" She touched the one that was loose and I saw it wiggle.
"Pull it out.", I sez
"No, it's sore."
"Don't be a big baby."
(She must have been all of 4 - 1/2 years by then)
"I'm not a big baby, I'm grown up now."
"Then let me pull it out for ya."
"How ya gonna do it?"
"I'll get mi dads' pliers, that'll get it out fast."
"All right.", she sez, timidly.
When she saw me coming with mi dads' big rusty pliers she started crying again.
"Don't be a softy! It won't hurt a bit."
That made her cry even more. It also made her jump up and down in one spot. I knew she wasn't going to agree to this game so I had to use mi head and come up with something a bit more creative and less scary.
By this time I'd made up mi mind, 'that tooth is coming out somehow!' Now another brain wave.
"I know what we'll do and it won't hurt a bit."
"What?"
I went into mi mums' sewing box and got out a bobbin of black cotton and put a slip knot in one end and tied 'tuther end to kitchen door.
"Is it going to hurt?", she sez
"No, I won't feel a thing.", I sez to her.
"Alright but if it hurts, you're not doing it!"
"Look here, you look in mums big mirror and put this slip knot over your loose tooth and when you've done that, I'll tie 'tuther end to kitchen door knob."
After that part of the operation was done I said to her, "Now you stand here and I'll push door open."
She was standing there looking at the door with her eyes wide open. Fear was all over her face.
"Don't look. Close your eyes and you won't feel a thing. It'll be out before you know it."
Soon as she closed her eyes, I opened kitchen door with a 'whoosh!' She gave a yelp and started to cry. When I examined the end of mi mums' cotton I found no tooth. The cotton had snapped right in the middle.
"You hurt me! I'm going to tell our mum on you when she gets home."
"Don't be a softie. I got another brain wave coming up."
After a lot of persuasion, by reminding her of all the sweets she could buy with the tanner (a sixpence...a nickle) from the fairies, she agreed to to my next brain wave. I went into the feed bins and I found some good strong string. It was thin enough to go around the tooth and strong enough not to break. 'This time.", I thought.
I knew she wouldn't agree to another go after this one so this one had to be it.
"Come over here and sit in mi dads' chair. Now, you put this slip knot over your front tooth, alright?"
She agreed. So far so good.
"What you gonna do with the other end? You're not going to tie it to kitchen door again?"
"No I got a better idea now. I'll make Dinah sit in front of you and we'll tie 'tuther end around her neck."
"Will it hurt?"
"Not a bit and Dinah will get to help. She'll have some fun too."
I called Dinah over. Over she came, wagging her tail, always willing to please she was.
"Now Dinah, you sit down here. That's a good girl."
After she sat down with her back to mi sister, I tied 'tuther end of string around her neck. Everything was all set.
"Now, listen to me Sandra. You hang on to arms of mi dads' chair and don't let go."
"Don't hurt me Richard or I'll tell mum on you!"
"Don't worry Sandra, you won't feel a thing. Alright Dinah, you stay there and don't move till I tell you."
Dinah was a well-trained dog and she loved being part of our games. Next, I slowly walked backwards till I reached the back wall.
"Come here Dinah, look what I got you lass!"
Dinah bounds forward. I showed her a dog biscuit. She loved 'em.
'PING!' out came tooth.
"Done it!", I yells with glee and pride.
"WAHHHHHHH!", goes mi sister as blood starts to trickle down her lip. "You said it wouldn't hurt. You promised it wouldn't hurt!"
"Well, It's out now. It won't hurt anymore."
The tooth was hanging by a bit 'a skin sticking out over the bottom of her lip. It was so loose she pulled it out her 'sen. From then on she didn't need my help.
Dinah was sat right in front of me waiting for her biscuit.
When mi mum got home and saw mi sister with a gap in her bottom teeth she asked what happened. After she heard the story from mi other sister, she gave me one of her looks, muttered under her breath and said to Sandra, "Bigger bloody fool you!"
That night the fairies came to get the tooth from under her pillow in exchange for a tanner.

Sunday, March 27, 2011

MI FIRST TATTOO ©

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I was about 13 now, so I decided it was time for mi first tattoo. You may wonder where such a strange thought would come from, especially from a 13-year-old. Well, I'd grown up looking at tattoos all mi life see, 'cause mi dad had three on his arms. He'd had them put on when he was a young man, just after he came out of the army. I guess he was so pleased to be alive after going through WWI, that a tattoo was a way of celebrating life. On one arm he had a young woman wrapped only in a Union Jack flag. Her right leg was slightly raised as she balanced on a world globe. On the other arm, he had another nude woman, standing straight-legged, holding two flag poles in front of her so one couldn't see her breasts. Underneath that, on the wrist area, he had a heart with two hands in the "hands across the water"pose.

I'd asked mi dad many a time, "Did those tattoos hurt, Dad?"

"Not much,"he sez.

"How did they put them on, Dad?"

"With sharp bamboo needles,"he sez.

"How long have they been on, Dad?"

"Fifty bloody years!"he sez. "I put 'em on when I was young and bloody stupid."

The following week I met a 16-year-old boy who used to go to Ryburn school. When I saw that he had a new tattoo on his arm I asked him where he got it from. "Rex Stokers in Bradford,"he sez.

"Why's it all covered in scabs?"I sez to him.

"All tattoos do that,"he sez. "But you haven't got to knock the scabs off, 'cause the colour will come out if you do."All I needed to know was where the tattoo parlour was. So, I made sure I had the directions right before we parted company.

By this time, I'd been allowed to get a pair of denim jeans, after much arguing and many fall outs with mi mum. Had it been up to her, I'd have been in short trousers until I was 21. This way she probably thought it would give her control and power over me.

That week I took a day off school. I waited until Iris had gone off to work, then I came home from where I'd been hiding out. I got into my jeans and put on a pair of hobnailed boots, a white T-shirt and mi old donkey jacket. Slicking mi hair back in the Teddy boy fashion, I now looked a couple of years older, or so I thought! That's it, I thought, as I stood in front of the mirror, putting the final touches to mi hair. I made mi way down to Sawerby Bridge train station and bought a cheap half return to Bradford.

It took me quite a while to find the place because: number one, the boy I'd met didn't give me very good instructions, and, number two, Bradford was the biggest city I'd ever seen, up 'til that point. I stopped a working man outside Bradford station and he sez, "The street you're looking for is way up the other end of town."

"How long will it take to walk there?"I sez.

"It'll take about an hour if ya walking, but you'd be better off taking a bus ?cause it's a bit difficult to find from here."I'd saved up mi shillings and mi dad had given me 5 bob which to me was a small fortune. So, it wasn't a case of not having the bus fare, it was more a case of value for money.

After thinking about it for a while, I decided to get the bus halfway and I'd walk the rest of the way. Eventually, after about 1 1/2 hours, I found myself sanding outside the tattoo parlour. The sign read:

REX STOKER TATTOO PARLOUR

In the window there were three large boards with tattoo art all over them. The only problem was that the shop window was so dirty from all the coal dust and smog that I could not see them in any detail. I spat on his window and rubbed it with the sleeve of mi old donkey jacket, but all that did was smear the greazy grime all over the place and make it worse.

I was having a few doubts now, 'cause I'd been pricked by needles before when a couple of mi friends and me tried to put on a home-made job with the school nibs and the Indian ink out of the desk ink pot.

Five or six times I tried to go in the door but, each time I tried, Fear stopped me before I could push the door open. "What are you going to do if it hurts?"said Fear. "And what happens if you get halfway through it and can't stand the pain any longer? And if you can stand it and get it on, what's your mum going to say?"The voice of Fear was in full swing now, trying desperately to control me.

Then the voice of Freedom sez, "Screw him, of course you can stand the pain. You're a tough nut just like ya dad, and who gives a shit what Iris sez. Once it's on, it's on. How's anybody going to get it off? And how long do you think you could live with yourself if you chicken out now? Just think what it would be like going home on the train with no tattoo. Screw Fear and screw your mother too!!! It's not her arm. So what say does she have in the matter, anyway? Screw 'em all! If you want to get a tattoo, then get one and that's all I have to say about the matter!!!"

That was all I needed to hear. So, I marched up to his dirty, half-glass door and pushed it open. The door opened into a long passageway and the walls were covered with large drawings of tattoos. I didn't take much notice of them so I wouldn't get distracted, which I knew would give rise to hesitation and, in turn, the voice of Fear would try to grab me again. So, I just kept going until I reached the far doorway where I could hear the radio and the low buzzing sound coming from inside.

There was only one door which was in the left-hand corner of the passage. It was wide open, so I puffed out mi chest and walked straight in. "What can I do for you?"sez Rex Stoker looking up from the tattoo he was wiping with a dirty old rag.

"I come for a tattoo!"I sez to him.

"How old are you young 'un?"he sez.

"Just sixteen,"I sez. "Why? How old do I have to be before I can get a tattoo?"

"Sixteen,"he sez. "Are you sure you're sixteen? You don't look sixteen to me!"

"I'm sixteen,"I sez. "I'm working as a driver's mate. I've been left school for twelve months now."
"All right, lad, if you say you're sixteen, then you're sixteen. I'm asking because I don't want your mother coming down to my shop and getting me into trouble, all right?"

"All right,"I sez.

"Have a look around and see what you want on. I'll be done here in about half an hour."

Rex Stoker was a man of about sixty years of age. He was mostly bald and had a fat face with large jowls and a couple of double chins. He wore thick bifocals and a cigarette was always hanging out of the corner of his mouth, with a long bent ash just about to fall on his ink-covered trousers.

The young Teddy boy who was sat in the old barber's chair was having an eagle tattooed on his right arm. As soon as Rex's cigarette was too small to hold between his lips, he spat it out on the floor and with one hand he lit up another. The rag that Rex was wiping away the blue ink and blood with, looked to me like a piece of old pajama leg. There was no such thing as Kleenex tissues or paper towels in those days. Even the toilet paper was rough and hard. So, the old rags served the purpose quite well. The fashionable Teddy boy who sat in the chair kept wincing his face in pain every so often, usually when the needle went into the skin.

"Does it hurt?"I sez.

"No, can't feel a thing,"he sez, his fingers trembling on the arm of the chair.

"It's a good job it doesn't hurt,"I thought, or you'd be hanging off the light bulb by now!

"Have you found something you like?"sez Rex Stoker, as I look up at all the small ink drawings that are hanging on the walls.

"How much is this swallow?"I sez, pointing to a beautiful red and blue swallow.

"I'll do that one for half-a-crown,"sez Rex.

"All right, that sounds good enough for me,"I sez.

When Rex had finishes the Teddy boy's arm, he sez, "All right, lad, sit ya self down and take off yer jacket. Roll ya sleeve up as far as it will go. Don't want to get ink all over ya white T-shirt,"he sez. "Now, whereabouts do you want it?"he sez.

"On mi left arm,"I sez. "You can put it about there somewhere."

Next, Rex got out an old cut-throat razor, then dipped an old worn shaving brush into a pot of cold water. "I'm going to shave off whatever bit of hair ya got growing there!"he sez, as he sloshes the soapy shaving brush around mi arm in small circles. Next, he gave the old cut-throat razor a few slaps up and down the old leather strap. "I've got more hair on mi arse than ya got on ya whole arm!"sez Rex, as he scrapes off a few blond hairs.

Next, he smeared some white Vaseline on mi arm. Then he picked up the tattoo gun and turned on the radio. The louder he turned up the radio, the faster the needle in the gun seemed to go. When the volume was just as he wanted it, he dipped the tattoo machine in the dirty water and swished it around a few times. Then he shook the machine up and down at his side to get the murky water out of it.

"Don't you need a tracing?"I sez.

"I've done more swallows than ya've had fucks!"he sez as he dips the needle into the ink pot. "Now, this might hurt a bit, so hold still if you want a good tattoo!"he sez.

Oh, shit, I thought. Why did mi dad have to have tattoos on his arms? If he didn't have any, I probably wouldn't want one. But it's too late to turn back now!

"Here we go!"sez Rex, as he pushes the needles in mi arm and proceeds to draw a curved blue line. "How's that feel, lad? Ya all right?"

"Aye,"I sez. "It's not half as bad as I thought it would be!"

"Oh, it will be over before ya know it, lad. This is only a small tattoo."

"How do you know where you're drawing? All I can see is a big patch of dark blue ink everywhere,"I sez.

"I've been tattooing for nearly forty years,"he sez. "I could do it in mi sleep."As the tattoo needle bit into mi skin, I could feel a slight burning sensation, but I kept mi arm motionless because I really wanted a good tattoo. "Yer doing much better than that bloody Teddy boy who was just here,"sez Rex. "I thought he was going to climb up the back of mi old barber's chair for a while there."

After a while, he sez, "That's it, lad. That's the outline done. Have a rest for a minute while I light another fag and wash out mi machine. Then we'll put a bit of colour into it."

"Can you spare a fag for me, Rex?"I sez.

"Aye, all right lad, but I don't usually hand out mi fags. If ya'd have asked for mi missus, that would have been no problem, but mi fags are more important. Here ya are then, but don't ask for another one!"

"Thanks, Rex, you're a real pal,"I sez, as I lit the Senior Service.

"All right, hold still again, and we'll put a bit of red on its chest and a bit more red at the end of its wing feathers,"he sez. "And that should just about do it."Rex smeared on a bit more Vaseline and started to add a touch of red to the now swollen tattoo. A few minutes later he sez, "That's it! That's good enough for me."

After he cleaned up mi arm with his dirty old ink rag and then cleaned it all off with soapy water and a dry towel, mi first tattoo looked great! The lines all looked perfect to me, and the touch of red on the swallow's chest made her come alive.

"That'll be half a crown,"sez Rex. "Chuck it in the tin so I can pay mi rent again when it's due."

"Thanks, Rex,"I sez. "It's a real beauty. I like it a lot!"

"Try not to get it dirty and put a bit of cream on it every day for a week and don't pick the scabs off when they come or some of the colour may come out. Have ya got that?"

"Aye,"I sez, as I put mi old donkey jacket back on.

Just as I was about to walk out of his shop, he sez to me, "Hey!"

"What?"I sez.

"I know yer not sixteen, so if your mum hits the bloody roof, don't tell her who did it for ya. I'm an old man now and tattooing is my only source of bread and butter. If they closed me down, I'd be knackered. I put the tattoo on for ya because I like ya and I know how much it meant to you. So, not a bloody word to anyone, eh?"

"Not a bloody word to anyone, Rex,"I sez, walking out of his shop.

Soon as I was back out on the street again, and I'd checked to make sure no one was watching, I jumped up in the air as high as I could, clicked mi hobnailed boots together twice and then landed on both feet again.

Seeing as I had quite a bit of time to spare, I bought five Woodbines and walked all the way back to Bradford Station and still had forty five minutes to wait for mi train home. As I sat on the wooden green bench in the station, I smoked a Willie Woodbine and slipped mi arm out of mi donkey jacket so I could take another look at mi new tattoo. It was such a great tattoo that I decided to call her ?Susie.' I was still staring at her when the guard yelled out, "The Bradford-Halifax train will be leaving in two minutes! All aboard!"

Jumping off the bench, I found the smoking carriage and climbed aboard. I found miself a good window seat and made miself as comfortable as possible. I took mi old donkey jacket off and put it across mi legs so I could stare at mi new swallow tattoo all the way home.

I'd timed the whole trip so I would get back to Sawerby Bridge about 4 p.m. This was the time Ryburn School got out, so it would not look out of place, a schoolboy walking around the street instead of being at school.

As I walked up the street to Boston Hill, I ran into a boy I knew from mi class. "Where you been today, Dick?"he sez to me. "Have you been sick?"

"Don't be daft,"I sez. "I went to Bradford."

"What did ya go to Bradford for?"he sez.

"To get a tattoo, of course! Why else would I go all the way to Bradford?"

"Yeh, sure, Dick,"he sez in disbelief.

"Oh, you don't believe me then?"I sez.

"Course I don't. That's an outright lie. You're not old enough for a tattoo, for a start, and your mother would never let you get one!"

"Oh, you think so, eh? Well, what does this look like to you?"I sez, as I slip mi arm out of mi jacket.
"Oh, shit, bloody hell, that's a real tattoo, Dick!"

"Of course it bloody well is. I don't tell lies. Why should I? I've got no reason to."

"What's your mum gonna say when she sees that?"

"I'm not going to show her,"I sez. "Not until it's all healed up, anyway."

"Did it hurt, Dick?"

"No, didn't hurt a bit. It was a piece of cake,"I sez to him.

"Shit, wait until I tell the boys about this. They'll never believe me!"

With that, he ran off to tell all his mates, and I thought to miself, "That'll teach him. Call me a bloody liar, would he? He won't call me that again in a hurry."

Before mi mum got home, I did mi jobs and put a long-sleeved shirt on and buttoned the cuffs down so there was no chance of her seeing mi arms.

After tea, she sez to me, "You can wash up the dishes tonight. I've got another little job for Sheila to do instead of the dishes."

"But that's her job!"I sez. "I've done all my jobs, so why should I do more work?"

"Do as you're bloody well told!"she sez. "And don't argue with me or you'll get what for!"She walked out of the room with Sheila, so I filled the sink with water and put some liquid soap in it, then proceeded to wash the dishes.

When she came back in the kitchen she sez, "Get that bloody long-sleeved shirt off! How the hell can you wash the dishes with that on?"

"I can do it easy!"I sez, keeping mi eyes down towards the sink.

"Get that bloody thing off, I said, before I rip it off!"

Oh, shit! Now what do I do? She's sure to see mi arm now! Maybe, if I keep mi arm towards the wall, she won't see it. Very carefully I removed mi shirt, then slung it over the back of the chair that was behind me. "Don't just throw your bloody shirt like that! Now go and fold it up proper,"she sez. There was naught to do now but to turn around. Maybe she won't notice it, I thought.

"What the bloody hell is that on your arm?"she sez.

"It's a swallow. I drew it on mi arm at school today."

"Then why's your bloody arm so swollen and red?"she sez. "Give me that bloody arm here. Let me have a damn good look at it!"As she grabbed mi arm, I jerked it away.

"It's a tattoo!"I said.

"That's not a bloody tattoo. Tattoos are not swollen like that. Show me your bloody arm before I belt you one!"She grabbed my left arm again and took a closer look. "Where's mi bloody scrubbing brush?"she sez. "I'll soon see whether it's a bloody tattoo or not!"With that, she grabbed the scrubbing brush, dipped it in the soapy washing-up water and proceeded to scrub the fresh tattoo.

"Owwww!"I sez. "Stop it! You're hurting me."

"I'll bloody well hurt you in a minute if I find out that bloody thing won't come off. I'll make ya say bloody ?Ow,' you rotten little bugger!"She scrubbed at it again and now it started to bleed.

So, I yelled at her, "Stop it! You're hurting my arm and now you've made it bleed again!"

"That's a bloody tattoo!"she sez.

"That's what I've been telling you for the last five minutes!"I sez. "You can't scrub it off, 'cause it won't come off. It was put on with a machine and ink!"I sez. With that bit of knowledge I gave her, she flew into a fuming rage. She grabbed the bamboo cane and started to lay into me, everywhere and anywhere she could.

After she tires herself out, she sez, "Who the hell did that to you?"

"I'll never, ever tell you!"I sez. "So you're wasting your time asking me!"

"Right, lad! I'm going to see your teacher tomorrow and then I'm going to see the police to see what can be done about whoever put that thing on your arm!"

"You can't do a thing to him!"I sez. " 'Cause I told him I was sixteen and I have no intention of telling you or anyone else what his name is, so you can do what you like!"With that, I ran out of the house and stayed out 'til ten o'clock that night.

When I got home, the door was locked, so I had to knock on it to get their attention. Jim Bailey opened the door and let me in. "What time do you call this?"he sez, as I walk past him.

"Call it what you like!"I sez in an angry voice. He slammed the door and came after me, so I bounded up the stairs onto the first landing. Then I bounded up my flight of stairs to mi room. As soon as I got inside, I leaned the back of an old chair under the door knob so he could not get in.

"Open this door, lad!"he sez when he's finally ascended both flights of stairs, huffing and puffing.

"Go away!"I sez. "I'm just about sick to death of you and her. Why don't you go and call the police and when they get here I'll tell them everything about you two. By the time I'm finished, you two will get done for cruelty!"

Then mi mum's voice sez, "Open this door, Richard!"

By this time, I was in tears and really upset, so I sez, "Go away, you're worse than he is. At least he's got an excuse 'cause I'm not his son, but you, you've got no excuse whatsoever. I'm sick to death of both of you two. You're both a right pair, and if you don't go away and leave me alone, then I'll open the skylight window and jump off the roof. You'll have to find another mug to take your bad temper out on then. Now get lost! Both of you, 'cause I mean it."

Not a word came from outside mi door for ages. Then mi mum's voice sez, "Come on, open the door, Richard. I'm not angry with you anymore."

"Go away!"I sez, and with that I laid down on mi bed and cried miself into the darkness. As I lost miself in the darkness, nothing seemed to matter anymore. I forgot all about Iris and Jim. I forgot all about mi new tattoo and the police and the headmaster. In mi inner world nothing and no one existed. It was full of miself. It's always been like that for me. Even as a child I always knew the difference between dreams and reality.

The next day at school I was the talk of the playground. "Swindells has got a tattoo on his arm!"someone sez.

One boy sez, "Can I see your tattoo, Dick?"

Another sez, "You think you're a smart one, don't you, Swindells?"

Another said, "My brother has got a tattoo and it's better than yours!"

Another said, "They're all jealous, Dick. Take no bloody notice of them, 'cause they don't have the balls to do it!"

Even some of the teachers sez to me, "Someone told me you have a tattoo, Swindells. Can I see it?"After I show them, they sez, "You've ruined your life now. Why would you do such a stupid thing like that?"

My answer was, "Mi life was already ruined, so what difference would a tattoo make to me, anyway? It's only stupid in your eyes. In my eyes it's all right!"

That first week at school with the tattoo on mi arm pushed a lot of buttons. Some of the girls who used to speak now made a wide berth. Only the tough ones who refused to bend to the teachers' whims, said, "That's a great tattoo. I'm going to get one soon!"

At the end of the week, four boys came up to me and sez, "Hey, Dick, will you take us to Bradford on Saturday so we can all get a tattoo? We'll pay your train fare and give you a few fags."

This request from the boys really pumped mi heart, so I sez, "Sure I will. You don't even have to give me any fags if you don't want to. You can just pay the train fare. I'd love to go with you anyway."

That Saturday, we all went to Bradford on the train. The boys were all talking excitedly about what design tattoo they were going to have put on. When the train arrived, we all walked out of the station and waited for the red double-decker bus which would take us to the other side of town to where Rex's Tattoo Parlour was. When we arrived at Rex's shop, before we all piled inside, I reminded the boys that they were all sixteen-years-of-age now, so not to act childish while we waited for everyone to get a tattoo.

I led the boys back down the long old passageway and, after a sharp left at the end, into Rex's Tattoo Parlour. Rex was sat in his usual position, fag in mouth, machine in hand and busily doing the coloring-in of a small arm tattoo. As soon as we all entered his small room he looked up from his work. "What are ya doing back here so soon? Did yer mother boot ya out of the house?"he sez.

"No, Rex,"I sez. "She wasn't thrilled, but it's not her arm, so there wasn't much she could do about it."

"Where'd ya find this motley crew?"he sez to me.

"They're all mates of mine, Rex. They all want to get a tattoo after seeing the good one ya put on mi arm. So, I brought 'em all here."

"I suppose they're all sixteen as well, are they?"

"Every one of them, Rex,"I sez.

"That little fucker doesn't look like his balls have dropped yet, have they?"This little display of Rex's sense of humor made all the boys laugh a bit. It was just as well because a couple of them I could see were now starting to look a little bit worried as they watched Rex fill in the colour of his customer's tattoo.

Rex's arms were completely covered with the old style tattoos. They looked very much the same as mi dad's tattoos, faded and blurred with age. After Rex finishes colouring in the customer's tattoo, he cleans it up and then sez to me, "Which one of these fuckers is first?"

One of the boys called Johnny Brown, who was considered at school to be a bit of a "toughie,"sez, "I'll go first 'cause I know what I want on."

"All right, sit down,"sez Rex. "Ya got any hair on yer balls yet, lad?"This made the boys laugh out loud again. Then Rex sez to him, "I know none of ya fuckers is sixteen, but if ya tell me ya are when I ask ya, then it's none of mi business from then on. Do ya understand me, lad?"

"Aye,"sez Johnny Brown.

"So, how old are ya, lad?"

"Sixteen,"sez Johnny.

"What tattoo do ya want on?"sez Rex.

"Same as Dick got, but put it on mi right arm, in about the same area,"he sez.

Soon as Rex had shaved his arm and lit another fag, he sez to Johnny, "Hold still and don't move yer arm around if ya want a good tattoo."

"Don't worry about me, Rex,"sez Johnny. "Just make sure ya draw it on good."

Johnny could be a bit of a clever one sometimes, because he was used to pushing kids his own age around, but old Rex just ignored him and started to slide the machine across Brownie's arm.

"Bloody hell, that hurts a bit!"sez Brownie.

"Shut ya fucking winging, lad. I've only just started. That mate of yers who brought ya here never moved a fucking muscle from beginning to end. I haven't got going on ya and yer already fucking crying."This embarrassed Brownie a bit, 'cause Rex never knew of his fighting reputation and Rex didn't give a hoot either. He was a real good old gentleman was Rex. I grew quite fond of him in the relatively short time I knew him.

As Rex was drawing a line for the swallow tail, Brownie yelled out, "Ow! That bloody hurts,"and jerked his arm back a bit.

"Now look what ya've fucking gone and done,"sez Rex, as he wiped away the dark blue ink with his old dirty rag. The swallow's tail had a down bent line instead of a slight upward straight line. The other three boys jumped up to see what had happened to Brownie's tattoo. "Do ya want this fucking tattoo on or not?"sez Rex.

"Course I do,"sez Brownie.

"Then sit fucking still!"sez Rex. "Yer arm has been moving up and down more in the last two minutes than mi dick has moved up and down in the last two years!"This little joke made me and the other three boys laugh out loud again. But Brownie could not see the joke in it, because now he had a swallow with a bent tail feather. By the time Rex had finished Brownie's tattoo, he was not too cocky. He put his money in Rex's tin and sat down quietly on one of the wooden benches, asking one of the other boys if his tattoo still looked all right with a bent tail feather.

"Who's next?"sez Rex.

Tony Steal, who was probably the youngest and definitely the smallest, sez, "I'll go next. Put a swallow on mi arm. Right there will do, please."

"What fucking arm?"sez Rex. "Mi old lady's dog has got a dick fatter than yer arm! How the fucking hell do ya expect me to tattoo bone?"

"Come on, Rex, it's not mi fault I've got skinny arms ya know!"

"The fucking things I do for people,"sez Rex, as he spread some Vaseline on Stealie's arm.

"Aren't you gonna shave it first, Rex?"sez Tony.

"Shave fucking what?"sez Rex. "If I shave a layer of skin off yer arm, there'll be nothing fucking left to put the tattoo on."This made Tony laugh. He was a good kid with a great sense of humor. From the beginning to the end of the tattoo, Tony never hardly flinched. "That's good,"sez Rex.

One of the boys chickened out and decided not to put one on, so the remaining boy, whose name was Selwyn Cheetham, sez, "All right, I'll have one put on."

"What do you want on?"sez Rex.

"How much is that sword up there?"sez Selwyn.

"That's gonna cost ya fifteen bob, 'cause there's a lot more work in that than a small swallow."

"All right, put that on mi left arm,"sez Selwyn. Selwyn only had one sister and his mother and father were not poor, so he always had quite a bit of money in his pocket.

"Put ya fifteen bob in the tin, lad,"sez Rex. "And sit down. It'll take me a few minutes to draw out a transfer, 'cause there's a good bit of detail in that tattoo."

When the transfer was finished, Rex wet Selwyn's arm a bit and pressed the new transfer into place. After about thirty seconds, he peeled the transfer off and it left behind a blue print of the curved sword that Selwyn had picked out. Rex rubs a light film of Vaseline over the transfer and sez to Selwyn, "Are ya ready?"

"Ready,"sez Selwyn.

Rex started to tattoo the ornate head of the sword on Selwyn's arm. Selwyn just sat there, not moving his arm a bit, so I thought, good for you, Selwyn, you're gonna get a great tattoo that way.

After about five minutes, Selwyn started to go white in the face. He was quite a rosy complexioned boy, so I knew something was about to happen. About a minute later, he sez to Rex, "Can you stop for a minute, 'cause I don't feel too well."

Rex looked up from the tattoo and when he saw Selwyn's white face, he sez, "Are ya all right, lad, or do ya always look like that?"

"No,"sez Selwyn, "I think I'm going to be sick!"

"Fucking hell!"sez Rex. "If yer going to be sick, then?"

"BURRRRRRRRP!"Before Rex could get the words out, Selwyn chucked his guts all over Rex's dirty floor!

"Fuck me dead!"sez Rex. "I'm a fucking tattooist not a fucking nursemaid! Take the fat little fucker outside for some fresh air!"he sez to me. Then he points to the other three boys and sez, "One of ya little fuckers had better clean up that fucking mess. There's a mop and bucket over there in that back fucking corner. Now fucking hurry up, 'cause I'm quickly running out of fucking patience!"

Outside, sitting on Rex's window ledge, I sez to Selwyn, "Are you all right, Selly?"

"OHHHHH!"he sez. "I'm not feeling real good. Mi stomach is a bit upset."

It was really difficult for me to stop laughing, so, between laughs, I sez to Selwyn, "Come on, Selly, you've got to pull yourself together or you'll have wasted your money and you'll only have the handle of the sword on your arm and no blade to go with it."

"Maybe Rex can make the blade look like it's disappeared under the skin?"he sez.

"No, it's too late now,"I sez. "Look at it, there's not really a great deal left to do. Come on. Let's go back inside."

When we got back inside, Rex was sat in his chair smoking a new Senior Service. The puke had been mopped up and there was a strong smell of Detol on the floor. It was obvious where Selwyn had spewed-up because there was a large clean spot on the floor. The rest of it was dirty. When Selwyn sits back down in the chair, Rex sez to him, "Can we carry on now, or would ya like a fucking bucket at the side of the chair?"This little joke made me almost pee miself with laughter!

Selwyn sez, "I should be all right but I'll let you know if I'm not."

"That's really fucking kind of ya,"sez Rex. "If everybody else that came into mi shop was as kind as ya are, mi whole fucking floor would be clean. I'd never have to fucking mop it again! Bring that mop bucket over here! I don't fucking trust this fat little fucker."

Once the bucket was in place next to the chair, Rex started the machine and carried on with Selwyn's tattoo. There were a couple of close calls throughout the process but somehow Selwyn got himself through it all right. Before we left Rex's Tattoo Parlour, I thanked him very much and apologized for Selwyn on his behalf. All Rex could say was, "I appreciate ya bringing me some business in but don't bring anymore fuckers like that. Those fuckers shouldn't have been let off their mothers' apron strings. Not for at least another five years!"

Going home on the train from Bradford, we all had a great laugh at the rerun of the afternoon's fun. The four boys teased each other mercilessly for the whole of the train journey.

No one else ever put shit on me at school over mi tattoos from that day forward because the four boys told the other kids just how painful it was for them. But by the time I left Ryburn School, at least twenty boys had a lifelong memory of Rex Stoker's Tattoo Parlour in Bradford City.

Thursday, August 20, 2009

DEALING WITH A BULLY ©



Xmas was on its way again so mi mum asked me and mi sisters what we would like for the occasion.
"I want a Brindle Greyhound for Xmas so I can go rabbiting on the moors." I said.
"You're getting no bloody Brindle Greyhound out of me!" sez Iris.
"Then why bother to ask me what I want?"
This type of conversation went backwards and forwards all the way up till a couple of weeks before Xmas.
One evening, Iris said to me, "You can have a Springer Spaniel if you want a dog but I'm not buying a bloody Greyhound. They look like they've never been fed for a bloody month of Sundays!"
I was not interested in a Springer Spaniel but that's what they decided to buy me for Xmas so I just had to make the best of it. I picked the puppy up from the station on the 24th of December. Although I did not want a Springer Spaniel, it was a bit hard not to like it when I opened the crate and it ran out and licked my face. It was so happy to be out of the crate as it ran around in small circles not knowing what to do.
Over the months, Raja grew into a fine dog but my heart was never in him because I always wanted a Greyhound. 'Spaniels are not bad dogs.' I thought but they're no use at catching rabbits. During the day when we were at school and Iris and Jim were at work, Raja lived downstairs in the large cellar room. It was a great big room with a concrete slab floor and a sliding window, which let lots of light in for him.

At around this time, I had devised another business scheme where I could make misen a good few bob as the price of cigarettes and sweets was always going up. Ryburn School used to run a school lunch program. Every child who wanted to eat the school dinners could do so for 5/- a week. Some kids used to live quite close to the school so they would usually go home for dinners. Boston Street was about a 15 minute run from Ryburn School. Unbeknownst to mi mother, I decided to keep mi 5/- dinner money and run home of a lunch time and make misen a cup of tea and some toast and jam. Now I had 5 bob a week extra to survive on. After I had been doing this for about a month I had another hair-brained scheme which I presented to a few of the boys who used to smoke behind the back of the Gym.

"This is how it works." I said "You all get 5 bob a week from your mothers for your school dinner, so every Monday morning, instead of paying the 5 bob to the class teacher you can pay me 2/6d and keep 2/6d for yourselves and out of the 2/6d you pay me you can come down to mi mothers place and I'll make you all 4 pieces of toast with margarine and raspberry jam on it. Oh, and one pot of tea between however many of you decide to come."
"That's not a bad idea Dick Lad." Said one boy. "4 pieces of toast and jam will be much tastier than those rotten school dinners and I'll have half-a-crown a week left for fags. I'll start next Monday!"
Before the following Monday morning had rolled around I had signed up 4 boys for my school dinner scheme. When Monday mornings arrived, each boy gave me half-a-crown, which meant I had collected 10 bob plus I own 5 bob dinner money. That meant I now had 15 bob in mi pocket. I was rich, beyond my imagination.
There was about 20 large slices in a loaf of bread. I had already figured out that I could feed all 4 boys for a cost of about 4 bob a week. 15/- minus 4 bob expenses would leave me with 11 bob a week, clear profit!

The first Monday we all met a pre-arranged area in the playground and as soon as all 4 boys were present we took off at a fast run down to mi mums house. Before we got to the top of Boston Street I told the boys that they were to go down to the front door of the house because most of the neighbors lived in the back kitchens during the day and I didn't want nosy neighbors telling mi mum that a bunch of schoolboys were seen entering her premises when she was away at work. I made each boy 4 pieces of toast and jam and a cup of Liptons' tea. After everyone was finished, I cleaned the place up so mi mum would not know, then we made our way slowly back up the hill to school, smoking and laughing and having a good old time!
Each morning, before I went to school, I would buy a large loaf of bread and hide it in mi room along with the jar of jam and the tub of margarine. After a couple of months of this, I got so good at cooking up the toast without burning it that the boys gave me the nickname of 'Toast Man'.

One day a couple of the boys decided they'd had enough toast and jam to last them till the end of their school days so they stopped coming for toast and went back to paying for school dinners. This meant I was now 2 customers short and minus 5 bob a week, which I had already got used to having, therefore, I had to go back around the school Gym wall at first break and drum up some more business.

Johnny Brown decided he would like to give a couple of week's trial and another boy, Ted Eubanks said he'd start coming down as well. Eubanks was a great big fat kid who was well known as one of the schools toughest bullies, so I didn't have a great deal of say in the matter.
The first week Brown and Eubanks paid their half crown each and everything seemed to go quite well until Eubanks started asking for more than the agreed upon amount of toast.

"Give me another couple a' pieces of toast, Swindells! I'm still hungry!"
"No." I said. "4 slices is what you’ve paid for and you've already eaten all 4. There's no more for you until tomorrow!"
"I'm not coming down here next week! I don't like like this bloody deal!" said Eubanks.
"Suit ya' self. You're the only one who has ever complained so far."
The following Monday when I went around the boys to collect their half-crowns, Eubanks said "I'm not coming down this week. I'm spending the whole 5 bob on fags. Anyway, I'm already sick of toast and jam."
"Alright, no problem." I said. "I'll find somebody else to replace you."

The following day, which was Tuesday, Eubanks said to me, "I've spent all mi money on fags so I've got nowt left to buy misen some lunch with. Can I come down to your place for some toast?"
"No, you didn't pay your money yesterday, the same as the other boys did so you can't come this week. You can start coming down again next week as long as you pay the half-crown on Monday morning."
"I'm comin' down with Brownie at lunch time whether you like it or not!"
"You can walk down with Brownie as far as you like but you won't be coming in!"
When lunchtime arrived, Eubanks fell in at Brownies side and refused to leave. He walked all the way down to mi mums' house. When I let the boys in through the front door, Eubanks forced his way into the house and refused to leave. As I was making the toast and tea for everyone in mi mums' kitchen, he started to make a big nuisance of himself and made rude jokes about mi mums' house so I said to him, "Alright Ted, I'll make you a deal. If you go back out the front door, I'll push a piece of toast through the letter box for you."

After a few minutes he agreed to go out of the houses but not before I threatened to call the cops and tell them he forced his way into mi mums' house. Before he left the kitchen, because I had the upper hand over him, he pulled out his dick and stuck it in mi mums' teapot and started to laugh. He also encouraged the other boys to laugh. This made me really angry. I said to one of the other boys, "Alright, go and call the cops and if not I'll go and call them and put you all in with Eubanks!"
"Alright Swindells, I'm going." Eubanks said "But I still want mi piece of toast shoved through the letter box."
"Not before you're out of here!" I said.
Once this big fat bully was outside, I locked the door behind him.
'BANG, BANG, BANG!' He knocked very loudly on the front door.
"What do you want?" I said.
"Shove mi piece of toast through!"
"Fuck you Eubanks. I changed mi mind now!"
"I'll go around to the back door and make a commotion so the neighbors know what's going on!"
"Fuck you!" I said as I walked away from the front door.
3 minutes later he was thumping on the back door. I shouted though the letterbox to him, "Go away, you're making a nuisance out of yourself!"
"If you give me one piece of toast I'll go away quietly and not bother you again."
"Alright." I said. "One piece and that's it!"
As soon as a piece of toast and jam was ready, I said to him, through the letter box, "I've got one piece here for you and I'll shove it through the letter box if you promise to go away and leave us alone!"
"Alright, shove it through!"
I opened the letterbox door and pushed the piece of toast and jam through. Fat pudgy fingers grabbed it and it disappeared out of sight.
I thought that was going to be the end of it but after a couple of minutes he started to shout and bang on the door again!
"What d'ya want now?" I said.
"Give me some more toast Swindells. I'm hungry!"
"Go away. You've already had one piece and your reneging in the deal!"
"I'm not going until you give me another slice!"
As I was watching the toast cook, I noticed a slice that had a large air-bubble in it but the whole didn't go all the way through to the other side. I had a brainwave!!
"I'll get rid of him." I said to the boys.
"What ya gonna' do Dick?" said Brownie.
"Just watch me and you'll see."
Opening mi mothers' cutlery drawer, I took out an old butter knife and opened the cellar door.
"Don't feed that piece of toast to the dog, Dick. I'll eat it."
"You wont' eat it when I'm finished with it!" I said.
"Where ya going with the toast and knife, Dick?"
"Come on and I'll show you."
When we all got down the cellar steps Raja was happy see us all and I was happy to see what Raja had left on the cellar floor! Bending down over a large solid dog turd, I sliced a big piece off of it and pushed it into the air bubble hole in the piece of toast.
"Lets go back upstairs." I said, amidst 3 loud, laughing voices.
"Now what?" said Brownie.
"Now I'm going to cover the dog shit with a liberal serving of margarine and jam."
"Then what?"
"Then, I'm going to push it through the letterbox for Eubanks. Just watch!"
"Eubanks!" I called out.
"Where's my toast Swindells?"
"Coming right up Teddy." I said. "Open the letterbox!"
The letterbox opened and I pushed the dog shit sandwich through. The fat fingers grabbed it and the letterbox snapped tightly shut.
We all sat down at mi mums table and waited for the results. Eubanks voice boomed through the letterbox again.
"That was really great! Give me one more slice and I really will go this time Swindells. I won't bother you anymore after that and I won't beat you up either!"
"Alright Ted but this is definitely the last piece! All right?"
"All right Swindells, it's a deal."
After toasting a piece of bread I dug out a large hole in one side of it and then went back downstairs in the cellar and filled the hole with some fresh dog shit spread. Back upstairs I covered the dogshit spread with another liberal amount of margarine and jam.
"Last piece coming through Ted!" I said, as I again pushed the slice of toast through the letterbox door.
Everybody maintained silence again as we listened for Ted crunching down on the dogshit sandwich. After he'd finished he called through the letterbox, "Thanks Swindells, that was great. It'll keep me going until 4 O'clock this afternoon. You're not a bad bloke after all! It will save me the trouble of beating you up now. I'm off! See you all later. I watched him walk past mi mums' kitchen window and off up the street he went.
"Alright, the coast is clear. Eubanks has gone!" I said.
Raucous laughter burst out of everyone for about 10 minutes.
"That was really a good show Dick", said Tony Steele.
"He won't stick his dick in mi mums' teapot again for some time!" I said, between laughs.
"Come on, let's get cleaned up or we'll be late back for school."
Later on that afternoon, Johnnie Brown came to see me at one of the school breaks.
"Ted's after you Dick. He's gonna' punch your head in after school!"
"Why would he be after me?" I said. "The last time I saw him leaving mi mums' house he was all right towards me?"
"He knows you put dog shit on his pieces of toast!"
"Well, if he found out, it must have come from you."
"It just sort-of slipped out when we were talking in class." Brownie said.
"Like hell! You told him on purpose Brown! Here's the rest of ya weeks dinner money back. I don't want to hang around with you anymore. You're either for me or against me so it's pretty plain to me that you're against me, which is alright by me because at least I know where I stand with you now!"
Brownie was not too happy about what I said because I told him the Truth.

Eubanks was waiting for me with his cronies when I came out of class at 4 O'clock. I had to dodge around him so as not to get beaten up. I gave Eubanks the slip for about 2 weeks until finally one evening; him and his mates were hiding behind a wall in wait for me!
When he finally grabbed hold of me he gave me 2 or 3 hard punches before I was able to get away. Brown showed his true colors because he was with Eubanks at the time, egging him on and laughing.
I was determined that Eubanks would not make me cry and as soon as he let go of my Blazer, I made my getaway at top speed. Eubanks was a fatty so he could not catch me, although he tried.
"SCREW YOU EUBANKS!" I said as I ran down the road. "YOU TOO BROWN!"
"I'M GLAD YOUR TATTOO GOT FUCKED UP. YOU DESERVE ALL YOU GET!"

Monday, July 13, 2009

A PIPE STORY ©

Photobucket
"Hey mum."
"What do you want now?" she said. "Can't you see I'm trying to do the bloody washing Richard? Get out from under my bloody feet before I give you a four-penny one."
"Can I go over to Spencers' place?"
"Please, may I go over to Mr. Sharps, is that what you mean?"
"That's what I mean."
"Little children do not call grown ups by there first names. How many bloody times do I have to tell you lad. What's the matter? Do you have wax in your ears?"
"No mum. I don’t." Had I have said yes she would have taken the corner of the towel, twisted it into a point and shoved it in mi ears and twisted it around two or three times in each ear.
"Well, can I go or not?"
"Go on then." she said. And mind your manners while your there. Oh! And by the way, if Mrs. Sharp asks you if you would like a biscuit, say, "No thank you Mrs. sharp I've just eaten, thank you". Are you listening to me Richard?"
"Course I am. I'm all ears mum."
"You'll be all bloody, red ears in a minute lad. Go on, bugger off before I change mi bloody mind."
"Thanks mum I said, you're great!"
"Don't tell your sisters where you're going or they'll want to go to. Make sure you're back here at four O'clock, do you hear?" she said.
"Yes mum." I replied, as I ran out of the farmhouse back door and through the chicken barn at full speed. "Look out!" I yelled as chickens scattered everywhere. The old rooster eyed me with suspicion as I tore past him. He had buckleys chance of catching me today. Tomorrow might be a different story.

Spencers' farm was a four-minute run from our front door. I'd done it many times before. The only thing that could slow me down was one of the other farmers walking their cows down the dirt lane. Were that to happen, I'd have to slow down otherwise I'd spook them and the farmer would yell at me or swing his stick at me. No cows today in the lane so I made it to Spencers in four minutes. As I skidded to a halt in mi old clogs, Spencer and his dad were standing in front of his mistle door.
" 'Ows ta goin' Richard lad?" said Spencer as he put his hand in his top pocket and pulled out his old pipe.
"Good, thanks Mr. Sharp." I said.
"How's your mother keeping?" said Spencers' dad as he belched a large puff of smoke out of the side of his mouth.
"She's all right. She's doing the washing so I thought I'd come over here, out at way or she would have made me turn the handle on mangle while she fed the sheets in."
"Good thinking." said Spencer, as he tapped the bowl of his Billiard out on the heel of his hand.
"That's womens' work." said Spencers' dad as he struck a Swan Vestas and lit up a shorter looking straight-shanked pot. "Ya better off with us for afternoon. You can help us muck mistel out. That'll put some muscle on your arms and hair on ya chest. You'll grow up big and strong just like our Spencer.

Spencer laughed and said, "Don't go putting too many bright ideas in his head, dad or
his mother won't be none too pleased with us."
Spencers' dad was a big man. He always wore a flat cap and a long brown smock coat, moleskin trousers and Yorkshire clogs. Spencer was a clone of his dad and a bit taller as his dad was stooped over slightly, owing to his age. He looked like he was in his late seventies. That said, he always worked a full day on the farm along side of Spencer.
"Are ya gonna' fill ya pipe up?" I said to Spencer.
"I'ye, there's nout but ash and dottle left in it."
"Can I rub ya 'bacci up for ya, Mr. Sharp?
"I'ye ya can Richard lad, just be careful and do it like I taught ya and don’t over rub it."
With that Spencer pulled out a stick of Black Twist from his smock top pocket. He then opened his small, silver two- bladed knife and proceeded to cut off three small slices. "Here ya go lad, and don't tell your mother your rubbing up pipe tobacco or she'll be after me."
"No way Mr. Sharp! I don’t tell her stuff like that, she'd give me a thick ear."
"How old are you now Richard said Spencers dad."
"Six." I said. "How old are you?"
"Me? Almost eighty."
"Have you been smoking all your life?"
"I'ye I have that lad. I've gone through quite a few pipes in mi time and never had a days illness in mi life."
Is that all right Mr. Sharp?" I said, as I handed him a bowl of black twist.
"Perfect, couldn't have done it better misen."
He proceeded to load the black twist into his old Billiard. After this was done he struck a small Swan Vestas and held it over the bowl. After the twist started to smoke a bit he tamped it down with his forefinger.
"Doesn't that burn ya finger?"
"No, I've got a hard callous on it from years of doing it."
"I wish I could smoke. I love the smell of it!"
Tell ya what I'll do with ya." said Spencer. "I'll give ya one of my old burnt-out pipes but I'm not giving you any tobacco to go with it. You're too young to start smoking.
"Oh great! Thanks a lot Mr. Sharp, I'll look after it. I promise!
With that he fired up his pipe again and headed for the farmhouse. You're a lucky lad said Spencers dad. "Spencer didn't get his first pipe until he was eleven years old."
"Did you buy it for him?"
"I'ye, I did. He kept sneaking off with one of my pipes so it was easier to get him his own."
A few minutes later Spencer came back outside and said, "Here you are, its old and burnt-out but it was a good old pipe in its' day. I've had many a good cool smoke out of her."
I took the pipe from Spencer very carefully, "Thanks again Mr. Sharp. I'll look after it just the same as you did. I won't drop it and break it. I'll be real careful with it."
"Come on then lets go and muck out yon mistle while the cows are still in the field."

"How do mum!" I said, as I casually strolled into our farmhouse with mi new pipe hanging out of the side of mi mouth, just like Spencer did.
"What the bloody hell is that thing hanging out of your mouth?" she said as she turned around with a look of disbelief on her face.
"It's mi new pipe that Mr. Sharp just gave me."
"Get that disease ridden, bloody thing out of your mouth, you bloody imbecile. Who knows what the hell you'll get from it."
"It's mine and it's not disease-ridden. If it was, Mr. Sharp would be sick and he's not!" "Throw that stinking thing in the fire! That’s all it's good for!
"No! It's mine! Mr. Sharp gave it to me."
"All right lad, soon as you go to bed tonight I'll chuck it in the fire misen. Smoking a bloody pipe at your age, what's this bloody world coming to. Where are you going?" she said, as I ran out of the house.
"I'm just going to play around in fields!" I yelled back at her.
"Don't be long! Ya dinner will be ready soon and you'd better not let ya dad see that stinking pipe or he'll light fire with it in morning!"

Once I got away from her I headed off down the bottom of our field, out of sight, I already knew what I was going to do so I started looking for a loose stone in the wall. At long last I found the right stone that I could carefully remove without the wall collapsing and squashing mi new pipe. Once the stone was out of the wall, I gently put mi new pipe in the hole, made sure nothing would fall on top of it and carefully put the stone back in place.
'That's it', I said to myself. 'No one is going to find it there. It's as safe as houses.'

"You won't want to know what our Richard brought home today." said mi mum, as mi dad walked into our house.
"Don’t bloody tell me, wench, I would not be surprised what that bloody village idiot of a son of yours has been up to."
"You're in a lovely mood George. Have a bad day at work then."
"Bring me a pint pot of tea wench. Bloody kids! He said as he sat down in his armchair and unfolded his newspaper. ''Bloody kids'' he muttered again from behind his paper. "A man must need his head examining, never a moments peace with kids in the house."

The next day I took off down the field to check if my pipe was still where I had left it. I soon found the place in the wall as I had marked it with a lump of grass. Very carefully, I eased out the small black wall stone shoved my hand inside the hole and grabbed hold of the stem. Carefully inspecting it, I then stuck it in mi mouth and gripped it with me back teeth just as I had seen Spencer do. Next I took it out of mi mouth and started to talk to misen and at the same time I pointed and jabbed the air with it to make a point. This done, I stuck it in me mouth again and walked around the field a few paces. Whilst I was taking a long imaginary drag on it, I got a bit of black twist caught in the back of mi throat. It tasted putrid so I hacked it up and spat it out. I then did a relight, as by this time it had gone out. After an hour or so of 'make believe', I was getting bored. I needed something more authentic so I put on mi thinking cap. It wasn't very long before I came up with the bright idea of Brook Bonds tea leaves. That should give me a good strong full-bodied satisfying smoke. I put the pipe back in the wall replaced the stone and made mi way back to the house. Mi mother wasn't around so I gave her a good loud shout 'Mum, hey mum! Where are you?"
I'm up stairs cleaning up the bedrooms what the hell do you want now Richard?"
"Oh nothing. I just wondered where you were."
"Go back out side and play or I’ll find you some bloody work to do!"
"All right then, see you in a couple of hours. I'm off!"

No answer. I found a small piece of newspaper and very quietly made mi way to the kitchen cupboard where she kept the tea. I had to stand on a chair to reach it but that was no problem for me. Opening the cardboard-box-lid, I poured a small amount of tea leaves into the newspaper. Next, I closed the tea box lid with one hand and replaced it exactly as I had found it. I folded the newspaper up and twisted the corners around. I put the chair back where it belonged and took off outside.
'Oh Hell!' I forgot the matches.' Back inside I go, hoping that mi mother was still upstairs. It must have been my lucky day, she was nowhere in sight. I grabbed a few matches out of the box and made another fast exit! Running as fast as I could, I made my way over the field to where the old pipe was hidden. In no time at all I had it out, in mi pocket and replaced the stone. Off I went, at full speed, over another wall and flat out to another hiding place I had. Once I reached my destination, I took the pipe out of mi pocket and threw misen on the ground, rolled over and caught mi breath. Taking the tea leaves out of mi shirt pocket I very carefully poured the contents into the palm of mi hand and rubbed them up a bit. By this time they were nearly powder so I proceeded to load up the bowl, scooping the tea leaves into the bowl and pushing them down like Spencer did. The pipe was loaded up and ready to go. I took one of the brimstone matches out of mi shirt pocket and struck it against the stonewall. It flared up and as soon as the brimstone had burnt away I held it over the tealeaves and sucked in. The pipe, unlike Spencers', lit straight away and as I sucked in the tea leaves caught on fire, and a stem full of tea leaves filled up my mouth and the back of my throat. Hacking and coughing I spit out the nasty tasting tea leaves.
Once I had coughed up all the tea leaves; I was very disappointed. I decided to give it another go. It was not supposed to be like this, Spencer did not hack and cough up his guts when he drew on his pipe. Firing up the pipe again I gave a couple of good hearty draws on it, the same thing happened again. The only difference this time was, I sneezed, and snot and tea leaves flew out of my nose, it landed on mi shirt. My face and shirt were probably a sight to see, my eyes were burning and tears were rolling down my cheeks. I decided I had smoked enough for the day; probably I'd smoked enough for two days. Wiping my nose on the sleeve of my shirt and knocking the burnt Tea Leaves out of the bowl on the palm of my hand, I made a move to get up. As soon as I exerted some effort my head started to spin so I had to remain where I was until the field stopped spinning. As I sat there, leaned against the wall, I started to wonder what it was that Spencer got out of pipe smoking. I made a mental list of a few questions that I would need to ask him, next time I saw him. Finally I was able to get up and walk around without wobbling from side to side so I made mi way back along the fields to where I hid mi pipe. As I removed the black wall stone and put mi pipe back in the hole I decided that I was going to learn the art of pipe smoking even if it killed me.


As I walked in the house mi mother was sweeping the floor.
"Where the bloody hell have you been lad? You were supposed to be home a bloody hour ago. Go feed the chickens and the pigs before you father gets home, and what the hell have you done to your shirt? It looks like you've got bloody Tea leaves all down the front of you. Well go on then, don't just bloody well stand there lad! Get moving before I give you a thick ear, and hurry up your dinners nearly ready."