Friday, January 19, 2018


     I can't remember how long it was until Xmas but I stuck to my word. On and on and on I went,
"I want a trumpet mum!"
     As it got closer to Xmas, mi mum said,
"What do you want for Xmas, Richard?"
     She  must be dafter than me, I thought.
"I want a trumpet!"
"You're not getting a bloody trumpet! Why can't you get that through your thick head?", she sez.
"Then I don't want nowt!"
     On and on the battle went. Every time she asked me what I wanted for Xmas, the answer was the same. It was now getting dangerously close to Xmas. Sheila and Sandra had put their orders in to Father Xmas and they had been accepted.
     Mi mum even tried to palm mi off with a plastic one. We saw it in a toy shop window in Rochdale. it was hanging by a piece of string.
"Let's go and look at it.", she sez.
     It had 4 valves and was made of plastic, covered in horrible gold paint and made in Hong Kong!
"No way!", I sez. "I want a real one!"
     Outside the shop, mi mum gives me the usual facial expression and sez,
"You'll get nowt for Xmas now lad!"
     Now, at long last, I could see I was gaining ground, in the long and bloodless war. The week before Xmas, mi dad came home, a bit drunk, from his local pub. He was in a right merry mood. Pre Xmas spirit, he'd been drinking. It comes in a large pint tankard with a whitish froth on top!

"Let's go to Halifax next Saturday and get him that bleeding trumpet wench, before he drives me bloody mad!"
     Hurray! I run round the house like a man man. Then I did a couple of laps around our field and then back inside.
"Mi dad says I can have a trumpet mum!"
    She just stood there looking at me.
"You can have a trumpet, but the first time yhou get sick of it, I'll wrap it around ya bloody head! Furthermore, you'll have to practice it every day and go for lessons once a week!"
     How could I refuse!
     The following Saturday we go to Halifax. All day we walked around looking for a music shop that sold trumpets. Eventually, we come across one called Flinder and Sons Music store. 'Ding-a-ling', the bell went as we walked in, mi mum, dad and me.
"I want a trumpet for this lad of mine."
"Yes Sir!", the man sez.
     He opened the glass case on the wall and proceeded to put all the trumpets on the counter top.
"Are these trumpets any good?" mi dad sez.
"They're mostly second-hand ones but they're all in good working order. We'll guarantee them against defects for 12 months. We have our own repair shop in the back."
     I picked up a couple and tried to blow them. I got a sound out of them the first go. The man behind the counter sez,
"That's very unusual. Most people take ages just to be able to get a sound out of one and not as good a sound as that!"
     By this time, I was much higher than that old kite of mine ever flew. Just then, the shopkeeper said,
"Oh, I almost forgot, I have a very good second-hand one here."
      He reached up, back into a cabinet and pulled out a gold-lacquered trumpet. It had a beautiful green star set in the gold lacquer, right on top of the bell. The shop-keeper said,
"It's called the Green Star Model, made by Rudell Carte and sons, made in America. A professional trumpeter traded it in on a new one."
     It was love at first sight. The shop-keeper handed it to me and said,
"Try this one."
     I blew the same obnoxious sound, but I could hear it was a quality, obnoxious sound. The valves sprang up and down with ease. The valve caps were fitted with mother-of-pearl tops. It had a beautiful yellowish gold finish and not one ding in it.
"Can I have this one?", I sez to mi mum.
"Don't ask me. It's your dad who's buying it for ya."
"Can I have this one dad?"
"How much is this one?", mi dad sez to the shop-keeper.
"23.19/6d! That's almost five bloody weeks wages man! Who do you think I am? Bloody Rothschild? Do you think I'm made a' money or just bloody mad?"
     The shop-keeper looked quite shocked now as mi dad was a big man and he had a very powerful voice. He'd worked with tough Irish Navies on dams most of his life. Mi dad pulls his Trilby down over his right eye a bit and sez,
"I'll give thee 20 quid for it and not a penny more!"
     The shop-keeper looked at mi dad and decided not to argue. Mi dad sez,
"Here's 5 quid and I'll pay rest off on hire-purchase at 15/- bob a week."
     Mi dad gave him his name, George Richard Henry Walter Swindells. He signed his name on a form and gave the shop-keeper a crackly blue five pound note. The shop-keeper gave mi dad a folded payment card with 5 pounds written under the paid column. He then said to the shop-keeper,
"Don't worry about ya money. I'll see tha' gets every penny of it!"

     I wasn't allowed to have the trumpet till the following morning. Xmas morning!
     I woke up about 4:30 and there it was, sitting in its case at the bottom of my bed. There were lots of other bits and pieces in mi Xmas stocking. Chocolates, sweets,  plastic toys from Hong Kong, some pens and pencils for school, water color paints and coloring books.
    I only had eyes for my trumpet. Little did I know then that the love affair with the trumpet would be one of the longest and most intense affairs of my life!
     Click, click. I popped the locks on the brown case and they sprung open. Slowly, I opened the lid and looked inside. It was still there, lying on its side on the bed of green velvet. The gold lacquer was still shining as it had been in the shop. The mother-of-pearl valve caps were facing me, just waitin g to be pushed up and down.

     My eyes went from there to the green star sitting right in the middle, on the top of hte bell. I pushed the lid completely open and sat there in bed just looking at it.


"Maybe we'll go next weekend then.",  I hear mi mum say.
"Go where?", I sez, as I stomped into front room with mi clogs on.
"Get those bloody clogs off. Put em in entrance porch where they belong!", mi mum sez.
"Go where mum? Where are we going next weekend?"
"You won't be going nowhere if ya don't get those clogs off inside house. Ya sound like a bleeding draft horse stomping around place." 
     With mi clogs off, I make me re-entrance.
"Where we going mum?" I sez.
"Ya dad and me are thinking of going to Bellevue next weekend."
"What d'ya mean 'you and dad'? What about me?"
"It depends on your behaviour lad.", she sez.
"What's Bellevue anyway?"
"Bellevue Zoo."
"What? We're going to zoo?", I sez with great excitement. "How we all getting there? On mi dads' motorbike? there's only room for 2, 3 at most."
"Sometimes Richard, you make me bloody wonder.", she sez."We're going on a coach for the day."
     I was beyond miself now, with excitement.  BelleVue Zoo! All those animals. I loved animals very much as I'd grown up with farm animals mi whole life.
     The following week, I was on mi best behavior. Nowt was too much trouble for me. I done all mi jobs on time and even asked mi mum,
"Anything I can do for ya mum?"
"What the hell has come over you?", she sez. "Have you gone looney or aren't ya feeling too well?"
"I'm alright. I just thought I might be able to help a bit."
"Maybe we should go to BelleVue every weekend."
     I didn't fall for this one as I knew she couldn't possibly have meant it. 
     The week seemed to drag on very slowly. I kept asking,
"How long before we go now?"
     This was starting to but her so I had to drop it, for a while.
     At last! The day finally came. Saturday morning, the morning of all mornings. No more school for two whole days. I hated that place now, with a passion. The school Xmas party had a negative affect on me for my entire school days.
     Dressed in Sunday best, armed with a thermos of tea and packets of sandwiches, we all walked down field and made our way along lane to church at end. It was Saturday morning and very early. Except for the mooing of cows, it was very quiet. 
    I saw one of neighbors, Spencer Sharp, walking his milking cows along the road. He did this most mornings. Once milked, he would march them back up road and put 'em in field with most grass.
"Don't get in way.", mi dad sez. "Stand off to side a' road." 
     Too late! One of old cows dropped a' squirt of sloppy cow clap. It splattered on mi sisters' new dress. Well that was it! Best behavior or not, it was just too much for me to handle. I cracked up laughing so much so mi belly was aching and mi eyes were drowning in tears. So was mi sister, but not tears of joy, hers were tears of disappointment. 
"Stop that bloody laughing Richard or you'll go right back home this instant!", sez mi mum.
     Threats or no threats, it was too late now. I was beyond the point of no return. It was so perfect that it would have been hard to imagine. Mi mum set about cleaning it off with handfuls of wet grass but it was no use. The more she rubbed the more it spread, the more mi sister cried, the more I laughed!
"Morning George. Off with the family for day?", sez farmer.
"I'y.", sez mi dad. "Just waitin' on Sherabang to come."
"It's no use.", mi mum sez. "Come on Sandra, we'll have to go back home and change that dress for you." 
     With that, mi mum and Sandra go back along lane. Mum flat out, dragging Sandra behind like a dog who doesn't want to go somewhere. Mi mum yells out to George,
"Tell driver to wait for me. I'll only be a few minutes."
     My laughter subsided for a minute or so, then it would erupt again. Even mi sister Sheila saw funny side of it. All mi dad could say was, 
"That boy's village bloody idiot!"
     Luckily enough, mi mum and Sandra were back in time for bus. 
"Here it comes!", I sez, as the double-decker Sharabang pulls up outside graveyard. 
"Morning everyone.", sez bus driver. "All aboard for BelleVue Zoo!"
"Sit where ya likes, there's plenty of room. Some people didn't show up."
     We all sat upstairs so as to get a better view. Soon as we were well on our way, I started to tease mi sister about cow clap, telling her,
"I can smell cow muck somewhere!"
"Keep that up lad and I'll have ya put off bus. You can walk home then!"
     Mum gave up with her threats as she knew that I knew she couldn't do that.
     Over the hills and far away, traveling in style we were. Dad was reading a newspaper he found on bus. Mi mum was trying to sleep but to no avail. Four hours later, bus driver yells,
"Bellevue Zoo, coming up!" 
     Out of window, I could see lots of different-looking Sharabangs' single and double-deckers. All sorts of different colors, red ones, blue, green and white ones. It was a very colorful site. I read the names on front of 'em. Some came from Sheffield, Bradford, Huddersfield, Liverpool and Blackburn. Every major town seemed to be represented. The bus driver pulled in to parking lot and we took our place right alongside of other coaches.
"Back at 6 O'clock everyone. Those who are late'll get left behind!" 
      Bus driver kept shouting his message out as we all got off bus. As I was getting off bus, he winked at me and said,
"Don't get left behind lad. It's a long walk home."
"Least I'd get some peace and quiet for a while!", mi mum sez.
     Soon as we were off a' bus, mi mum gave us a message,
"Listen to me you three and listen good. First time you misbehave and show me up, I'll tan your backsides and back on bus you go."
     With that word of warning, off we go on a bright and clear day, Mum, dad and 3 kids! Through turnstiles we go. There were hundreds and hundreds of people milling around. The place was noisy and full of excitement! In contrast to where we came from, it was like a looney bin. We followed the crowds to where the animals were and soon came to first cages. I was excited to see them all but not behind bars.
"Why do they have 'em all behind bars?", I said to mi mum.
" 'Cause some of them are dangerous."
"I don't like seeing them behind bars.", I sez.
"Nowt ya can do about it. That's what Zoo's are like."
     After I put the bars outof mi mind, I started to enjoy misen. We saw Giraffes, lions and tigers. We even got to go on an elephant ride. That was good fun as the elephant got to walk around outside same as everyone else. This was good fun too.
    A sign read, DO NOT FEED THE MONKEYS. Mi sister Sheila saw that some people were leaning over the railing and feeding the monkeys peanuts. She decided to go under the railing and give her sandwich to this big old monkey. As she held out the sandwich, the monkey stuck his arm out of the bars and grabbed the sandwich. At the same time, he grabbed her hand and tried to pull her into the cage! 
     She let out a scream. Just then, one of the groundsmen run up and grabbed hold of her. He tried to get the monkey to let go. The monkey seemed to like mi sister better than her sandwich. After her had was freed, the groundsman gave me mum a right telling off for not watching her kids. This pleased mi mum no end. Mi sister got a few good cracks on her bare legs and was made to hold mi mums' hand for the rest of day.
"Hey mum, look at that monkey sat over there? Why is he playing with his willy mum?"
"Trust you to see something like that Richard! How the hell do I know? Just be careful he doesn't grab your willy!" she sez as she took a swipe at me and missed.
"Let's go over and sit at those tables over there.", sez mi dad.
     We all sat down and mi mum gets tea flask out. As she starts to pour, mi dad sez,
"I'll be back in a minute wench, I'm just off to toilet."
"If you're not back from that bar by the time were finished George, me and kids are going back to bus. I've had enough of this today, already!"
     It was a long day and quite hot for that time of year. As we were walking around, I heard some music playing. I sezs to mi mum,
"What's that music mum?"
"It's coming from over there. Let's go see."
     It was a sight to behold! There were crowds of people standing around in long rows.
"Lift me up dad so I can see!", as mi dad hoisted me up I could see.
     A band of men in red jackets with gold trim on their sleeves and collar. They were wearing black trousers with a red stripe down the outside of each leg. On their heads they wore big furry hats with a gold and black braided chin strap. Each one was playing an instrument.
"What are those hats called dad?"
"They're Busbys."
     Just then, one of them caught my eye. He was on the front row and fairly close to me now.
"What's that instrument he's playing dad?"
"It's called a Trumpet."

     All the way home, I could think of nothing else but that trumpet! 
"Do you want some pop and crisps at the half-way rest stop Richard?", mi mum asks.
"NO! I want a trumpet!"
"I'll trumpet you in a minute. I'll trumpet you all the way up those stairs to bed soon as I get you home  mi boy!"
"I don't care how many thick ears I get form now on, just as long as I get a trumpet!"
     When we got back home to Parrok Nook, Inngs Farm, as I was getting off a' bus, I said to bus driver,
"Thank you Mister. I'm getting a trumpet for Xmas."
     He gave me a smile and a wink and said,
"I hope you do Sunshine. I hope you do!"

Thursday, January 18, 2018


     A strange black car come driving along our lane way one afternoon. I say strange because only one man had a car in our area, that I knew of. This, no doubt, aroused some interest not only from us kids and mum but also from our neighbors. Along the Lane way it chugged. Surprise of surprises, it stopped at the bottom of our field, right opposite the big old iron gate. All three of us started running down field to see who it was, slowing down as we neared, not knowing what to expect.
     What a shock when mi dads' working pal, Jimmy Crossly, got out of car. Upon closer inspection, I saw it was mi dad sitting behind wheel.
"Where d'ya get car dad?", I yelled out over top of motor.
"I bought it for tha' mum so she can learn to drive."
"Take us for a drive dad."
"Take us for a drive.", we all said, twice in unison.
     With that, mi dad opened back door and we all climbed in. All three kids and Dinah as well. With the gate now closed, we drove up the field. Jimmy said to mi dad,
"It probably won't make it up field on wet days George."
"I'll leave it parked down bottom when it's wet.", sez mi dad. "All right you kids, sit down and keep your clogs off a' upholstery."
     Up the field we go, in style this time. Dad parks car right out front of farm house door.
"Look out dad!", I sez. "You'll go right into front room!"
"It's all reet.", sez mi dad. "Your old knows what he's doing."
"Where d'ya get that bloody car from?", mi mum sez to him.
"I bought it for thee lass. Tha's been whittering about learning to drive so ya don't have to walk everywhere. Well now's ya chance wench."
"Where did ya get money from for a car George. Far as I know we're poor.", she sez.
"I won some moneyh on races wench. I put a couple a pounds on an 100 to 1 long shot and it come home first! Old George Swindells nobodys' mug."
     With that, mi dad and Jimmy jump out a car and walked around it.
"Don't you kids touch ought in there or you'll not get in car again!"
     For once we were all content just to sit in back looking around.
"It's an old Lancaster wench. It's got a good motor and dashboards, all walnut. The seats are genuine leather." sez mi dad.
"Jump in lass.", mi dad sez. "I'll take ya for a ride round field."
     Very nervously (or maybe shyly) mi mum gets in passenger side front.
"Close that door and we'll be off wench."
     Dad pushes the stick shift into gear, lets his foot off clutch slowly and revs' motor a bit. The car moves forward, smooth as ya please.
"There's nowt to it lass. You just push clutch in, double it and off into another gear."
     The car picked up speed now as mi dad drove around field in long grass. Over a few bumps we go. Down a few holes we go. The old car never even felt it.
"Jimmy's gonna learn ya to drive wench. He's a good driving instructor. Besides, tha' never listens to nowt I say woman. By this time mi mum and dad had started having a few rows. Round and round we go. It was great fun!
"Can I have a go dad?", I pipes up.
"Alright. Wait till we stop. You can sit on mi knees and steer it."
     When the old car stopped, I jumped out and round the front I go, straight up on mi dads knees, clogs and all!
"Bloody hell! Watch where you're putting those clogs lad! You'll bloody cripple a man!"
"Let me put it in first gear dad.", I sez.
"All right. Push stick over there and then push forward."
      rrrrrr! The gear box makes a crunching sound.
"Wait till I got clutch in, ya gormless sod!", he sez. "Alright, now steer it over yonder along wall side."
      Soon as it started going towards wall, he'd pull wheel back around. What a great time we had. Sheila and Sandra both got to have a steer of car. When we'd all had our turn, it was mums' turn. She was too big to sit on his knee so mi dad sits in back with us three. Jimmy sits in front with mi mum.
"Hurray, Hurray! Mum's going to drive!" We yelled.
"Come on mum, go fast around field!"
"Oh shut up Richard! I can't concentrate with you yelling and screaming in mi ear hole."
     Jimmy sez to mi mum,
"Alright Iris, don't worry. There's nowt to it. Just push clutch in, then push gear stick across and forward into first gear, rev engine slowly and let foot of clutch slowly."
     Mi mum pushes clutch in, revs engine like hell, lets clutch out too fast and the old Lancaster takes off like a kangaroo with buckshot in its' bum. It lurched and jumped for about 25 feet  before Jimmy got it out of gear.
     Me and mi sisters were shouting and yelling,
"Come on mum! Go faster mum, go faster!"
"Will you kids sit down! I can't concentrate with all that racket going on!"
     Jimmy gives mi mum instructions again. Low and behold, same thing happens, only this time we were quiet.
"Hey mum.", I sez. "You did better when were yelling and screaming. Maybe we should start up again?"
"I'll give you something to yell and scream for in a minute."
"Don't worry now Iris. Try it again.", Jimmy sez.
     Same thing happens again and again and again. Mum didn't drive around field, she jumped around field.
Mi dad says, "There'll be no bleeding gear box left in a bit wench!" That's enough for today. Better try again tomorrow. Ya might do better then."
     My mum was not amused, to say the least. Better not to tease her about her driving till she gets a bit better. Mi dad gave Jimmy a couple of dozen eggs for his teaching time and asked him to come back on weekend.

    Eventually, mi mum learned to drive round field between hops and jumps. Finally the day came when Jimmy said,
"All right Iris, we'll go out on road now."
"I don't think mi dad was too keen on that idea but Jimmy was in charge of driving lessons. The big bottom gate was opened and the jumping kangaroo was let out of field. Three kids and mi dad in back, mum and Jimmy in front. We're off!
     Out the gate and hard right, narrowly missing a 5 foot high stone pillar, on the lane way we go. Mum was doing quite well until she tried to shift gears. Each time she did the gear shift she would look down to see what she was doing and the car started heading for the stone walls.
"Look out mum, wench, Iris!!" (she was a woman known by many names, was my mother)
"Don't worry.", she sez. "As long as you watch me Jimmy I'll be all right."
     Out to end of lane way and past graveyard and church. Everyone, except Mum, took particular notice of graveyard. Everyone was praying, except me and mi mum.  Round front of church and out to main road. (Now then, some main roads in Yorkshire hills are not real wide, so bear that in mind.)
     Mum was going great till Jimmy turned round and started talking to mi dad.
"Who owns that place George?"
     Mi dad was just about to tell him when the car starts to 'bump'. As Jimmy turns around, his side of car is running alongside gutter in road. A calm and collected man was our Jimmy. (We called him Uncle Jimmy). He slowly reached out and turned the steering wheel out into road again. He never batted an eyelid. In the back seat, three kids were screaming and George was cursing under his breath.
     I don't know how we got home that day, but we did. It was lucky for all of us there was not much traffic on those roads.
     Mum was sort of improving a bit but still needed watching while she drove. The kangaroo hops were all but gone now so Jimmy sez,
"Next weekend, we'll go to Littleborough."
     Littleborough was Jimmys' home town so he knew the way to get there.
     The weekend arrived. We all pile in and off we go. The seating arrangement was always the same. Dad and the kids in back. Jimmy and mum in front.
     We got there in one piece. Mi dad and Jimmy decide to go into pub for a beer. They were gone for quite a while. When they got back, they were smiling more than usual and having a couple of jokes together. Dad brought us all some Smiths' crisps and bottles of pop. He brought mi mum a Shandy. Jimmy said,
"Let's go back another way as it's very beautiful scenery."
     Mum finishes  her drink and away we go. Off in the distance I saw a large lake. I pipes up.
"There's a big lake up ahead."
     Jimmy sez,
"We have to drive around that lake to get home. That's why we're going back this way. Mi mum started to get nervous.
"Maybe you should drive Jimmy."
"Not me Iris, You're doing right well you are. Just keep your eyes on road lass."
     Jimmy was turning around more than usual on the way home, still laughing and joking with mi dad. We'd started driving around lake road now and mi mum was getting more nervous.
"Just keep your eyes on road Iris. You're doing all right."
     Talk, Talk, Talk, that's all they did on way home. I think it was beer talking.
     All of a sudden, SPLASH! SSSSSS! CRUNCH!  The old Lancaster ground to a halt.
"Bloody hell!", Jimmy sez.
"Oh Shit!", mi dad sez.
"Ahhhhhh!" three kids scream.
     Mi mum had run off road into lake! The front end of car was stuck in mud right up to front axels. The water was coming in front door at bottom.
"Everybody our back doors!", yells Jimmy.
      He wasn't' so calm now. Mi dad swearing like anything, not under his breath either. Dad and three kids exit car. Jimmy mi mum crawl over back seat.  There was steam coming out of front of car as we all stood and watched.
"Will it sink dad?", I ask/
"No.", he sez. "But it won't have done it much good."
"It wasn't my fault!",  mi mum says. "You should have been watching where we were going!"
"Now what!", sez mi dad.
"I'll hitch a ride back to town." sez Jimmy. "I have a friend who has a tow truck. You just wait for me here. I won't be long."
     By now, mi dad sobered up and he wasn't in the best of moods. Mi mum only had a shandy and she was in a worse mood.  Me and mi sisters sat on a big stone by side of road and played 'Eye spy with my little eye.' Frst one to see Uncle Jimmy was the winner.
     Mi mums' driving career sort of fizzled out after that so she had to go back to Shakes Pony. Dad sold the car and bought another motor bike.


     Xmas time is always a joyous event in Yorkshire.
     In those days, it was always a white Xmas. In the 1950s' , the weather was quite reliable. Winter time snowed. Spring brought light showers and some sunshine. Summer brought along a little more sunshine and scattered showers. Autumn time, the leaves fell, more rain and winds and then back to winter.
     I enjoyed all the seasons. They each had something unique to offer and the events of life were moulded around the seasons. Prior to Xmas, the snows fell right on time. A snow white blanket would cover the fields and when the North winds blew they would blow the white fluffy snow right up to the wall tops. It covered everything. The trees would be sagging under the weight of frozen snow. Sometimes the whole front of Inngs farm would be covered in a snow drift.
     One morning, I remember putting on warm clothes and Wellies. I was the first out of bed. As it had been snowing hard the night before, I couldn't wait to get out in it. When I tried to open the big frond door, I couldn't even turn the old brass knob. Try as I did, it just wouldn't open. I went to call mi dad, who was by this time getting up to stoke the front room fire again. Every night, he'd put some coal dust on fire before going to bed. This would help the coal fire to keep going till morning otherwise it would have burnt out, leaving the house freezing cold. Cold damp farm house walls were not considered a luxury by anyone's standards.
"Hey dad, front doors stuck and it won't open. I can't even turn knob."
"I'll come and have a look in a minute."
     After some flames were now dancing up the back flu, mi dad came to door. He tried to get it open but it wouldn't budge.
He sez, "I'll go and get mi pinch bar out a' barn. That'll fix it."
     When he got back with the bar, he gave the old brass know a good whack and tried it again. Nothing! It didn't even budge. It was a regular practice to keep buckets of water in kitchen overnight for times such as this. Mi mum was up by now so he told her,
"Put some water on boil, wench!"
     There was only 2 taps in house and both were frozen solid. (Lead pipes froze in wintertime and sometimes they burst!) When the water was nice and hot, mi dad threw some on hinges and all around door knob. He then gave it a good, solid whack. The handle started to move. It turned slowly. Some more hot water and it was now free. He grabs his pincher bar and stuck it in gab between door and frame. It was a big gap so it was easy to get bar in.
     Old farmhouses have big gaps everywhere, especially between bottom of door and floor. Mi mum used to take old nylon stockings with ladders in 'em and stuff each one with old rags and newspapers and stick 'em in front of door to keep draughts out.
     Mi dad kept prying away with his pinch bar till door slowly opened. What a sight I saw! Nothing but snow. A wall of snow. A wall of snow where the door had been. It looked like a snow door.  The wooden door impression was left in the snow wall.
"What now day?", I sez.
"We'll have to shovel our way out. Go and grab that old shovel from feed room."
     I found shovel and give it mi dad and he starts shoveling snow into entrance room. By the time he broke through to outside there was a lot of now in house.
"Look at mi entrance doorway.", mi mum sez.
"Don't start bloody naggin' now women!", he sez. "Can't ya see I'm up to mi bleedin' head in snow?"
     Once outside, he dug all the snow away from door.
     It starated snowing again. The more he shoveled the more it snowed. He shoveled his way down field so he could get of field to go to work. I stood in doorway watchin' till mi mum came and closed door. I could see him out-a' side window a bit. He'd dug a trench right down to gate. When he got to gate and turned around it was snowing so heavy there was almost no trench left. I watched him make his way back up to house, thigh deep in snow.
"No work today!", he sez as he come into entrance porch.
     That Xmas was one of the heaviest snows for years so the old boys said.

     Next morning was Xmas morning and the snow had eased up a bit. Father Xmas had already been and gone. What a job he had in all that snow. He had left me a train set. An electric train set at that!
     A couple of  months back, mi dad had the old house wired for electricity. One of his mates at work come over and done it for a couple a' extra bob.
"One day they'll build a Booster Station and we'll buy a tele.", said mi dad.
"I'll believe that when I see it!", mi mum says.
     It was fun having an electric light bulb in house. No more smelly gas.
     I had that train set out of box within minutes. Once I knew how to put the track together and connect the small transformer, it was off! Round and round it went, a small black steam engine pulling two passenger carriages and a coal wagon. The track made a 4 foot circle. I sat in the middle and watched it go round. Round and round it went. I cranked up the speed with the transformer hoping I could derail it but it was flat out at about 4 miles an hour. After an hour of this I was getting bored. I took the train and carriages off and put them on the tracks in reverse. Round and round it went. I followed it with mi head. In the end, mi neck was so sore, I thought mi head was gonna' fall off.
"Hey mum, is this it or can it do summit else?"
     She read the instructions and said,
"If you flick that switch it goes in reverse."
     Still sitting in middle of track, I flick the switch at full speed and the wheels spin to a halt and backwards it goes. Round and round it went as I followed it with mi eyes. I thought,
'Now mi heads gonna' screw back on.'
     After another hour of this, I'd well and truly had it! This didn't look like as much fun out of box as in it. I had a bright idea. (I was always full of them.) Mi dad called 'em Brain Waves!'
     I got some matches and put them on the track, like logs, cranked up the transformer to full speed and Bingo! Right off the track it went taking the carriages with it. Now this was more like it!. Everything was going well till mi dad saw what was happening.
     He shouts out to mi mum in kitchen cooking breakfast.
"Come out here wench and have a look what this destructive little breeder of yours is doing!"
"If you do that again my boy, back in the box it goes." says mi mum.
"But it's boring mum. There's not enough track!"
"Where do you think I get money from lad? Do you think it grows on trees."
     I decided to pull tracks apart and join 'em together like a snake. Once this was done, I put the box under one end and the train on other end. 'Poo Woo, Poo Woo' as it goes at full speed along the zig-zaggin track, up the steep box and off the end dragging the carriages behind it.
'Now it's getting interesting', I thought. 'That's much better!'
"Come and have a look what this imbecile son of yours is up to now wench!"
     Soon as she saw the train and carriages crashing off the track onto the stone floor, I got the warning.
She sez, "One more stupid trick with that train and that's it! I'll take it off ya!"
     After I'd put the track back together in it's boring circle another brain wave came through.
'I wonder how it works, what makes it move and I wonder what's inside it?'
     The temptation was too much! After finding mi dads' screwdriver it didn't take very long before I had the engine in pieces. Now, all that was left was an exposed engine on wheels.
'Well, that makes it look more interesting!', I thought.
     I put it on the track, hooked the carriages on and turned the transformer know and away it went. It looked different. I could see small electric sparks coming from inside the engine. I liked it although it didn't look too expensive anymore. Soon as mi dad looked up and saw it,  he yells out for mum.
"You're not going to believe this wench. Better come and have a look what he's up too now!"
     This time, she was at lost for words (that was most unusual for mi mum).
     After ducking a couple of wild swipes, she pulls the track apart, put the track and pieces in the box and that was it for the day. No more train set!
     A couple of Xmas's later they bought me a pocket watch. That lasted till Boxing Day, before the back 'accidentally' popped off and the main string got stretched to 3 times it's normal size.

Tuesday, January 16, 2018


     This was the most traumatic experience of my life.
     It all started on a windy autumn day. At the end of our lane-way was an old church. I had been going to Sunday School every Sunday morning for some time now. On this particular Sunday, I arrived home to find mi mum with dress patterns strewn all over the floor. The old treadle sewing machine was out in the middle of room.
     The sewing machine was her tool. It also served as my source of fun. When she wasn't around, I'd pull it out from wall, roll the belt on to the wheel then take cover off top. I would then proceed to peddle the footplate as fast as it would go, pretending it was a bicycle or racing car. I was hoping I hadn't smashed the needle or something.
     Standing there, watching her cut out patterns, she said "Get your Sunday best off and go out and play."
"Now't to play with.", I sez.
"You're not staying inside and pestering me. Now, get those good clothes off and get outside or you'll go to bed for the day!"
"It's real windy out and there's now't to do."
"There'll be sum't to do in a bit lad. I'll find some jobs for ya."
     I made mi exit right on cue. After changing out of mi Sunday best, I come downstairs and just stand there watching her. Right then and there I had a brilliant brainwave!
"Hey Mum."
"What now?"
"Can you make me a kite?"
"I'm making winter dresses for your sisters. Where do you think I got time for making kites?"
"Go on mum, it's real windy and I haven't got now't to do today."
     After some good-old persistent winging and whining, she finally agreed.
"Go upstairs, in my bottom drawers and bring an old sheet."
     Off I flew, up the stairs, three at a time. Grabbed a sheet and down again, 4 at a time. I carefully put it in front of her, trying not to disturb her.
"Not this one, ya gormless bugger. It's me best flannel sheet!"
     Back up the stairs I go. 'This one's got to be it. It's got a hole in it." Down the stairs again, 4 at a time.
"This one mum?"
"Ay lad, that's it. Give it to me."
     Now the excitement was building. Even mi mum looked interested as she opened the sheet, looking for a spot with no holes in it.
"Go into the kitchen and get me a piece of dowel rod. There's some behind door."
     I looked behind door and saw two pieces. One piece was the one she used for my legs when I got her real mad. The other was a spare. I grabbed the leg-smacking one and took it out to her. She was cutting the sheet up by now but when she looked up and saw the leg cane, she sort of smiled and said,
"Not that one lad!"
     Mi mum was nobodies fool, not even mine.
     First she cut out an oblong shape from the old sheep. Then she measured the shape out sho it looked like a kite. She measured the stick and showed me where to cut it with mi dads rusty saw. When this was done, I took it back to her in two pieces. She saw a speck of blood on one of the dowels.
"Show me your finger."
"It's now't.", I sez and proceeded to lay the blame on mi dads' rusty saw-blade,  seeing as he was out in his garden.
    She cut 4 small triangular shapes of material and one larger triangle shape. She then went over to sewing machine and took lid off. After pulling the bobbin slide back, she turns to me and sez,
"Have you been playing with my machine again lad?"
"Who me mum?", came the reply.
"Yes, you lad. Who else do you think I'm talking to, the bloody cat?"
"Not me mum."
"Then how come the needles broken?"
     Mi heart sunk as I saw my kite disappearing before it was even made.
"Bring me that sewing box over here and look sharp about it. I haven't got all day to sit here making kite, you know."
     Phew! What a relief, She has some spare needles. I resolved not to peddle her machine after that. Well, maybe not as fast. After filling the bobbins, she proceeded to stitch the hems of the kite shape. Then she stitched the small triangles on the corners. When this was done, she stitched the larger triangle off-center in the middle of the other side of the sheet.
     Now it was looking like a kite! When she inserted the 2 pieces of wooden dowel, it really did look like a kite.
"Go and get a ball of string from your dads' tool box."
     Inside his feed room, the only string I could find was attached to the end of his plum bob. I decided to cut the plum bob off with one of his old chisels. I hid his plum bob in back of cupboard drawer so he couldn't find it. I'd deal with that later, I thought.
     Mum attached the string to the larger triangle on the front. She then tied a long string to the bottom of the kite.
"Go and get me some old  newspapers.", she said.
     She then folded a piece of paper in half and rolled it up into a thin tube. She tied it onto the bottom of the kite with the long string. Repeating this 4 or 5 times, the kite now had some weights on the end to balance it.
"Take these extra rolls of paper with you. You may need them to make it heavier. It it's too heavy, take some off."
"Thanks mum.", I said giving her a quick kiss on cheek, while stuffing the spare weights in mi pocket.

     Coat and clogs on, kite in hand, away I went off up back fields where it was hilly. What a great day this was turning out to be!
     Over the back wall I go.
"Dinah, you stay here today. I'll be back soon."
     She never liked being left behind. Her face always had this hurt look on it at these times.
"I'll be back soon Dinah", I sez as I go running off away from her.
     Sometimes she'd find a way around the wall or sometimes if she really wanted to go, she'd scramble up and over the top. On this day, she sort of accepted it although I could see she was none too happy about it.
     Up the hills I ran, letting the kite out behind me. The kite kept swinging and twisting around. I thought, 'Ah well, I'll tie some more weights on it when I get further up the hill.' The wind was blowing very strongly now so I decided to stop running. I pulled the paper rolls I was going to use for weights out of mi jacket pocket. I tied one under the one mi mum had put on. Throwing the kite up into the wind, I tugged on the string a few times. It soared to about 10 feet, then spun around and nose-dived into to the ground.  Picking it up, I examined it. Nothing broken. So I put a couple more paperweight tails on it. Launching the kite in the air, I ran backwards with the string, tugging it as I went. The kite hovered in the air for a while and then twisted around in circles and finally nose-dived  into the ground again.
     By this time, I was getting a bit upset to say the least. I made 2 more paper tails and put them on. I decided this time to run down hill and get up some more speed but the faster I run, the more the kite spun around in circles, eventually crashing to the ground.
     I was getting really frustrated now so I decided to tie a smallish branch onto the tail string. I launched the kite again. Up it went high, hovered for a while and then slowly decended. On and on this procedure went hour after hour. I suddenly remembered on of the Sunday School teachers saying that God helps those who believe in him. So, as a last frustrated resort, I got down on my knees, put my head on the ground, hands together and prayed.
"Please God. My name is Richard Swindells. I'm a young boy and my kite won't fly. Please help me to make my kite fly!"
     After a few times saying this prayer, I got up and took the small branch off the kite, launched the kite and started running. Up and up the kite went. 10 feet 20 feet 25 feet and then, all of a sudden round and round it spins. Down and down it comes and finally crashes, head first into the ground, knocking one of the cross sticks out of its' pocket.
     Now I was really mad! Mi mums' madness had nothing on mine now. At this stage, I was nearly out of control! Down on mi knees I go again. This time I put mi hands together and instead of bowing mi head down, I looked up with mi eyes open onto an almost perfect blue sky. I repeated the prayer again, this time for much longer. I was doing more praying than flying now. 'Two paperweights  off and one small twig on. Launch the kite and run, run like hell', I was thinking.
     Round and round I go, up the kill, down the hill. 10 feet - 15 feet, then all at once the kite spun around and made a perfect nose-dive!
'That's it! That's bloody it!' At that point I could take no more. I grabbed the kite, threw it back down on the ground, screaming and yelling, cursing and swearing, more cursing, jumping up and down. In a fit of rage and temper, I smashed the kite to bits! I jumped  up and down on the cross sticks till they were completely splintered and smashed beyond recognition.  There was no one around for miles so there was no stopping me now. It was far too late for that!
     I found a large stone. Screaming and yelling obscenities, I smashed it down into the crumpled piece of matted string, paper, twigs and cloth. Then I tore the bed sheet material into shreds. More cursing and more swearing!
     All the no-no words I'd heard the old farmers use when they thought no one was listening. I threw myself down on my knees in complete exhaustion. Now, instead of putting my hands together in the prayer position, I clenched my fists together and looked up towards the blue sky. I continued to curse, yell, scream and swear at God. I said everything that I could imagine and everything unimaginable until I was probably blue in the face! I was totally out of my mind! As I shook my fists and cursed, everything started to fade away. The cursing and swearing seemed to drift away, off into the distance. It now felt like someone else was doing it and I was just faintly hearing it from miles and miles away.
     That was it! Everything went dark and I disappeared into the darkness. I became the darkness. I was no more!
     I have no idea how long I was in that state.
     The first thing I remember was seeing a small boy on the ground, curled up in a ball. Next to him was a pile of broken wood, knotted string, rags and paper. His face was covered in dirt and his eyes were red. It looked as though he'd been crying. As I watched him, I felt tremendous compassion for him. At that point I decided to help him for as long as he lived. I have stuck to my word form that point on. I watched him slowly come around, then sit up. He turned to look at the mess of string, paper, wood and cloth next to him. Some of the string was tangled around his clogs. He ripped the string from his clogs, stood up and started to walk away. I saw him look up to the sky and heard him say,
"Fuck you God! You let me down in my hour of need!  I don't need you in my life anymore!"

     He ran down the fields and back to his house. As he jumped over the wall, he said to the dog who ran to meet him,
"Come on Dinah, we don't need him, do we lass!"
     As he walked into the house, his mother said,
"Where've you been? I've been worried sick about you, you little bugger! What have you been up to?"
"Nowt", he said.


     Mi first look at Inngs farm was a sight to behold. It erased Skoal Carr at once. Inngs farm, Parrok Nook,  was mi new address.
'Not much to remember there.' I thought.
     Mi mum gets out of LandRover to open gate. It was a big, heavy gate with a chain around the opening side. The chain was fastened to a black stone pillar. Off to the side of sone pillar was, (what's called in Yorkshire), a style. A style is a small opening at the beginning or in the middle of a wall. Sometimes they're located in the corners where the stone walls meet. Between the two pillars is a slab of stone standing upright. Sometimes, there's also a stone step each side of slab, making it easier to climb over. Styles and Snickets allow people to go through without opening gates. They also stop the animals from getting out. Cows and pigs don't like going up steps so snickets work very well.
     Mi mum couldn't open gate as it was too big and heavy for her so we all pile out and give her a hand. After closing gate, we drove straight up field following tire marks left by the previous occupants.
     Inngs Farm. It was a great whopping big farm house, in the top left hand corner of field. In the middle front wall of the house was a large door with windows on one side. On the second floor there were two more windows. Out the front of the farm was a natural spring with water trickling out into a hole with stones around it. To the side of the house was another gate. This gate led to the yard and the barn. The yard gave access to the pig styes around back of house. There was a large tree to back of pig styes and then came the back wall which was our 5 bob week boundary wall. Off to the right, at the front of the house, was the outside toilet.
     It was a very beautiful scene. Even though this farm house was also damp, it was nowhere near as bad as Skoal Carr farm house. We all jumped out of neighbors LandRover and mi dad pulled out of his coat pocket this great big key. It must have been six inches long and rusty brown looking. On one end it had a simple designed handle and on the other, 3 large looking teeth. Mi dad pushed key in the big keyhole and turned it. It was hard to turn. The lock was probably rusty as people didn't need to lock up houses in these parts, mainly because there were no thieves and partly because there was nowt to steal. If anyone had any wealth in those parts, you wouldn't know it by their appearance.
     The farm door lock resisted opening by making a squeaking, scratching sound. Then came a loud 'clack' sound. The door hinges were squeaking as  mi dad pushed big door open. Squeaky hinges were music to mi ears. Later on, I used to stand there, swinging the door backwards and forwards, listening to the sounds it made. Mi  mum and dad never did get to appreciate my musical abilities on those door hinges. Although unknowingly they both put words to mi music. "Get away from that bloody door!" and "Leave that door alone will ya. Ah, what poets they were!
     The door opened and revealed a small entrance porch. Most farm houses were designed this way. The porch was the place where hats, coats and scarves were hung. Pig-dung boots and wellies took up residence against 'tuther wall.
    Mi dad opened next door up to reveal the largest room I had ever seen. It was big enough to ride mi three-wheel bike around. Even mi dad said,
"You could ride a bike around this room, it's so big."
     To the left, against wall, was a large fireplace, much the same style as Skoal Carr. To the right was what looked like a kitchen door. Mi mum was first through this door. She looked quite happy, as the kitchen was in good shape. There was even some old oilcloth covering the stone slab floor. On the wall was a window and underneath window was a deep sink, (the cow trough type). She seemed pleased as it was quite light. Inside the kitchen were steps leading to the bedrooms. Up the steps mi mum goes, mi too and mi sisters in tow. They were shaped like an L. Up 4 steps, then a left angle turn. Open the door and continue up the remainder of steps into bedrooms. One large bedroom and 2 smaller rooms.
"Perfect!", sez mum.
     Each room had a window that looked out over green fields and walls. I could see for miles out of mi window. Green ivy was growing all over my side wall of the house. It was no problem to push the sash window up a tiny bit and reach out for the ivy.
"Close that window! Trust you to be into mischief straight away! I don't want you falling out of there." said mi mum.
      Sometimes I used to wonder about mi mum. Did she think I was stupid? I would never have fallen out of that window. I may have jumped out but that's different. The difference is, see if I jumped out and never got hurt, that was fun. If I jumped out and got hurt, well that was an accident. It all made perfect sense to  me.
     Down the stairs we go. As we went down, I noticed a dark loft. It was the under-drawing of the kitchen roof. I made a mental note that I would investigate this scary looking place, given an opportunity. Mi mum had eyes like a hawk as well as being a mind-reader.  She had  many hidden powers did our mum. She had eyes in the back of her head although she claimed she didn't.
     Downstairs, in front room again, I noticed in far corner, there was a long bench under back window. To my great surprise, there was a top hat and cane sitting all alone, just waiting to be picked up. I ran across the room and stood in front of it. I stood there and stared at it. It never moved.  I promptly picked it up and stuck it on mi head. Sometimes mi mum said I had a big head but that top had swallowed mi head as soon as I put it on. The only thing that stopped mi head disappearing was mi nose and ears. I grabbed the cane and took off running around the room,
"Look at me mum! Look what I found. Can I have it mum? I found it first mum!"
"Get that thing off your head! Take it off at once!"
"Why?", I sez, I found it first.
"It doesn't belong to you."
"Who does it belong to then?"
"It belongs to man who lived here before.", mi dad sez.
"He mustn't have wanted it or he'd have took it with him."
"He couldn't take it with him.", mi dad sez.
"Why not?"
Mi dad sez, "They carried him out feet first. That's why."
     I grabbed the had off mi head, fast as I could. Those days, in Yorkshire, when anyone died the coffin was brought to house and the body was put inside. The lid was put on with a few nails holding it down. It was then carried out the front door, 'Feet First'.
In later years, sometimes I used to see that old man sitting on that bench looking out window. I told mi mum but she she said she never saw him. Mi sister Sheila saw him a couple of times and it gave her a right fright it did.
     Mi dad went through a door in back wall next to bench so I followed him. It led into a small room with some large bins. These were obviously feed boxes. They were lined up along walls. When mi dad opened 'em, there was still some cow nuts in one and some hen mash and corn in 'tuthers.
He sez, "Well, that's handy, rum-looking feed bins they are."
     I was thinking the same only  I saw them as hide and seek places.
     Another small store-room, off to the side, revealed a load of rubbish and a large beer barrel. I looked inside, it was empty. Out the back door of feed room, opened up into a massive barn. The walls were dotted with nest boxes for hens. Scattered around were old iron plow parts. Hanging on the walls were old rotting horse harness straps. In one corner was an old paraffin incubator. Mi dad sez, "I'll fix that up. It'll come in handy for eggs and day-old chicks."
     The barn floor was covered with hen muck and dry cow clap. At one end of barn were 2 large doors that went from the floor to ceiling.  Barn doors are always big and tall so hay cart can be brought inside and unloaded. Mi dad pushed one of these doors open. It led out into yard and round back to pig styes.
     The rest of the day, and many days following, we spent moving in our new home. There was a lot of work to do, scrubbing and cleaning. The ceiling was black from the gas lights. It didn't stay clean long. As soon as they were lit, they started drawing a big black circle on the ceiling again.


Saturday, May 30, 2015


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:


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.