Saturday, December 27, 2008
Mi chickens had stopped laying eggs by now so the small amount of money I'd made out of them had all but dried up. It was probably the best thing all around because it was not long before I was due to leave home and go to Australia. There were no more forms to fill in and I'd already been for my medical and was pronounced fit and in good sound health.
The agreement I had with Jim Bailey was to return his money that he had invested in the hens as soon as I killed and dressed them and sold them off to some of the school teachers.
Around this time, Trevor Davies had a friend who wanted to sell one of his Lurcher dogs. He only wanted 10 bob for it. Somehow I managed to scrape together the money. Thinking about it now, I probably sold off some of mi old toys that I would no longer be needing. Trevor said one of his friends would deliver the Lurcher dog at my hen hut on Friday night so I would have to get busy cleaning out the hen shit and scrubbing the walls down so as to make it a suitable home for the Lurcher to live in. Mi mother still had Raja, the Springer Spaniel so there was no chance, whatsoever, that she would let me keep it in the house.
By the time Friday night arrived the new doghouse was spotless and a bag of wood shavings had been thrown around the floor to make it nice and comfortable for mi new Lurcher. As I was waiting for the boy to show up with the Lurcher, I was thinking about how good it would be to walk over the hills again, looking for rabbits and hares. When the boy arrived, I gave him the 10 bob and took possession of the Lurcher. The Lurcher didn't seem to want to stay with me but the boy said, "It's only because he's used to living with other dogs in a shed, just like this one. Don't worry about his trying to get out, he'll get over it in a couple of days."
That evening, I spent a good 3 hours sitting in the new dog shed with the Lurcher. No matter how much love I gave it, the dog just kept right on scratching at the door, trying to get out. In the end, I locked the door so no one could steal it and went off home to have a cup of tea and off to bed.
On Saturday morning, I got up early and went down to me hut to check on mi new dog. Everything looked normal and quiet as I approached the front of the door. I banged on the wooden door a few times to see if the Lurcher was a good guard dog as well as a hunter. After 3 or 4 loud knocks there was no sign of barking so I opened the lock and pushed the door in a little ways so the dog would not bolt through the open doorway. Sticking mi head around the side of the door, to my shock and amazement there was no Lurcher dog in sight.
'Oh Shit!', I thought. 'He's escaped somehow.' When I made a detailed investigation of the shed, I found that he had forced his way through the backside wall of the old shed. In the back wall of the shed was a large piece of tin, which had been nailed on the wall from the outside. The Lurcher must have been jumping up at the tin all night and finally broken the nails out of the old rotting boards and forced his way between the gap and was now long gone!
I had no idea where Trevors' friend lived so I would have to go up to Trevors' house and tell him what had happened. After I found Trevor and told him the story, he said "The dog has been living with other Lurchers for 2 years so it will be difficult to keep it in for a while but it should get used to it. I'll go over to mi friends house. For sure it will have found its way home by now."
"All right Trev.", I said. "You go to your mates place and I'll fix up the shed where he got out and I'll wait for you at the shed. You can bring the dog back there and tonight I'll chain him up so he can't get out again."
All afternoon I worked at making the shed more dog-proofed and by the time I had finished fixing it up much better, it was getting late and no Trevor had arrived. Just as I was about to leave, I saw Trevor walking down the front of Boston Street towards my newly converted doghouse.
"Hello Trevor, where's the Lurcher. Did you find it?"
"No Dick. I went down to mi pals dog hut and they said it had not come back there, but as soon as it does they'll let me know and we can go and pick it up, alright?"
"All right mate. That's about all we can do."
That Saturday evening as I was sat at home, watching the Telly, a knock came on the door. I jumped up and said, "I'll get it. It's probably for me. I'm expecting mi friend Trevor to call." When I opened the door there were 2 strange boys standing there with a large grain bag at their feet. I closed the door behind me so Iris and Jim couldn't hear anything.
"Your name Dick Swindells?", said the biggest boy.
"Yeh, why? What do you want?" I said to him.
"We brought the Lurcher back for you.", he said.
"Oh, that's real good of you, but where is it?"
"It's in the bag, dead.", said the other boy. "Got run over by a car when it was trying to get home to the other dogs."
"Oh shit!", I said. "But why did you bring it here if it's dead!"
" 'cause you bought it from our pal and he says it's your problem now, so here it is. We'll see ya later."
They left the large sack, with the dead Lurcher in it, on mi mums' step, then turned around and walked away, up Boston Street and out of sight.
'Bloody hell, now what do I do? I've lost mi 10 bob and now I've got a dead dog in a sack sitting on mi mums' back step. If she finds out, there will be hell to pay for this. I opened the back door and said to mi mum, "I'll be back in a few minutes, I'm just off down to mi hen shed."
"Don't be more than a quarter of an hour or you'll be in trouble when you get back!", said Jim Bailey.
'In trouble.', I thought. 'I can't get into much more trouble tonight, even if I tried!'
I grabbed he end of the sack and threw it over my shoulder, then made mi way up the street and down to the hen shed. Halfway down the front of Boston Street I ran into a boy called Ernest Hargraves. He was about 18 years old and had red, fiery hair and a face full of freckles. He also wore thick bifocals, which made him look like a real geek. Because he was so big no one ever teased him or anything.
"Where are you going with the sack, Dick? You look like a real burglar", he said.
Earnest was always in trouble with the Police and they came after him for all sorts of crimes, but he was too smart for them, most of the time.
"Hello Earnest. I'm in real trouble now. I've got a dead Lurcher in the sack and I don't know what the hell to do with it and if mi mother finds out, she'll bloody well beat me!"
"What the fucking hell, are you doing with a dead Lurcher in a sack?"
After I explained the whole story to him, he said, "Tell you what I'll do with ya Dick. You give me half-a-crown for some fags and I'll get rid of the dead Lurcher for you."
"I haven't got half-a-crown Earnest."
"OK, you can owe it to me. Pay me in a week or so, I may be really broke by then and half-a-crown will come in right handy!"
As I contemplated it, half-a-crown seemed really cheap. It was not much money in comparison to the big dead problem that was slung across mi back, in a bag.
"It's a deal, Earnest!", I said as I handed him the bag. "But what are you going to do with it?"
"Oh, don't you worry about that Dick. It's my problem now, not yours."
"All right Earnest if you say so. I'll have your money sometime within the week."
We shook hands and parted company.
'What a great bloke Earnest is.', I thought as I walked off back up the street. 'He solved all my problems for half-a-crown and to me that's well worth it'.
A few nights later, I'd been out playing with a few friends and was now on mi way home. I always had to be aware of the time because Jim Bailey was sat at home, just waiting for me to be late so he could say, "What time do you call this Lad?", but tonight, I had time to spare as I shoved open Boston Street door. As I walked inside, I saw there was a stranger sat on one of the guests' chairs and the house was unusually quiet.
"Hello everybody.", I said, in a rather cheerful voice.
"This gentleman is a Railways Inspector." said mi mum, whose voice was in the fire mode.
"Oh, that's nice." I said. "It must be a really interesting job you have, is it?"
"I'y, it's a great job. There's never a dull moment. I get to investigate all sorts of crimes. Take, for instance, today. About 2 O'clock this afternoon one of the Engineers mates was filling up one of the steam engines with water out of the large overhead water tanks and what do you think he found floating on the top of the water?"
Now he had aroused my curiosity, so I said, "It could be anything, so I've really got no idea at all."
"Well, in that case let me tell you. The Engineers mate found a dead Lurcher dog."
The shocked look on my face must have been obvious as Iris, Jim Bailey and the railway inspector all stared at me.
"Would you like to tell me about it Richard?" he said.
There was no choice but to tell the inspector the whole story, after which he said, "If I was you, I would not have any more dealings with Earnest Hargraves. We know who he is because he's been stealing things from the railways' yard for years but we haven't been able to catch him at it, but seeing as you are supposed to pay him for getting rid of the dog, we may still be able to get our teeth into him at long last."
After the Railway Inspector left, mi mother hit the roof!
I won't bore you with the gory details, but she ran 'true to form'. I never saw Earnest again after that because there was only a few more months to go before I left for Australia, and he never came around the area where I lived anymore. That was the last I ever heard of Earnest and the Lurcher.
Friday, December 26, 2008
One day, as I was walking down Sowerby New Road, I met Geoffrey who was coming up the road towards me.
"Hello Dick", he said, as we met. "I haven't seen ya for a while. What have you been up to?"
"Oh not much Geoff. I've had lots of paper work to do and interviews to go on before I get accepted into the Big Brother Movement."
"So you're really going to Australia Dick, are ya?"
"I'y. I don't talk about it much now 'cause all mi other pals think I'm telling lies, so it's best not to say nought about it."
"I'y, ya right Dick. Most of the kids in Sowerby would be jealous of the fact that you're getting out of this place but I'm real happy for you. It will be great to go to another country and you'll probably make a lot of money Dick."
"How's your printing job going?" I asked him.
"Oh really great Dick. Do you want to see a sample of my work?"
He put his hand inside his coat pocked and pulled out a small booklet and said, "I printed this up in mi lunch hour. Not a bad job, eh?"
When I opened the book, I saw at once that it was a pornographic comic book. It was about a young girl about 16, who came home late one evening after her father had told her to be in the house at 9 O'clock. As I turned the pages and read the captions, the father said, "Now, I'm going to put you across my knee and give you a good spanking for being a naughty girl and disobeying me." The next page, she was across his knee and the next page he had pulled her knickers down around her ankles. The next page, he was spanking her bare bum and the picture showed a large tuft of pubic hair sticking out and the father had a gleeful look on his face. The comic porn book went on and on, showing the most descriptive pictures I had ever seen and towards the end of the book, well, I'll let you guess the rest!
The porno comic book amused my 14-year old brain, so I said to Geoff, "Have you got anymore of these?"
"No, but I can print up as many as I like now 'cause I've got it all set up."
"How much does it cost you to print up each book?"
"Oh probably about half a crown."
"Tell ya what I'll do with ya Geoffrey, you print up 20 books for me and I'll give you 5 bob a book. That's 100% profit, alright?"
"I'y, but what are you going to do with them Dick?"
"I'm going to sell them to the kids at school. It will be no problem at all to get 10 bob a piece for them. Have we got a deal Geoff?"
"When will I get my share?"
"Soon as I've sold 'em, I'll give you your share. I can't give you any money up front 'cause I'm broke but I'm very trustworthy Geoff and I won't rob you, alright?"
"OK. I'll have 20 books for you tomorrow evening. Meet me up at Beachwood Estate at 7 O'clock. See ya later Dick", he said as he walked off up the road.
"See ya later Geoff."
I walked back home thinking about mi new business that was about to bring me in a lot of money.
The next evening I met Geoffrey at Beachwood Estate and he handed me a small package covered in plain brown paper.
"Thanks Geoff. I'll get your money to you as soon as I get rid of all these books."
I'd already decided that I would lay all the books out flat under mi mattress so mi mum wouldn't be able to find them, 'cause if she did she would hit the roof!
As I got close to Boston Street, I went down the front of the house and put the small package of books behind a couple of ferns in the front garden and then I walked around the top of the street and down to our back door.
Iris and Jim were engrossed in a TV series when I walked in so it was easy to walk through the front room (which was never used), open the front door and retrieve the brown paper package. Once I got them upstairs, I stood mi mattress on end and laid them out flat then let the mattress down into place so they were hidden from view. I always made mi own bed in the mornings before going off to school so mi mum would never find them under the mattress.
The next morning I took one of the books to school so I could show it around, very discreetly. That way, once the boys saw a couple of pages, I would get rid of 20 books, no problem at all. By the end of the day I had taken orders for 26 books. I would have to get Geoffrey to print up a few more. The delivery date was set for Friday, that would give the lads enough time to come up with 10 bob, which was the going rate for a 'fresh-off-the-press' pornographic comic book.
'13 pounds!' I thought to myself. 'The old Stepfather only makes 8 pounds a week for 40 hours work, in a factory. By the time Friday comes, I'll have a lot more money than mi mum and him put together.'
On Thursday evening, the night before I was due to make my deliveries; I'd contacted all the boys who had ordered a book. Each one of them had got their money together and the deal was to take place early Friday morning before school started, because I didn't want to be carrying around the small brown paper parcel all day.
As I walked down Boston Street that night on my way home, I was whistling a merry tune. Everything was going like clockwork as I had planned. When I pushed open 25 Boston Streets door and made mi grand entrance, I said to Iris and Jim, "Right on 9 O'clock eh."
"I'll give you 'right on 9 O' bloody clock!" sez mi mum.
"Now what's wrong? I've only been in the house 20 seconds and you're at me already!"
"Where did you get those filthy, bloody pornographic books from?" she said.
"What pornographic books?" I said, with a look of innocence on mi face.
"The pornographic comic books I found under your mattress!"
"I don't know what you're talking about."
"20 bloody pornographic books, all neatly stacked up under your mattress Richard! That's what I'm talking about. 20 filthy dirty, bloody porno books that are now stacked and burned up in the fire. That's what I'm talking about!"
With that, she grabbed the cane and came after me like a mad woman, letting fly with the cane rod. She attacked me from all sides. I got a whack from the cane for each word she yelled at me and a double whack each time she said the word, 'pornographic'. By the time she finished, I was wishing I had never seen those porno books!
"Next time you ever bring such filth and trash into my clean house, I'll bloody well kill you!"
"You shouldn't have looked at them!". I said. That was the only defense I could think of at the time.
"I didn't look at them. I'm not interested in such crap. I've got my good name to think of."
"Then how did you know what was in them if you didn't read them?"
"I only turned a couple of pages and that was enough for me! What the hell are you doing with 20 bloody, filthy, vile porn books anyway?"
"You've just ruined my new business. I've got orders for all those books and now you've burned them. I'm 10 quid out of pocket!"
"You were going to sell those books for 5 bob each?" she said as she flew at me with the cane again.
"Well, you don't give me enough pocket money to live on. What else do you expect me to do for money?"
"There are a hundred and one bloody things you could do besides selling bloody filth like that! Who the hell did you get such vile filth from anyway?"
Just for spite, I said to her, "Geoffrey Thorpe printed them for me. Do you still wish I was a good clean lad like him now?"
"You cheeky little bugger!" she sez, and flew at me with the cane again. "I'll give him a piece of my bloody mind if I ever see him again! Now get up those bloody stairs to bed! You haven't heard the last of this my boy!"
"Come on Luv." sez Jim Bailey. "Don't upset yourself luv. You know what happens to your blood pressure when you get excited."
"I'll give him bloody blood pressure if he ever does anything like that again! I've got a good mind to stop you going to Australia now."
This was mi mums' latest form of emotional blackmail these days. So I made misen scarce, just in case she meant it this time.
The next day, my credibility as a good businessman had gone down the drain when the disappointed lads found out what had happened. When I told Geoffrey about how the books had ended up in the fire, he was not too pleased because he was now quite a few pounds out of pocket, from his printing costs. He never spoke to me again, for at least a couple of months.
So ended my career as a pornography distributor. In later years I looked back on it and thanked Iris for the beating she gave me. Had it not happened that way, I may have very well been writing this book from behind bars now. This book would have been called;
MEMOIRS OF A COMIC PORN DISTRIBUTOR!
Tuesday, December 23, 2008
Mi mum had given her consent for me to go to Australia with the Big Brother Movement so I was now in the middle of sending forms backwards and forwards to London. The whole process took about a year to complete.
Bruce Whipp, the Australian who used to live next door to us, had already packed in his job and taken his Yorkshire wife and 3 small children back to Australia. Before he had left he said to me that as soon as he had an address and phone number he would send it on to me and being true to his word, I had his letter in my top drawer in mi bedroom.
It was almost Christmas now. The weather had turned icy cold and it looked like we were all in for a cold, hard Yorkshire winter. I had decided to make this Christmas mi last one with Elland Silver Band because as well as leaving home for Australia I had lost a lot of interest in playing Brass Band music. I would be 15 soon and the thought of going to Australia consumed the interest I'd had in the Brass Band.
I would tell most of mi friends at school, "I'll be leaving school earlier than you lot because I've been accepted in a program that takes boys under 18 to Australia and finds work for them on farms and out in the Bush,"
"You're only joking with us Dick-lad.," they'd say. "You won't be leaving school before we do. You'll be stuck in Sowerby Bridge for the rest of your life, the same as us, so why do you persist in spinning us all a big yarn?"
"All right. I won't say another word about it. You're right and I'm wrong. I'll be leaving school the same day as you lot!"
"That's better Dick. It's unheard of to leave school before your time and whoever heard of a 15-year-old boy going to Australia on his own! But, we've got to hand it to you Dick; you sure can spin a good yarn. Where do you think them up from?"
"Just joking lads." I said.
"Yeah, let's play 'closest to the wall'.
As it got closer to Christmas, Elland Band got ready for the Christmas Carol Busking day. Every 25th of December we would all get together as a band and play Christmas carols in the streets and this 25th was no exception. One of the older band members picked me up in Sowerby Bridge 'cause the double decker buses did not start to run till late on Christmas morning. When we were all ready, present and organized we set off up the road, marching and playing in our bright red & gold uniforms. Against a background of pure white snow, no one could miss seeing or hearing us as we stood at the top of the terraced streets and played everybody's favorite Christmas carols.
We always took about 10 band friends along with us and their job was to walk down the streets with the collection boxes and knock at the doors.
"Merry Christmas from Elland Silver Prize Band!", they'd say as the people smiled and put a couple of shillings into the collection box.
Now, prior to the 25th, I had decided to do some busking around the streets with mi trumpet to see how much money I could make for Christmas. I said to mi pal, Steven Powell,
"Do you want to make some money tonight?"
"What do I have to do for it?", he said.
"I'm going out busking with mi trumpet so if you want to come along here's what we'll do."
After I explained the procedure to him, he liked the idea. We decided to meet halfway between this house and mine.
It was a really cold night and the snow was falling in large fluffy flakes as we trudged through the snow to an area I knew of a few miles away. When we eventually arrived in the high-class area, I said to Steven, "We come here because terraced-houses only contain poor people. In this area they're all rich 'cause they live in semi-detached houses or bungalows, so here's the plan. We go to the first door and you knock and as soon as they open it, I'll start to play a Carol on mi trumpet and you start to sing. While you're singing along with me, take this tin I brought with me and stick it under their noses. Make sure you smile 'cause I can't smile and play trumpet at the same time. Oh, and try to look cold and shivery. That's a good one. It always sucks 'em in!"
By the time an hour had passed we had quite a few bob rattling up and down in the tin. Steve and me had a great time that evening, even though it was freezing cold and we were covered in snow. It was so cold that at one point we knocked on a door and waited. As soon as it opened, I put the trumpet to mi lips and played the first two G's to Good King Wenceslas. When I went to push the first and second valves down to make an A, the valves on the trumpet had frozen up so this horrible noise came out of the Bell and we heard a baby start to cry from upstairs. As the door fully opened, an angry young woman appeared. Out of fear, Steve stuck our collection tin under her nose and kept singing. Steve was not much of a singer so the woman said, "Shut that ghastly noise up! You should learn to sing before you go out busking and as far as your friends' trumpet playing goes, he'd have been better off leaving it at home, 'cause all he's done with that noisy, obnoxious thing is to wake up my baby!! Here's 2 bob.", she said as she gave us both a dirty look. "Now bugger off and don't come back here again or I'll call the cops!"
I couldn't help myself so I started to laugh at the situation. "Come on Steve, the lady does not appreciate good music when she hears it!"
"I'll 'good music' you two rascals if you come knocking on my door again this Christmas!"
Let's go down the road a-ways Steve. There's some more bungalows that I know of. I'll have to take mi trumpet valves out first and spit on 'em to get 'em going."
"Why don't you put some oil on 'em Dick. It'll save you spitting on them?"
" 'Cause valve oil is no good in cold weather. It makes 'em stick worse. They'll be all right in a minute and as soon as I've got 'em freed up I'll just have to keep them moving as we're walking along. Let's go to that big house at the end of that street.", I said to Steve as we trudged on through the cold evening.
"All right, same procedure Dick?"
"Same procedure Steve. As soon as the door starts to open, we'll play. 'We wish you a Merry Christmas and a Happy New Year, then smile and rattle the tin and don't be shy about rattling the tin. The noise of the tin reminds them we're not just here for the good of our health or to play for free. That's how Elland Band does it and it always works, so give it a good hard rattle. Are you ready?"
"All right, knock now. Wait till they come. I can hear their footsteps but don't make a sound yet."
The large ornate door handle started to turn.
"Now Steve!", I said.
I struck up the first few notes of 'We wish you a Merry Christmas', and Steve was right with me. He was also in key, which made a change for him. As soon as the big door swung open Steve's mouth fell open and he stopped singing. I had the habit of closing my eyes when I played so I opened them to find out why he was not singing and rattling our collection tin as we had planned. I almost stopped playing myself when I saw who was blocking the light from the open door. It was Mr. Miles, our school Headmaster! I don't know who got the greatest shock, him or us. 'Screw him.' I thought. 'It's Christmas'! I stamped on Steve's toe and he immediately came out of shock and started to rattle the tin and sing at the top of his voice, in another key.
"All right, you've made your point!", said Miles. "How much is this little prank going to cost me?"
"Most people give as much as they can afford Sir.", I said.
"I should have known you'd say that Swindells before I asked!"
Miles was now well and truly hooked. If he didn't cough up, he knew that I'd tell everyone at school what a Scrooge he was. He put his hand in his pocket and pulled out a handful of money. He took a half crown and dropped it through the rough cut-out slot of Steves' tin.
He was just about to put his money away, when I said, "Sir, there's two of us." He gave me one of his famous 'school Headmaster looks' and then dropped another half crown into the tin.
"Would you like us to finish the song Sir?", I said.
"I don't think so Swindells. I think my Christmas holiday has been well and truly ruined enough."
"Well, thank you very much Sir. I hope you have a very merry Christmas."
He wasted no time closing the big, expensive door. As soon as me and Steve got out of earshot, we burst into sidesplitting laughter.
That evening, cold as it was, we were now 3 pounds each better off and for all the canings we'd each received from old Miles over the years, we now felt like we were one-up on the sadistic old bugger!
Tuesday, August 26, 2008
When I got back to Boston Steet, it was about midnight. I didn't need the key mi mother had given me because the lights were still on and as soon as I touched the doorknob the door came open and mi mothers' sour face was looking at me.
"What are you doing still up? It's just after 12, ya should be in bed. Where's Jim?"
"He's in bed. He was tired."
"So why didn't ya go with him?"
"I can't sleep knowing your out of a night time. Ya want a cuppa' tea?"
"No thanks Mum, it's a bit late for tea."
"I suppose you've had too much beer with ya father?"
"Listen Mum, it doesn't have to be like this. I'm 21 now. I've been away for 6 years."
"I'y. I wish you'd stayed away now."
"What do ya mean by that?"
"Well, what I don't know doesn't hurt me, does it? I thought you were going to come home as a real nice boy but you're nothin' but a boozer like ya father!"
"It's how I live my life mother. I don't tell you how to live your life, do I?"
"Ya don't have to, 'cause I don't drink."
"Everyone I know drinks beer. It's only a way of socializing."
"I don't have to drink beer to socialize."
"No, maybe your friends don't drink beer, so I guess you don't."
"Well, I don't like it Richard and I don't know how long I can put up with your drinking, lad."
"I've only been home 2 days and 1 night, Mother. What are you talking about?"
"Well, you could have taken me out to dinner tonight somewhere. Instead you prefer to go out boozing with your father."
"All right, I'll take you out somewhere tomorrow night."
"Ya can't. Ya boozing pals are coming for ya tomorrow night."
"OK then, we'll go out the following night."
"Don't bother Richard. I'd hate to put you to any trouble."
"Listen Mother, I don't know what's wrong with you, but you can't blame your state of mind on my behavior. I thought you were happy since you got married to Jim?"
"I've got no complaints with Jim, it's just that you've been away for so long."
"Had you not have left mi Dad and not got married to another bloke, it would have been my duty to look after you when I left school and that I would have gladly done , but you chose to marry another man, which I don't mind...that's your business. But once you did that, don't expect to put the guilts on me that I left home when you needed me!"
"What else could I do? I had to marry someone else or we wouldn't have been able to live on one wage."
"Other women did. Not every woman with kids gets married again, especially if she's got 3 older kids."
"Then what kind of a life would that have been for us?"
"Maybe a better one than I lived, once we left mi Dads."
"How can you say that when Jim was good to you?"
"Yeah, sure Mum. You've got a very short memory when it suits ya!"
"What do you mean by that Richard?"
"Did you forget about the 'stiff arms' he gave me and mi sisters? And what about the times he made us stay home, night after night? Also when he pushed me down the stairs!"
"But he brought ya all those clothes and gave ya money so you could go to Australia."
"Yeah, that's true..I wonder why?"
"How can you insinuate that Richard? Jim loved you like his own."
"He never had any kids of his own to my knowledge, so where do ya get the comparison from?"
"You know what I mean Richard. Don't be smart."
"Listen Mother and listen very carefully. You left my Dad to get married to another man and you expected the 3 of us to call him dad. Well, he isn't my Dad. I'm not complaining and I don't feel angry or guilty about anything 'cause it's all over. You got what you wanted out of life. My life was ruined, so don't tell me how to live my life anymore. If you're happy with Jim then what are you doing up at this time of night?"
"I told you, I couldn't sleep."
"Well, you'll get a chance now 'cause I'm going to bed. There's nothing more to say. You live your life and let me live mind. Good night, see you in the morning."
That evening, as I laid in my old room, I felt really f^ckng angry now and I refused to have mi Mother dump her guilt on me 'cause I could tell she wasn't happy. Jim Bailey was a decent bloke for marrying her but she knew and I knew that he couldn't hold a bloody candle up to George. He isn't half the man that George is and never will be.
I look like my father and I drink beer like he does so I guess that I remind her of things that she'd sooner forget. I thought that things would be different if I came home for a holiday but It looks like I was wrong. So all I could do now was to continue to be myself and see what happens.
The next morning the household was pretty tense. Sandra said to me, "Ya fancy a walk Richard?"
"What a good idea Sandra. I'll grab mi coat and I'll be with you in a couple of shakes."
"Hello George", said an elderly woman who passed us on the street. "Who's the young lad with ya? " "That's mi lad. He's come to visit me from Australia."
"Who's that?" I asked mi dad as we walked away?" "She's one of mi new neighbours, lad. She's only been here 6 years. She's a nosy old cow too. She'll go and tell the whole bloody neighborhood now that mi son's come home. I'll probably be on the 7 O'clock news tomorrow night!"
"She seems to like ya Dad."
"Bolox! All she's after is mi bloody pension and someone to do her fetchin' and carryin'. Her old man died a couple of years back and now she's lookin' for another bloody mug. It won't be old George Swindells, I can tell ya that for nought!"
Once we got to the bus stop we walked around in circles, stamping our feet on the ground to warm 'em up.
"Look out lad, here comes our bus. Stick ya hand out or he won't stop..he's in too much of a bloody hurry."
It was an enjoyable bus ride with mi dad. He even came upstairs with me so I could have a fag. The upper deck was almost empty so he had no complaints about the smoke. It didn't take long before the bus came to a squeaking halt at Sowerby Bridge and pretty soon mi dad and I were walking through the front door of West End Club.
"Evening George." said the club doorman. "It's gonna be a bitter cold night. It's just as well we've got the heat cranked up. Are you a member young fella?"
Before I could answer, mi dad said, "Is he buggery Jack, this is my lad. He's just come over from Australia for a holiday. I'll sign him in."
Once I was signed in, the doors of the club were open to me so we went inside and ordered 2 pints of Websters Best, then found ourselves a table for the evening. It was about 7 O'clock and the club was empty except for a couple of bar flies who had resigned themselves to seats so as to make it through the evening.
"It's a bit of a dead place, isn't it Dad?"
"It's only 7..they don't start comin' in until 7:30. By 8, ya won't see an empty seat in this place. At 8:15 there's an act on so it's bound to fill up."
"What kind of an act is on tonight?"
"Oh, some bloody comedian-singer. I saw his poster as we came in. His name's Eddy Mac or something of the other."
"Is he any good?"
"Buggered if I know lad. I haven't heard him before, but if he's ought like the other buggers we'd may as well not have him. There's mi old mate Gavin comin'. His old lady must have let him off the leash early tonight."
"Evening George lad. How are ya?"
"Same as always Gavin. How would you expect me to be?"
"Just askin' George. Ya know my old backs' been playing up something terrible this week."
"Suppose you've been diddlin' that old wench of yours again, have ya?"
"Don't be silly George, it's probably healed up as far as I know."
"So you say Gavin. If ya not getting ought, how come she's still pushing ya around?"
"That's just her way George. I'm used to that by now. I've been married to her for 40 years."
"That's 39 years too bloody long Gavin. Go and get yourself a pint and come and sit ya self down before ya fall down."
"I take it that's one of ya drinking mates Dad?"
"I'y, I've known him for years lad. He's mi drinkin' mate when he's allowed out and when he's not down at the club, he's a bloody house-wife for that wench of his."
Gavin came back over and sat down at our table. He took a mouthful out of his pint and went. "Haaaa! So who's the young bloke ya with George? Aren't ya gonna introduce us?"
"Who the hell does he look like Gavin? Have a good bloody look?"
"He looks a lot like you George, now I take a bit more notice."
"Course he looks like me. He's mi son!"
"I thought your lad was in Australia, George?"
"He was. Now he's here. He's come over to see me. His name's Richard."
"My name's Gavin, good to meet ya Dick. So you're Georges' lad eh?"
"You're a bit more handsome than ya Dad, far as I can tell."
"Bolox Gavin!" said mi Dad. "If he looks as good as me when he's 75, he'll be doin' all right, but if he keeps smoking those bloody fags like they're going out of fashion, he might not see 24, never mind 75?"
"Don't listen to him Dick. I've known ya dad for 40 bloody years. He was just the same as you when he was a young'un. He smoked like a bloody chimney."
"That's when I was young and bloody stupid Gavin, just like him."
"Where's ya old girlfriends George, haven't they shown up yet?"
"Girlfriends mi bloody arse Gavin. They come and sit at my table uninvited. What the hell am I supposed to say, Piss Off!"
"Oh no George, they'd never buy ya another beer again if ya said that."
"I suppose a man should. They're always trying to get a bloody foot in my front door."
"Maybe it would be good for ya George."
"Bolox Gavin! Ya think I want to end up like you, on a bloody chain. Ya must be jokin' man."
Just then, two old ladies with curled and dyed hair walked over to the table.
"Evening George, hello Gavin. Ya saved our places I see."
"We saved nothin'. The club put 'em there. We just didn't bother to shift 'em." said Dad.
"George", said the big fat one, "We know you better than that. Who's the young fella anyway?"
"It's mi lad. Ya can keep ya eyes off him too, Neither of us are available."
"My names Maude and this is my pal Gert. Ya father's full of jokes ya know. He couldn't do without us really."
"Don't bloody bet on it or you'll lose ya pension money." said George.
"Gavin, go and get us 2 half-pints please.", said Maude.
"Tell 'em to fetch their own beer Gavin. Ya only get one night out as it is." said George.
"Oh it's all right George, I don't mind."
"Please ya sen then. Bigger bloody fool you!"
"You're grumpy tonight George. Did ya lose on the races?" said Gert.
"Well, I didn't win, put it that way."
So that's how I spent that first evening with mi Dad. He seemed to be quite happy having a few beers with people his own age that obviously adored him. Once the club closed down for the night, I walked mi Dad down to the bus stop and made sure he caught his last bus home to Jubilee Terrace.
Sunday, July 20, 2008
As a child, I went with the family to Blackpool, (a seaside resort). I was 6 years old and boys being boys, I decided to go in the Ocean for a swim. Conveniently, I forgot that my idea of swimming was to flop my arms and kick one leg, the other keeping good contact with the bottom of the small swimming pool in Sowerby Bridge in Yorkshire. I was doing quite well until a large wave rolled clean over the top of me and then proceeded to drag me out about 20 feet or so. When I felt for the bottom it was gone! I immediately sunk down about 15 feet and there I found the bottom. Horrendous fear and panic arose as I had swallowed, what I perceived to be, half of the Atlantic Ocean. Somehow I struggled to the surface and before I could catch a breath another wave went over me.
There was a small boat about 10 feet away from me with 6 or 8 tourists, laughing and joking as they waited to go out for a trip. The fear, desperation and uncontrollable panic stopped me from crying out for help. I did my best but nothing came out, except seawater. Down I went for a second
time and hit the bottom again.
This time I met the God of Death. I don't need to tell what that was like. He said to me, "You're going to die today. I'll be waiting for you!" At that stage, I think I pissed myself. Somehow I got to the surface again. Once there I focused on a young man I could see in the boat. I had been taught to pray, so in a nano-second I prayed, pleaded and begged for my life to be saved. My prayer went so, " Please, please, please save me God! I will do anything you tell me to do for the rest of my life if You will please save me!! At that point I went down for the third time. The pain in my head and lungs was now at bursting point. As far as I was concerned my life was over before it had really begun and I knew He was at the bottom waiting for me. As that thought flashed through the mind, a hand grabbed my hair and yanked me to the surface. The next thing I remember was coughing up the Atlantic Ocean in the relative safety of the small boat.
The young man, who I had focused on, just before I went down again, had hauled me out. "Are you alright son?" he asked. "Are you OK?"
"I'm alright." I coughed and blurted out.
"Where's your mother? I'll take you back to her."
"No, please mister. Don't tell mi mum. She'll kill me. I'm not supposed to go in the water!"
Once he saw I was all right, he turned the boat around and put me on the beach. When I got back to where my mother was sitting, she said, "Where the bloody hell have you been, you little bleeder? Have you been in that bloody water when I told you not to?"
"No mum, only paddling."
"Stay here now with me and don't go bloody wandering off on your own. And don't go in that bloody water again. People who can't swim have drowned in the water. I'm sure you don’t want to experience that do you?"
"No mum." I said.
From that day to this, I have lived on borrowed time. I have also kept the promise I made. There has been many times over the years that I questioned my plea for help. Regardless of that I am still here, following His orders. The first time I heard that voice again, (after Blackpool) it said to me, "Leave this place and go to Australia."
By the way, tattooing my head was not my bright idea. I'll give you one guess who thought that one up!
Saturday, July 19, 2008
The day continued with Jim sitting in his rocker and Iris fussed around the house. Sandra laughed and joked around with me. The time came for me to get ready to go out or I'd be late. I threw on some good clothes just in time for the knock on the back door.
"See ya later everybody.", I said in a cheery voice and walked toward the door.
"What time are you coming home tonight Richard?"
"I have no idea mother so don't wait up for me again."
"I'll have my house key back then."
"What? How will I get in when I come home?"
"We go to bed a 11 O'clock her so if you're not home by then the house will be locked."
"Suit ya self!", I said as I threw the keys on the table.
Now I was really pissed and angry. Once I got outside with mi couple of school chums, who I hadn't seen for years, I put the domestic garbage of mi mothers' houses aside and went off for a good night out.
It was great being out with my two pals and their wives, although I felt a bit left out because everyone I met was married with children. Not that they put any crap on me, they were generous to the max and asked me all about my life in Australia.
That evening we drank a lot of beer at the Star Hotel in Upper Sowerby Bridge. I re-met a bloke called John Lodge who I'd been somewhat 'pally' with at Ryburn School. He was a very short bloke and like most short men he had a complex about it. A real chip on his shoulder!
As the night went on he got into some trouble with 3 blokes from another area. So muggins-me, thinking I was still in Australia where mates are real mates, walked over to where they were standing at the bar. The three blokes were threatening to punch his head in, so I said, "Ya having problems, Johnny?"
"Yeah Dick, these 3 blokes are hassling me."
"Leave him alone fellas. He's not on his own now. There's two of us!"
"Great!", said one bloke, then hauled off and punched me in the face. I shook my head and said, "Good shot mate! Now it's my turn!"
I cracked him in the head with a big right hand and arse over head he went, but next minute found me on the floor with his two mates on top of me! All I remember was rolling around on the barroom floor, under the round tables. There were punches flying everywhere and most of 'em were aimed at me! Out of the corner of my eye, I saw John Lodge crawling away under the tables, out of harm.
"Hey! Where are you sneaking off to, Johnny?", I called.
He never looked back. Once he was away from the fight he kept going. Straight out he door!
When it was finally over, I was in a right mess. Although the three blokes had various injuries, I'd caught a few punches myself mainly with my face. Steve and Colin helped me clean up a bit but nothing could repair my shirt which was covered in blood, with a big tear down the front.
I walked home alone that evening vowing to myself not to help anyone else when it wasn't my problem. My bigheartedness and sense of loyalty had yielded me a fat lip, a bloody nose and a bruised cheek.
'Iris is not going to like this', said the inner voice as I walked down the cobblestone street towards her house.
When I tried the door it was locked and the lights were out. It was about 1:30 and there was thick layer of frost covering the house walls. I started to feel the cold now as I was only wearing a thin shirt and cardigan. It was obvious to me that she would blow her brains if I knocked at this time, so I decided to look for some shelter or another way into her house. I tried the lower window but it was firmly locked. The coal cellar shute was wet and black from coal dust, so that was out of the question. The only other option I could see was to sit on the outside toilet until the morning and do the best I could to keep myself from freezing to death.
By about 4 O'clock my false teeth were chattering so badly they were keeping me awake so I took 'em out and put them in my pocket. It was one of the longest and most uncomfortable nights I think I've ever had. The temperature was below zero but somehow I managed to make it.
The back door opened at 7 when Jim Bailey came out for the milk. It took me a few minutes to get the stiffness out of my joints so I could walk but once this done, I walked in the house as if nothing mattered at all.
When mi mother saw me she hit the roof. I was in no mood for any of her lectures so I walked off upstairs to wash up and change mi clothes. Once I was cleaned up I felt a lot better so I lay down on mi bed for a few minutes and before long the daydream dissolved into darkness.
I woke up at 4 O'clock, washed mi face, combed mi hair and went downstairs. When I walked into the kitchen, my suitcase was sitting next to the back door.
"Who put mi suitcase there?"
"I did.", said Jim Bailey.
"Because you're leaving!"
Wednesday, March 26, 2008
One morning mi dad wasn't around so I went looking for him. I found him in the small room next to a big old brewers barrel and I said,
"what ya' up to dad?"
"What's in the barrel?"
"ey Dad, what ya gonna do with rats?"
"Watch and you'll find out."
Just then I 'erd this squeekin' noise and loud bangin' around in the barrel. He must have been a mind-reader 'cause right when I was gonna' reach out and take the lid off of the barrel, I 'erd mi Dad say,"And don't take the lid off that barrel. Just wait and watch."
I did. I waited for ages and ages and now't appeared. I was thinking of taking lid off 'a barrel but I dare'nt. So, I left and found summat else to amuse misen with.
That night, I couldn't get them rats out of mi 'ed. Next morning, when I got up, first thing I went into barn. Mi dad was looking in barrel and when he saw mi coming he put lid back on.
"What's up in barrel, Dad?"
"Now't and keep ya nose out 'a barrel!"
"Ya must be doing summat, Dad?"
"Am doin' now't, wait and see."
The barrel was very quiet. No noise. I was gonna' sit on barrel lid but I was a bit scared so instead I grabbed the milking stool and sat there with mi elbows on mi knees and mi 'ed in mi 'ands watchin'. All of a sudden they started squeekin'. It made me jump so much I nearly fell off 'a stool. I walked around barrel to see if I could peek through any of the cracks in the barrel but they were all too narrow,
This went on for what seemed weeks to me. Everyday, I'd go and sit in front of barrel and everyday they'd squeek. One day, I was sitting in front of barrel and mi dad come into barn.
"ey Dad, there's no sqeeking comin' out a' barrel today."
"Good, that's what I've bin waitin' for."
He goes up to barrel and lifts lid up a little bit and peeks inside."
I sez to him, "Why aren't rats squeekin' any more?"
"They're all gone except one."
"Where they all gone? They couldn't 'ave gotten out a' barrel." (Just in case he thought I looked inside and they all got out 'cept one.)
"Ya' want to look inside barrel?"
"Yeh!" even though I was a bit more scared by now.
"Come over 'ear and be careful."
He lifts lid on barrel and shines 'is torch inside. I looked in barrel and it made mi jump! Mi heart was banging away. In bottom of barrel I saw this great big, fat brown rat. He was as big as mi cat 'meatmeat." He had these big black eyes that were staring at me. My heart was banging even louder now!.
"Where are all the other rats gone? How'd they get out a' barrel?"
"They didn't get out boy. That one in there ate 'em all."
"Why'd he eat 'em all?"
"Cause he was hungry. He ate the weakest ones till they were all gone."
"But why'd he do that?"
"Cause now he's tasted rat meat. He likes it and he won't go and eat me week-old chicks."
Mi dad picked up barrel then with the lid on, so I followed him into barn where all hens were. He took barrel over to corner of barn and said, "Stand back!" I watched him tip barrel over and then this big, brown rat run out a' barrel and across floor and straight for the light shining under the big barn door.
"Dad! He's runnin' away! What now?"
"He'll be back. He's a cannibal rat now. He'll come back and attack all the smaller rats in barn soon as he gets hungry."
After that I looked for him every day but I never saw him for a long time.
One day, I sez to mi dad,"eh dad maybe the cannibal rat run away for good?"
"No, he's still living around barn somewhere."
"How d'ya know he is dad?"
"Cause there's hardly any rats livin' in barn now and I haven't found any half-eaten chicks for weeks."
Wednesday, March 5, 2008
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."
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.
"Richard, Richard!" mi mum yelled.
"Don't what me! Go down field to old Mrs. Wheelers' house and get me a carton of matches.
"What!" I said in horror.
"You heard me. I'm out of matches. Go down to old ladies house and get me some matches. Here's a shilling and mind you don't lose it on the way."
"I'm not going down there to her house, she's a witch!"
"Don't be bloody daft. There's no such thing as witches."
"There is mum. I've been reading about them in history books at school. They turn little boys into toadstools and little girls into frogs!"
"You daft bugger. Sometimes I'm sorry you learned to read. You're supposed to be getting more brains, not less."
Just then mi dad adds his two penneth, "If brains were gunpowder he wouldn't have enough to blow his hat off!"
"Here's the money. Now go and do as you're told.'
There was no getting out of it now so I begrudgingly took the shilling from mi mums hand.
I wasn't fond of having two sisters. A brother would have been much better to my way of thinking. Sometimes though, they came in handy on occasions such as these. Off to find mi sisters.
"Hey Sheila." I sez. "Do you want to come for a walk?"
"Oh, not far. Just down the field to Mrs. Wheelers house."
"Don't be daft! She's a witch. She'll eat me!"
Now I wish I hadn't teased them about Mrs. Wheeler coming in the dead of night to grab them from their beds. After pleading, emotional blackmail and every other ploy I could think of, she wasn't having a bar of it.
"No, I'm scared!" was her final answer.
I set off on the most dreaded journey of my young life.
'I'll never make it. She'll put me in the big cooking pot she keeps on her stove. Then, she'll eat me all up and no one will know. No more fun and games. I know, Dinah! Dinah, at least she'll come with me.
"Come on Dinah, let's go."
Off we go. At least Dinah loves me. Down the field we go, along the wallside to the far end of field, through snicket to a row of cottages. There were three cottages in all. Mrs. Matlocks' was on one end, an empty one in middle and old Mrs. Wheelers' place was on the end. The dark end! I had only to walk along the end side of her building now. It was a narrow walkway made of flagstones with a tall black-stone wall running alongside it.
'No escape there,'I thought.'Too high.'
On 'tuther side was a muck-middin. (a muck-middin is where the farmer piles up the cow dung when he shovels out his cow sheds.) Nine or ten feet deep of cow clap. No way out there.
Creeping along the narrow pathway I sez, "Come on Dinah, stay close."
Dinah sits down on the path and looks at me. "Let's go, come on, theres now't to be scared of!"
She lays down and looks up at me. "Come on Dinah, don't be daft. She won't eat ya. She doesn't like dogs, they're too tough."
Dinah wasn't budging. She also refused to be pulled. 'This is it. I'm on mi own now.' I thought.
Around the corner of her house I creep, not hardly breathing. Mi heart was banging so loud it was deafening me. The front door was half open so I tried to sneak a look around the door jam. It was no use. There was a thick, long black curtain blocking my view. 'Only one thing left to do now.'I thought. So, I knocked on the open door very quietly, hoping she wouldn't hear me. No answer. The thought flashed across mi mind. 'Leave now while you still can!' I considered it but I knew mi mum would give me a clout, call me stupid and send me back. (I'd done that once before.) I knocked a bit louder. No answer. There was only once course of action left open. I called out to her in my most feeble voice, "Mrs. Wheeler?" No answer. I made one step forward, took a big swallow and called again, "Mrs. Wheeler?" Nothing. Maybe I'm lucky and she's gone out or better still, maybe she's dead!" I decided to make one last shout as loud as I could.
"Who is it?" The reply came.
'Oh no! She's home!' I swallowed hard, "It's me, Richard."
"Come inside." She said.
'Oh God! Please no! Now I'm really done for.'
"Come inside." came the reply again.
This time my throat was so dry I couldn't swallow at all. Slowly, I reached out to touch the curtain. It was made of thick, black velvet and smelled funny. I grabbed the side nearest the far wall and pulled it back a couple of inches. Next, I peered behind the curtain with mi left eye. To my surprise, I couldn't see a thing! It was pitch dark.
"Mrs. Wheeler?" I said, not as loud this time.
Her voice came back, "Come in Richard. I'm not feeling too well today."
I pulled the black curtain to one side and stepped through it. When I let it go it closed behind me. It was dark so I stood there for, what seemed like, hours. Not a sound. I was starting to see different shades of black now. I walked slowly forwards, my left hand tracing the old plastered wall. The smell was getting thicker now as I neared, what looked like, an open doorway with no door. When I reached the doorway it was not quite as dark and I could see into her room. At the far end was an open door leading into kitchen. The curtains were drawn across the window. this window must have looked out onto our filed. To the side of kitchen door was a huge cabinet with cups and saucers on the top shelves. In the middle of the cabinet was a shelf with a porcelain vase on it and an old radio. down below were to large cupboards. On the joining wall was a fireplace with a dull fire going and a massive big cauldron pot. Steam was coming out of the top.
Just then, a voice said,"Come in lad. What do you want?" As my head jerked around, almost off its hinges, I saw her! There she was, in a long black dress done up to the neck. She was lying on an old brass poster bed, propped up on two white-looking pillows.
"What d'ya want lad? I'm not feeling well today."
I heard this squeaky voice say, "Mi mum sent me for a carton of matches."
"Go over to that kitchen cabinet. You'll find 'em in that bottom right-hand cabinet."
Oh no! This meant I had to turn my back on her! I was frozen with fear now.
"Go on." She sez."Hurry up lad!"
I slowly turned towards the cabinet and may way over to the cupboard. Slowly, I bent towards the cupboard door. My little fist was aching from squeezing the shilling. I reached out to touch the door handle. Just then, a black cat with green eyes run out from under kitchen cabinet! I had my first heart attack, on the spot! I'd already imagined her coming towards me with the meat chopper in her hand as my back was turned.
"AHHHHHH!" I let out a yell and spun around. To my surprise, she was still laid on bed. She was smiling at me as she said, "It's only my cat Tommy. He won't hurt ya."
I turned around quickly, pulling the door open. Inside there were lots of cartons of matches. I grabbed the first box, then closed the door and spun around fast as I could.
"How's ya mum getting on?" She said.
"Good, thank you."
She must have seen my clenched fist squeezing the shilling, so she sez "Leave money on top of cupboard, lad."
I reached out and put shilling on top of cupboard. Mi hand was so sweaty the shilling was stuck to mi palm. I had to put matches under mi arm to remove shilling from mi hand.
"Run along then." She said. "I'm tired now."
I didn't need any encouragement at all, as I headed for the doorway. I hit the passage at full speed, matches in hand. Straight through the black curtain I went, not bothering to part it from the wall.
As I hit daylight, Dinah was waiting for me. "Come on Dinah, we're off!" Down the passage way, round corner, along wall and straight up our field. Neck and neck we ran, Dinah and me, crashing through our farm-house door and into front room, Dinah still barking.
"What's up with you?" mi mum sez. "Can't you ever walk? Do you have to run everywhere, even in house?"
Mum looked down at Dinah and said, "What's he been up to Dinah? More mischief as usual?" Dinah never said a word. She just wagged her tail.
When I saw mi sisters, they said, "What happened Richard?"
"Now't, I wasn't scared a bit!"
From that time on I never teased them about the Matchbox Witch again. I could always think of some't else to tease 'em with!
Friday, January 25, 2008
Mi dad had a job on Baitings Dam as a Foreman. He was a Heavy Timber Construction Engineer by trade, so most of mi early life I spent on moors. One of the perks of mi dads’ job was housing. Wherever a new damn was being built, the people in the Valley would be booted out and we would get to live on the land in a big, old farmhouse until the Valley was flooded and the farms were under water.
This particular farmhouse was very old and picturesque. It was built in a L- shape, meaning the house was on one side and the farm buildings were on ‘tuther side. There was no electricity or running water. Candles were used for lighting and wood or coal for heating. I spent many a good day on that farm. Into everything, that was me. Richard Swindells, George Richard Henry Walter Swindells lad. People called him George for short.
Part of building a dam entailed blasting away huge big boulders out of the valley side. So many times, during the day, the Siren Whistle would blow and a few minutes later were a big dead-sounding BOOM! and the side of the Valley would seem to ‘hiccup’ and loosen massive big boulders, dirt and rocks which were then carted up the hillside in small dump trucks and then loaded into big heavy-duty trucks whose wheels seemed to be at least five times bigger than me.
After the Valley was made wide enough to hold millions of gallons of water which was then used for town water supplies, a concrete wall was built which stretched right across the Valley from one side to ‘tuther. It took forever to build, or so it seemed to me. The Dam wall was really wide so it was strong enough to hold all the water back. Twenty or thirty foot heavy wooden beams were used to form the walls. That was mi dads’ job. He knew how and where to build the formwork so the concrete could be poured into place.
I remember him coming home and telling mi mum,
“I nearly got done in today. A bloody big beam came loose, wench, and fell down. It just grazed mi shoulder. Another couple a' inches and I’d bin a goner, wench.
(He always called her ‘wench’, but her name was Iris.)
It had to be mi bad shoulder, it couldn’t have been mi good ‘un!”
Mi dad was in WW1. He joined up at 15. Lied about his age he did, ‘cause all his pals were all older than him and had all gone off to war to kill the Krauts and Square-heads and Huns, whatever they were. His bad shoulder had these two funny-lookin' holes in ‘em that seemed to have healed up with funny-lookin’ skin and jagged edges. I always thought the holes were still under that funny-lookin' skin.
He had the rest of day off. They sent him home ‘cause his nerves were jumpy, he said.
So I said to him, “What do ya mean ya nerves are jumpy, dad?”
He sez, “I got shell-shock from war.”
I had no idea what he meant until a couple ‘a years later when one Xmas morning he was sitting in his old armchair in front of fire having his pint-pot of tea. So just for a laugh and some fun I crawled across the stone floor on mi belly, round back of his chair and let him have it! Two or three close range shots from mi cap gun right in his lug.
I soon found out what Shell Shock was. When he eventually landed in his armchair again I didn’t need mi psychic powers to tell me what to do. I was off like one of those Square-ed things. I stayed outside in the snow in mi pajamas and socks till his jumpy nerves cooled down, thinking to misen of all the fun I was gonna have with this new cap gun.
Old stone farmhouses in the North of Yorkshire are very magical places to live in, although they can be quite cold and most of ‘em are very damp. Mi mum used to get old wheat bags and cut them open down the sides. Then she used to get old worn out clothes and cut them up into two or three inch strips. Once she had a bag of strips she had got her carpet-making tool out and set about making carpets for the stone floor in the living room. I don’t know the name of the tool she used, but it had a long wooden handle on it with a shaft attached on it and on the side of the shaft was a single pliers type handle that was spring-loaded. What she’d do then was take a strip of cut up old clothing, trap it in the end of this tool and thread it through the holes in the wheat bag and pull it halfway through.
Mi mum was real good at it. She’d sit for ages and ages filling all the holes in the bag until she couldn’t get any more material in, that way the strips were so tight they wouldn’t pull out.
One day I asked her, “Hey mum, how do ya do that?”
She sez, “Grab one of those bags and I’ll show ya.”
It only took a short time to learn it but then I was stuck with the job of makin’ rugs from then on.
One morning, after breakfast, mi mum said to me,
“Richard, I’ve got a surprise for you!”
“Don’t say ‘what’, mi mum sez. “Your mum is going to have another baby.”
“What!” I sez.
“Don’t say ‘what’! ‘I beg your pardon’ she sez.
“It’s all right.” I sez
“Don’t be cheeky, Richard. I’m going have another baby. Now, what do you think of that?”
Well, I didn’t think I had much choice in the matter so I sez, “As long as I get a brother, someone to play with, then it’s all right by me.”
Mi mum said, “I can’t guarantee that, but it will be something.”
“I hope it’s a monkey. I always wanted a monkey, mum!”
She sez, “Oh, get your warm clothes on and go out an play. Take your sister with you!”
What if she had another girl and I got lumbered with that. That would be terrible. Then again she might have a boy and there’d by someone to play with. So, off I go, mi sister in tow, imagining all sorts.
Time went by as it usually did, a day at a time. On a farm, the usual daily things happened. Mi dad, going to work. Mi mum looking after place, milking goats, cleaning eggs, feeding pigs etc.
One day, I said to mi mum, “Hey mum, you’re getting a fat belly.”
“Don’t be lippy!” she sez. “I’m due to have a baby soon.”
At long last the day arrived and mi mum didn’t come downstairs that morning. Mi dad got sent off to fetch midwife. She was one of neighbors' wife from around area. Every time she came to our farm she would say,
“And how’s my little lad going?”. Then she’d pat me on the head and say,
“You’re not putting much weight on. Are you eating your Yorkshire puddings all up?”
She was a kindly woman but very trying at times.
Mi mum made the best Yorkshire puddings in Yorkshire, and I always ate ‘em, but it didn’t do much for my weight as I was always so active.
I was not allowed upstairs at this point so I have no idea what was going on.
“When’s the new baby coming?”, I would say to mi dad.
“Not long now.”, he said.
Finally! It arrived that day. The first I heard of it was when it started crying. It sounded as though it was in a lot of pain.
The midwife neighbour came downstairs and said, “Richard, you have now got another sister. A healthy eight and a half pound baby girl!”
“No comment.” Just what I needed. Another girl to look after. Why couldn’t it have been a boy, or better still, why not a pet monkey! I could have had a lot fun with that.
At last I was allowed to go up and see the new arrival. She was all bundled up in white blankets in a cot next to mi mums’ bed. By this time, she was sleeping. (although I was sure I could wake her if I gave her a slight pinch!)
Mi mum sez, “Have you been behaving yourself, Richard?”
So, I gave her one of mi best Angelic smiles. She smiled back at me from her bed, but I knew I hadn’t fooled her. She was a hard one to fool was our mum!
“How do you like your new sister?”, she sez.
I sez, “She’s very small and why is her face so red? Will it stay like that?”
“No.”, sez mi mum. “Only for a day or so.”
“Can I touch her, mum?”
Mum sez, “Better wait for a while I think. She’s asleep now.”
“Why didn’t you have a boy, mum? I’d have had someone to play with. Hey mum, can I have a monkey to play with?”
“Oh go on, get out of here. You’re a big enough monkey yourself, never mind another one.”
“What are you going to call her mum?”
“Her name is Sandra Mary Swindells.”
‘What a daft name’, I thought but I didn’t say now’t.
I must admit over the first few months she was living with us she was not half bad. See, she slept most of time. Mi mum would change her nappies on a small table and she’d always say,
“Go fetch me a nappy out of the cupboard, Richard.”
I never understood why she didn’t get it before she started, then I wouldn’t have to get it.
Every time mi mum undid that nappy I’d stand around table making funny sick-feeling sounds in mi throat. I was very good at that, least I thought so. Mum obviously didn’t.
She’d say, “Stop making that noise or you’ll catch it my lad!”
I did the ‘puking’ noise once too often, so mi mum grabbed ‘old of this wet nappy and threw it at me. It wrapped itself around my face and stuck there till I pulled it off. I made the ‘puking’ noise even louder this time and she laughed her head off. That was the first time I washed my face without being told to.