Tuesday, August 26, 2008
When I got back to Boston Street, it was about midnight. I didn't need the key mi mother had given me because the lights were still on. 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 mine. 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.