Mi mum had given her consent for me to go to Australia with the Big Brother Movement. I was now in the middle of sending forms back and forth to London. The whole process took almost 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 three small children back to Australia. Before he left, he said to me that as soon as he had an address and phone number he would send it on to me. Being true to his word, I had his letter in my top drawer in mi bedroom.
It was almost Xmas now. the weather had turned icy cold and it like we were all in for a cold, hard Yorkshire winter. I had decided to make this Xmas mi last one with Elland Silver band because as well as leaving home for Australia, I had lost interest in playing brass band music.
I told some of my friends at school,
"I'll be leaving school earlier than you lot. I've been accepted in a program that takes boys under 18 to Australia and finds work for them on farms, 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."
All right.", I said. "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! We 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.
One of the forms from the Big Brother Movement stated that I must have two of each of the items they listed which eventually turned into two large suitcases of clothes. Along with a lot of other items, the list included two pairs of hobnail work boots, shirts, socks, work pants, sweaters, coats, undershirts and on and on it went.
The days were flying past really fast now and I could see a little bit of light at the end of the tunnel. All the boyhood toys that had given me some comfort, over the years had to be sold off and before long all that was left was clothes.
A week before I was due to leave home I had the sad task of going to mi dads' house to say goodbye to him.
When I arrived at 36 Jubilee Terrace, I did my normal little trick of looking through his window at him before I knocked. There he was, in the same old chair, with his old pint pot of tea balanced on the arm of the chair and the racing page of his newspaper was opened up in front of him. The races were being called on the TV. His legs were stretched out in front of him as he warmed his feet in front of the coal fire.
I tapped on his window and true to form, he jumped a good 6 inches out of his chair and then made his way to the door.
"You frightened the bloody life out of me.", he said as he opened the old blue door.
"Hello dad.". I said as I made mi way down the same old passage where I'd walked hundreds of times before.
The old Grandfather clock was still ticking away at the end of the hallway.
"What the bloody hell have you been up to lad?", he said to me as we made ourselves comfortable in his warm and cosy front room.
"Oh, I've been packing up mi suitcases ready for going to Australia next Saturday."
I could tell he did not want to talk about me leaving 'cause he knew deep down in his heart that I would not be visiting him for a long time to come.
"How's ya sisters getting on? They never come to visit old Daddy Swindells. I suppose your mother and her new fancy man have brainwashed them into staying away from their old dad!"
"They'll probably come and visit you when they get a bit older."
They were much younger then me in many ways when we all left here so they were more influenced than I was.
"I'm leaving for Australia next Saturday morning dad so I won't be coming round for a while anymore."
"Ah, you aren't going anywhere lad. You'll be here next Saturday afternoon and if not, you'll be here the following week."
I could tell by the tone of his voice that he did not want to talk about my leaving home so for about an hour I just sat in his silence and watched him read his paper for the last time. At 5 O'clock, I knew it was my time to leave. I said to mi dad,
"All right dad, I'm going now."
"All right, I'll walk you to the door."
"All right, I'll walk you to the door."
When we got to his front door, I stepped over the threshold and stood on the top step. It was really hard to turn around and look at him 'cause I wasn't sure if I would ever see him again. As I turned and looked into his eyes, my heart felled like twice its size and a large, aching lump swelled up in my throat. Burning tears flooded my eyes which made it hard to see mi dads' face. I wiped them away as best I could on the sleeve of mi jacket.
Fifteen years of knowing mi dad flashed across my mind. Motor bikes, farm yards and Moors shot past at incredible speed. The emotions were now working overtime as we stood there in silence. So many things that were never said to each other and now it was too late.
"Look after yourself dad.", I managed to say in a voice I could no longer recognize.
"I'll write to you from the boat and let you know what it's like."
"Neither me nor mi dad were much good at things like this. All of a sudden, mi dads' eyes flooded with tears. It was the first time in my life that I believed he really loved me. It's a shame that scene had not played itself out, a few years ago. That's the movie of life isn't it? Most of the time, we find out things when it's too late.
I could no longer stand the pain of seeing mi dad cry so all I could say was,
"See ya later dad."
"I'y.", he said through a choked-up voice.
I turned and made mi way down his steps. The old motor bike was still parked behind the small privet fence at the bottom of his garden. When I reached the front street, I turned and waved to him. He waved back at me, then went back inside his house and closed the old blue door.
I met mi dad in silence and I left him in silence. The tears were now flowing at full speed and along with them was a low aching moan which came from the depth of my being. The moan was a very deep, primal sound. It was the sort of sound one would hear come out of an old dog who had just lost his master.
By the time mi double-decker bus arrived, the moaning had stopped but the tears still kept trickling out of mi eyes. I jumped on the bus and ran upstairs before the driver could get started.
The upstairs of the bus was quite empty. I sat down on a left-hand seat so I could get a last glimpse of mi dads' house, as the bus passed between a break in the row of houses in front of mi dads' row.
That last glimpse of mi dads' old blue door and the large front window next to it was the last time I'd see mi dad for about seven years, although at that time I was not to know that.
The bus conductor was a very sweet and considerate man. He had noticed how upset I was when I got on his bus. He took his time coming upstairs for the fare. When he eventually came upstairs, I said to him,
"Sowerby Bridge please."
After I'd given him the money, he punched out mi ticket and said to me,
"Are you alright lad?"
"I'y.", I said. "I'm going to Australia next Saturday. I just came to say goodbye to mi dad."
"Oh that's nice.", he said. "Soon as you get to Australia, you'll be too busy to get upset."
Once the conductor had gone downstairs again, I lit up a cigarette and contemplated all the good times that I'd had growing up with George, Richard, Henry, Walter Swindells.
When I got back to Boston Street, Iris and Jim were making Saturday nights' tea. Mi mother could see how upset I was about leaving mi dad so neither of them said anything to me, for a while. After some time, mi mother said,
"You know it's still not too late to change your mind about going to Australia. You don't have to go if you don't want to."
"I'll be alright.", I said.
It's the right thing to do. Anyway, what choice do I have in the matter? As far as I'm concerned choice is a total fantasy.