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This site contains ! STRONG ! content.
HELLO! I was born in 1951 and grew up in a family of four with one brother and two sisters. We were a close family with less than three years between the siblings. My father left the family home due to mental health problems when I was four years old. We were allowed to see him at our grandmothers’ home every Sunday. The loss of our father affected the family in varying degrees. My oldest sister who was a year younger than me and my twin brother was affected most. She was very close to him and was traumatized for a long time. I was buffered to a large degree from this event by my twin brother. My youngest sister seemed to have coped with this a lot better. I had a happy childhood and was nurtured physically and emotionally by my mother and siblings. I took an interest in electronics after receiving a “learning lab” present for Christmas. I wasn’t particularly academic as a child and marginally failed the 11 plus exam along with my brother which resulted in us attending the local secondary modern school. We gained no qualifications after four years education at this school but gained admittance to a technical college after passing a basic maths and English test. I left the college along with my brother after four years with “O” and “A” level qualifications in technical subjects. I gained a place at SALFORD UNIVERSITY to study ELECTRICAL ENGINEERING. I failed the second year due to a combination of reasons and started work as a TV SERVICE ENGINEER. I moved on to industrial engineering and sustained a back injury in 1976 which affected my life style. Then things started to get nasty. I struggled with relationships at university as this was the first period in my life in which I had to deal with people on my own. Now Peter was getting married. We’d gone to a disco in SALE and danced with a couple of young girls. He chatted her up and dated her later: I didn’t “click” with her partner and didn’t make any arrangement with her - I fancied Pete’s girl. This wasn’t the first time this had happened - he was always better with the girls.
She came from an
affluent background and was living with her parents at the time and Pete was
living in the same area with my older sister ANNE and her boyfriend, Demitrius;
I was working as a T.V. engineer in SALFORD. After the marriage we all
continued going on outings together for a while but ANNE and DEMITRIUS were
drifting apart. It was on one of these outings that she introduced me to her
best friend BEVERLEY. She was profoundly deaf due to a childhood illness which
made voice communication difficult but her lip-reading was very good. She
worked in the same tax office in Manchester as my sister. She was very pleasant
but somewhat naive which was probably due to her disability. There was no
“chemistry” between us and I considered her as a friend in the group. However
it was not mutual as I discovered at the fancy dress party which Pete and
Patricia held at their new flat some months down the road. We were all there
including Demitrius all dressed up in crazy outfits; I came as a gorilla. It
wasn’t a new situation with them all dancing together and me on the floor with
my Bacardi and coke. I’d already had a few dances and it was time for a break.
During that break my life changed dramatically as Beverley pulled me from the
floor for a dance to a smoochy ballad and drew me close to her. We kissed and
headed for the bedroom. We started going out together and weeks later I lost my
virginity. We went on holidays together and with the rest of the group but we
never lived together. This was never discussed but was mainly due to logistical
reasons: She was reluctant to leave the security of her home and my bedsit was
(Chronology is subject to revision)
The first year was happy and exciting with holidays in Scotland and abroad but later things began to change. My eyes were wandering and she began to get possessive; I'd been rescued and captured at the same time. It was a vicious circle which could only end one way. I broke off the relationship in the third year and regained my independence - but lost a friend. She was devastated and for weeks later I was riddled with guilt.
It seemed that year that a bomb had hit us: Pete had left 'Tricia and after living in a flat in Withington for a short while moved to London. Anne and Demitrius had split up with her moving into a flat in Heaton Moor - Demitrius just disappeared! Frances had married a rugby fan from St. Helens and had left the family home. I was still living in the same bedsit in Eccles.
My mother was a state registered nurse who held very strong religious and moral values. We were Roman Catholic which involved amongst other duties having to attend mind numbing church services every Sunday which seemed to last forever. She was very intellectual and spent a lot of time reading and would watch the Open University lectures, which were aired by the B.B.C. after midnight. I remember her talking enthusiastically about a thermodynamics lecture she'd watched the night before and how "dashing" the lecturer was. She was strict and rather eccentric but she did have a sense of humour; She said to me once, "money won't make you happy but it will let you be miserable in comfort!" We were a poor family and lived off benefits and under the circumstances she brought us all up okay. However nobody's perfect. My sisters were VERY attractive and should not have had much difficulty in finding a suitable partner. Frances, the youngest was small with striking red hair and fared better than Anne. She started dating in her early teens and complained to me later on how mum used to assess them both. "You are pretty but Anne is beautiful" she would say. Frances took this as an insult and was offended by it. Mum may have been trying to emphasise the individuality of the two girls without intending to put her down. But it was a crass thing to say. She broke off the relationship with the lad round the corner and got married in her twenties: Anne never did.
Frances was born in 1954, which according to mother had a profound effect on Anne's emotional development. It was a bad time because my brother and I were at the stage, which demanded a lot of attention, and of course the same was true of the new baby. Anne was placid and well behaved and consequently was somewhat sidelined: She grew up insecure and neurotic. I don't remember anything about that stage but my brother and I were close and didn't need to relate to her. This may have been a compounding factor. She would spend a lot of time alone in her bedroom and rarely joined in with games and outings with the rest of us. Frances on the other hand was bubbly and outgoing and fun to be with. In contrast to Peter and I, the girls didn't enjoy their childhood to the same extent. They both shared the same double bed in the back bedroom and their disparate personalities caused a lot of problems.
I never knew my father, he found it very difficult to relate to us. He was handsome and intelligent but suffered from the Oedipus complex and other mental health problems. His only interests or hobbies that I'm aware of was playing the guitar which he was good at. I enjoyed the visits at our Grandmothers' which never seemed long enough: The presence of three or four youngsters in her home was often too much for Grandmother and we would have to leave. The marriage was turbulent but rarely got physical. The one and only occasion that I can remember was at the age of about nine. He must have come to visit and stayed over. We had all gone to bed in the back bedroom when we were awoken by shouts. One of us went onto the landing to find them arguing and wrestling at the end with mums back to the window. I can remember hitting him repeatedly on the back with my hand and shouting to him "Stop it!" One or two of my siblings joined in. My mother called out calmly "It's all right children, now go back to bed." This we did immediately and we were assured. I felt very proud.
Father had a leaning towards the artistic rather than the technical side of things and took low skilled jobs. He worked in a taylors' shop at one point and was pestered by a homosexual which according to mother caused him great distress. He died when I was fourteen years old having fallen down the stairs at grandmothers, which was the version mother told us. However this conflicts with the version that Peter gave me when I was in my twenties that he had committed suicide.
About a year before his death we went to grandmothers' (I don't think the girls were present on this occasion.) after mass as was usual and found the back door locked. This had never happened before and we were disappointed. It was dark inside and the knocks on the door and windows weren't answered. I peered through the letter box and could smell gas. It was very disconcerting and we didn't know what to do. Some minutes later dad arrived. we followed him into the kitchen to find grandma on the floor on a blanket with her head in the gas oven. All the gas taps were turned on full and I immediately turned them off. Dad was confused and didn't know what to do. "Open the windows" I shouted, "We'll call an ambulance." Grandma was still alive but foaming at the mouth. The nearest phone box was a quarter of a mile away and we ran as fast as we could. I dialled "999" and told the operator what had happened. She dispatched an ambulance straight away and we made our way back to the house. She made a full recovery but we never found out why she did it.
She was disfigured in childhood due to scalding or burns which profoundly affected her life and she would always cover her chin when speaking to people.
Terry was the only uncle on mothers' side with whom we had any significant contact. He was born when mum was in her teens and married young to our aunt, June. They lived close to the school and Peter and I would often visit during the lunch hour for a cup of tea and a biscuit. I was fearful of him - he was very strict and distant - but also the one who helped the family most. Frances never ventured far from home and maintained contact with her school friends and relatives. Mum had two sisters who lived far afield. The older sister "Biddy" married into a rich family and was very posh. She lived down south and on a visit to grandmas' she criticised mum over our accents. "Oh Helen" she exclaimed, "What has happened to their accents - it's awful!" This was not only an insult to mother but also to all the parents in the town as they had little control over the regional accent. Mum also taught us good manners and speech such as saying "pardon" instead of "what" which I still use today. The younger sister Cath was married to Uncle Tom. He was an avid motorcyclist and was involved in a dreadful accident. He was badly injured and suffered brain damage. Although he recovered physically he was never the same again. Mum seemed to think there was some significance in the date, as she would always stress it - 3 o'clock on Good Friday! Mums' other sibling Larry was the eldest and lived in the town. He was married to Rose and they had lots of children. They were very old and we'd visit them occasionally.
Dad had three brothers and a sister. Harry was the closest and we would occasionally see him at grandmas' on a Sunday. He was a barber and would sometimes cut our hair, which helped with mums' budget. I liked Uncle Harry. He was friendly and understood children.
Frances with uncle Terry and aunty June at a family get together.
As identical twins there was an inherent understanding between us, but this didn't go as far as to being able to read each others’ thoughts. We were obviously the same age and as such we should have been treated equally. However Peter was born first and he was termed the eldest. Mother would quote this if I complained if he had been given some kind of advantage or authority. It didn't happen too often but when it did it caused some resentment. This may have contributed to my feeling slightly inferior to him not that he was any more intelligent or gifted than me. However to grow up with someone with whom one has an inherent rapport far overshadowed those feelings. Despite being twins we weren’t a single unit but very competitive individuals. It was anathema to both of us to let on to the other that they weren't as good.
Siblings with friends on a holiday arranged by Social Services.
Anne: far left, Frances: far right, Peter: third from left.
(Pronounced Krouser - "ou" as in louder.)
During the war, mum worked in a hospital as a nurse somewhere in the area. It was before she met dad and one day an injured soldier was admitted for treatment. He was a German officer and he'd been shot down; His surname was Krause. She nursed him like any other sick person but over the weeks her feelings towards him became more than just medical - she fell for him. Mum didn't elaborate any further when she told us this story (or I may have forgotten!) but during this time she bought us a puppy - and called him Krause. We never had a dog before and it was exciting to have this little animal wondering around the house and greeting us as we came home from school. One day we all went to see Uncle Terry and auntie June for a visit and took the puppy with us. He was very excited with the new place and was running about sniffing at everything and playing. Then for some reason we had to go to the shop to get something and we took Krause with us. The shop was on the other side of a main road and we stopped at the kerb waiting for a gap in the traffic. A gap appeared but it was so short that I had to run fast to get to the other side. I turned round expecting the rest to be following but they weren't; they all stayed on the other side - except Krause. He dashed after me - and got knocked down. He was badly injured and the motorist picked him up and brought him back to Uncle Terrys' He called a vet but he died before he came.
We all got over the loss fairly quickly and some months later she bought us another puppy and called him Lando - short for Orlando; maybe another sweetheart that she never told us about!
We were about thirteen years old when out of the blue Peter told me that there was no Father Christmas. I didn't believe him and asked him how he knew. He said mum had told him and suggested that I go up and ask her myself. I went straight upstairs and into her bedroom and told her what he'd said; Pete stayed on the landing. When she confirmed what he'd said I was upset. I couldn't understand why someone would perpetrate such a profound and protracted lie. Christmas day was always fantastic and exciting and usually I would only get a couple of hours sleep because of it. Christmases came and went and we still got presents - but they were from mother and relatives. Maturing in this stark way didn't really do me any harm and I quickly came to terms with it. The magic of childhood was over and it was time to grow up and deal with the realities of life. But thinking about it logically, one way or another she had told a lie - but which one was it? In a sense I accepted what she said that he didn't exist but I was never a thousand percent sure!
conditions at home were squalid. Mums health began to deteriorate and we were
fostered out for a while as she was hospitalised. When we returned however her
health began to deteriorate again. She didn't want to go to hospital again and
managed on sleeping pills and alcohol. The combination of barbiturates and
alcohol caused her personality to change radically. She would become a
completely different person - more active and aggressive. It was like a Jeckel
and Hyde transformation. This phase would last about a week when she would
revert to her normal self - spending the day in bed reading and watching the
television. The state of the house deteriorated: Rubbish wasn't taken out, bags
began to fill up, cleaning up wasn't done. Normal housekeeping collapsed. When
the bags were full, tins and margarine wrappers etc. were just thrown under the
sink. When this area became full rubbish was thrown in a corner of the kitchen
on the floor. When the floor became full, the worktops were used. After some
months when there was just enough space to butter a piece of toast a clear-up
would take place. The loose stuff was easy to dispose of but a path had been
created from the door to the stove where the rubbish had been trodden on. This
stuff had been compressed and was very difficult to remove - it appeared to be
fossilising! Indeed, we used to shovel it up and put it on the fire - it burned
for hours! The situation regarding the other rooms was similar apart the
clear-up - this would take place at about six monthly intervals. A window got
broken in the front bedroom where my brother and I slept. This never got
reported for fear of us being taken into care again so it was just boarded up.
The room would become dreadfully cold on winter nights as there was no heating
in the room. (The central heating radiator was rarely used as it was not very
effective and it would consume a lot of coal.)
It's not exactly clear how this situation came about. There may have been a problem with refuse collection such as the bin getting stolen. Boxes of rubbish were initially put in the coalplace - a brick room opposite the back door. This soon became unusable and the coal-man would put the coal on the path.
THE TOILET (! NOT TO BE READ WHILST EATING !)
To compound the situation further the toilet got blocked. It was the old type with the tank at the ceiling which gave a more powerful flush than modern ones. The workings were however less accessible. It became harder and harder to flush requiring repeated pulls on the chain until it stopped working altogether. From that point on buckets of water would be used. I tried to fix it but was unable to so I placed a rubber tube in the tank and used it to siphon the water out. Despite the tube being narrower than the downpipe it gave a good flush. This worked for a while then the water started to take longer and longer to go down the pan. What caused this was never established. I suspect that someone had used too much newspaper and it became lodged in the soil pipe at the U-bend. (Toilet tissue was too expensive). The water would rise to the brim of the toilet on flushing and slowly sink down and I warned the family not to use it. The plan was to relieve the blockage before it got worse; But it was still being used. (Peter and I would use the washhouse or sometimes the back garden at night.) Within a short time it became completely blocked. I remember flushing it once and it overflowed on to the floor. Even after it was not possible to flush it it was still being used - and I will have to admit by myself in an emergency. It was only when it became impossible to sit down that it stopped being used! After the toilet became full the bath was used! I decided to attack the soil pipe outside. We borrowed a set of ladders from a neighbour one weekend and I climbed up to the bend in the pipe. I punctured the pipe with a long screwdriver and twisted and turned to loosen it. It didn't work probably because the whole pipe was blocked from that point upwards. Meanwhile the bath was getting full - the drain had got blocked! I along with my brother would only use the bath for urinating but the girls would use it for everything - mum would use a bucket in the dining room which was her bedroom. After some months when the bath was half full I decided to empty it. There were only two ways of achieving this: by carting buckets down stairs to the sink or using a hose to siphon it. I chose the latter solution as the stench in the bathroom was horrendous. I wedged one end of a long hose to the bottom of the bath with some weights to secure it and led it through the window to the outside. I then brought it back in through the kitchen window. I now only needed to suck on the tube! This needed perfect timing! I needed to continue just long enough for the water to draw up the tube and down again to below the level of the bathwater. It would then continue on its own through siphon action. Too little and it wouldn't work and too much would give me a mouthful! I got it just right! It took ten minutes or so but the bath finally got emptied.
During this period from the age of about fifteen onwards personal hygiene suffered. Bathing now consisted of standing in a bowl and having a wash-down sometimes in freezing temperatures. During winter this occurred on a monthly basis rather than weekly. The social impact was also considerable: Friends couldn't be invited round which probably affected the girls more than my brother and I. Despite these hardships I grew up happilly feeling wanted and valued.
Children who failed the eleven plus examination were sent to a "Secondary modern" school whereas the brightest pupils would attend a "Grammar school" which afforded a higher standard of teaching. My brother and I marginally failed this exam and consequently attended the local Secondary modern school which was more than a mile away from home. There were four groups or streams as they were called with the brightest boys placed in the "A" stream. We landed up in the "B" stream and I made it to the top ten at the end of term exams - but Peter had poor results. Consequently he was placed in the "C" stream the next term. Mother was furious and said to me as twins we should both have the same capabilities which is clearly not the case: She stormed off to the Headmaster to complain. Such were her powers of persuasion that she got the decision revoked and Peter joined me again in the classes. However, by then I'd made my own friends and had mixed feelings about it.
This was not a good school. The education was fair for the type of school it was but some teachers were sadistic and the playtime monitoring was very poor. Bullying was rife in the playground and although we were "two" we didn't have the confidence to challenge the bullies: Often it was a matter of sweating it out until the bell rang. The worst form of bullying was a kind of "chain bashing". A small gang of troublemakers would pick on a weaker boy at random and "bash him up." This sort of attack wouldn't result in broken bones but a "black eye" would probably be guaranteed. The victim would then have to join the group and they would pick on someone else. Consequently towards the end of playtime the group could be ten to twenty boys strong. It was always a dilemma whether to "submit oneself" early on when the group was small in order to hopefully receive a lesser thrashing. I remember on one occasion cowering behind a tree as the group went past and hoping that I wouldn't be spotted and praying for the bell to ring. Fortunately I never became subject to this ordeal. Some of the teachers were no better: On one occasion a lad behind me in the science class threw a paper aeroplane at the teacher who was writing on the blackboard. He turned round infuriated and demanded to know who did it. When no one answered he caned the whole class. He was my favourite teacher and I held him in high regard. These feeling towards him were destroyed on that day. Despite this I wouldn't regard him as sadistic and he just probably lost his temper. This was not the case for the deputy headmaster. On one occasion he caned every pupil in the playground who had dirty shoes which include myself and my brother. The girls fared better and attended the Convent school. This was a kind of grammar school in the town centre with a strong religious flavour. Discipline was strict but I don't believe corporal punishment was ever administered.
After leaving the school at fifteen, mother arranged for my brother and me to attend a technical college in the town to study "O" levels. I was pleased, as the thought of working down the pit didn't appeal to me! We were presented with a rigorous maths and English test to qualify to which we both passed. This was an excellent institution with professional teachers who knew their stuff and none of the bossiness of the other schools. Technical courses are difficult but owing to the high quality of teaching and interest in the subject matter we both achieved good results.
Wigan and Leigh College
(Formerly: Wigan and District Mining and Technical College)
During this period before the Internet and mass communication, explicit sexual images or acts were not accessible to minors. Erotic images were however available in the form of "men's" magazines, consequently sexual development followed a natural course. Girls were always ahead of boys in this respect and this was the case with me. I remember being in the playground at the age of ten and being asked by some girls of the same age if I knew what "shagging" was. I mentioned kissing and they burst out laughing and went away. I had no sexual urges but did find some girls attractive.
A year or so later I was starting to get desires to have a closer relationship with a girl. During a holiday arranged by the Social Services I plucked up courage and asked one of the girls, Myra to go behind a shed with me and I asked her for a kiss. She didn't refuse so I reached up on my tiptoes and kissed her on the lips. She didn't respond and gave me no encouragement and I was disappointed. But it wasn't Myra who I fancied: The girl that I was really hot on was Rita (The other girl in the photo.) but I didn't have the courage to ask her. Nevertheless it was an important milestone.
THE FIRST KISS
AN ADULT STORY
We were gathered round mums' chair at the age of ten or eleven as she was describing childbirth: It was an intro lesson to the birds and the bees without getting too specific. With pencil and paper she sketched the mother and new-born baby with umbilical chord still attached. She explained the physical changes, which we would be going through emphasising the differences between the sexes - body hair, changes in the voice etc. She said that the stage which we were at was called puberty. I spontaneously asked her in all innocence, "What is it called when you grow up - adultery!" To my bemusement she burst out laughing! It was years later when I found out why.
I was four years old and had woken up as usual in the front bedroom but Peter wasn't there. As soon as I'd opened my eyes I knew there was something wrong: I was seeing double. I couldn't understand it and was frightened. I got out of bed and walked towards the door but hit the wall; everything was going sideways as I was going forward. I couldn't locate the door and thought I'd be stuck in the room forever and wished Peter was there. However, I settled down and thought logically, "If I patted the wall and went around the room then I should hit the door sometime." This is what I did and I found my way out. I went downstairs and into the kitchen by the same method. Luckily mum was at the sink washing the dishes. I pulled her apron and looked up at her and said, "Mummy my eyes have gone funny."
"What is it dear?" she asked and looked down - and screamed! She couldn't see my pupils - only whites. She calmed me down and took me into the living room and put me on her knee and examined my eyes - then called the doctor. I'd contracted whooping cough and the outer eye muscles had been damaged; I had lost my stereoscopic vision. There was nothing wrong with the eyes themselves and my brain adapted to the double vision. I was referred to the hospital and after undergoing numerous eye tests was operated on. After a further operation I was left with a residual squint in the left eye. Mother said that this had to be corrected sometime although the operation would be purely cosmetic because it was far too late to re-establish 3D vision.
Nine years later I was standing in an adult ward of the towns' infirmary: Mum tried to get me into the childrens' ward but there were probably no beds available. Peter and my sisters were also there and they were wishing me well and saying goodbye. They left and I sat on the bed. Then followed the most boring three weeks I'd ever experienced - there was absolutely nothing to do. I'd walk up and down the ward or stand at the window gazing out at the garden.
There was a TV there but most of the programs were for adults. However, there was one program that I liked which was one of my favourites - Top of the pops. I had had the operation and remember sitting on the floor with the men when Petula Clarks' famous song came on - Downtown. My eyes were bandaged and I couldn't see the screen but I liked the song. But the lyrics were inappropriate; "When you're alone and life is making you lonely, you can always go - down town!" I remember thinking, "I wish I could!" and I counted the days to my discharge.
By the time I was fifteen I had experienced my first orgasm. This was not a natural progression as I had been given basic instructions from a fellow pupil on what to do. It happened under the bedclothes later that week. I remember getting a bit scared but I didn't want to stop. He never mentioned that I would ejaculate and I couldn't understand why I was wet - it was a staggering experience.
It was below zero on that winters' day in 1966 as we both wagged it off school. It was a rare event and although the school wasn't the best in town, we were getting an education, which we considered important; we probably stayed up late watching a documentary and overslept. The idea was to spend the rest of the morning in town and go to school in the afternoon. The weather had been frosty all week and the canal had frozen over and we decided to go and see it. After walking for a while along the towpath admiring the unusual spectacle, I stopped and sat down on the edge. I wanted to test how thick it was and stamped my foot on the ice. It was rock solid and I said to Pete', "Let's walk on it to the other side, it must be at least a foot thick - that should be a buzz!"
"Yeah!" he exclaimed in excitement. "We can check out that derelict warehouse and see what it's like." I slowly lowered myself down on the ice and diligently started to walk across; Pete' was not far behind. It was a nerve-racking and exhilarating experience as I shuffled my way along, but the thrill was about to turn nasty. About half way there I approached a darker area, which made me uneasy, but I carried on; it was a thinner region, only about an inch thick. I stepped on it - and went straight through. Peter looked on in horror as I disappeared under shards of mini icebergs!
I thought I'd "had it" but I bobbed back up again due to my buoyancy and he grabbed my collar and pulled me up. I staggered back to the towpath drenched to the skin and shivering. We contemplated going to Uncle Terrys', which was only about fifteen minutes walk compared to the forty minutes or so to get back home. But we'd have to explain why we weren't at school so we set off for home hoping I wouldn't freeze to death on the way. "Home-Sweet-Home" never rang truer than at that moment when I walked through the door. Luckily, mum wasn't in the hallway when we got in and I trudged upstairs and got changed. It was hours before I really felt warm again and I never stepped on ice again!
We often took a walk along the canal especially during the holidays. On one trip we spotted a small boat moored on the opposite quay. It was very pretty and appeared to have been abandoned and I wanted to board it to see what it was like inside. There was no towpath on the other side but further up was a wall, which faced on to the main road with a narrow access path. "That shouldn't be too difficult to get over," I said to Pete', "lets put it to the girls and see if they want to come along." They were enthusiastic and some days later we set off for the canal. We walked to the wall, which was about two metres high, and I hitched Peter up to the top. I got on next with the help of the girls then we pulled Frances up; Anne said that she'd stay there and wait for us. We walked along the narrow footpath to the boat and peered through the porthole. I was disappointed to find it was a wreck inside with debris floating around in six inches of water. "I'm not going on it," said Frances, "it's sinking!" I was determined to board her after making all that effort. "It's been here for days, surely it's not going to sink in three minutes!" I thought. I stepped inside on to the bench. The boat rocked from side to side and I had to hold tight. "Come in Peter!" I shouted, "It's okay." But he declined.
It was sad to see her in that state with nobody to care for her; I wondered about her history, where had she been, who owned her and why had she been deserted. I wanted to buy her but of course I didn't have the money and it was just a dream. My thoughts were interrupted by the sound of gurgling from the water and the flotsam was swirling faster. "Get out!" yelled Frances, "It's sinking!" I hastily "abandoned ship!" and we dashed to the wall and climbed back over. Later on I went back and peered over the wall - she was still there.
Summer holidays were great and we always looked forward to them. However they lasted nine weeks and towards the end boredom would sometimes set in. But this particular year was different - we decided to make a trolley. We had no practical mechanical experience but we had an idea of how it should be done and an axle with two wheels was already available from an old "Tansad" buggy. After scouring the fields for weeks, we found a dumped 'pram and scavenged the axle and wheels from it. We borrowed a saw and some tools and within a fortnight it was finished. For weeks we rode around the neighbourhood on it sometimes with our sisters. But then the novelty wore off and it was left in the washhouse.
Sometime later, we ran out of coal and mum asked us to get a bag from the coal-man who lived over a mile away; These weren't the small paper sacs which could be obtained from the local iron monger, but the one c.w.t. cloth sacs that the coal-man normally delivered.
"Uh! We can't carry those sacs all that way." We grumbled. It was on a cold winters' evening and the thought of trudging back in the mist humping a hundredweight of coal between us nearly made me ill!
"Don't be silly!" She retorted, "Take the trolley."
"Hey! Why didn't we think of that?" Said Pete', "let's go!" We set off in the thickening mist pulling the trolley and with 'Lando at our heels. The journey involved climbing a winding road to the top of a hill and a shorter trek down another road. The coal-man didn't mind us disturbing him at that time of night and carefully placed the bag on the trolley. We set off for home pulling the trolley behind us and panting for breath on the uphill leg. When we reached the top it was time for fun! - We decided to ride it down. I elected to steer and Peter sat on the sac. It was a fairly steep incline and I was nervous. Pete' pushed from the back and off we went - in the middle of the road. The trolley picked up speed astonishingly fast and by the time it reached the first bend it was travelling over 20 mph! I pulled the rope to take the bend but the G-force on the wheel was so high that it buckled and the axle hit the tarmac. The steering board rammed backwards jamming my ankle and the trolley turned over throwing us onto the pavement!
"Ahggg!" I screamed rubbing my ankle and I sat up and looked around; Lando ambled over and licked my nose, ugh! Peter had rolled onto the grass unharmed and was standing on his feet. The sac had burst and there was coal all over the road! "Blast!" I shouted.
"We'd better clear it up before the bus comes." Said Pete' calmly. I hobbled to the road and we began to gather the coal.
"It's going to take ages!" I moaned.
But every cloud has a silver lining and this one took the form of a total stranger who drew up in his car and helped us. It didn't take long and we thanked him and pulled the trolley back home. Later that evening as we watched the TV in front of the warm fire, I reflected, "It was worth it."
I was always very inquisitive and wondered how things worked and attempted to reproduce some of the famous experiments of the past. Some worked and some didn't but one day my inquisitive nature nearly had tragic consequences. I was in my early teens when mum took us for a day out in Southport; It's a seaside resort north of Liverpool which has now past its heyday but was then very popular with families in Lancashire. We went by train and we were all very happy and excited as a trip to the seaside was a very rare event. When we arrived we headed straight for the beach and enjoyed an hour or so playing in the sand making sandcastles etc. When the day was over we made our way back to the station. The walk wasn't very long and on the way we crossed over what probably was a car-park. There were cars parked against a wall and mum led us along the wall making for the other side; it must have been the shortest way out. However, some of the cars were parked very close to the wall and half way along, mum stopped. There was a car almost touching the wall and I was right behind her. The vehicle that she was next to wasn't a car at all but some kind of motorised contraption with wheels and a handle bar. There were buttons on the handle and I was intrigued as to what the buttons did. There was only one way to find out - press one! This I did and to my horror the contraption burst into life in reverse gear and squashed mum against the wall. Mum cried out and I tried to push it back but couldn't. "Push it!" I yelled to Peter who was behind me, "I can't move it." The force was enormous and although we couldn't push it back, we stopped it going any further. Mum was pinned against the wall and couldn't move but she didn't scream. We were shouting for help but there was nobody there; the car-park was completely deserted. I was convinced she was going to die then I hit on an idea - press the other button. I pressed it and to my eternal relief the engine stopped and the vehicle eased back. Mum was bruised but otherwise okay and we retraced our steps and went the long way round - and she never scolded me.
THE GAS MAN
We always dreaded officials coming especially those who needed to come in like the gas or electricity people to empty the meters; These were mechanical meters and operated with shilling coins. When the shilling ran out, the gas or electricity would simply cut off without any warning. On days when we had no money left we could be without supply for hours until someone in the street lent or gave us a coin. It was very embarrassing to beg like this and once we ran out of sugar and I was elected to go around the houses. I remember cringing on someones' doorstep holding an empty cup as I waited for the neighbour to open the door. However I came up with an answer to the meter problem. The shilling coin was just slightly smaller than the halfpenny and I thought that it wouldn't take too much trouble to make it the same size! I got a brick and hammered it on two opposite edges until it was. I then shoved it in the gas meter to test it and turned the knob and it dropped. It gave extra shillings' worth of gas! That was the up side. The down side was that sometimes I'd be engrossed in a book or some project in the bedroom when one of the girls would call up, "Paul, can you bang us a halfpenny, the gas has gone!" On one occasion when the gas-man knocked, I dashed upstairs leaving someone else to answer it. He or she let him in and left him to it as I waited nervously on the landing watching him. I was worried in case he called out to enquire about the coins, but he didn't and left shortly afterwards. I went downstairs to check the meter and found all the halfpennies piled on top ready to be used again!
The shilling and halfpenny (Pronounced - hayp-ny)
The first really close but non-sexual relationship that I had with a girl was when I was at college when I was sixteen or seventeen. She was the sister of a friend who I met whilst at his house on a visit and I asked him afterwards to make an arrangement with her. I was very nervous on the trip, which was dozens of miles away requiring two bus journeys. We went for a walk and I was shaking like a leaf as I held her close under the glow of a sodium vapour lamp and tasted my first real kiss. Unfortunately due to the distance involved and the demands of the 'O' Level course it fizzled out within weeks. I missed her for a while and I continued studying.
During these teenage years my interest in electronics especially radio transmission also grew. I would spend hours in the bedroom after doing my homework studying the principles. Scientists such as Newton, Maxwell and Faraday were my heroes. I was fascinated by the theory and capabilities of electronics - to me it was a kind of magic. Due to these distractions and the condition of the house, not to mention a certain amount of "faint heartedness", girls weren't a major feature in my teenage years. There were of course "skirmishes" at various parties that we had but they were only transient affairs.
We didn't receive many presents due to the low income but one of the best was the tent. It was from mother for Christmas. It was a simple two-man tent of the old style with two supporting poles and shaped like a house. It was never used for camping but it would often go up in the back garden on sunny days. One afternoon Frances brought one of her friends round to spend some time in the tent with us. She was rather plump and well endowed for fifteen. Peter was with me and we spent some time telling each other jokes and having a laugh when something horrible happened. I was busy looking down reading or writing something when the girl un-did the top buttons of her blouse and flashed her breasts to everyone - except me! My eyes shot up and I said "what's going on?" Pete laughed and said "You've just missed it! - Pat's just given us a flash of her tits!" - I was pissed off to say the least!
Later that afternoon I was alone relaxing in the tent when Peter and Frances came in. "Hi, what's what?" I asked, or something like that. Without saying a thing, Peter knelt down behind me and held me down by my shoulders while Frances tried to pull my trousers down. (I don't think Anne or Pat participated in this stunt). I put up a bit of a struggle but didn't want to turn it into a fight so I gave in. By the time she got my trousers and underwear down I had a massive erection! Then without saying a word, they got up and left. Why they did this is still a mystery and although it was very embarrassing it was rather exciting.
During one of the summer breaks it was suggested, probably by mum that we took a summer job to earn some money and as a taster for working life. Neither of us was overly enthused especially me as it would impact on my private studies in electronics and also revising for the 'A' levels. However I reluctantly agreed as it would only be for six weeks and having some real money in the pocket would be worth it. Work was found at a paper mill on an industrial estate where dad used to work. I was given the job as a janitor, which involved sweeping the floor, transporting pallets of cardboard around the works and some machine operating. The wages were relatively high for that sort of job and after the six weeks were over, Peter suggested that we buy a second hand car. I wasn't in favour and wanted to save it but he didn't have enough on his own so I reconsidered. We went to Uncle Terrys' later and he agreed to find us one. A week or so later a 15-year-old Hillman Minx was parked outside the door! And it cost us £60.
Frances was the only one of us who had friends in the neighbourhood and occasionally she would let them in. Peter and I had however friends in Skelmersdale - a purpose built overflow town for Liverpool. It probably began by being invited to a party by a college friend and as far as I can remember my sisters were also invited but were unable to come. During the party Peter succeeded in "pulling" one of the girls there - she was gorgeous and I had my eye on her for hours - her name was Lynda. I had only myself to blame for being so timid. They danced a lot and afterwards started going out together - I was sick as a parrot! I still went up there with them when they had dates for a trip out and would watch the television. Weeks later Lynda arranged for me to see a friend of hers, Marilyn who lived in a care home not far away who was free. She was not very attractive but out of desperation I went with her for a short time. The relationship was strictly an "affectionate" one as I had no intention of getting deeply involved with her. Then after a visit before setting off for home, Peter dropped a bombshell. "I've finished with Lynda", he calmly stated, "I didn't really fancy her - it was her sister Angela who I was mad on." I was sickened but I didn't show it. We kept making visits and during the time Peter was vying for Angela I became a friend with Lynda - but that's all it ever was.
Peter never said why he ditched her and I never asked him. Although not being the oldest, she was very headstrong and took charge of her younger siblings. She knew what she was doing and would have made a good partner. Here she is scolding her younger sister Dianne for not getting chips and putting me right regarding her disposable income from the supermarket; I was demonstrating how to use a cassette recorder. She is quoting weekly figures!
Me: [One-two] - three testing, over.
Me: It should be. Testing, one - two - three testing. One - two - three testing, over.
Me: It should be stopped like it is.
Me: - no it's going, now it's recording. You turn it up to your required level - your red button.
Lynda: Mmm, do you have it on any number? - why didn't you get chips Dianne? ... So you got cakes. Put the money? back in the ? ........ ?
Me: What's that?
Me: It's not yours though, it's not your money?
Lynda: I haven't got no money [in the bank?].
Me: You have.
Lynda: I haven't, oh Ai yeah, I was off last [Friday?] ... How am I ..... How am I, how?
Lynda: How am I got nine pounds to spend?
Me: You may not have got nine pound. You've got some money.
Lynda: Not nine pound - a couple of bob. [Two shillings - joking.]
Me: You get six pound.
Lynda: I don't get six pound! - to spend a week? I get three pound odd to spend, three at the most.
Lynda: Why! I get ten pound, I get taxed.
Me: How much do you bring home? Start with ..
Lynda: I bring home eight pounds and I owe five that's three. And the [lot?] I don't even get three.
Me: Go on, you were saying, you get nine pound.
THE UNDERPANTS !
The next party wasn't long in coming. It took place at a different venue somewhere in the area. I was no longer going out with Marilyn and I was looking forward to it. I had washed my underwear and socks and a shirt in the sink the night before in preparation for it. When we returned from college I was annoyed to find that the clothes hadn't dried. The shirt and socks were no problem but I had no spare underpants. There wasn't enough time to dry them in front of the electric fire so I went without: There wasn't much chance of something happening going by the luck I'd had over the years but nevertheless I felt slightly uneasy! It was a nice party and I danced with the group for a while then we all sat down. My heart stepped up a gear as I contemplated approaching a very attractive girl who didn't have a partner. Normally I would just ogle and continue drinking my beer - but this was different - the Lynda saga haunted me. I got up and asked her for a dance - I was rattled when she accepted and when the music was right I took her in my arms. We danced for a while then lay together on the floor. She asked me to give her a "love bite". I'd never heard the term before so I bit her on the neck. She didn't yell out in pain but I remember thinking that it was a strange request. We stood up and I suggested that we go in the bedroom. She said "Okay", and she followed me. We had no idea where it was and went into the hallway and I checked the next room. And there it was - a double bed waiting invitingly in the dimly lit room. We lay together on it and covered ourselves with the blankets and got intimate - but she only went as far as deep down my back and into my trousers - and mentioned the underpants! I was slightly embarrassed and explained it. The party finished soon after and we never saw each other again.
Pop music featured strongly after mum bought us a transistor radio. It was during the 60s music revolution which not only saw a different style of music but also a different approach to authority. All radio stations were controlled by the state and independent stations were forced to operate outside of U.K. territory. These stations were supported by advertising which by and large were palatable. The new music was fresh and dynamic and for us Radio Caroline (north), Radio One and Radio Luxembourg were favourites although Luxembourg sometimes had atrocious reception. Peter and I would huddle next to the radio in bed at night before falling to sleep. The offshore stations were declared illegal and were forced to close down in 1968. Later on mum bought us a reel to reel tape recorder so we could record our favourite songs. Most of the recordings were from Radio One as the quality was the best.
I was fairly well behaved in my youth, but there were exceptions. After lunch at the college, Peter and I would walk around the town with some of our pals; occasionally we'd go to some of the high rise blocks and ride in the lifts. For some reason, I had a burning desire to ride on top of the lift! When I got home one day, I fabricated a door key from a piece of metal, and the day after I told the group about it. They didn't think I was crazy and were in suspense to see if it would work. There were at least three of us that dinnertime as we headed for the flats; Me, Peter, John (Elaine's brother) and maybe Ian, a very intelligent and well-off student. We summoned a lift on the ground floor and got off near the top. It was very quiet on the landing with not a soul in sight. As soon as the lift went down, I inserted the key in the door and opened it and the lift stopped immediately as expected: this is an in-built safety measure. We then climbed on top and sat down on the main girder; it was quite scary! One of us shut the door and the lift started going down again. It was a nerve-racking and eerie ride in the gloom of the lift shaft as bricks and girders glided by, inches away from our bodies. Some people got on half way and we had to be very quiet and still. When they got off, I sent the lift back up using the engineers' control panel on top. I stopped the lift level with a floor landing and opened the door then we all got off; Johns' face was as white as a sheet! "That was a buzz!" cried Pete' brushing off the cobwebs. Then one of them suggested that we leave the door slightly ajar to prevent the lift from moving. I was against this as people would then have to use the stairs to use the other lift but I didn't stop them. We got the other lift and went down to the ground floor and left.
A week or so later, we went back for a repeat performance; but this time when we were leaving we were confronted by an angry caretaker who shouted, "What yer doin' eer?" The others, who were in front of me dashed past him and ran out of the door. Unfortunately, I wasn't so lucky; He grabbed me by the collar and dragged me outside and shouted to the others, "Come eer or I'll call the police! You've broke the lift haven't yer?" I said, "We haven't. We're engineering students writing an essay on motor mechanics and transportation systems!" He was buying this "bull" until one or more of the others who were about fifty meters away grinning, began to throw stones at him! As I was right next to him, I could easily have got hit myself and I shouted to them to stop it. He then shoved me away from him and said, "Go on yer rascal. If I see yer again 'round eer, yer forrit! I quickly ran to the group and gave them a piece of my mind.
What started as a child protection provision evolved into an event to celebrate the Christian faith. They would take place each year on Whit-Monday. We only went to a few of these, not for any religious reason but because they made a fun day out. A procession comprising adults and children would march through the town accompanied by brass bands and banners. The route of the procession would be crowded for miles and it was sometimes difficult to find a gap.
A drummer with a huge base drum would herald the start of the parade which could be heard way in the distance, and when he went past the thumping beat of the drum would hit you in the stomach. Wave after wave of children from the different schools would pass, some dressed in their uniforms, some holding the streamers from the banners. The leader would carry a large mace and every so often he'd proudly toss it into the air and catch it again. It was always an exhilarating experience.
Although getting good "O" level results my "A" level qualifications fell short of what was needed for a place at one of my preferred universities - Sheffield or Manchester. I therefore ended up starting an HND (Higher national diploma.) course at the same college. On the day I started this course, the Principal informed me that a relatively new university, Salford had fill-in places in which I was eligible for. This was a BSc (Bachelor of Science) course, which would have better job prospects, and I was to make my mind up there and then as the course had already started! I chose the university. I went down straight away and enrolled. I was buzzing when I got home and told the family that I was going to university! They were all impressed.
The course curriculum spanned the whole gamut of Electrical Engineering from power generating machines to electronics and of course mathematics. I was coping with the engineering side of it but the maths was difficult not helped by the appalling lecturer who simply walked in, scribbled equations on the board for an hour then left without any explanation!
I wasn't seeing much of the family and was alone - I needed a mate. The "freshers' ball" was the perfect opportunity to get something sorted. None of my classmates were there which made it more difficult to get a partner. The ball was in full swing and I'd had a few drinks. I couldn't stay too long otherwise I'd miss the last train. I stalked the perimeter of the dance floor like a fox looking for an attractive girl. The place was packed and I spotted a girl in a group in the middle of the floor with long flowing dark hair. She was the right height although rather on the plump side but with a lovely pretty face and I fancied her. She was laughing and singing to the music as she danced with her friends and I was psyched up. I had to do something, I was determined to do something - this was scary. It appeared to be a group night out or a hen party but it didn't deter me. I took a deep breath and blotted everything out and just looked at her - and made a beeline. I squeezed my way through some dancers and got to the ring. "Can I have a dance?" I shouted to her without hesitation. A bit surprised, she answered "Yes", and opened up a gap in the ring. We talked small-talk for a few dances but I didn't catch everything she said because the music was so loud - then I noticed her watch - It was half an hour to the last train! and I had to leave. I wasn't going to let this one go and asked to see her again. She was a nurse and worked at the local hospital. She gave me her name and said "Just ring up and ask for me." We said "goodbye," then I went. I was over the moon as I quickly walked to the station and could hardly believe that I had pulled it off - I was euphoric.
We started going out together the week later and would meet at the same pub near the university. We didn't have a lot in common and spent the evening listening to records on the duke box and chatting. She had a gentle personality and we never had a single row. We met at most twice a week due to the course workload for the duration of the term.
FLYING THE NEST.
The thought of leaving home was daunting but it couldn't continue. It took two bus journeys, one train journey and a half-mile walk just to get to the university - and of course to be repeated later in the day. By the end of the first term I was exhausted. But there was a solution. An undergraduate had posted a message on the notice board: "Fifth person to share a house, all bills shared. Contact John." It was shortly before Christmas and despite all the uncertainties I made my mind up. I left a note in his message box within the hour. It turned out to be the ground floor of a Victorian detached house not far from the university. John was a very approachable modern language student who was easy to get on with. He explained that with me included there would be three boys and two girls. We would share the bedroom which was at the back and the girls would share the living room where there was a bunk bed: The kitchen was used as a dining room. I accepted the accommodation and arranged to join at the start of the next term. Mother was not in agreement and repeatedly asked me to have a re-think. I told her that it had been finalised and tried to console her in that I'd be returning for the weekends. But it made no difference. My sisters were surprised and happy for me when I told them but Peter was stunned. "So you're leaving me on my own, are you?" he moaned. As it turned out he got himself a place at Harris College in Preston on an engineering course and left home some months later.
I started seeing Kathy again the first week of the spring term but the relationship never went any further. We'd go to the same place, drink soft drinks, listen to the same records and chat with occasional long gaps in between and we'd kiss. Why was this? Did I not get enough encouragement - she never invited me back to her room; My shared bedroom was out of the question. Or had I gone through enough upheaval? She was a great friend and companion but as a lover it never happened. I would have liked to have got sexually involved with her but it wasn't so important. She saw me through the second term then we split.
Living away from home for the first time was rough. My flat-mates were okay but I found it very difficult to relate to them - I hadn't learned the art of conversation. We had nothing in common. I came from a poor background whilst they were affluent. My forte was in the sciences while theirs were in the arts. I remember at an evening meal once interjecting on a conversation that they were having which was a rare event: I may have cracked a joke. It was like a "non sequitur" as everyone went silent and shortly afterwards John broke the silence and just said "Fine!" whereupon they continued with their conversation. I became very depressed and if it weren't for Kathy I would have moved out. One of the girls was very attractive - Christine. She was petite with a nice face despite some acne and she got on great with John. They were always talking and laughing and would come home together. Both had a good sense of humour and were intellectual and I wanted her. Nothing romantic or sexual took place in the house that I was aware of and I never found out what their relationship was but I assumed they were going together - so I made no advances. This girl probably affected my relationship with Kathy. The other girl who lived with us studied sociology and didn't mix with the rest of us very often. She was also good looking but very quiet and somewhat reclusive and had communist sympathies. I had no problems with her - Political women didn't turn me on. My recollections of the second male flat-mate have faded. After a month or so I settled in and suggested that we have a party. I was surprised when they all agreed being so "academic" and John offered to design home-made "visiting cards" to distribute to our various friends and acquaintances. I said that I would make a design which I did but it wasn't as good as Johns' which was all flowery and artistic. But the sound system was my department: Peter and I had constructed a 100 Watt audio amplifier from a circuit in an old Practical Wireless magazine. He initially wanted to use transistors but since I was to do most of the construction work I insisted on using valves (vacuum tubes): I like valves. Peter brought a student friend of his from the college and Frances brought one of her friends. The place was packed mainly with students from the language courses. However, I didn't go "On the prowl" as I felt a responsibility as one of the hosts to ensure the success of the party and not to solve my personal problems.
I passed the first year exams and was glad to get back home. But Anne was missing! She'd got to grips with her own unhappy situation and joined the army! Frances was glad to have us back as she had to cope with mum on her own.
The second year at the university got worse. The girl who studied sociology moved out and a male student moved in. He was a tall dark and handsome Canadian who was studying civil engineering - and Christine fell for him. It was highly likely that she and John were just platonic friends - like brother and sister. I was devastated. This affected my course work and I couldn't really concentrate. But fate again came to the rescue. During a lecture Mick, a fellow student tapped me on the shoulder and muttered quietly in my ear, "Christopher has bought a house in Salford and he's doing it up. He wants to let some rooms out to ease the expenses - are you interested?" This was a watershed. After the lecture he explained it all. We would get three months free rent for helping with the decorating! After which he would ask for rent - but it would be very cheap. I didn't need much persuading - I gave notice to John the following week and moved into the house with Mick and another student not long after. It couldn't have turned out better - but it had a sting in its tale! Chris' was married to a girl from Lydiate - a small village near Liverpool - and she was very attractive. It seemed that I had gone from the "frying pan into the fire!" but I hadn't; Being married to my Landlord precluded any ideas I had about her and I put her out of my mind - I needed a break from all this stuff to concentrate on my course work. We were five in total: Chris, Joan, Mick and Steve plus myself. We were all in the same class except for Joan who was working. This was truly a shared house and despite the ground floor being Chris and Joans' quarters, we would all gather there in the evenings. The death knell for my degree came when Mick taught us Bridge. This is a fascinating card game for two opposing pairs and is very addictive. Chris and Joan would play against Mick and myself for hours on end - sometimes until the early hours of the morning.
By the end of the second year I was no longer attending lectures - I'd missed so many that it was impossible to catch up. It had become clear to me that my dreams of a degree were over and I'd become a dropout. In a way I'd become "school weary" and it was time to get a job - but not straight away. The summer break was here and I needed to consolidate and relax. Returning home was great - but something had to be done about the house. It was never going to be Buckingham Palace but a thorough clear out and re-decorating would make a world of difference. The skills I'd learned helping Chris prompted me to put it to the family - they all agreed. We started on the living room and worked upwards and by Christmas the whole house was transformed. Anne was still down south at the army camp and when she was due to return for Christmas we were eager to see her reaction. I remember diving to the hall to open the door followed by Peter and Frances - she burst into tears.
In 1973 Peter got a job in Manchester working as a x-ray engineer. It was a small family firm from Altrincham. He was provided with a car to service x-ray sets up and down the Northwest and rented a fairly luxurious detached house in SALE Manchester. I was living at home but then got the opportunity to view a small bedsit in Eccles. It was on the second floor of a meandering Victorian house containing eight flats and was situated at the back. It was very quiet and not too expensive so I accepted it: This was a good year. Although living alone, Pete was in the area and we'd meet on Fridays for a night out in town - usually at the "Poco a Poco" night-club in Stockport: This is where he met Patricia. We continued with our nights out but it wasn't quite the same. In the same year I found a job as a television service engineer at Rediffusion in Salford. I initially worked as a bench engineer but later was given home service duties with a car - but it couldn't be used privately as opposed to Peters'.
The rent for the house was expensive and his plan was to share the rent with Anne (who had been discharged from the army on medical grounds) and her boyfriend - Demitrius. He was Greek and was studying at one of the Universities or Colleges. Anne found employment at the Tax office and was fairly well paid. She was thrilled at regaining her independence and starting a new life in the big city. Peter was going out with Patricia who was working as a manageress in a dress shop in the town. She adored him and despite being very conservative she moved in with him before they got married. I was surprised this worked as Anne could be moody and temperamental but it did: Having a boyfriend and a good job had a therapeutic effect. I couldn't help feeling slightly uncomfortable when visiting - being the "odd man out": There was always an atmosphere - as if I wasn't welcome - especially from 'Trish. But this all changed after Anne introduced me to Beverley.
Carting twenty-six inch colour TV sets down five flights of stairs didn't happen too often but this was required if I couldn't fix the set in the customers' home. I enjoyed the bench work as it was giving me the time to get to know the models and become familiarised with the usual faults. The workshop manager was also very good and empathised with the engineers. But this was to change as after a few months he left and was replaced by a truly obnoxious manager with very little understanding of the job. His knowledge of the sets was very poor and he would stalk the workshop smoking a cigar and pouncing on anyone not seen to be grafting. I wasn't ready for "field work" as it's called as I had been given no training and wasn't familiar with all the models. However, when he put me on home service I eagerly accepted it just to get away from the workshop. It was a double-edged sword: I was my own boss and got the jobs over the radio - and of course there was the almost guaranteed offer of a cup of tea from the customer. But I missed the banter in the workshop and with time it all became very weary. It was effectively a dead-end job and the heavy lifting didn't help. In the autumn after about six months I packed it in: Mum was none too pleased!
I chilled out at home and in my flat for about eighteen months then I got a job in Stretford working as a fitter at Forest City Signs. This was a medium sized company, which made traffic lights and roadside signs. It was simple assembly work with none of the stressful faultfinding of the last job. However stress is sometimes unavoidable in life. The easygoing nature of the job was somewhat offset by being placed next to two cracking looking eighteen year olds. I loved this job! They were great and we took to each other straight away and we would chat away the hours while working. The smaller one - Lynda again! was cute with a pretty face and dark hair and her taller pal Mary was slimmer with fair hair. Lynda had a boyfriend whom she was engaged to but Mary who worked next to me hadn't. Both girls were truly working class girls with no pretensions or "airs and graces". Pete always went for the glamorous types but I preferred the more down to earth girls. If mother fate was trying to be accommodating she'd over-done it with Mary. It was a normal morning and we'd talked about almost everything when Mary blurted something out which stunned me - "I like you but your shit stinks!!" This was reminiscent of the non sequitur that I made at the dining table with John and Christine. I just went silent. What did she mean? She broke the silence sensing that I was slightly offended and said "Don't you get it? - Everybody's shit stinks!" It cleared the matter up somewhat but I never forgot it.
Lynda once told me out of the blue that her boyfriends' penis had a kink in it. We were working at the bench and I didn't really know what to make of it. I felt slightly uncomfortable and not being a medical person told her that it wasn't normal. Mary was in-between us and as far as I can remember she didn't comment. It crossed my mind vaguely that she may have been making a crude proposition. Thoughts like "Do you want to see what a normal one looks like?" entered my mind but not being sure of her motivation and being rather shy I didn't respond in such a crude way. But I wanted to find out without challenging her directly. Some time later I went down to the stores and found her at the hatch waiting for the store-man. I stood behind her, as one would normally do until she was served but I knew that this was the opportunity I was waiting for. I stepped right up to her and put my arms around her waist and gave her a big squeeze! I had never been so forward with a female works colleague and I was a bit worried as to what her reaction would be. I was elated when she didn't chastise me but turned around and smiled. But she didn't say anything and that was the end of it.
I fancied Lynda but since she was not available I concentrated on Mary. Nothing came of our friendship as I didn't have the confidence to ask her for a date and also it was too risky: It wasn't worth jeopardising the harmony.
However this job was not to last. Within a few months I was moved upstairs to work in the wiring section. This involved tying up bundles of wires into a harness and soldering them into equipment. It was a more demanding but painfully boring job not helped by a foreman who I didn't get along with; I hated it. The work was stressful and I was isolated and missed the girls. There were other workers there of course but not in earshot. Whether the bosses sensed this is unclear but within a month or so I was moved back downstairs into the main workshop again - but on a different section. It was in a small side room working alongside two other male workers, one of whom was the chargehand. We never became close friends but we got along okay. This was an improvement although the work was similar.
Going to discos alone and just having a few jars had its up side; stress factors were low and the night was relaxing but it was now time to get serious. "Placemate" in Manchester was the favourite, as it didn't involve a long walk; however on this occasion I went to "The Sands" in Stretford for a change. It was towards the end of the evening and I hadn't spotted a girl who I fancied so I just picked one at random. She was "so-so" and we had a few dances and I made a date with her before leaving for the last bus - "Outside the Odeon in SALE at 7 o'clock tomorrow night", I shouted to her to get over the 120 decibels din. She said, "okay" then I left; I had a niggling feeling later that I should have invited her back to the flat - we could have shared a taxi. I got ready the next day and made my way down. It was overcast and drizzling slightly and I got there twenty minutes early. It didn't surprise me when after forty-five minutes she hadn't turned up. For the first time in my life I'd been stood up and I was more annoyed than disappointed. I had a deep feeling that it was deliberate and not for some other reason. Nevertheless I was determined to find out. I didn't know her address but she told me were she worked! - Woolworths' in Altrincham, a few miles down the road. My plans for the following Saturday had now been changed! By mid afternoon I was standing in front of the shop. I peered through the window but couldn't see her on the shop floor so I took a deep breath and walked in. I didn't know whether she was a till girl or a manageress or what so I went to a counter and asked an assistant if she was in. She said that she was in the office and went to get her. After a while she returned and told me that she couldn't see me because she was busy: That cleared the uncertainty. I said that it didn't matter and explained what had happened and I wanted to know the reason why - and I wasn't whispering! All went quiet in my immediate vicinity: It was like a mega non sequitur! Then without further ado, I left. Somehow I felt better. The post-mortem on this episode was clear - she just wanted sex. But it wasn't sex that I needed but a relationship.
The most unusual disco that I used to go to every so often was on a boat! It was called "The North Westward Ho!" and was moored at Pomona Dock in Manchester. It was a quaint and cosy night-club with a restaurant at one end and a dance floor at the other. In the centre was a bar with two narrow isles on either side; It was a great little venue, always jam-packed and it was a major operation getting from one side to the other! There was no night bus service from that area and the return journey involved a three mile walk; But since I was half "canned" it didn't feel like it!
The new posting in the side room didn't last too long. Within a few months I was asked if I wanted to work in another section assembling and servicing burglar alarms. I didn't hesitate to accept the new position as the little side room was rather isolated and claustrophobic and the new section was in the main workshop where the girls were working. There were racks in the middle of the room so I couldn't see them but I could sometimes hear them chatting when it went quiet. I didn't pop round too often as I sensed that the foreman disapproved. There was only me and another guy working in this section - an old man by the name of Harry. He was great - very easy going with a sense of humour. If I'd dropped a screw for example and found it again he'd quip, "That's the one-eyed get!"
During this period we got to know a rather sexy looking girl in her low twenties - Annie. She was Welsh and came from Nefyn - a small town on the coast. Quite possibly she was a friend of Trishs' as we all went down there to visit. I hadn't started going out with Beverley at that point and she may have come along with us but I'm not certain. Anyway, her figure was perfect and her height was right - just a few inches shorter than I was. The only slightly off-putting thing about her was that she was dressed in leathers - I like my girls to look feminine. The visit was rather uncomfortable, as I didn't know her and I didn't have a lot to say: The two girls spent most of the time chatting. Some weeks later it was suggested by Peter or Trish that we slept four in a bed with Annie! This surprised me as we'd only met once. I was very apprehensive and pondered a while before agreeing. Were they arranging an opportunity for me? - I never delve into the motivation. If that was the case they should have told Annie because that's all she wanted to do - go to sleep! It was a normal double bed with Peter and Trish at one side and me at the other with Annie sandwiched in between. They went to sleep quickly but I didn't: I made an advance on her but got rejected. I was trapped between falling out of the bed on one side and making an unwanted contact with a female on the other. It was one of the worst nights' sleep I ever had.
Pete came round one evening to see me, which happened on occasions. We were chatting away talking technical when a neighbour knocked on the door; it was a call for me on the public telephone in the hallway: This was a rare event. I went down and was perturbed to hear Uncle Terry on the line. He had never rang up before and I had never given him the number. "Prepare yourself for a shock, Paul." He said solemnly. Then he told me mum was dead. I was stunned and didn't know what to say. Terry broke the silence and told me a bit of what had happened. She was in bed and asked Frances for a cup of coffee. When she returned she found her slumped over: She died of a brain haemorrhage. Walking upstairs I was left with the dilemma of how to tell Pete. I stayed on the landing for a while to think. In the end I just blurted it out. After a while he asked me who it was and what had happened, then we both went "private".
The last girl I went out with before meeting Beverley was arranged by Peter and Patricia. She must have been a friend of 'Trish's as Pete had never mentioned her name before - Carol. She was a very nice girl, not wildly attractive but certainly not bad looking. I liked this girl and we got on great. She was romantic but lacked that sexual spark to goad me in to anything serious. In a way it was a "Kathy" replay with the difference that Pete and Trish were with us at the pubs. On one occasion we were drinking at a "working men's" pub in the area with the bar stools occupied by old blokes. They were chatting as normal without giving any sign that anything was untoward. Then without any warning the barman came up to us and said to me and Carol, "Can you please stop kissing because some of the men have complained!" I was stunned and embarrassed and no one replied to him. He returned to the bar leaving the whole group dismayed. That was the nearest I got to smacking a total stranger in the face. Needless to say we didn't stay long and never returned. We went together for a few months and I enjoyed her company but it never went further. I could have made more of this opportunity and later regretted it.
After Pete and Trish got married we all continued going on outings together for a while but Anne and Demitrius were drifting apart. It was on one of these outings that she introduced me to her best friend Beverley. She was profoundly deaf due to a childhood illness, which made voice communication difficult, but her lip-reading was very good. She worked in the same tax office in Manchester as my sister. She was very pleasant but somewhat naive which was probably due to her disability. There was no "chemistry" between us and I considered her as a friend in the group. However it was not mutual as I discovered at the fancy dress party which Pete and Patricia held at their new flat some months down the road. We were all there including Demitrius all dressed up in crazy outfits; I came as a gorilla. It wasn't a new situation with them all dancing together and me on the floor with my Bacardi and coke. I'd already had a few dances and it was time for a break. During that break my life changed dramatically as Beverley pulled me from the floor for a dance to a smoochy ballad and drew me close to her. We kissed and headed for the bedroom. My heart was pumping in anticipation as we went through the door. The curtains were closed and it was dark inside and she sat on the bed. She began to take her top off as I was frantically removing my upper clothing. (I'd put about ten layers on to beef up like a gorilla!) She laid down on the bed and I laid on top of her. I squeezed my arms around her and like a wild animal grappled with her bra straps. "Not the first time," she pleaded, "You'll think I'm a slut." I couldn't really understand what she meant as we already knew each other and said, "I won't." She then pushed me off her and I knelt up and she followed suit - then she removed her bra. In the half-light I caressed her breasts and kissed her. We then lay together for a while before rejoining the party.
The halcyon days had begun. It was late summer and time to get out and live. Weekend trips in the countryside, holidays at home and abroad and of course parties were all on the agenda. After leaving university I lost contact with my friends and missed them. Although our natures and backgrounds were completely different, Mick was the closest. He was from the midlands with a very conservative upbringing. Peter had already met him at some bridge sessions and I suggested that we invite him to the next party; He was in favour. It was a normal party - not fancy dress and was preceded by laughs and reminiscences of the university with Mick. Trish felt somewhat left out and occupied herself with preparations for the party. There was only one stranger there, Lynn - a rather tall secretarial type girl in her early twenties. As far as I can remember she'd been invited by Trish. The atmosphere was good and it was a fun party. Mick who also was tall paired up with Lynn. Then something weird happened! We were all dancing merrily away when I noticed something odd about Demitrius - he wasn't wearing any trousers - or underpants! I didn't make a comment but either Peter or Mick muttered something regarding it. The lights were very low and I was hoping Beverley wouldn't notice but she did. She grabbed my neck and shouted, "Have you seen Demi?" I got the feeling that she wanted me to explain it but of course I couldn't. At that time as she was an only child and her father a mason I assumed she'd never seen a "naked" man. I just said, "Yes." I remember thinking "What's he trying to do - take her off me?" Anne must have been aware and taken control as shortly afterwards he left and reappeared decent. What lay behind this stunt never materialised.
I spent seven pleasant years in the flat. The guy below me was as quiet as a mouse and there were no other flats on the remaining faces of the room. It had a large garden that faced on to the garden of the house opposite. The road was so far away that the traffic could hardly be heard despite the window being single glazed. After some time the person from the ground floor flat moved out and a young woman moved in. She was about twenty years old with short hair and a good figure and about the same height as Anne - and not bad looking! I passed her a few times in the hallway as I was going out. At one point we got talking and she invited me into her flat; It was regarding something innocuous like the radio had gone faulty and when I told her I was an engineer, she'd asked me if I could repair it. I didn't stay long when I went and we talked a bit more. She told me what her job was - a police officer. I didn't ask her for a date but she was on my mind a lot.
Some time later I'd got a heavy cold and was lying in bed reading a paper when there was a knock on the door. "Who is it?" I shouted, not wanting to get out of bed. "Leslie." Came back the reply. The door was on the catch so I shouted, "Come in, I'm in bed with a cold." She opened the door tentatively and just leaned into the room; It may have been an enquiry about the original matter. I didn't ask her into the room but my stomach filled with butterflies! I was hoping she would come over to the bedside but she didn't; Beverley was still waiting to go on the pill and I was thinking, "this girl could pre-empt her." Had she come in and asked me at the bedside about the matter, then she may well have done. But she stayed at the door as I explained the situation, then she left. But why didn't I ask her over? Faintheartedness certainly played a part, but it wasn't the main reason. I couldn't understand what a policewoman was doing living in a flat in an old Victorian house. As far as I can remember, I never saw a badge or uniform when I was with her: Basically, I didn't believe her. But why she should have lied to a stranger would have been an even greater mystery. The episode faded into history as she moved out some months later.
It was now 15 months down the line and my active life style was taking its toll. I'd been warned by my foreman on three previous occasions about late starting. It was only a matter of minutes but they took time keeping seriously and money would be knocked off my wage packet. The foreman told me that it was company policy to allow no more than three late startings. I'd overslept and had only 15 minutes to get there. I was half panicking as I dressed and dashed to the car. The Austin 1300, which I bought a few months previously, was now put to the test. A large part of the journey entailed traversing Trafford Park - a sprawling industrial estate between Eccles and Stretford. There was very little traffic and the main road was long and straight as a die. Astonishingly, all but one traffic light was on green and I hit 100 mph on that stretch. With smoking tyres I slammed the brakes on at the factory door and ran inside. I quickly put my "clock-in" card in the machine and with trepidation grabbed it out to check the time - I stared at it in horror for a few seconds - 08:03 stamped in red! Then I made my way upstairs past all the workers to my bench. I wasn't in the mood for small talk with Harry: He must have sensed this and was subdued. The foreman came over and said he'd have to see the manager. I was edgy all morning and was waiting for his return: He called me over after lunch - I'd got the sack. I was gutted. It was only three minutes but a rule is a rule and I had little justification for feeling bitter. Some of the work force were shocked. I said goodbye to the girls and that was it.
It was time to take it easy but I was still paying off the car and money was tight. My social life was better - the nights out at the Poco continued and were more relaxing and I spent more time with Beverley, often staying overnight - in the spare bedroom as etiquette dictated.
When after three months Peter told me of a job opportunity I didn't really know what to say - I was enjoying life that much! But it was an opportunity I couldn't really refuse: A company car, good pay and having my own workshop. I would be sharing the workspace with a regional salesman and servicing ultra-sonic flaw detection equipment throughout the North west - and I would receive six weeks training in Bletchley before starting. The down side was that I would be working effectively alone, because the salesman would be out all day touting for orders. Nevertheless I eagerly accepted it. Pete was please but Beverley wasn't so enthused - I'd be loose down there for six weeks and only seeing her at the weekends: She was very upset.
The management booked me in a local four star hotel in Milton Keynes. It was a long drive and I was tired but fired up. The room was very luxurious and after a shower I made my way down to the restaurant for an evening meal. Everything was on expenses so I tucked into a five-course meal! Turtle consommé, chicken parmesan, ice cream sundae .... I staggered back to the room bloated and not feeling very well!
Luckily I fell asleep quickly and woke up refreshed. After a modest breakfast I made my way to the firm which wasn't far away in Bletchley. It was a large place bursting with electronics and after a short introduction from the manager I was introduced to my instructor. This is where the bubble burst: He was the reincarnation of the Rediffusion boss - arrogant, dogmatic and with no real concept of how the circuits worked: The industry wasn't short of service engineers of this type. Instead of using logical deduction they would get to know the usual components which failed and replace them one by one. I took back some manuals and studied them at the hotel as I learned very little from this instructor. Fortunately I was only under him for about a week when I was given my own bench with faulty sets to repair! I'd return home on the Fridays and visit Beverley on the Saturday and we'd take a trip out in the countryside on the Sunday.
Holiday in Scotland circa 1975
I was then told that I would be moving into lodgings in Bletchley with a family: I was content to remain in the hotel as I didn't relish the prospect of having to deal with another new situation, but it was probably getting too expensive. The family was a middle-class working couple in their late twenties with a nine-year-old daughter and a 12-month baby. They were rather reserved and I distinctly got the impression that their marriage had passed its sell-by date as there was rarely any conversation at the breakfast table either between themselves or with me. The guy invited me to a pub one evening and although he opened up a bit, I wasn't at ease as we didn't have a lot in common and being my Landlord, we weren't on the same level: I think he needed some breathing space. In the evenings I would retreat to my bedroom and concentrate on the theory. It was a glorious summer and despite being on my own a lot I thoroughly enjoyed it.
The six weeks went quickly and it was time to start work. I wasn't really ready but that's the way things go. I was thrilled when "given" a brand new Ford escort estate car, which could also be used privately. I loaded the boot up with all the gear and set off. Three hours later I was parked outside my flat and was worried about leaving the gear in the boot overnight. Instead of doing a few trips I emptied my suitcase of all the clothes and stuffed all the equipment in it: This was a big mistake. It weighed a ton and as I struggled upstairs I felt something wrong in my back. I woke up the next morning in pain and could hardly stand - I'd squashed a disc. But I had to start work. The pain hadn't eased by the time I got to town but was bearable. The workshop was situated in Wigan - my home town and it was strange driving up the main street again after all those years. Memories came flooding back and I reminisced over my childhood. The salesman was easy going and I got along with him.
I still had the Austin, which I no longer needed and I decided to
sell it. I placed an advert in the Manchester Evening News and received
a phone call soon after. The guy seemed interested and said he'd come
round to test drive it. When he came he was accompanied by a young girl
about seven years old who I presumed was his daughter. After a short
inspection I gave him the keys and took the passenger seat and the girl
went in the back. We did a few circuits around the block then we
returned to the flat. But it wasn't him who decided whether I'd get two
hundred pounds or not: He seemed indecisive and turned to the girl and
said, "Well, shall we have it?" I half turned around and held my breath.
She paused for a second then answered, "Yes!"
My back improved over the weeks but I had to very careful when carrying things. This was awkward, as initially I had to ask some of the workforce at the factories to help me with the equipment when servicing. After some months the pain had gone but my back had been permanently weakened. Beverley understood all too well as she suffered repeatedly from severe back problems which would see her in bed for days on end. Despite the stress and limited experience I coped with this job well and only called for assistance on the odd occasion. There was also paperwork: Reports had to be written and the customer billed. But again time keeping became a problem. I would often arrive ten or fifteen minutes late and was chastised by the salesman. This didn't affect my performance, as I would work later in the afternoon if necessary: The salesman didn't see it that way. According to him he was my boss and I was under his rule. One valid point he made was that I had to be there for nine to answer the phone when he wasn't there. But this was never in any contract or stated by the manager or anyone else and I didn't acquiesce. He reported me to head office and the managers sided with him and I was dismissed: Another good job up the swannie! ....
! GORMLESS !
Someone once called me "gormless". I was offended by this as I considered myself very bright and smart. However, later on I had my doubts. Beverley had come to see me and she stayed overnight. In the mornig we got that urge to make love. I laid on top of her as was usual, (I was never very adventurous in sex). We were under the blankets and I felt my way but had a feeling that there was something not quite right.. Nevertheless, I continued and reached orgasm then we swapped positions and she reached orgasm on me. When we lay together shortly after she calmly told me, "you went in the wrong way!"
PYE IN THE SKY!
After being unemployed for a while I got a job at Pye Telecommunications in Ardwick as a P.M.R. service engineer. It involved two bus journeys and crossing the city centre. If I thought Rediffusion was stressful, I was in for an awakening! I was offered the job without a practical test and with only a few questions about my previous employment, qualifications and hobbies. There was no training and I was placed on a bench next to one of the engineers. I was then given a service manual of a set to study in the morning and in the afternoon I was brought a faulty set to repair.
"It's not transmitting!" the engineer said, "Have a go at it - the customer's waiting in the lobby!" After an hour I threw the towel in and he took it off me! I struggled with the work for about a month then slowly got on top of it. The engineer was okay but the rest of the workforce was distant and unfriendly. The workshop was a mess and the floor was often un-swept. On one occasion I needed a special screw for a set and went to the stores to get one. "Oh, we don't stock those any more." The storeman said, "We've gone metric!" I was at pains to box up the set with a screw missing although it would have worked without it and I searched the floor!
Amazingly after a few scans I spotted one in a corner. I fitted it and reflected, "This must be the only workshop in the country where spare parts are got from the floor!" I gave it nine months then packed it in.
My interest in electronics and radio communication continued and received a boost when I bought three obsolete P.M.R. sets from the company before leaving at a knock-down price. I converted one to the 2-metre amateur radio band and would spend hours listening in to conversations between commuters travelling to and from work. I'd already passed the R.A.E. (Radio Amateur Exam) whilst at university and applied for a transmitting licence. Technical information in those days was difficult to find. The main source of info for the various projects and experiments that I embarked upon was the Central Reference Library in Manchester; A very large and comprehensive library situated on multiple floors. No clicking on a search engine here. Each different topic would require trawling through boxes of index cards to find a suitable book or scientific paper.
(Foreground: Construction of a new Metrolink station)
Then the "bomb" went off ; Our relationship was stagnating and by the end of the year after a holiday in Guernsey it was on the rocks. I felt smothered and broke off the relationship. Peter left for London then emigrated to Germany where he found employment at Sony working as a video editor. Anne had left her flat in Heaton moor and followed suit - working for the American army in Heidelburg. Mick and Lynn got married and bought a house in Bury: This fairy-tail development was brought up by Beverley on more than one occasion. There was only Trish left. These were bad days and I became depressed. I had no friends, job or a partner. There had been no contact with Frances by any of the group at this time. I started going to discos on my own but after a few rejections I lost the confidence and will to make any more moves. Before the split I was put on tranquillisers by my doctor but would only take them when needed: I would get stressed out in group situations and they helped a lot. Then weird things began to happen: I was making associations with events which didn't appear to be random - especially car numberplates. On the way to the discos I'd notice a lot of cars with the letters "YVM" and on return the letters "JA" - but rarely the other way round. I initially put it down to a statistical fluke but as it continued along with other strange coincidences I toyed with the concept that something was trying to get through to me and the letters stood for something. Could the "vm" stand for valium and the "ja" stand for Jack - Jack the ripper! I mused. It was during the period that the Yorkshire Ripper was at large. The message being that "If I didn't pull my sock up" at the discos and find someone who I was really passionate about I would end up like the infamous prostitute killer of the 19th century.
Before leaving for London, Pete' gave me his car; It was a second hand Ford and was running out of tax and its M.O.T. test. It was about fifteen years old and needed some attention but it got me about when I needed to go far. When it finally ran out, it was just parked in front of the flat, as I couldn't afford to do it up.
As I wasn't getting anywhere at the places I was going to, I decided to try another venue - Bredbury Hall; A very posh hotel with a night-club and restaurant out of town. Petes' old banger was on its last legs but roadworthy enough to get me to the club and back. (The missing offside disk brake, I hoped wouldn't be noticed if I got stopped!) I was really looking forward to it and dusted down my three-piece suit and set off. When I got there, I parked up in the car park and made my way to the entrance. Scores of people were queuing up and when I finally got in, the doorman asked me if I was a member. I suspected something like this would happen; you couldn't join at the door and I returned to the flat very disappointed.
I applied for membership and when my card arrived I returned to the club. The place was vast and I didn't make any attempt to find a partner but wandered around exploring the place with a beer and enjoying the music. It was towards the end of the evening as I was making my way out and passing through the main disco when I stopped. The floor was packed and one of my favourite records was playing - "Heart of glass" from Blondie. I gazed at the giant screen and then at the dance floor. All the people were dancing in perfect synchronism to the beat of the music - a harmony which contrasted to the turmoil that I was going through at the time.
Having pooh-poohed the "signs" and carried on as before with the odd exception, I drove up to the flat after a trip out somewhere and spotted a car in the street with the letters "EED". I'd already spotted an "EDB" plate and got worried. I associated this abbreviation with Eat - Dead - Buried In other words I was taking the wrong kind of food. And the "EED stood for "Heed" Over the weeks I slowly got the feeling that something was telling me to stop eating and drinking: I was almost convinced. What force this was, I didn't know but going up the stairs I made a decision to completely ignore it. "I'm not having some half baked Pan-dimensional lunatic push me around" were my sentiments. I was thirsty and went to the sink for a drink of water and was nervous. Just before I was to take a sip a colossal thunder clap shook the windows and I froze. That was it - I got frightened: I stopped eating and drinking and within three weeks was in hospital. I couldn't stand and was on a stretcher and was given intravenous glucose and protein. After a day or two they wheeled me down to see a psychiatrist to get to the bottom of it. I didn't mention the number plates or anything - I just clammed up. But the process of being cross-examined and sitting up made me feel sick and when I got back to the room I collapsed on the bed and vomited. The door was open to the corridor and just then a male and female member of staff were going by and stopped. They were in their early twenties and the nurse was stunning. She was holding an apple and turned to her colleague and said mockingly, "Oh, he's masticating!" - Then took a bite from the apple.
Salford Royal Hospital
(Formerly Hope Hospital)
! PART TWO !
I slowly improved over the weeks and by the time I was well enough to stand and feed myself I discharged myself - three times. On the two previous occasions the staff at the hospital came to my flat and talked me into returning. But on the third time I was adamant - I was never going back. The psychological wounds from the past year were healing and I could manage on my own. Electroconvulsive therapy and drugs weren't the answer and they respected my decision. I was visited by some social workers later on to check on my progress. One of them inquired about the numerous maps that I had on the wall - ordnance survey maps and some tourist maps. I said: "I like to know where I am." Over the weeks I became physically and mentally stronger and decided to make a complete break - this life wasn't "working" here. I took a bus to town and stayed in a four star hotel for the night. It was very expensive so the next day I checked in at the Y.M.C.A. and a week later I was in Paris! What a change - the elegant city, the language, the culture and above all freedom - it was like a breath of fresh air. However, the madness of the previous months hadn't completely gone; As I was waiting in the departure lounge at Manchester I was perturbed but not unduly upset by the announcement that came over the Tannoy: "Would the representative of Penis travel please contact the information desk!" There was a lot of noise in the departure lounge: There's a travel company called Phoenix Travel which I could have mistaken it for. The flight was fine and when I arrived in Paris I went to the Hotel reservations counter at the airport to get a room. My French was good but I didn't catch the name of the hotel and was pleased when the receptionist gave me the booking confirmation with written directions. I looked at it on the way up the escalator - Hotel Kuntz! It knocked me back a bit: I thought to myself, "Is the Pan-dimentional lunatic taking the piss here!" Whatever it was called I was glad to get a room for the night!
I took the train to Gare du Nord in the centre and followed the sketch that she'd drawn. The hotel wasn't far and I was very upbeat but on the way a particular street caught my attention - Rue La Fayette. Was the Demon mocking me? or subconciously vice versa - Road laugh I ate!
KEEP CALM AND CARRY ON READING!
I stayed weeks in the Hotel spending the mornings in cafes, walking the streets and searching for a job. Even with qualifications and experience finding a job in Paris without knowing the ropes proved very difficult - I didn't even get an interview. It was very depressing and when my money was running low I tried to ring Peter up but couldn't get through. A few weeks later I had to get back. No jet-setting this time - just the train and hovercraft. I landed in Dover with my bank account in the red. The plan was to stabilise out then return to France. After an equally depressing period at the Dovorian Hotel I was thousands in the red and had to ring Peter up; I claimed benefit at the local office but it didn't cover the outgoings. It was terrible having to admit defeat like this but I had to be pragmatic.
Pete was great; "Just get yourself over here and I'll sort you out." He said confidently. Within a week I was landing at Frankfurt Flughafen. Optimism, anticipation and hope were forefront in my emotions. I was very impressed by the modern and clean tube stations and the multicultural atmosphere of the city. It was now three years since Peter left and I was looking forward to seeing him again. He'd left Sony and was working for himself at home in a one bedroom flat in Rödelheim - a suburb of Frankfurt. After a warm welcome and a long chat the phone rang: He sprung up to answer it and spoke fluent German. It was one of his colleagues and they talked for ages and the crazy "competition man" inside me was fuming! It was very impressive and I was envious. It was a work related conversation regarding some editing he'd done but I didn't remark on it and changed the subject. After tea we went for a drink in a pub in the locality to savour the local culture and the pub was typical German; Wooden benches and stools with no upholstery. The place was quiet and conservative with not a female in sight: I told him nothing about the hospital. We didn't stay too long as he had to get up the next morning. "We can stay out longer tomorrow," he promised before turning in. "I'm going to Sachsenhausen in town for a night out with my girlfriend - you can come along if you want." It is a large district of Frankfurt with a small part bursting with pubs bars and restaurants and very popular. "Okay." I said and went to bed on the couch in the living room and was jubilant.
I was looking forward to the night out and meeting his girlfriend. However, I had to dispose of the day. The house was empty when I got up and I had to get out. I took the tube to town and spent the time in cafes and amusement arcades. There was none of the Paris problems when ordering food - everyone spoke English and they were only too please to practice with you! Frankfurt is the financial capital of Germany boasting elegant glass and steel skyscrapers and I did some site-seeing. It was a wonderful day and I was buzzing.
We'd had tea and were reminiscing when the bell rang and Pete went to the door. Seconds later he returned accompanied by a very beautiful woman in her late twenties. "Meet Evelyn." he said to me as she walked in. Then he spoke to her: "Ich stelle dir vor meinen Bruder, Paul." I got up and shook her hand then we all sat down. She was romantic looking with an indescribable sexiness about her and I was jealous. My German was non-existent and her English wasn't advanced and I talked nervously with her for a while when Peter left the room. She had a gentle personality and was very feminine. They'd met after Peter had put an advert in a newspaper along with his friend Richard.
However, every silver lining has a cloud! And Petes' came in the form of Manfred - her former husband. His feelings were far more intense. He was a military type and possessed a Luger! She'd see him regularly to visit their son and he'd made threats against him! And according to Pete he was unstable but nothing transpired as far as I'm aware.
Sachsenhausen was packed and after trawling the area for half an hour to find a seat we finally succeeded. The evening was uncomfortable due to the language difficulties: Evelyn couldn't understand what Peter and I were saying and I couldn't understand what they were saying. Nevertheless it was a night out. Having kept my plans on hold I now came to a decision: I would learn German and stay. I was living on pocket money from Pete and I needed a job. As I was walking down Kaiserstrasse the following week I popped into McDonalds' restaurant but not for a hamburger. I went to the counter and asked about vacancies; someone told me earlier that it was relatively easy for foreigners to get work here - and they were right! I got a job as a cleaner!
Pete was pleased as my debt was mounting up but my holiday was over. The work was hard being on my feet all day and for a pittance of a wage. The work entailed keeping the floor, tables and toilet clean, plus the pavement outside the cafe: German regulations require these areas to be kept clean. The staff was truly multicultural consisting of migrant workers with very little command of the English language. Communication was practically nil: No conversation, no friends, just tedious monotony. I gave it six weeks then packed it in. Pete was disgruntled but understood.
I was back on holiday and enjoying every minute of it! I'd spend the days as before sightseeing and taking it easy and playing in the amusement arcades. In the evenings we'd go out to a bar, sometimes with Evelyn and there was the odd party - one in which I met Evelyns' brother Frank. He was a weapons dealer and came over from France to see her. He spoke astonishingly good English and was easy to get on with. But it wasn't one of his missiles I was hit by but the ones in the amusement arcades. "Missile Command" was the name of the game: It was a speed, reaction and timing game. I saw it being played by an expert at the Dovorian and was mesmerised. It was thoroughly captivating and I'd become addicted. I'd play it every day for hours on end and within a few months I was over a thousand Deutsche Marks in debt: Peter knew nothing of it. The good times continued and the one regret that I have is not going to Berlin to see the wall. Peter and Anne had been and spent a day in the East. The photos he showed me of the wall and the armed guards and lookout towers were thought provoking: The barren no-mans land with automatic rifles and dog patrols sent shivers down my spine. But it couldn't continue and when Pete found me a real job opportunity in Offenbach I half welcomed it. The pay was average and the work mundane but it allowed me to be financially independent. It was similar to the Forest City job - wiring and assembly. It was a small company with one fitter, a secretary and two directors. However, I'd be working alone in a side room initially taking instructions from the other fitter whose English was poor. He told me there was beer in a fridge for the benefit of everyone. However this was no advantage to me, as I never drink before five o'clock. After a short interview with the directors I was accepted. Peter and Evelyn were please and I started to repay my debts.
The weeks went well and the work was simple and my German was improving all the time. Peter gave me some basic tips but I picked up most of my vocabulary from the radio next to my bench. My co-worker was okay but there was no rapport between us. He was rather arrogant and seemed to relish having someone subordinate to him. The bosses were friendly and helpful. Herr Hermann, who I presumed was the salesman, was away a lot. He seemed the archetypal entrepreneur, sun-tanned and flamboyant and spoke excellent English. The journey involved a tube ride to town and then a train journey to Offenbach: The walk to the firm was a matter of fifteen minutes or so. It was a bit of a drag but it didn't last long as Herr Hermann owned flats to let, and two were available. They were rather dilapidated and situated in a courtyard on the ground floor. He drove me down one evening after work to look at them. One was decorated but only had two rooms so I refused it. The other, which was facing had a separate bedroom but was in a dreadful state. He said that I would get some months rent-free if I decorated it. There was no bathroom in either flat and he promised to install a shower later on. The heating consisted of a single oil stove in the living room: In essence the living conditions at home were better apart from the rubbish! In hindsight it was a mistake to agree to the decorating as I was often tired after work and I like to have the weekends free. Nevertheless I did the bedroom and re-floored the kitchen.
A FREE DRINK!
I was bored one weekend and decided to take the tram to Frankfurt. I glided up the escalator at the Hauptbahnhof into Kaiserstrasse past the drug dealers and dossers who frequented the area. It was during the cold war period and the street was full of American soldiers having a night out. I was gasping for a beer and looking for a suitable bar. After a few circuits of the block I trotted up a deserted street and spotted a doorman in the distance plying for customers. It was a small dance bar and as I walked past he spoke to me. "You American - yes, come in - good time tonight!" It wasn't a disco I was looking for but he didn't charge me so I went in. I opened the curtain and walked into a completely empty room. I sat down and decided to have one drink then leave. After a few minutes the waitress who was also the barmaid came over and asked for my order. She was an attractive woman in her early twenties. "Bitte schön?" she said asking for my order. "Ein grosses Pilsner, bitte." I replied, hoping on this occasion it wouldn't take the usual half-hour. She went to the bar and returned not long after with the drink. The cool and sparkling beer went down well as I surveyed the empty dance floor. Before I finished the drink she came back and sat down next to me! "You American?" she enquired in a sultry voice. A little alarmed I said, "No, I'm English" and explained a bit about my circumstances. She then went on to delve deeper into my life and what my plans were. I was getting decidedly uneasy and gulped down the last of the beer and asked her for the bill. She went straight back to the bar and returned with the bill. I stared at it in horror as the figures 40DM jumped off the paper and hit me in the eyeballs! I stood up immediately and said sternly as I could, "I'm not paying 40 Deutsche Marks for a drink - I don't have that much on me." She was not perturbed. "You have a nice jacket and shoes," she said tugging at the collar! I half expected Jeremy Beadle to walk through the curtain but this was Germany and the burly guy behind the curtain was the bouncer! There was only one thing to do - walk straight out. This I did - straight past the doorman and into the street outside. I wasn't shouted after or followed and quickly walked around the corner. I found out later that I had been trawling around the "Red light" district!
It was early afternoon as I was watching the television when the bell rang. I was expecting the boss, as he'd sometimes pop round to check on my progress. But when I opened the door I was taken aback. Standing before me was a stunning eighteen year old Mädchen with shoulder length dark hair. She was just slightly taller than Frances at about five foot five and with a gorgeous face. She spoke immediately in a bright and confident voice, "Entschuldigen Sie, haben Sie einer Taschenlampe, da es hier keinen Strom gibt!" I was making progress with my German but I didn't catch a single word. "Ich verstehe nicht", I blurted out, "Sprechen Sie Englisch?" Unfortunately her English was worse that my instructors' and I didn't understand her. She then led me into the flat opposite and said, "I stay here - no light!" It then dawned on me that she was asking for a torch. I didn't have one but suggested in the simplest words I could muster plus gestures that she stayed in my flat till bedtime! - which she did! She was bubbly and easy to get on with but it was very stressful trying to get to know each other and by the end of the evening I had a headache - but I'd found a friend. "Bis Morgen," she said sweetly as she left the room. She was a fencer in the national team and was in Offenbach to train for the World Championships. She'd pop over every evening after training to tell me how she was doing and about her past. She didn't consider herself German and would always "slag them off" as square. She came from Duisburg in the Ruhrgebiet and had a horrendous childhood. She would be beaten on a regular basis by her sisters and mother, sometimes tied to a chair. I never got to the bottom of this possibly due to the language - or maybe I didn't want to know.
Although she was very attractive I didn't feel intimidated as she was so natural: I felt closer to her than my sisters. But didn't I want to get even closer? The answer was yes but the risk was enormous. Our friendship could have been blown apart if I made a move on her or even by a suggestion so I let things ride. However mother fate tried to help. It was late afternoon on a warm sunny day as I was having a wash down in the kitchen. I was standing in a bowl stark naked in front of the sink facing away from the door when I heard the front door open! It was Antje! I shouted out immediately, "Ich wasche mich, Ich komme bald."
Instead of going back to her flat as I expected she walked straight in. "Oh! entschuldige!" she said startled, "Ich wusste nicht", and she made a hasty retreat. Although quite embarrassing it was rather exciting! After getting dressed I went over to her flat. I found her lying on the mattress on the floor with a beer and a curious glint in her eyes. "Come in," she said in English, "have a drink." I declined as it was too early for me and I invited her over for later. She said "Okay - mal sehen. Übrigens, es sollte "Ich BADE mich, nicht Ich WASCHE mich gewesen sein! - tschüss". With that I went.
I discovered that there was a French-German club in Frankfurt and joined to improve my French. It was not in the centre and required a bus and tram journey to get there. Nevertheless I had the time and it was worth the effort. It was really a kind of social club as a lot of these groups are and my French wasn't significantly improved: They would often speak in English as soon as I told them I was English!
It was after one of these evenings as I was going home on the tram that I heard a couple speaking French a few seats in front. I'd hardly spoken a word of French all evening and here was a chance of striking up a conversation. They were total strangers and were not at the club but I'd had a few jars and was feeling adventurous: I shouted to them, "Comment, ça va?" I was a little apprehensive not knowing what their reaction would be but I was pleasantly surprised. The man called back in French and beckoned me over and I sat in the adjacent seat. I explained that I was returning from the club and was on my way home. The man was in his early twenties and from Senegal: I'll call him Jo. The conversation was a struggle: He spoke basic French but his accent didn't help and he couldn't speak a single word in German. His partner who was slightly older was German and could hardly speak French! - and neither could speak English. They were living together in Offenbach and had a problem - apart from the language! They had a television which didn't work and when I told them I was an engineer they seized the opportunity. I stepped off the tram with a piece of paper in my hand with their telephone number on and was buzzing!
When I went it was an extended version of the conversations on the tram and the broken television wasn't even brought up! They offered to make me a meal but I'd already eaten and accepted a drink. I didn't stay long and asked them if I could bring Antje on the next visit - I needed support! They had no objection and I went. Antje was only too pleased as I was to venture into a different scene. We got prepared and left for the flat about a week later. After a nice continental greeting at the door we made our way into the living room. Most of the interaction was between Norma, Jos' partner and Antje because of the common language. They got along well and although coming from totally different backgrounds they understood each other. After a light meal I basically left them to it apart from the odd translation for Jo. I was intrigued when he left the room and returned with a silver parcel and began to carefully unwrap it: It was a block of marihuana! I didn't make any comment but Antje's eyes lit up as she saw him prepare a tooter - a conical shaped reefer. She'd smoked dope before in Duisburg and although not an addict by any means she relished the prospect of tripping out. He took a few drags then with glazed eyes past the reefer to Antje. She inhaled long and slowly and was clearly getting intoxicated. She then offered the reefer to me but I declined: I'd smoked hash on a few occasions and got nothing from it: It tended to make me sleepy, dizzy or sick. I preferred alcohol and took another sip of my lager. It was a great evening despite lacking somewhat on the communication front and when it came to a close we arranged another. The pair seemed close despite the language barrier and I reflected how romantic their relationship must be. But I was awakened to the reality of the situation when just before we were leaving Jo pulled me aside and asked me where Antje lived! Alarm bells were ringing and I said I didn't know: Nobody was going to take this one off me. I told her the next morning about this turn of events and said I wouldn't be going to the next visit. She wasn't fazed and said that she would go alone. Antje went and had a good time but nothing came of Jos' aspirations.
During this period I started to have lucid dreams - I called them warps. They're similar to a normal dream but you are aware that you are dreaming. Sometimes reading about them can trigger one off, which is what happened with me. They always start from a normal dream when you slowly realise that it's not reality. You know you are lying in bed asleep and what you're seeing is not real. This realisation is a fascinating experience and also variable even during the course of the dream: Some-times it reverts to a normal dream but more often than not it remains all the way through. As they became more frequent I decided to investigate them in a quasi-scientific manner; Are they premonitions? Are they a similar reality in another dimension? Etc. I would record what took place on a cassette recorder as soon as possible on waking up.
I was making a recording of a particularly intense lucid dream that I'd had in the morning when I was interrupted by Antje walking in. It was new years eve and we weren't sure how we would spend it: I think Pete and Evelyn had their own plans and I'd been ringing around but with no success.
Me and Antje (Recording contains strong language).
Zesting 1-2-3, 31st of December 1983 - 14:52. A warp this morning of incredible auflösung /realusion, I was in my bed and I woke up to hear outside, the Mahr family having a row, I heard the father rowing with the son, and the father wanted him to come with him, and the son was really very annoyed - he was swearing and shouting and everything. As if he wasn't really his father but I know he really is. And the father said it was sieben vor elf [Seven minutes to eleven]. It was still blazing away so I thought, "this sounds interesting. Better get up and see what it's all about." So I lifted my head up to get my watch from the side there, but it wasn't there. And I looked on my arm and it was there. I looked at the time and I can't remember what it said. And I got up and went to the window. I looked out and the Mahr kid was there near the wall and the father was a bit further on. And in front of the window to the left of it was a big waste disposal contraption - a dumper. [A skip]. One of these lorries with two arms at the side going up and a big box hanging in the middle. Big metal box, and there was a fellow there as well and they were all having a go arguing with each other, and they saw me. And the father said "Oh he's sleeping." (Derogatory). And then I thought, "I don't want to get involved in it." So, as I didn't have any underpants on, I thought the fellow in the wagon could see me 'cause he was higher than the window level. So I shut the curtains and went into the living room. I looked at the clock, which was in its usual position. I think there was something on top of it, and the digits were a bit lighter, and it - the red was pink and I think it said twenty three something hours. That got me a bit worried, had I slept through all the day or something like that because previously the morning was a ******* nightmare. The ******** kids outside, setting off fireworks from half past ten 'till about twelve o'clock, but I finally won and got to sleep. And this is new years eve. I thought, "I've slept through all new years eve." So I looked around the room and erm, I thought to myself, "Somehow, I just wished it was a warp." Although it was beyond possibility that it could be a warp ... "Bitte?" (Antje walks in.)
Realusion was a parameter, which I gave to the dream to indicate how close to reality it was:
A combination of the words, reality and illusion.
Antje: ...... silver paper?
Antje: ... silver paper
Me: Silver paper?
Me: Yes, I've got a whole roll in .....
Antje: Where? Can I have a bit?
Me: Yes of course, ... in.
Me: Yes, I think in the sink cupboard.
Antje; (Sighs) Work.
Antje: Has anyone rung up?
Me: Nobody has rung up.
Antje: Have you rung anybody up?
Me: Yeah, I've rung up, Elke and some friends.
Me: Nobody there.
Me: Are you really sleeping today? [Through the New Year].
Antje: Yes .... what else can we do? Should we celebrate alone, do you mean?
Me: It would be better.
Antje: Celebrate .... to celebrate. [Possibly: "It's hardly any reason to celebrate"].
Me: But I've never ....
Antje: ... just booze.
Me: Yes so, ok. I'm making a recording.
Antje: Has it heard ....... ?
Me: I haven't stopped it!
Me: Ok, I have to carry on.
Me: I'll come over - or come over and explain what the silver paper is for.
I was still seeing Peter and Evelyn but only at the weekends. They asked of course about the flat and the job and things in general and I was cautious not to mention Antje - although she wasn't his type and they were strongly bonded, I decided to play it safe. However it didn't really make any difference as when the months past by she started talking more and more about her trainer. He was Polish and she'd become besotted with him. At one point she showed me a model he'd given her as a present - it was of two pigs copulating. I remember thinking "Is she teasing me or tormenting or what?" I was totally confused. I didn't question her about it; I just laughed it off. I wasn't in the mood for getting deep. But one thing was certain - I was losing her and decided to take drastic action. It was too late for a "lovey-dovey" approach - I was convinced it wouldn't work. The next time she came back from training and knocked on the living room door she got a surprise. I shouted, "Come in" as usual. She walked in and was met by the sight of me leaning back on the couch with my trousers and underpants down by my knees sporting an erection! It didn't surprise me when pulling a stunt like this that she walked straight out without saying a word! What did surprise me was that after a few minutes the door opened again and she walked back in. Without saying anything she sat down next to me on the couch and remained silent. I put my hand on her knee and she rejected it - then I began to masturbate. I didn't reach orgasm as she started to snigger and I realised she was just mocking me. "That's it." I shouted and stood up and got dressed. She left the room without speaking. Oddly enough this didn't adversely affect our friendship, but the opposite: We understood each other and knew where we stood. She still came over after training for a chat and a drink but deep down I hadn't really given up on her - this despite the trainer getting divorced in order to marry her! It therefore came as a surprise when some days later she suggested for the first time that we go out for a drink: We'd had a few jars and a night out would make a change.
I wasn't familiar with the local bars so we picked one at random. Some bars have curtains behind the door and so did this one. We stepped through the door and were confronted by a six-foot screen showing pornography! I was taken aback and turned to Antje but she made no comment, so I went inside and found a seat. I remember thinking "This is weird". The waiter came over with his pen and pad and we ordered drinks. Neither of us mentioned the film and we continued chatting as if nothing was untoward. I felt uncomfortable and avoided the screen as much as possible but Antje wasn't fazed - despite being the only female in the place. Then she suggested that we "do" something when we got back! We had the one drink then we left. I was in a confused daze walking home with her, not knowing what she wanted because she added ... "but no sex". I also didn't know where she wanted to be - hers or mine, so I let her go first and followed her into the hallway. I was psyched up as she went into her flat and lay down on the mattress but she didn't removing any clothing. No words were spoken as I lay down beside her and removed my trousers and underwear. I wanted to display my prowess but the drinking had taken its toll and I fought to get an erection, but couldn't: It shouldn't have been an issue as she wasn't consenting but it was a macho thing: I felt slightly ashamed. We kissed and I got intimate but she didn't. The reason may have been is that, if she had, she would have "woken it up" and the way it was suited her. I stayed a while longer then went back to my flat - and that was the closest we ever got.
It was clear she had an unhappy upbringing and maybe she was emotionally neglected. She was afraid of giving anything deep of herself in case she got rejected, and I was scared of getting too pushy in case I lost her friendship. She probably had many encounters because of her looks and to find compensation for what was lacking at home. But what she needed and yearned for she never found and couldn't risk getting hurt again.
It was now time to introduce her to Peter. I told him about her at the weekend and suggested we go to Sachsenhausen as a foursome. He was surprised and buoyed up especially when I told him how good-looking she was. Antje was in agreement and was looking forward to it. After meeting at Petes' flat we did the introductions and chatted for a while. I was proud to introduce her as my girlfriend. The night was great. We went to the usual bar and it felt good not to be the odd man out. My German was then good enough to follow the conversations with only the occasional translation from Peter. However Evelyn was not so relaxed: I couldn't help notice the look in Peters' eye and the attention he was giving to Antje. Nothing was said and after two drinks we set off for another venue. I'd assumed it was the "Hard Rock" just down the road but I may have been mistaken. The pedestrianised street was crowded and in the melee I lost them. I went to the place, which was teeming with people but couldn't find them anywhere. I stayed a while and had a few drinks then left when luckily I met up with Antje outside. She had no idea where the others were and thought they may have gone home. It hadn't occurred to me at the time but it's possible that Evelyn had got unsettled and taken him back, but that's just speculation. Getting a taxi proved impossible and we ended up walking all the way home.
A FRENCH LESSON
One of the members of the French-German club was also called Peter. He spoke fluent French and was very friendly. His English was also good and after some weeks he invited me to join him and some friends of his on a skiing holiday in Grenoble: It would help with the cost of the holiday. I wasn't overly enthused mainly as I prefer to vacate in hot and sunny climes: I'd experienced enough freezing conditions in my childhood to last a lifetime! I didn't know him well but my adventurous spirit took over and I agreed to join them. We went in two cars: His friends, two females and a male in one, with me and Peter in the other. The others went ahead of us to prepare the chalet etc. I enjoyed the trip down relaxing in the sunshine with the occasional banter with Peter. The rented chalet was magnificent, perched on the slopes of a snow-covered hill. Peter introduced me to the other party all of whom were French. They couldn't speak English and I spoke some French but there was not a lot in conversation. After a light meal we took an early night. After breakfast the next morning we headed for the ski cabin to be kitted out with skis. It was a glorious day with not a cloud in the sky and I was looking forward to my first skiing attempts.
HORROR ON THE PISTE
All was going well as I took a few short slides down a light slope with only the odd tumble. The other guy suggested that I take the chairlift to the top and ski down. You need to ski properly to use these chairs and I wasn't confident about it. Nevertheless he persisted and said it was easy so I gave it a try. I grabbed a chair and sat down and although the first few seconds went okay I couldn't steer properly and fell with the skis hooked around the chair and was dragged up the slope for a while until the alarm was given and the lift stopped. I wasn't physically injured but embarrassed and ashamed that I'd let someone over-ride by gut feelings. Despite this mishap I enjoyed the holiday but I never went skiing again.
After working a year for the company I became disillusioned: The prospects were poor and it was taking up most of my time so I gave notice.
It was during this period that Frances sent me a card informing me that I'd become an uncle. She'd married a Councillor from the town who was an avid rugby fan and she'd given birth to a boy named Alex.
After leaving the company I had more time to devote to my own electronics projects with a view to become less dependent on employment. One of the directors had bought a Spectrum ZX81 home computer and called me into his office to demonstrate it. This little machine impressed me as I was interested in learning programming. I'd already done some programming on a mainframe computer at the college and wanted to continue but the course ended. I asked the boss to get me one, which he did. I spent a lot of time on the computer learning the programs and interfacing it to various pieces of hardware that I had designed. This helped a lot to combat boredom and also kept my mind active. I'd usually work on it after going out for an hour or two for a walk and a cup of coffee at one of the local cafes: It was in one of these cafes in a local Park that I became besotted by the waitress who was very attractive. She was Italian and had a light tan - not a suntan but the natural tan that Mediterranean people have. I'd go to this particular cafe just to see her. She'd come over to the table and ask for my order, "Bitte shön?" she would ask in a lovely sexy voice. I knew at some point that I would have to ask her for a date even if she refused otherwise I'd be tormented forever with regret. More than four months had passed before I'd plucked up enough courage to ask her. I'd ordered a coffee plus a cake this time to give me more time to compose myself. I intended to ask her when I called her over to pay the bill but when she came I "chickened out". I was in half a mind to scrap it but I knew if I did, I'd never do it: It was now or never. It was then more difficult as she was standing behind the counter next to the manager. He was older and also Italian and I took him to be her father. I'd waited until he went outside to take orders to catch her alone but no one came. To say I was a gibbering wreck as I stood up pulling out a note from my back pocket would be slightly overstating the case - but only slightly: I was very nervous. I just went straight to the counter and blurted out in German, "Do you want to go for a drink some time?" She paused expressionless for a second then replied, "Nein danke." I wasn't really surprised after all that time but I was very disappointed and I never returned to the cafe.
One of the projects I designed was a piece of equipment to display a persons heart rhythm on a standard television screen. The software was difficult and took weeks to get to grips with but the hardware was my forte and didn't present any particular problems. However it was time consuming as an ultraviolet lamp had to be acquired and the printed circuit had to be designed and made. Within three months it was ready for testing. The circuit worked exactly as planned and within hours I was looking with pride and fascination at my own heartbeat on the portable television set on the coffee table. "This should impress Pete," I thought to myself as I stood up to put the module away. However, something unexpected happened. The plug on the signal lead was dangling and as I leaned over the television set it found its way through a ventilation slot and made contact with a live terminal. I quickly pulled it up but it was too late. This destroyed numerous chips which put it out of action and restricted any further development of the project. I didn't get an electric shock as the current went to earth but psychologically it was a hammer! After waiting weeks for the new chips to arrive I went down to Petes' to demonstrate it, and I was right - he was very impressed!
LOST IN FRANCE
Another pal from the club, Jalil who was French invited me to a weekend in Paris with some of his friends. I'd only met him on a few occasions and didn't know him at all well. The itinerary hadn't been discussed in detail as his English was poor. However, it would enable me to practice the language in a situation in which there was no other alternative so I accepted the invitation; He would already be there, he told me (probably on vacation) and he would meet me at the station. The whole arrangement was "iffy", as I hadn't seen him again to confirm everything before I went. I got ready and set off for Frankfurt Hauptbahnhof. I was rather edgy as the train pulled into Gare de l' Est station as I wasn't totally confident that he would be there, but he was. "Ça va?" he asked smiling as I stepped onto the platform. "Bien!" I replied concealing my relief, "Ou es-ce qu'on peut manger? - J'ai faim." A snack at the station would have sufficed but they'd organised a meal. "And what would that be?" I asked him. "Couscous!" he told me, "It's a favourite African dish." Okay." I said, "Let's go!" I followed him to the Métro and we arrived at the flat. His friends, a young couple, welcomed me and I spoke some French. It was a typical student flat of the time with books and clothes strewn all over the place: As one would say in French - Quelle bazaar! After the introductions I was in deep water. Although my French would be classed as intermediate, I struggled to follow the conversation and effectively kept out of it. The meal was a disappointment, which didn't surprise me, as it was a new dish from a different culture. The group had planned an evening at a disco but I was against it as I was tired from the journey and wanted an early night. Despite this we went to a modern disco with all the bells and whistles: Laser beams and ultraviolet lights etc. There may have also been a live show later on. Around eleven o'clock I was practically falling asleep. The music was mediocre and I couldn't find the group anywhere. I had the feeling they had wanted to stay until the early hours of the morning: I decided to leave and stay overnight somewhere.
Finding a hotel or B&B in Paris is no problem, but at that time of night I was worried. Failing that it would be an uncomfortable night on a park bench, as I didn't have their address or telephone number. Incredibly, I struck lucky on my second attempt. The old lady with the weathered face showed me to the room: I followed her up a flight of stairs and through a cracked door with a rattling wooden knob. And there it was - a bathroom sized room with a slanted floor and a single bed. The cracked washbasin matched the dingy cracked plaster on the wall and the yellowing net curtain. But it was paradise! "Je le prends." I quickly said to her and paid her immediately: I had a good nights sleep. The sun beamed through the window the next morning and beckoned me to get out of bed. I headed for the nearest cafe and ordered a "Croque monsieur," - a toasted ham and cheese sandwich and a coffee. After a short sightseeing tour I made my way to the station: Another night in Paris would have been nice but I was still paying off my debts and had to be pragmatic. It occurred to me that Jalil might report me missing - but I doubted it. I bought a single ticket to Frankfurt and headed for the platform. Then the "ding-dang-dong" of the Tannoy system making an announcement reminded me of my stay in the Hotel just around the corner a few years back. It would permeate the room every few minutes and became inextricably associated with that crazy depressing period.
I caught the next train to Frankfurt and lamented over the failed holiday that I was looking forward to - and returning so soon: I felt cheated. But I didn't HAVE to go back, I resolved NOT to go back! I would need to buy another ticket which I could ill afford, but what the hell! I was half way home and in the middle of no-where. This was a slow train which stopped at every small station and I wished I'd got off at the last one. I decided to get off at the next village and if there were no where to stay, take the next train back. I didn't have to wait long. The train drew up at a very small wooden station and I got off and waited for it to leave. The sun was shining with a light breeze and with fluffy white clouds in the sky. I was feeling great and gave two fingers to the trap I'd fallen into and looked around for the village - but there was no village! Just open countryside with a few trees dotted around. I headed off along the single dusty track and hoped there would be a village at the end of it. "Trains usually stop at villages," I muttered to myself. It must have been half a mile at least before the first houses appeared; I'd already passed some industrial buildings and farmhouses. The village was very small but astonishingly it had a hotel! I entered to find a very crowded and noisy bar filled by males of the locality. I stood behind some blokes on stools and shouted to the barmaid, "Avez vous un chambre libre pour cette nuit?" I was taken aback when she corrected my French. "UNE chambre!" She emphasised. I repeated the question correctly kicking myself for making such a simple mistake. "Yes, do you want a drink?" she asked. I ordered a large beer and was relieved. "Take a seat." She said, "I'll bring it over." The cool beer went down well after the long walk in the sunshine. After a while she came to my table and said, "Suivez moi" I got up and followed her up the stairs to the room. It was a small room, light and pleasant with a double bed and I said I would take it. She left the room and I was jubilant. I lay on the bed and the famous song by Bonnie Tyler came swirling through my mind - Lost in France ...
Despite her plans, Antje didn't seem happy. I'd often walk in to her flat to find her half drunk on the mattress on the floor surrounded by empty beer bottles. Although seemingly confident she was struggling inside to build some self-esteem and respect - this was what the fencing was about: She needed to be good at something. But fate dealt her a crushing blow. I was doing some soldering in the late afternoon when she walked in distressed and knelt down beside me. "There's something wrong with my eye," she said, "I can't see anything, have a look." I calmed her down and did some basic optical tests and a visual inspection and came to the conclusion that it was something to do with the optic nerve. After going to the hospital she gave me the diagnosis - an inflammation of the optic nerve - she'd gone blind. This was incurable and although having a good eye, her career was at an end: Her dreams of becoming world champion were over. She coped with this turn of events very well and got a job at McDonalds restaurant in Offenbach. Her relationship with the trainer grew stronger and weeks later she moved out to live with him. I was alone again.
Then as if to put the boot in, my life went rapidly downhill. I was pleased when Peter announced that Anne was coming up from Heidelburg for a visit and there would be a get-together. I was looking forward to seeing her but all the omens were bad as I had a very bad nights sleep the night before and had to "crash down" in Petes' bedroom after she arrived. But I couldn't get to sleep and I rejoined the "party". There was an "atmosphere" and I was in a bad mood. There was some "needle" between me and Anne: I probably made some critical remark over her behaviour or attitude and expected Peter to agree - but he didn't. Not only did he side with Anne but he got out of his chair and put his arm around my neck and tried to throttle me! I realised it was serious as I was gasping for breath and struggling to free myself. After about a minute I broke loose and stood up. I decided to leave for to retaliate in those circumstances could have had serious consequences. Petes' action was out of proportion to my comments and although we had fights when we were younger it indicated that there was some deep underlying problem. The whole scene was blown and I left immediately. A few weeks later I was travelling north in a coach and heading for Köln. I'd rang Peter up earlier to tell him that I wouldn't tolerate such behaviour and was leaving. He apologised but it made no difference - there was nothing left for me in Germany: I'd spent four great years there and I was homesick and it was time to draw the chapter to a close.
A NEW BEGINNING
I took a flight to Southend and then the train to Manchester. I checked in at a B&B, which I'd already booked which was in Chorlton-Cum-Hardy, a suburb. It was a small room but there was a communal lounge which compensated. It was strange being back and although the area was grubbier it was home and I was glad to be back. Within days I registered with the Employment Exchange and claimed Social Security Benefit. This allowed me to subsist until I found a place of my own. I was well familiar with the procedure and after some weeks found a one bedroom flat in Whalley Range. It was a pleasant leafy suburb not far from the centre and I settled in immediately. The flat was situated in a quiet street on the middle floor of an old Victorian house. I spent five pleasant years at this flat and for a short time worked for a company in Altrincham as an engineer. But it wasn't all idyllic: After six months or so a young couple moved into the empty flat above. These old houses were built for families and weren't intended to house people who weren't related. The floors were made of wood and the noises from the new tenants became annoying. Every footstep could be heard interspersed every so often with loud thumps. After a few weeks I went up to complain. A tall guy opened the door and asked me what I wanted. I explained the situation but instead of being sympathetic he retorted, "What do you expect me to do - go around on tip-toes?" I returned to my flat very upset and annoyed. I started to sleep in the kitchen but later on I found a couple of old doors in the cellar and built a kind of hut in the living room where I put my mattress. It muffled the sound quite a bit and in conjunction with earplugs I was able to sleep normally. Then I hatched a plot: It was late one night when I went downstairs to the side of the house with a Phillips screwdriver in my hand: This is where his car was parked. I carefully positioned the point of the screwdriver in the corner of the windscreen and with a house brick slammed on it with full force. The whole windscreen shattered! I quickly dashed back upstairs in case they heard the noise. The sound insulation was that poor that I actually heard him moaning to his girlfriend the next morning telling her what had happened! Somehow I felt better!
SHOOT-OUT AT CENTRAL REF!
I was walking along Oxford Road in Manchester heading for the library; I'd been to Maplin Electronics to get some components and fancied a cup of coffee in the cafe before returning home. However, before I got there I realised that it would be closed as it had just turned five o'clock. There were other cafes of course but they were way off my route so I decided to buy a carton of milk and drink it in the library cafe. It was situated in the basement area without any door so there was no problem getting in. But I was rather apprehensive as it was technically closed but considered that it wouldn't be much of a problem just to sit there relaxing for ten minutes while I drank my milk. I walked into the library and had a quick look round to see if anyone was watching and scooted down the stairs. It was dark in the cafe with all the chairs neatly set out for the next day. I headed for the back and sat down at a table and opened the carton of milk. It was only a matter of seconds before I heard footsteps coming down the stairs. Then SHE appeared - a "battleaxe" woman in her forties who never smiled and was very authoritarian. "The cafe's closed." She sternly said, and stood glaring at me waiting for me to leave. But I was in a belligerent mood and wasn't going to leave without a fight!
"I'll only be a few minutes." I shouted back to her. However, that wasn't good enough. She wanted me to leave there and then.
"The cafe's closed." She repeated.
She could have made an exception - it was just bossiness. I threw caution to the wind.
"You can't make me leave this cafe!" I bluntly called back to her. Alarmingly, she came back with; "I'll go and get somebody who can!"
Visions of the Manager or a gang of burly bouncers flying down the stairs shot through my brain. I didn't hang about - I was on the top floor within three minutes sitting at a table reading one of Chaucers' tales! I'd gulped down the last of the milk and sneaked out shortly afterwards. But why didn't I stand my ground? It wasn't just the fear of being forcibly ejected by the management or the police but the risk that I could have been banned from the library; The place of learning which I'd used so often - my best (and in some cases only) source of technical information. It would have been a dreadful loss.
CALL OF DUTY
During this period Peter rang me up informing me that he'd left Evelyn and moved into a larger apartment in another area. I was surprised and saddened as not only was she attractive but they understood each other and appeared to be well bonded: He'd met a French girl possibly on a course and he became totally besotted with her. But after a few weeks she dumped him and it blew his mind. He told me that he was shouting and screaming for her to stay and completely "lost it". This was something of a revelation from the ultra-cool Peter. However, his new life was short lived as I found out some time later when he called and asked me to come over and sell off his belongings. His company had collapsed and he was deeply in debt and was leaving. I was very apprehensive as this would "dig up stuff" I'd buried and I wasn't sure how it would affect me. However, he said that he'd pay for the flight and I owed it to him so I reluctantly agreed.
I was looking forward to meeting him but he wasn't there - he'd taken a flight to California and left the keys with Anne who was staying there in the mean time. I was never very close to Anne and our conversations were generally superficial but on this occasion she opened up: We had had a few drinks in the evening and she began to talk about her life in the army. She was working in a secretarial environment at the base and was the only English girl there. She didn't get on with her co-workers many of whom were "catty" to her. I didn't delve into the reasons behind this as I know she could be difficult. But on this occasion I suspected that it had more to do with her attractiveness than her own personality. She had met an officer and they had fallen for each other. He was handsome and they were seeing each other for a long time and there was even talk of marriage. But he had a secret life: Out of the blue he told her that he wouldn't be seeing her any more as he was already married with children and would be returning home. This badly affected her but there was very little I could do but to sympathise and console her.
It was great seeing Frankfurt again and during my stay I went to the old flat in Offenbach. All the memories of Antje and the turbulent days came flooding back. Standing in the courtyard gazing at the windows I half regretted leaving.
Completing the task of selling off Petes' belongings in the week I had available was a tall order so I enlisted the help of Wolfgang who I'd met at the French-German club. He was kind of a loner but was very friendly and always ready to help. He was living on the outskirts of the city in a very Spartan flat - just one or two sticks of furniture with no ornaments or pictures on the wall. We went for a drink in an up-market pub and I explained the situation. He promised to try to sell the car but his personal effects I had to deal with myself. There was very little I could take back with me and was saddened at the thought of leaving his bag of telephoto lenses in the cellar. But that wasn't all: In another corner I spotted something I hadn't seen for fifteen years - the reel to reel VIDEO tape recorder! He'd acquired it whilst at Harris College for the princely sum of £20. These machines were rare. I was amazed and envious when he showed it to me. It was highly likely that he'd acquired the only tape recorder capable of recording video in the whole town if not the county. I spent the rest of the day modifying the television to get a video signal from it. The tapes had a special chromium dioxide emulsion and were very expensive. Recordings made on the machine included "Top of the Pops" and a live transmission from an Apollo moon mission! I buckled at the thought of leaving it. These turn of events affected my perception of him: He was never any more superior to me - just luckier.
After frantically ringing around to sell off his personal effects and getting nowhere it was time to call it a draw: I had done as much as I could. I told Anne that the ball was in her court and to make an arrangement with Wolfgang. There was then not a lot to do - apart from going to see Antje! But I had no contact details. However I knew the trainers' name - and it was not a common one, so I grabbed the telephone directory. There were very few entries so I began to ring them up. I did not know how she would react if I got through and was nervous. If the trainer answered I'd just say that I was an old school friend. I rang the first number and a strange voice answered. "Hallo, who is it?" a man enquired. "I'd like to speak to Antje please." I replied. "You've misdialed," came back the reply. "There's no Antje here!" I put the phone down and tried the next number. Astonishingly, I struck lucky this time and she answered the telephone! "Hallo?" She said, in that bright and distinctive voice of hers. "Who's calling?"
"Hi, it's me, Paul." I replied, "I'm back in Germany for a visit. Can I see you?"
"Yes, of course," she said enthusiastically, come over. "Have you got a pen and paper?"
I was buzzing and scrambled for a piece of paper. She gave me her address and directions to get there and I prepared myself for the visit.
I had no idea what to expect or how I would relate to the trainer but I was very psyched up on that tram heading for Offenbach. When Antje opened the door it was if nothing had happened.
"Come in," she said nonchalantly. "Do you want a drink?" It was as if we had never parted.
The flat was very spacious and pleasant with an open plan dining area. I walked in and she introduced me to another young woman in her early twenties.
"This is my sister, Silke." She said. She was quite attractive and she just said, "Hallo."
On the floor in the living area was a young child playing, aged about two. "That's my daughter," she told me, giving me her name.
"We're having sandwiches for tea do you want to join us?"
"Certainly!" I said enthusiastically, "What is it?"
"Tuna fish and cheese." She replied.
We talked small talk for a while then I followed her to the dining table and we sat down. Our interactions were rather stilted possibly because of the presence of her sister.
Despite the events of yesteryear I never felt anyway inferior to her. I was older and more mature and this reflected in the way I perceived and interacted with her. But now she'd grown up and become a mother. She was no longer sleeping on a mattress on the floor in a two-room flat and had a partner and a child. For the first time I felt slightly inferior to her - as if the tables had been turned.
Silke was looking after the child and didn't join us; Antje mentioned in passing that Peter had made a pass at her and got rejected! I wasn't really interested and just said "Oh!" I'd experienced enough of Peters' "gallivantings" first hand without having them thrust on me second hand! I was more interested in HER relationships and after a while I asked her, "where's the trainer?"
"He's dead." She said.
Apparently he'd had a heart attack. I didn't delve any deeper and scoffed down another sandwich. We parted company on good terms and I put her out of my mind.
Some time after returning home I became agoraphobic. It was shortly after I'd rented a video camera from a shop to do some masturbation selfies. These were very erotic to watch but soon afterwards I would get severe panic attacks when leaving the flat: It was probably the combination of the videos and returning to Germany which caused it: One would say in computer parlance, I'd crashed the machine stack! At one point I had no milk and had to turn back as soon as I went into the shop. I didn't seek treatment for this but waited to see if it would clear up of its own accord - which it did: But it took three months before I was completely back to normal. I'd spend the days as before - going to town, having a coffee etc and in the evenings watching the television or listening to pop music with a few drinks. I began making home-brew in the bathroom to save on costs - and put an extra bag of sugar in it! It took longer to brew but I'd get about a seven- percent brew off it. It would also keep longer but some of the hangovers were horrendous! General human contact was practically non-existent and interaction with females less so - but there were sporadic exceptions: I found out after I moved into the flat that I was living in a "Red light" district - indeed, I'd often wondered about the naked red bulb which was always on show in a particular bedroom! Then it dawned on me. I'd actually stood outside that very same house years ago when I was living in Eccles! I came down before I met Beverley as a last resort to solve my problems, and spent a while gazing up at the window wondering what to do: My mind was in a whorl; "Supposing there was a pimp, how much would it cost and what if I couldn't do it - it could all very easily go wrong." I pulled my hood over my head and walked off in the drizzle. It was later on that I made a resolution that I'd never pay for sex. And now a decade later I was returning from the corner shop with a bottle of milk in my hand with a different hood over my head in a similar drizzle and was turning into the street. On the corner stood two very attractive prostitutes in mini skirts and as I passed by, one of them called to me, "Want any business sir?" Without hesitation I replied "No thanks." and walked on - and wondered if I made a mistake.
! NOT FOR MINORS !
Despite the isolation these were good days: I had little responsibility or obligations and there was always something to do. The TV transmitter which I was building kept me occupied for hours and the chatter on the ham bands made good listening in the evenings - and I would occasionally chirp in. But it wasn't enough. I joined a club in Manchester called the "Intervarsity club" which held meetings and put on regular dances. It wasn't far from the University and was easy to get to by bus. I met an easy going guy there, Dave who lived a few blocks from me and he gave me a lift home in his car. He was learning aromatherapy and intended to set up his own business. During one of the dances a girl behind me tapped me on the shoulder and asked, "Have you ever been a brick-layer?" I'd never met her before and was perplexed. I was practically certain it was a proposition, but she was so bad looking that I couldn't respond. "I just replied, "no," and turned round and continued dancing with the group. Later on I reflected on the incident; if that was the case it was a sad thing to have to do.
After the disaster in Frankfurt I basically disconnected from Anne and when I found out that she was returning to Manchester I was pleased but had reservations. When we met she was in good spirits. I found out earlier maybe from Wolfgang that she'd left the army and moved to Berlin. She'd worked as a nurse for a while in a clinic but then had a nervous breakdown and was hospitalised. She stayed initially in lodgings when she returned but later moved into her own flat south of the city. I mentioned her to Dave and arranged for them to meet but it didn't work out.
AN ILL WIND ...
This part of the world is notable for its rain but high winds are a rarity. But on this particular night there was a howling gale; Bins toppled over, tins clattered down the street and cardboard flew through the air. Rain was lashing on the window and I was thoroughly enjoying it. But the fun was short lived. Some gusts actually made the house shake and I became concerned about the windows - especially as one was rattling a lot. I stood up and noticed water on the table that was under the bay window.
It suddenly dawned on me that I'd opened it earlier on for some fresh air and it was slightly ajar. Panic set in as I dived over to the window to close it fully - but alas it was too late. Just before I reached the table a colossal gust blasted the window open which hit the wall with such force that it ripped it off the hinges and sent it crashing to the ground below! I stood in horror as the curtains were blowing wildly and rain was lashing onto the television transmitter on the table. "Shit!" I cried out, "the Landlady's going to go ballistic!" I was tired and was ready for bed. What could I do? I didn't want to call her out at that time and the chances of her getting a workman were remote. I went down to the cellar and found some cardboard and taped some plastic bags to it and nailed it to the frame. Astonishingly it held through the night until the morning when the storm had passed. I didn't have to ring the landlady up as she found out somehow and came round and tore a strip off me. Workmen came later in the day and fitted a new window.
When Peter rang me up to say that he was coming to visit, my feelings were neutral. They say time heals, but some things take a long time. He booked a room in a grotty place around the corner and when I went to visit I found him lying on a mattress on the floor in an attic room the size of a cupboard. There was no great re-union and we talked for a while about our ventures and we arranged to go out a few days later. He'd bought an expensive ham radio walkie-talkie and asked me to leave mine on to keep in touch. I said that I would and went back. I had a few jars the night before the day we were to meet and in the morning I had a hangover and wasn't in the mood for anything. I'd just downed a cup of coffee when the walkie-talkie blared out, "G8PHP - G6... Are you monitoring?" (His call sign escapes me but it probably was a "G6") I grabbed the handset and told him that the evening was cancelled because of the hangover: Too often I'd been in social situations where I was stressed out and didn't really want to be there. I didn't think that there would really be a problem as we could always have gone out on another night - but he lost his temper and shouted, "What do you think I am a piece of shit or something!" I was stunned and being aware that other people could be listening I didn't reply and switched the set off. I was "down" all day and trying to make sense of it. However, we made another arrangement later and the incident wasn't brought up. He was very impressed with the homebrew and came round regularly for a chat and to reminisce and to listen to music - and the events at the "party" were never mentioned. It occurred to me years later that the reason he reacted so badly may have been because he felt guilty over what had happened and made a special effort to see me. He stayed with Anne during his search for a place of his own but we never went out as a three-some - that was off the agenda.
Peter spent three years in America and then met an older woman Astrid, who lived in a small village in Reinland-Pfalz and he moved in with her. I went down to visit and he met me at the station. She was good looking and very organised and confident. We chatted for a while over drinks and when she left the room he said, "Not a bad catch for an old man!" I stayed a week and we went out on trips and he seemed to be settled in Germany but he missed speaking English and started an English-German conversation group in a nearby town, which was featured in a newspaper.
(The translation is subject to revision.)
DRIVEN BY WANDERLUST AND LOVE AND THEN TO SPEAK HIS NATIVE LANGUAGE
ENCOUNTER: Peter Bithell is the founder of the "Greentown English Club" A relaxed group for everyone who likes to chat in English.
GRÜNSTADT. Every second Thursday in the month people meet in the "Maxi-Autohof" who like to speak English. The Brit., Peter Bithell founded this "Greentown English Club" because there was rarely an opportunity to speak naturally in his new home in the Pfalz.
The electronics engineer who was brought up in Wigan near Manchester explained, "I can speak freely and express myself better in English and speak accurately about things that are important to me," were the reasons he made "English" the theme of a conversation group.
After Bithell worked for the BBC in the production of the childrens' program "Dr. Who" he came to Frankfurt where he worked producing videos for advertising agencies: "For washing powder, toothpaste, nappies and beer - the whole spectrum," he explained. Two years later he took on a studio himself and ran it until 1987 when again wanderlust gripped him.
Bithell: "California was always a dream of mine: I've always associated it with sun, sea and nice people." So he went [took it upon himself] to Los Angeles to look for a job and got a place in an employment agency as a system administrator. There, he really did find sun, sea and nice people and could speak his native language with them. All this kept him for more than three years in the USA before he searched for new challenges.
[In Obrigheim, Peter enjoys his retirement and the benefits of The Pfalz.]
In his home country Great Britain, the rain got on his nerves [And the general run-down state of the towns and cities - Pyethon.] so he decided to return to Germany and worked in an advertising agency in Frankfurt as an editor for radio and television productions. Eight years ago, he moved to the countryside - to Obrigheim to be precise. Peter Bithell now enjoys his retirement there. The only thing he misses in The Pfalz is to speak more English, however in the Greentown English Club he has the opportunity twice a month. And the German participants aged between 18 and 70 are happy to be able to refresh or improve their school English with a native English speaker.
"The club is open for all; everyone is welcome," stated Peter Bithell. "A topic is not presented, we chat freely. Some speak little English and want to learn. Some speak almost fluently and enjoy the exchange with the others. Sometimes there are five of us and at other times almost twenty," said Bithell. Twice a year they go for a meal, apart from that day trips and walks are planned. For Bithell, the founding of the club counts for even more; "One continually gets to know new people, that is super!"
Every two years he travels back to his homeland to see his siblings, otherwise he doesn't miss Great Britain. Indeed, "wanderlust", appears to beckon once again; He has just been to see Australia and would like to live there for a while - "Who knows where I'll be drawn to next."
I wasn't ready to move but the Landlady wanted to sell the house and I was given notice to quit. She came round a few times and I said that I was staying, as she had no right in law to force me out. However, a few weeks later she sent a couple of "henchmen" around who were very aggressive and made threats. I didn't have the strength or time to fight it legally so I went to the council later in the week and they found me a flat in North Manchester which was vacant - and I could move in straight away! I was relieved and went down to look at it. It was on a relatively new estate which was used for problem families; however it came as a shock as I walked up to the flat and found all the windows had been smashed out! It was unfurnished and there was no power and the floor was strewned with rubble. However, I'd come to a decision and this was going to be my new home. I hired a van the next day and packed it full and drove to the flat. I unloaded the van quickly and returned for the second load before it went dark. I was worn out when I returned and regretted having to leave some things which were dear to me; A bottle of wine which Beverley and I had made together plus a gold watch that she gave me as a present. There was then nothing else to do but inflate the airbed and drag the barrel of homebrew into the bedroom and listen to the transistor radio. The street was very quiet as it was a cul-de-sac and I was calm and upbeat as I listened to the music with a candle flickering in the draught. However the peace didn't last long as a helicopter slowly approached and hovered right over the house. The thumping beat of the rotor blades thundered through the broken window and I had to turn the music off. I went outside to investigate to find people milling about and gazing up. It circled for 20 minutes with its searchlight scouring the streets then it flew off to another area. I found out the next day what was going on as I walked around the estate and spotted a burnt out car on a field: I was in "slug-land!"
This part is written in the third person with fictitious names. (I'm Frank - my middle name.)
There wasn't anything particularly unusual that day. Just another ordinary dreary Sunday in the life of the X-TV engineer by the name of Frank. Living alone in a one bedroom flat on a deprived housing estate wasn't the epitome of life's' fulfilment which he looked forward to in his teens. Aged 43, still single, unemployed and living in an area where crime was a way on life. His main hobbies were electronics and computers, which was a good thing because it occupied much of his spare time to which he had plenty. When he wasn't absorbed in some electronics project he would be sat at the computer working on a sophisticated machine language program. But there was something about weekends. He couldn't concentrate on such introspective things and would often go to town or even to the countryside which made a pleasant change. But this day he stopped at home and was bored. After toying with the idea of seeing his brother Phillip who didn't live too far away he decided to pop down the road for a chat with his neighbour Gary. He didn't need his coat, as it was a nice sunny spring afternoon. So he just popped out of the door and made his way down the road. Little did he know as he walked through that door on that bright sunny afternoon that he was about to enter the TWILIGHT ZONE. No - not the famous TV show - this was for real. Gary only lived two doors away so it didn't take long. However, Gary had visitors. He was standing at the doorway talking to a strange blonde woman. She was in her thirties and appeared to be very chatty; it seemed they knew each other. Sitting on a mattress by the wall was a young girl about eight years old sunning herself. Gary saw him and acknowledged but he continued talking to the woman. He asked the girl who she was and she told him that she was her mother. "Are you new on the estate?" he asked her. "Yeah," she replied, "we've only been here a few weeks." Then popped on the scene a little tot about three years old, she was prancing around with not a stitch on!
"Who's that?" asked Frank astonished, "surely it's not that warm." "That's my sister, Cherrub, she's only three." "Oh, it's a nice name that, I haven't heard that one before, what's yours?" "It's only a nickname, it's not her real name. My name's Josephine but everyone calls me Josie" "Oh, that's a nice name as well." Frank chatted to her for a while then said "goodbye and went back as there was no indication that her mother would finish. Back in the flat he switched on the computer to see if there were any messages for him on the packet radio network. To his surprise there was. It was from a radio ham in Germany not far from Frankfurt where he spent four interesting years with his brother and sister in the early 80s. His name was Gunther and he praised Frank's excellent German. Frank was pleased and sat down to formulate an equally excellent reply. Halfway through he was interrupted by a knock on the door. He looked up to see Josephine standing at the door which was slightly ajar. "Yes, what is it he shouted?" "My mum's gone now." she said pushing the door open. "Oh, thanks," he said, "I'm a bit busy now. I'll go over later."
"What are you doing?" she asked. "I'm writing a letter to my friend on the computer." he replied. "Can I see?" She asked sounding confidant. "You can but not for long 'cause it's in German and I have to concentrate." The young girl came in and sat down beside him. He explained to her the system, which was like an early form of e-mail. "When I've finished, I press a button and it goes by radio to Germany. It takes a day or so because it has to be passed from one transmitter to the next." "Wow!" she said impressed, "How much does it cost?" "Well to actually send it costs nothing. But you need a licence, which costs £15 a year, and the equipment costs a fortune. "Can I have a go?" She asked enthusiastically. "Alright," he said, "But be careful 'cause the stuffs not mine." "I will." she said sounding irritated. She was delighted to use the computer and Frank let her get on with it and just watched. She only needed to know where the carriage return key was and seemed fairly proficient.
She filled a whole screen and was pleased with herself. "Can I play on it again?" she asked sounding chuffed. "Well it's not a toy as you can see, but if you let your mum know where you are going and I'm not busy, you're welcome. "Oh, thanks." She said and went sounding pleased. Frank was also chuffed. It was nice to have a bit of company for a change and he enjoyed showing her the computer. He hadn't worked since moving on to the estate two years before due to stress and evenings were the usual time to hit the homebrew. Sipping the clear golden liquid with the smooth head he reflected on his little visitor who provided him with some company albeit for a short time and wondered who she was.
After a visit to the library and Maplins' the next day, he was feeling ready for a substantial meal. The walk around town had given him an appetite. The circuit diagram from the library along with the components from Maplin would enable two videos from neighbours on the estate to be repaired. It provided the extra few bob and occupied some of his spare time. He decided on a meat biryani with onions and curry sauce. The repeater was blaring away on his ham radio rig in the living room. Mostly commuters on their way home from work and lorry drivers on the M6. It was usually on whilst he was making tea just for background. The more interesting conversations were at late evenings or after midnight. He enjoyed the meal and spent the evening working on the videos. Tuesdays were always busy; money had to be drawn from the post office and electric cards had to be bought from Norweb a mile away. The bus service was infrequent so this involved a substantial walk through the litter-strewn streets of Manchester. After Norweb it would usually be a trip to Netto for the weeks' food. Arriving back loaded with shopping he was looking forward to an evening watching the T.V. with a few jars of homebrew.
But first the tea had to be done and he didn't fancy anything elaborate. "A tin of chunky soup." he thought as he was opening the cupboard. "Chunky chicken, that'll do." He'd just opened the can when there was a knock on the door. "Damn, typical." he thought and went through to the living room and opened the door. It was Josephine with the little one.
"Hi," she said, "Cherrub wants to play on your computer, do you mind?"
"Oh, ER hi, I'm actually just about to make tea," he replied hesitantly, "Does your mum know you've come?" "Oh yes, I've just asked her." She replied reassuring him. "Well I'll put it on and you can show Cherrub but she can't play on it. I've told you it's not mine. "Alright, thanks. Cherrub this is Frank." She said introducing her to him and walked in. He switched it on and went into the kitchen. Cherrub followed him, looked around and went back out again. "Watch the little one that she doesn't fall over the videos on the floor." He shouted through to her. "I will." She replied sounding irritated. "I'll be with you in a minute, I'm just making my tea." He made the soup and went back into the living room and sat in the armchair. "Is that all you're having for tea she asked?" sounding surprised. "I'm not so hungry today, I couldn't be bothered making anything fancy. Why what do you have?" "We have all sorts." She said proudly. "We had chips and beans today." "Who did it for you?" "My mum." "Does your dad ever do meals for you?" He asked. "My dad doesn't live with us. How do you get big letters on here?" She asked with a touch of frustration in her voice. "Hang on a minute." He replied putting the bowl down and moving over to her. "It's that one there, you have to press it at the same time." "Oh right." "Where does your dad live?" Asked Frank. "In Bury." "Is that where you used to live before you came here?" "Yeah, but he comes down to see us." She replied in mitigation. She didn't seem too concerned or upset about the situation but nevertheless Frank didn't pursue the subject. Cherrub was milling about most of the time and didn't seem
bothered with the computer or what her sister was doing; She seemed to be a child of her own devices. After playing on the computer for a while they went back home for tea. There weren't any jobs to do that evening and after returning the two videos he settled back with a few jars in front of the TV.
The next day was also fine with not a cloud in the sky. A trip to the supermarket for fresh milk was on the cards after breakfast and would also make a pleasant walk in the sunshine. He checked the doors and windows and donned his jeans-jacket then left. Playing in the garden opposite was Josephine with another child. She spotted him and shouted over, "where are you going?" "The shops", he shouted back, "Can I come with you?" "Ask your mum." He shouted. She darted off into the house and was back in a few seconds, and came running out of the gate with the other child who was younger. "This is Angie, my other sister." she said panting, "which one are you going to?" "Hi," he said to Angie, "Netto, the new one that's just been built." They reached the main road and he took hold of Josie's wrist. "Hold Angie's hand." He said to her and led them across the road. In the supermarket it was "Can I have this, can I have that?" "No." Was the answer; Frank couldn't stand spoilt kids. But he did concede a packet of crisps and a tin of coke at the checkout when the pressure became too much! Back at the flat he headed for the kitchen to put the milk away. "You'd better go and tell your mum that you're back." He said to Josie as they followed him into the kitchen. "A few moments won't make any difference." She said protesting. "Go on, do as you're told. She may be worried." She went off in a huff. "Do you live here?" Asked Angie. "Yeah it's okay but I've lived in better places." He replied being Frank. "Where was that?" She enquired sounding interested. "Oh, that's a long long way away." He replied in a resigned voice. "There were lots of trees there,
and it was very nice." "I like trees." She said. "There's some trees here isn't there?" he added walking into the living room with a cup of coffee. The back door was wide open and he could see Josie running across followed by Cherrub. "We can stop till tea time," she said diving through the door panting. "Oh, that's nice," he said sarcastically. "It would have been nice if you asked me first if you could stay that long." "Sorry." she shouted. "You can't play on the computer 'cause I'm waiting for a message to come in and I might miss it," he explained "but if you want to do some drawing you can do, I've got some coloured pencils and paper." "Can I do some drawing?" Chirped in Angie. "Yeah, here you are." Passing her a sheet of paper and some pencils. She parked herself on the floor and started scribbling. He switched the computer on and started searching the bulletin boards. "Can you draw me a picture, Frank?" Asked Angie not content with the scribbling that she was doing. "In a minute, just let me check this. "Look what I've drawn." Interrupted Josie sitting on the corner seat holding the paper up. "Just a minute," he said, getting irritated, "now let me check this." There was no message for him. "I'll try later." And he switched it off. "Let's see your picture, Josie." and he took the sheet off her. "Can you draw me something? Frank." Chirped in Angie. "Oh, it's nice that Josie. Where did you learn to draw so well?" He asked, looking at the drawing of the cat with the bushy tail. " I learned it at school." She replied looking pleased. "Draw me something Frank." Said Angie passing him the sheet of paper. "Right, shall I draw a house?" He asked. "Yeah." She said sitting down next to him beaming all over her face. "What shall I draw you?" Chirped in Josie. "A dog perhaps, anything you want. Now here's the chimney and there's the smoke 'cause it's a windy day." "You're a good drawer aren't you Frank?" Said Angie fascinated. "Oh yeah, I used to do it at school. Where are you going, Cherrub?" He shouted as he saw her walk out of the door. "Jimmy's," She said in a quiet voice. "Oh, you know Jimmy, do you?"
"Yes, me mum knows him." Butted in Josie. "Oh, alright then but don't go anywhere else, okay. Bye, bye." She disappeared. "Have you been to Jimmy's Josie?" "Yeah, he's got a big dog called Lady and he can't walk." "Yeah, I know I've done some errands for him. His place is a pigsty. I can't stay there for more than five minutes. I know my place is no palace, but it doesn't smell." "It's the dog isn't it?" She asked. "No it isn't the dog, it's the dog's bones he leaves rotting all over the place. Now keep an eye on your sister Josie for a few minutes, I'll just check to see if she went." Jimmy's door was open as usual. He was sitting in the armchair by the window as usual with a bottle in his hand. "I've not seen you for a few days." He said complaining. "What have you been up to?" "Hi, nothing particular, I have had quite a few repairs to do, how are you?" "Still surviving, come in and have a drink, don't just stand at the door." "I've got them to look after." Said Frank spotting Cherrub coming out of the kitchen. "I'll pop round later if you've got any left! "No chance, how long do you think a bottle of QC sherry lasts? Has she got you looking after them as well? "Well sort of. They're staying till teatime so I'd better get back! Are you looking after this one?" "Oh no, take her if you want." "Alright, I'll see you tomorrow when I come back from town. See you, come on Cherrub. "I'm doing the dishes and the kitchen now Josie so watch out for your sisters." He said walking into the kitchen. "It's alright, we're going now." She replied "Come on Angie, Cherrub say bye-bye." "Bye," said Frank coming back into the living room. "Mind the road when you cross." He watched them cross the road and carried on with the cleaning up. After tea he settled down in front of the TV. There was nothing worth watching so he turned the sound down and switched on the ham radio rig. He was in a good mood and decided to have a few pints. What struck Frank about the children as he was drinking his beer was how happy they were. Although he hadn't yet met their mother he was sure in his heart that as a parent she couldn't be doing much wrong. He was deep in thought when
the prattle in the background from the ham radio rig came into focus. "G8PHP, G4UNB are you monitoring Frank?" He picked up the microphone fast and answered. "G4UNB, G8PHP how are you doing Dave? Long time no hear, G8PHP." "G4UNB returning. Hi, I've got you at last, did you go to the rally last week? G4UNB." "G8PHP returning. Yes I did actually, I was looking for you but didn't see any badge with your call-sign on and I was really looking forward to meeting you, G8PHP." "G4UNB returning, you oaf, you should have put a call out on the Tannoy. Anyway, not to worry we'll meet up someday, did you buy anything? G4UNB." "Break please!" "G8PHP returning. Yes I know, I thought about that on the way home but it was too late then. I bought a few transistors and a 4cx250B for the 100 Watt linear whenever I get round to building it. There's a break station waiting to come in so I'll bring him in. Go ahead the break station, G8PHP." "Hi Frank, not heard your dulcet tones for some time, trust you're well. If you've got a minute could you put out an ATV signal? I want to test a converter I got at the rally. Sorry I missed you but I left early G1??? And a good evening to the other station." "G8PHP returning. Good evening Bob no problem. I was a bit late getting there myself. The other station is Dave, G4UNB and he lives in Rossendale. No problem with the ATV transmission but it will take a few minutes to set it up. I won't go on camera as I'm having a few jars, but I'll gladly put out a test card from the spectrum. G1??? ,G8PHP. "Thanks Frank, G1??? returning. I hope Dave doesn't mind me taking you off him but I'll continue the QSO with him until you set it up. G4UNB, G1??? with G8PHP on the side." Frank got up and went into the bedroom and looked around. "It's a good job I'm not putting the camera on." He thought.
The living room was passable, but the bedroom looked like a bomb had hit it. It was a cross between a bedroom, an engineering workshop and a ham-radio shack! On one side there was the bed. On the other side on top of a long sideboard was a video wall consisting of six TVs of various sizes. On the table beneath the window, which consisted of a door, which was found in a skip perched on a bedside cabinet at one end and two speaker boxes at the other end, was the TV transmitter. Ever since converting an old black and white portable to the Amateur Television frequencies two years earlier and seeing a Radio Ham in his own "shack" talking to another ham, he made his mind up to take up this branch of the hobby. But ATV transmitters weren't cheap. And to build one without sophisticated test equipment was going to be difficult. And it was difficult. But after 18 months of hard toil and brain-ache and with some help from friends and other hams the final design was sitting there on that table. And it worked. It wasn't perfect or the most powerful ATV transmitter (at only 10 Watts PEP). But it was good enough on one evening winters' back to have his pictures picked up be three Hams in Ireland. He plugged the aerial in and switched it on and connected the computer. Back in the living room he took another sip of beer and went over to the corner seat and turned the aerial rotator to point the aerial in Bob's direction, then over to the TV to switch it over to the ATV frequency. Bob and Dave were still chatting. He picked up the microphone and waited for Dave to stop speaking, then interrupted. "G8PHP back on frequency." "Go ahead Frank." Said Bob. "G8PHP returning, well it's going out now Bob, a purple test card with my call-sign on top of a big circle, can you see it?" The evening continued in this vein with other amateurs also joining in and helping Bob to tune his ATV converter. By one o'clock in the morning Frank realised that he'd had a few too many
and decided to call it a draw with ham radio and go to bed. He bade them farewell and closed everything down and went to bed. The hangover the next day wasn't as bad as it could have been and after breakfast he headed straight for town. It was another glorious day and the walk down Oxford Road did him good. After having a coffee at the Arndale Centre he headed back. Josie and Cherrub who were playing with Jimmy's Doberman outside his door spotted him as he came towards the flat. "Where've you been? Jimmy wants you." Said Josie. "I can't be mithered." He replied opening the door. "I've got a headache." "Have you bumped your head?" She asked sympathetically. "No, I've got a hangover. I drank too much beer last night that's all." "Can we come in and play then? I'll ask me mum" "Okay, but not for long. I'm getting something to eat then crashing down." "Aw! We won't make any noise." "It doesn't matter. You'll have to go back home after my tea." "Okay," she said sounding resigned. "You can do some drawing like you did before." He said going into the kitchen. "And keep an eye on Cherrub." "Can I have some milk?" Asked Cherrub shyly. "Can I have some too?" Copied Josie. "Josie! Go and ask your mum!" He was getting irritated. "Alright." She shouted and stormed off. Before the milk was poured she was back. "It's okay," she said. "We can play 'till tea time." "That was quick. Are you sure you've asked her?" "She's only next door." She retorted. "What, you mean your mum's with Jim?" "Yes, and Anjie's there as well." "What's she doing?" "Drinking a glass of sherry." "Well you'd better tell her to lay off it or else she'll end up like me with a hangover, here's your milk." "Me mum doesn't get hangovers, thanks." "Well, she's a lucky person." He said walking into the living room. Just then Angela walked into the room. "Mum says we've got to be back for five o'clock. Tell me when it's five o'clock
Frank." Said Josie. "Five o'clock, that's two hours away. I'm supposed to be in bed by then! "We won't make any noise." She said, sounding convincing. "I don't suppose and extra hour will make a difference, I'll go to bed at five." "Oh, thanks." She said, her face lighting up. "Now let me get on with my tea, there's the pencils." The minced meat and pasta went down a treat and seemed to help the hangover. The children didn't bother him at all during the preparation. Cherub was in and out and the other two were on the floor drawing. "I enjoyed that, I feel better already. What are you two going to have for tea?" "Don't know yet," replied Josie. "We'll find out when we get it." "Oh well, I hope it's nice." Said Frank. "It will be," she replied confidently. "My mum's a good cook." "Oh that's good, let's see what you've drawn." "It's me mum and dad." She said passing him the paper. "It's good that." He told her giving encouragement. "I'll know them when I pass them on the street now." She took it back looking despondent. "What's up?" He asked looking worried. "Have I said something?" "No, it's nothing, I was just thinking." She then looked around. "What's that on the record player?" Oh that, it's a camera for the TV." "Can I go on it?" Her mood changing. "Course you can. I can tape it as well so you can play it back!" "And I can see myself on the TV?" "Yes, like a film star." She was over the moon when she saw herself on the TV. "Angie." She shouted excitedly, "look, I'm on the TV, You're on as well, look!" They both stood posing in front of the camera watching them-selves on the TV. "Can you play it back Frank?" She asked after a few minutes of fooling around. "Ok, I'll spin it back." They both sat enthralled in front of the TV watching them-selves and laughing at the antics that they'd just done. "Put it on again Frank, please." She implored him after they'd watched it through three times. "I want to sing something." "You won't be singing anything." He told her firmly. "It's five o'clock and you have to go back." "Aw!" they both cried in unison. "But next time
I'll get the microphone out and you can do some singing." He added. "Oh great thanks Frank, bye." He bade them goodbye and went to bed. "Sorry I couldn't make it yesterday, Jim when I came back from town. I had a splitting hang-over." Said Frank leaning on the frame of the door. "What do you mean you had a hang-over?" He retorted. "You didn't have a drop of my sherry." "Ha! My home-brew may not be as potent as your sherry but when you've had enough of it." "Yeah you're right, where're you off to now?" He enquired. "Oh I'm just popping up to my brother's for a couple of hours, why? Can I get you something from the shops" "Well if you're going that way, Netto that is, can you get me a bottle of QC?" "Well it just so happens that I am." Replied Frank looking at his watch. "But I'm not sure that it will be open now it's seven o'clock." "I think they're open late on Fridays aren't they?" "Oh that's right yes but you'll have to wait until I come back from my brother's and that could be late." "No problem, here's the money and enjoy yourself." "Okay, see you later." Philip lived a mile away in a high rise flat. Crossing the field in the half-light of dusk he noticed another burned out car abandoned in the middle of the field. This was a common occurrence in this neck of the woods. It depressed him and wondered where society was going. He got Jim's bottle at Netto and carried on for another half mile. On the 7th floor can sometimes be an inconvenient place to live but for a radio ham it was paradise. Walking out of the lift he felt a twinge of envy of his brother. Philip was once a radio ham but he let his licence lapse. He deemed it an affront to human rights to actually have to pay to use the airwaves. But then again he didn't think all that much of regulations anyway. He pressed the bell and stuck two fingers up at the spy-hole in jest. After the third try he finally heard something in the hallway. "Oh it's you," Philip mumbled. "I thought I heard somebody ringing." He opened the door in his
dressing gown. "You took your time," he said walking through to the living room, "what were you doing, wanking!" "Very funny," he snorted. "I was having a kip and I had my ear-plugs in." "Oh right, are still having problems with those taxis?" "Yeah the bastards never learn. I rang them up last night and told them I was going to bomb the office!" "Hey that's a bit steep 'init," said Frank. "You could get into trouble." "Yeah but you don't have to live here with their blasted horns going off every two minutes. They're too damn lazy to get off their backsides and ring the bell. Apart from that I've tried all other avenues and nothing gets done." "Well we've all got our cross to bear." Said Frank philosophically. "Look at me, I'm having to sleep in the back kitchen because of a bloody dog. To say nothing about the neighbours with their infernal music." "Yeah but you put up with it and I don't." "Not necessarily so. I've made complaints." "Yeah and what's happened?" He asked confidently. "It's got somewhat better." "Somewhat! I don't know how you tolerate it on that estate, it's the pits, do you want a coffee?" "Thanks, but no thanks. I was thinking of getting some cans in, are you game?" "Well I've had my ration this week but if you're going I'll make an exception, get me four cans of Mcquens'- x. I'll pay you when you get back." "Right I'll see you in a bit!" Said Frank and went out. Frank and Philip were close during their childhood but they had drifted somewhat apart over the years. A constant bone of contention was a sum of money which Frank owed Philip going back a few years which he had only recently started paying back. The off-licence wasn't far and Frank was soon back. "I got myself 'Tenants super' but I'll dilute it to make it last." Said Frank walking into the room. "Here's yours." Passing him the 4-pack. "Oh thanks." The flat was opposite to Frank's, always tidy and uncluttered. But it had no atmosphere, it was sterile, not like the flats he had in Germany and it gave him agoraphobia. He was glad he got the beer in.
Frank spent three pleasant hours talking to his brother and reminiscing about Germany and old times.
It was coming up to eleven o'clock as Frank got to the estate and he wondered whether Jimmy would still be up. He was and he was glad to see him return. "Sorry it's so late Jim but we had some cans!" Said Frank handing him the bottle. "That's alright Frank don't worry about it, here take a pound for your trouble." "Oh, I couldn't possibly. I was going past the place anyway." "I'm not taking 'NO' for an answer, here take it." "Well, I'm in no condition to argue Jim." Said Frank taking the money. "Thanks, I'll get my head down now so see you next time." He went inside and made a cup of coffee then went to bed.
Sitting down with a cup of coffee he wondered what he would do that day. Saturdays wasn't a good day for town - too busy. It was looking like it was going to be another boring day. He was still racking his brain when he heard the sound of people running outside. He turned round to see two faces at the window with hands cupped around their eyes. It was Josie and Angie. When they spotted him their faces beamed all over and they ran to the door. "Well it looks like this afternoon has been sorted." He thought to himself as he got up to answer the door. "Hi, I've only just had breakfast, what's happening?" He asked them as they walked in. "Mum's out and Derek said we can stay here till dinner's ready." Said Josie looking around. "When's that then?" "One o'clock," she replied impatiently, "did you find the microphone?" "Well I know where it is. You've only got half an hour so I suppose I'd better get it." Replied Frank. He headed for the bedroom trying not to show his disappointment. Switch the TV on, the tape's already in. "Can we see what we did last time Frank?" "If you want, but you haven't got much time remember." They sat down on the floor in front of the TV fascinated with themselves. When it finished Josie jumped up. "Come on Angie let's do some singing." "Hang on a minute the microphone's not in yet." Said Frank stretching to put the lead in. He plugged it in. The children did some singing while Frank watched. Josie took centre
stage and wasn't giving Angie much of a look in. Frank meant to scold her about it but as they didn't have much time he left it. "Play it back Frank." She said impatiently. "Play it back PLEASE." Said Frank emphasising the "please". "You don't want to end up like the kids around here. They've got no manners. "PLEASE". She repeated sounding irate. "Well you've only got time to see it once because it's nearly one o'clock." "Okay." She said. They watched it through as before and were pleased with themselves. "Thanks Frank." Said Josie getting up. "Come on Angie we're going, bye Frank." "Bye Frank." Repeated Angie. He bade them goodbye and shut the door. He sat down and looked around him. Again that feeling of emptiness descended upon him but now stronger than before. Perhaps a trip to his sister Judy who lived on the other side of town. Very awkward to get to by public transport but it would occupy the whole of the afternoon and early evening. Judy never married. She was a year younger than Frank and for the last ten years she was plagued by medical problems and alcoholism. She had been admitted to hospital on a number of occasions as an emergency due to alcoholic poisoning. Nobody could get to the bottom of her problems, not even Philip who helped her quite a lot. Frank found it hard to communicate with her but nevertheless a visit from him may do her good. "Drat" He thought to himself as he walked out of the phone-box. No reply. It was risky turning up without warning but maybe she was on the floor unconscious. That's how it happened last time when Philip called. He made his mind to go in any case. Walking down Wilmslow Road, one of the main roads out of the city, he was hoping that she would be in when he knocked on the door. But she wasn't. "What a waste of time," he thought peering through the front window. The place was empty. He tried the back. Enough could be seen to see that she wasn't sprawled on the floor half dead. Nothing for it but to leave her a note and return home. A stop-off in town for a cup of coffee and a sandwich was well worth the while. It gave time for the crowds to disperse and provided a relaxing setting to plan for the evening. A few hours at the Oxford bar [fictitious] on Oxford Road would go down a treat.
It was a very old rough and ready student job, with wooden benches, beams and a stone floor. Tonight it would be packed with students and rockers. The last time he went two weeks ago he was smiled at by four, yes four delicious females and he just smiled back! Perhaps tonight he'll chat one of them up. He decided to walk the rest of the way home as the busses after five o'clock were few and far between on Saturdays. There was enough time for a bath and something light to eat before getting ready. It was six thirty and "Blind Date" was coming to an end when there was a knock on the door. It was Josie. She was standing there in the half-light holding a bundle of clothes. She looked up at him and said, "can I sleep tonight?" "What do you mean can you sleep tonight?" He relied puzzled. "Can I sleep here tonight?" She replied with expectation in her voice. "What, in my flat?" He said sounding surprised. "Yes." She said firmly. Frank couldn't really believe what he was hearing. He took her to be playing a prank. "Of course you can sleep here tonight." He replied jokingly! At that she brushed past him and dumped the clothes on the corner seat and went out again. "Come on then, help me with Angie's stuff." She said heading back home. "What's going on?" He thought to himself as he followed her. "Was this some sort of elaborate prank?" She pushed the back door open and he followed her in. Derek was sitting on the couch watching T.V. Cherrub was curled up next to him asleep. He glanced over and nodded and went back to the T.V. "Come on!" She said walking up the stairs. He followed her up. Angie was sitting on the bed putting her shoes on. "You take the duvet, Frank." Said Josie rather impatiently, "and I'll take her nightie." "Can you tie my shoes? Frank asked Angie. "Yes of course, just a second." After tying her shoes, he gathered up the duvet. "I forgot my pillow." Said Josie putting it on the bundle. "Can you carry me Frank?" Asked Angie sweetly. "I'll have a job with this lot in my hands." He said to her jokingly. "Here, you carry that, Angie." Said Josie giving her the pillow. "Now carry her." She said to Frank lifting her up. He took her in his arms with the duvet in-between. "Have you got her?" "I think so." Said Frank a little bit uncertain. "Well come on then." She said and headed downstairs. Derek was still watching the T.V. and didn't say anything as the troupe walked out of the door.
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