| |Rick was exasperated about Jock, his youngest son. The boy has been giving his mother a lot of lip.
'I'm afraid he's going to the bad, and some of it's my fault, for being too indulgent,' deplored Rick as we sat having our jacket potatoes at the St Bartholomew's Church drop-in.'He's the only one left at home. Maybe he should take off, like the others,' I said. 'Evacuate the nest, like.''It's not easy for him,' said Rick. 'He's got no income except the money the government gives him. He says now he's got Asperger's, and he gets extra for that.'
'Yeah. And he's a dopehead, as you know. Not only that, we think he may have been dealin' into the bargain, man.'
'While under your roof?'
'Yeah, way under. He's got no conscience, I sometimes think.'
'And yet you just called at Universal Produce on the way here to buy him a couple of fresh coconuts.'
'Yeah,' said Rick, looking like the image of a saintly prow on a ship, the eternal decent fellow in a world of fuck-ups.
Jock is the third of Rick's sons by Rena. Clearly, Jock has proved a disappointment, but Ray and David are credits to the bloodline. Ray is a noted lay preacher and David, who followed a similar bent for a while, has recently declared atheistical tendencies. Despite that, he is well thought of in the echelons of Rolls Royce and is paid accordingly.
Ray and David, then, are doing so well for themselves that they do not need the insurance and social security money that Rena is supposedly investing for their benefit. (Jock obviously doesn't deserve a golden handshake in the first place. If he got one he would simply throw it away in a few months on drugs.)
As for Simon, Rick's son from his first wife, whether Rena regards him as a candidate for the mother lode she's building up is unknown. But Simon is a copper and doing well for himself, so maybe that's immaterial.
'Rick, didn't you say earlier that you wanted to go to the toilet to empty your bag?' I said.
'That's right,' he said, and wheeled himself into the facilities.
'It's a good job you reminded me,' he said when he came back, 'because a few more minutes and I was gonna have a split bag. The deluge woulda stunk the place out, man.'
This was a Monday we were in St Bart's, and they only have the full meals Tuesdays, Wednesdays and Fridays, so Rick joined me in plumping for a jacket potato. I always have a cheese one, but he chose chicken curry.
'I wish I could get that new set of teeth,' he said, after finding parts of the potato skin fairly challenging.
'I thought you were supposed to get them in September?'
'Why don't you go private?' I asked.
'Rena wouldn't allow that.'
'Why not? All that money that comes in from the health insurance is for your care, man. I know she's clever in the way she tucks it away in the bank to invest, but....'
Rick waved the topic aside. He didn't like discussing it.
Of course, the fact that he took no interest in the financial side and was happy with the pocket money she shelled out gave Rena full jurisdiction. Every time I wheeled him around, for example, he was allowed £15. With that he was expected to pay for his lunch (which was usually seven or eight pounds) as well as the second hand CDs and books he found. He also bought household items such as bones for the dog, as well as fruit, nectarines and sprats. Dig what you read? Get the ebook of the first series of Crowther's Columns:How Hip Was My Alley
| |A queer undertaking it was from the start. All of you praising each other up, and finding your own expenses. Pretending the gig was a paying proposition--if not today, then soon.
Ignoring the fact that hardly anybody wanted to enjoy the reams of verse that you all were touting around.
Anyone who bought something was regarded as an exquisite connoisseur. And naturally, as he or she was almost certainly a bard too, you would buy some offering of his or hers also. Or perhaps a simple swap was effected--and everybody saved money. (Everybody lost also, but this was overlooked in the heat of the exchange.)
Queer trade, indeed.
Solemn pronouncements on Facebook and Twitter about the 'importance' of a new book of verse! Or a reading that should not be missed or dire regrets will be felt later....
Or is it the chaplain of some university who is writing a poem for St Cecilia that everyone is duty-bound to read?
Is he the author of that essential work, 'The Unquiet Pew'?
I keep this all in mind even as I, with Vince, sigh at the donation of £20 that we get for singing our hearts out and rousing the residents in their lethargic chairs at the Warren Bank Residential Centre.
It may barely have paid Vince back his petrol money, but it was more of the actual hard spondulix than I for one had seen from many a poetry gig. To me, this was a reasonable return. And whenever the pay has amounted to the sum of £40 or more between us, in my way of looking at it, everything was jake.
The trouble is that Vince doesn't feel he can come right out and demand a price. £60, in my opinion, would be acceptable, but I keep quiet. Vince is doing all the phoning and administration after all, as well as providing transport. All I have to do is sing, strum guitar and generally help keep the ball rolling for the residents. (Still, Vince now tells me that when phoning he is going to specify £40 in future.)
The residents are usually quite happy with our efforts. They were so yesterday at Warren Bank. Two or three came up and congratulated us and said they hoped we could come again. They loved our Billy Fury and Tommy Steele songs and thought Vince was like another Norman Wisdom.
And yet the staff members in charge of the entertainment budget had to go and present Vince with an envelope which contained that meagre £20 note.
These same entertainment girls were, I noticed, quick to take snaps of us top-hatted Artful Diodgers belting out our show melodies amid the grinning pensioners (a couple of the residents got up and jived). Obviously, they would show these photos to the families of the residents and to future clients as proof of the five-star live shows they had arranged at no little expense.
Years in the profitless area of poesy have accustomed me not merely to not making a profit, but also to defraying the expenses of travel, accommodation, etc. So yes, to me, governor, a crisp tenner in the hand seems very much like jam on the cake.Dig what you read? Get the ebook of the first series of Crowther's Columns:How Hip Was My Alley
| |It was at one of THOSE gigs, back when I still thought the tide would turn and the gravy would run towards me, towards all of us jolly good fellows and lasses, competent writers of the line, the good line.
Exactly who would want the good line of poesy enough to pay for it, we would not have been able to say.
Anyway, I (self-funded as to railway and digs) was a guest, invited to read at a Lit Fest held in the sports pavilion of one of England's prestigious schools where both a noted writer of detective tales and a TV comedian had been old boys. I was on the bill, man, and that had to be accounted something in the scheme of it, right?
The gig was to do all of us a fat lot of good, of course, but for some reason we felt that there we were basking in something beyond the everyday.
After all, there were a couple of people on the bill whom we night expect, it was implied, to have touched the hem of the great ones.
Yes, their names were on the posters: Mandy Helfret and Peter Pekoe.
When did I last see you, Peter,' said Mandy, when she was introduced onstage, 'wasn't it at that British Council reading in Canada? Montreal?'
'Yes,' he said, 'and the time before that it was in Istanbul.'
He beamed, confident that they were the only bards present entitled to claim such eminence.
And their writing, when they laid it on us?
It had little impact. They ran through some tame, unobjectionable and certainly literate stuff. I for one was underwhelmed, but I could sense that there were folk there hypnotised by the monotony. (Might they after this, when coffee was served, be permitted to get close to the hems of putative greatness and the Holy Stodge?)
As underwhelmed as myself was Pierce Marston, a Richard Harris type, a few seats away. He had arrived late in the afternoon and compared with most of the others in the audience looked like a sort of brigand. After the contributions of the 'celebrities' we exchanged crystalline glances full of humour inappropriate to the proximity of demigods.
He must have seen a defiance in me that was lacking in the others, because he came over and began to chat, as if we were two plebeian plotters amidst the middle classes.
'You reading later?' he said.
'Yeah, towards the end, they said.'
He nodded at my guitar. I had brought this to enliven some of my ditties, in the mistaken belief that chord progressions would widen the appeal of my odes.
'I've got a couple of blues numbers, up here,' said Pierce, tapping his noggin, 'if you could back me with your axe.'
'Why not? What are they in, E?'
After I had perpetrated my own fiasco-like reading, Marston got up on the plinth and as I strummed and plucked he delivered his lyrics in a fair cockney accent as filtered through the blue notes of Big Bill Broonzy and Howling Wolf.
From this however he took it that I could be his sideman, so to speak, and not only with the blues numbers.
'I've got my wife coming tomorrow to collect me,' he said. 'Or her brother rather, it's his car. Chantelle and I would like to move to Currock. You say you come from there?'
Well,' he picked up a poetry flyer from the table and wrote down his phone number and address.
'Look, Kenton, if you can go down to the council when you get home and arrange me a three-bedroom house in Currock I'd appreciate it. We've been trying to move to that part of the world for a while. I shouldn't have any problem as I'm already gettin' Housing Benefit, see.'
'A three-bedroom house? Are you sure that's big enough?' I said.
'Yeah, Darren and Col can double up.'
'What about work?'
'What? For me, you mean? Fuck that, I've done my stroke. I get the social, man, I'm well entitled to every penny I claim. The benefits I've well deserved.'
On the way back to the digs his details went into a waste paper bin.
On the way home the next morning I kept my eyes open. I didn't want to run into Marston at the station.
He wrote a few times after that asking what progress I had made. He even phoned me at work once. How he found that number I don't know, but I got Billy to inform him that I was off sick now and for the foreseeable future.Dig what you read? Get the ebook of the first series of Crowther's Columns:How Hip Was My Alley
| |Though he was only two or three years older than me, Dexter Carlton came over as a Man for All Seasons, a Man of Roads.
He claimed that he had a singing career well started. 'My voice is every bit as good as Bobby Rydell's,' he said.
When he was up on stage at the youth club the vicar was so impressed by his renditions that he shook his hand on the way out.
'Of course, I had my blue jacket on,' said Dex. 'It's got this silver weave mixed in with the wool and that, so when I move in the spotlight it shimmers, like. I came second in the contest, but it was close.'
He was also a talented painter. There was a poster-colour picture of a cat that he had done at school. This seemed wonderful to me, but he hardly let me look at it.
'It's only a try-out, I'll do a better one that that.'
It was a mystery to many of us, as it was to Dexter himself, that a boy of his powers did not pass the Eleven Plus exam. Dexter Carlton should have gone on to Greystones Grammar if anyone did.
(Who knows what lives were blighted and what chances lost because of that barbed-wire hurdle?Not that there are not plenty of people who went on to be successes in various spheres despite having this untimely punch in the stomach inflicted on them.)
When was it that he took to the flat cap and brown boots and sat with the older men in the pub and even played bowls? (Bowls was almost exclusively played by the senior citizens then, though these days it is cool for the young blades to swing out alongside the old boys.)
He once sat on my back door step with me and taught me French words like la soucoupe for saucer, which I thought of as 'Lasso cup'.
One particular day he had a sort of myopia where I was concerned. He seemed not to recognise me. I was with Bussie Crick and we were over the woods near the concrete Pill Box left over from the war. Dexter appeared with a chunky silver derringer pistol in his hand.
We approached and he pulled from the pistol a large brass bullet.
'You see this? I've got another three or four of these, so I don't have to worry. Now I want you two to go into that pill box so you don't get hit by any splinters.'
'Get in there,' he said, gesturing with the pistol.
Bussie and I did as he said. He stood outside, about ten yards from the pill box.
'Now the first one, put your hand up in that window slit there and move it back and forth with your fingers spread. I'll shoot a bullet between your fingers. No, no, put you hand back up, that's it. Move it slow, slow....'
He pulled the trigger and there was a loud explosion. But it sounded to me as if that was because he had more than one gun cap in it. It boomed out like the dive bombers that you could load up with gun caps and throw into the air.
'Right, now the next one. I'll just reload. Hand up. Higher. Now move it slow, that's it, back and forth. When I fire, you should only feel the wind of it.'
'Did you feel the wind?' he asked.
'I think so.' shouted Bussie.
The next time I saw Dexter he was his good old self again.
'That Antoniou family, they've moved in opposite you, Kent, is that right?' said Dex.
'Yeah, Trevor is in my class.'
'Well, the sister, Carla, I used to go out with her. The next time you go to call for Trevor, you might see her. You could say Dexter Carlton is not going steady with anyone, right?'
'Yeah, and just see what she says. Let her know I would be willing to take her on again. You see, Kent, I know she's faithful and true and all that. Do what you can,' he said with a wink.
I asked her and she thought about it, then said, 'Tell him, next Tuesday at the Youth Club.'
I wondered why Dexter wanted to get back with her, he could have done better. Carla wasn't among the cutest on Stanmore Estate by any means, certainly not the slimmest, and this was Dexter Carlton we were talking about.Dig what you read? Get the ebook of the first series of Crowther's Columns:How Hip Was My Alley
| |Vince, Erica and I drove to the Rookery to put on a sing-song for the elderly residents. The remit: to present 'tunes from the shows and elsewhere'.
Unloading the amps, guitar and karaoke console, we were struck just inside the hall with the fact that this was an upmarket place, albeit smelling of urine.
Within that doorway numerous paintings, sculptures and Tiffany lamps were to be seen. If the lamps were copies, they were expensive copies. But they could have been the real thing.
The paintings were all over the place, wonderful modern pictures, acrylics and oil paints chosen by someone with uncommon taste. They were the sort of things I wish I could have painted and they also looked highly investable. Cupid and Venus we saw, and an allegorical Autumn chick playing a thin-necked lute.
Vince had his karaoke gear, but we ('the Artful Dodgers') would start off with two or three songs accompanied just by my guitar. After that he would get the karaoke going for a few numbers such as 'Roll Out the Barrel', and he would wander amongst them with the radio mic to get them to join in.
Then another few songs with a strum and so on.
The karaoke numbers were such as Vince believed these old folk loved and knew so well. On the other hand, they were not so many years older than us, and when I asked whose songs they used to listen to back in the day I got shouts of 'Tommy Steele!' and 'Elvis!' (One woman assured me they had Elvis coming again next week.)
But it's true that they also knew Vince's karaoke tunes. Ditties such as 'The Lambeth Walk', 'If you Knew Susie' and 'I've Got a Lovely Bunch of Coconuts'.
'Yes, we're your cabaret this afternoon,' I told them. 'We're the Artful Dodgers or if you prefer you can call us Tom Dashall and Bob Tallyho.'
The way we look at it, it's not that serious. We're entertainers. We caper, we pull faces under our top hats. We mimic, we throw in satire about 'this and thass', we are showmen to whom they consign their time and they are well blessed, we hope, for doing so.
Vince's accomplishments in finding these paying gigs and providing the transport are excellent. But I think that Erica his wife, who had come along just for companionship that day, was with me in that she cast a dubious eye on the way he managed his kit on the little wheeled tables always to be found in these places. He had long wires connecting them in such a way that a careless step could bring the whole shebang crashing down.
'Looks a bit dodgy,' I agreed, When Erica pointed this out.
'Life itself is dodgy,' said Vince.
The Guy, Alan, who was our contact at the Rookery was I think taken aback when he heard us sing, and amazed at the alteration in the demeanour of some of the residents. Some got quite lively--they had seemed like a fairly depleted lot when we first got there, but they turned out to be more spry and with it than some.
He also seemed a little shamefaced when he hurriedly stuffed £30 in cash into Vince's hand at the end, out by the boot of the car. Vince had set the price which afterwards Erica said was ludicrous. Vince and I needed at least thirty quid EACH after so much effort, she thought.
The week before, the matron at Fishponds Care Home had handed us a blank cheque: she was obviously unsure that £30 was enough. With some difficulty I got Vince to make the amount out to the tune of £40.
Dig what you read? Get the ebook of the first series of Crowther's Columns:How Hip Was My Alley
| |I went into that celebrated indoor market recently featured in a TV documentary series quite a bit during my three years at Abertaff. What I remember about it is the snack bar where they served wonderful custard slices. (I was amused to see that the entrepreneur gold merchant in the programme handed a batch of these over to a friend as a gift.)
The market didn't really figure much in things while I was doing my degree. I did have a memorable breakfast there when, no longer a student, I went back during term time to see Fiona.
I spent the first night back in Abertaff on the park in my sleeping bag. The next day I met up with Fiona, who said that night times she would be able to smuggle me into her room in the Hall of Residence.
'Tonight is out though, there's a big meeting and there are lecturers all over the place.'
Instead, she suggested I should sleep in her car that night. This I did, and when she arrived super-early the next morning we drove to good old Abertaff Market and went in for breakfast.
I had scrambled eggs on toast and two pots of strong tea. I was twenty-four years old and felt like a demigod. I had been seeing Fiona thoughout my last two years at college, and we still hadn't made love. This must seem like the most gummy-eyed innocence today.
But I suppose that we let it all dam up--and eventually there was the breakthrough which, by certain signs, I believe she found as stupendous as I did.
Naturally, another return to the Alma Mater was called for a few weeks later after dozens of passionate letters.
The next time I had just got off the train and was walking past Woolworth's on my way to meet her. I was wearing a green and black-striped blazer. Over the road were three or four bumptious Welsh boyoes and they shouted out: 'I say, old chap!' and followed up with one or two uncomplimentary remarks. For them the enmity between the two countries still had the ancient stench.
I told Fiona about the incident.
'How did they know I was English?' I asked.
'It's absolutely obvious that you're English,' she replied from her old schoolgirlish perspective dating back to the old days in Neath.
But these custard slices. Oblongs of light and flaky golden pastry and between them the firmest custard, by no means over-sweet. The whole confection having a layer of succulent white icing on top.
While I was still a student, Rick and Barry had hitch-hiked across the country to visit. (My landlady put them up--they laid their doss bags out in the hall.) I attended lectures that morning and met them for lunch. I introduced them to my friends in the college snack bar (which was just as good as the one on the market), and we spent a great afternoon chinning.
In the evening we three Suffolk boys went to the Ritz to see Duke Wayne and Robert Mitchum in El Dorado.
Saying nothing to the lads I had been back to the college snack bar beforehand and laid in half-a-dozen custard slices. These, sampled in the dimness while watching those superannuated cowpokes Wayne and Mitchum, made Rick Ransford cry out that they tasted like Devonshire cream.Dig what you read? Get the ebook of the first series of Crowther's Columns:
How Hip Was My Alley
| |While cruising around town pushing Rick in his wheelchair, I got myself a four-cassette version of Nicholas Nickleby from a charity shop for 50p. Full-cast production from Radio 4. It didn't look as if it had even been listened to.
Along with a pile of books from that same shop, Rick bought a half-pound of sprats from the market. (As the chap in the charity shop had said, there is nothing so nice as a plateful of winter sprats.)
When Rick got home however, disaster time. He didn't have his half-pound of sprats. He'd lost them from off his lap somehow, along with a book about being a shepherd. (With his £15 pocket money he gets a hot lunch and piles of second-hand CDs and books. It's hard to keep track of it all.)
I tried to think back. After we got the sprats I had pushed him up the road and across to the Christian Literature Crusade. He didn't leave the sprats there, because later I telephoned and asked.
While chatting-up the comely maidens who served in CLC and assuring them they were the type many youths at his own church would like to marry, he expressed interest in a new copy of the Living Bible.
'But you bought a Bible last time,' I said.
'Yes, but that was a King James,' he said. 'I love a King James but for clarity I need a Living Bible and the one I've got is nearly worn out.'
He ended up ordering a leatherette version of the book, with large print, for £30. Rena his wife cancelled the order, she told me later on the phone. She could get one just as good on eBay for a fiver. I was at fault for letting him order it, but at least he didn't put any money down.
'I want to read up in the book of Kings about Samson,' said Rick. 'What was that you were saying about his wife who betrayed him?'
'Well, she wanted to know the secret of his strength and among other false leads he said he would only be as strong as an ordinary man and could be overcome if he was tied up in ropes that had never been occupied.'
'So she tied him and then when the Philistines came he snapped these ropes like threads, yes?'
'I need to find out stuff like that. It could be vital. You see why I say there are bits of the Bible that these vicars never even mention.'
'I reckon it's your business to read them up yourself in that case,' I said.
'I suppose so. On the other hand this vicar we've got is not up to the job, I've been saying that for a few weeks now. I've got to change my church. He doesn't even attempt to give a sermon now.'
'What, he sends you home without a good message ringing in your ears? Is that the new way? Does he tweet instead?'
'Who knows? He certainly don't stand there on a Sunday and give you any dose of hellfire to buck your ideas up with. I know though that he's got a damned good villa in the South of France where he invites some of the creep-arses in the congregation, but not me and Rena.'
'Doesn't surprise me,' says I.
'Makes you wonder,' said Rick, 'if he ever gets down on his knees at night and repents.'Dig what you read? Get the ebook of the first series of Crowther's Columns:How Hip Was My Alley
| |Watching some of the Ancient Alien TV programmes I started to think about one or two by-blows of myth and history that may not have received much attention. Cases where it could have been the you-know-who.
For instance, the reports of the 'gods leaving
Antony' as Shakespeare (following North, who
followed Plutarch) recorded. Might these departing deities not have been alien allies of Antony's pulling out with farewells and a screeching and roaring of engines as they soared off into the skies? The times were out of joint for Cleo's lover: the writing was on the wall now and Octavian and his forces could not lose, so it was time to say goodbye?
The hypothesis is that the 'gods' were involved,
albeit in a high-handed way, with human affairs.
They had locomotive (and other) powers beyond
the comprehension of the folk of that day, and on
account of these they were regarded as divine.
(Like Captain Good among the Kukuanas in King
Solomon's Mines, whose glass eye and false teeth made him seem like a god.)
Though these beings may have portrayed themselves as superhuman and immortal, perhaps they were humanoid enough to suffer from wounds, sicknesses and old age.
As for that report which they say was heard all over the world in classical times: 'Pan is dead, the great god Pan is dead'--maybe Pan was an alien. Never mind all that about the gods being immortal, here was Pan dying off. Maybe he was a vulnerable type of being after all--from elsewhere.
Then in the Iliad, where Diomedes wounds a goddess--he WOUNDS one of these all-powerfuls? Hey man, something is adrift. The story was that when Diomedes was giving Aeneas hell during the siege of Troy he was told to desist by none other than Aphrodite the beautiful herself to lay off. He not only refused but wounded her in the arm and she fled off to Olympus. He also attacked Apollo and Ares. That's Ares, the actual war god himself.
The goddess Athena backed the Greeks, just as
Aphrodite favoured Troy, and Athena obligingly
enchanted Diomedes' helmet and shield so they acted as flame throwers.
In Homer the gods intermingle with humans, taking an interest in their affairs while making use of superhuman powers of creation and destruction. They are also able to take on the shape of a man's friend, father, servant or what you will for their own ends.
Bright-eyed Athene in the Odyssey, for example,
passing herself off as Mentor, Odysseus's trusted
friend, creates a favouring wind for Telemachus. She even finds him a ship and crew so Odysseus's son can travel to sandy Pylos and ask old Nestor for news of his father.
After performing these services she takes the
form of a vulture and flies away, to the surprise
of all (though they immediately accept that this
is standard practice--for a god). Could that not
be the ancients' way of describing someone 'beaming themselves up'?
The Phaeacians are so friendly with Odysseus that they give him a free ride over the sea by night back to Ithaca. They possess ships that need no rowing nor any helmsman--they are able to guide themselves. Superior technology! Not only that, when their ships set out it's the stern that is said to push forward--implying that these swift black craft of theirs are powered by outboards, like our speedboats.Dig what you read? Get the ebook of the first series of Crowther's Columns:
How Hip Was My Alley
| |I for one gave no offence at the Golf Club the other night.
Quentin was due back from a round (or whatever they call it ) of golf and he entered the clubhouse to be surprised by a load of people from Currock ('our side') and Walsham ('his side') wishing him a happy 70th.
Chuck had picked up Jade and myself, and we all joined Mum and Aunt Sissy sitting at a table. I shook hands with Butch, my nephew, and he sat the other side of us for the evening, along with a boy and girl from among his brood of toddlers.
I always ask Jade how I have done after these gigs. Though I am not conscious of pulling faces and giving the game away, or showing childish displeasure in other ways, I often do so, according to Jade.
But she announced later that I was highly inoffensive at the Golf Club.
Butch is the son of my sister Amanda, who is Quentin's partner. Amanda paid £500 for this surprise party. The cost included the generous buffet laid out with hot spicy chips and pizza and plenty of celery, carrots and other raw stuff.
As Butch's tots solemnly watched I laboriously unfastened the strings of four or five helium balloons which were tied to the back of my chair and gave them to them to play with.
Mum was making remarks to Sissy about Butch, who was sitting beside me and could surely hear every word:
'I'm sure he's on drugs, look, he's twitchin' ... He can't keep still, and look how he keeps eatin' the kids' sweets. He's got the "munchies", as they call it, I reckon. He's probably on crack, mate.'
The woman behind the bar looked frosty or at least dejected, but she unbent a bit when you chatted with her. She appeared to be in her mid-seventies at least. Once upon a time she might have been a good-looking woman. Might have been.
We were hearing about Butch's various scams, one of which involved a brewery he used to drive for, and kegs which had to be kept cool, and the clever method he used to ensure that his household enjoyed many weekends full of free beer.
He has now been a lorry driver for quite some time, which has left Mum undeniably impressed.
'You like it then?' said Chuck.
'It's boring, man. But at least I can have a fag as I drive.'
'What? I thought that was illegal these days,' said Chuck.
'It's supposed to be, but most of the guys have got a notice in the cab saying don't smoke. I'm lucky because I haven't got any notices in mine, so I smoke.'
One of Maurice's sons came over to Butch:
'So YOU'RE Amanda's boy. From the stories I've been hearing I expected to see a muscle-bound bloke covered with tattoos.'
I could see how Butch's rep would have encouraged that idea. In fact, he is admittedly shaven-headed but without tattoos and thin as a rail. Illogically, he explained that in the cab he is always snacking on crisps and chocolate and this malnourishment makes him thin, like the fag smoke.
In fact it's probably because of his drug intake--he's jumping around all the time and burning off the sugar, man.
Jade and I were highly impressed by the music at the 'do': a monster mp3 file of tracks from the '60s and '70s, played at a volume that allowed you to talk. Among other gems I heard Sinatra singing 'It Was a Very Good Year'.
We sat and listened and chatted and gave no offence.
Maxine was there, the daughter of my niece. She was about to go back to Liverpool Uni where she's studying Criminology. She has formed the opinion that a job in that line is going to be hard to find.
The last I saw of Butch he was breathing in some helium, kind of pretending that he was reinflating one of the balloons for the sake of his son Marcus but in reality hoping for a cheap high.
Smiling broadly and leaving behind a good impression, we departed fairly early.
Dig what you read? Get the ebook of the first series of Crowther's Columns:
How Hip Was My Alley
| |That old toe rag, Rick Ransford. He always was able to live life from the yellowing pigeon-beak toenails on up, the bugger. And still does, wheelchair or no.Before I ever laid eyes on him he had been courting my sister, fairly unsuccessfully. From her, he moved on to her friend Amy. When he heard that I liked to plonk away at the guitar he sent a message suggesting we meet up, because maybe he could come around and we could 'share some chords'.He was a plumber at the time and I was a sixth form student (actually, the original country bumpkin who thought he might be the next Shakespeare).In Rick I found a real original, a laughing, natural man happy with himself, one who made no bones about chasing the chicks and getting what's what. Never mind the fact that his mother was a strict Baptist and he had yearnings that way himself.'I thank Christ,' he would say, 'for my God-given sex drive.'From what I could learn of it he took his obligations to the plumbing firm fairly lightly. He was always having days off with a sore throat. They regarded him as undependable, though he was liked.Then he was sacked from the plumbing job because he had forgotten to lock the place up one night and things had been stolen. Though he was negligent like that the police soon dismissed the idea that he had been implicated in any dishonesty.From there, Rick became a male S.E.N. in the psychiatric Health Industry.He wasn't committed to that, either. One of the walks we used to take along the river and up through the forestry cut past a farm and he went and knocked at the back door one weekend. He asked if they had any work and the farmer's wife told him there might be something during harvesting in a few weeks.'If I can walk into that job and get good money casual-like, I don't care if I do some pickin' for them till it peters out then just follow the sun until I find something else,' he said.This attitude seemed to me totally irresponsible. If only I could be like that and just throw myself at the feet of the gods. But for me that would be fatal. And I had the 'A' level exams to think about.The year I met him was the year that my parents and brother and sister went on holiday to Bognor Regis and left me to it.The house and TV were mine and I could get up when I liked and go to bed when I liked. I could have friends round too. I was never the type for parties, however. I was seventeen years old and my sister had gone to Bognor with Mum and Dad and Chuck, but her friends were still around and they called to chat with ME. I found my self falling for Michelle. They all knew Rick, naturally. For that week Rick and I were like the Mick Jagger and Bob Dylan of Stanmore Housing Estate, in their way of looking at it. We had fans, as it were. (It was all perfectly innocent, but I for one was in constant danger of heartbreak.)'You take it too serious,' he told me when I confided some of my jealous suspicions about Michelle.'But I want to know how she really feels about me.'Rick laughed and took his hand-rolled cigarette from his mouth.'I mean, don't you feel curious about what Amy's got on her mind? You know, whether she's faithful ... and loyal, like?' I asked.'I let them worry about that side of things,' he said.Dig what you read? Get the ebook of the first series of Crowther's Columns:How Hip Was My Alley | |