My family had lots of sayings, daft things, I guess every family does. When my mother was surprised she’d say “well I’ll go to the foot of stairs”, or if she was flustered “Jean, take your woolly hat off” to herself.
I once heard my grandmother say, “argle bargle morble whoosh”, but I don’t think she had her teeth in at the time.
But my Dad was an absolute genius for the bon mot, the apt phrase, sage sounding advice that had no basis in fact. One of favourites was, “it’s only the things that you don’t do that you regret”. It’s a classic, it sounds profound, a universal truth, words of wisdom uttered by a guru and gained by years of devotion and painful, aesthetic experience…but, it’s actually a lot of toss as most of us can testify. (From personal experience I regret trying to discover which one of the three was the live wire by touching them in turn with a bare finger, I regret jumping over the sea wall and not checking to see that the distance to the wet sand below was actually 25 feet (etc.)….had I not done these, then I would not have regretted them).
Anyway, that’s probably neither here nor there.
I finally found a girl who let me, and 6 weeks later she said that we were going to have a baby.
We met through friends, she was a remarkable looking girl, quirky but beautiful and full of fun. When we’d go out she’d always be the centre of attention, always on the dance floor, and constantly being chatted up by other guys, I didn’t think I stood a chance. (If you’ve read any of the earlier chapters of this tedious saga, you will remember that I was at University at this time, "washing" my clothes in Johnson’s baby talc and stealing fruit so that I could afford to spend my entire grant in the pub).
During the summer my friend and I managed to get jobs in the local nail factory, yes really. As many hours as we wanted to work, and not a penny in tax. It was heaven and hell. I’d never had so much money in my life, we were rich beyond all sense or reason and proceeded to try to drink every penny of it. Except that every morning we paid the price, I’ve sat and cried in cranial agony amongst mounds of cardboard boxes whilst an army of machines yelled BANG!! and cut the wire, KARAANG!!!, and made the point of the nail “TAKETHATFUCKINGCRASH”!!!!! slamming a flat head on the other end.
We’d be out every single night of the week. I think we were fun to be around and generous with our money so popular too and became regulars and gained a little notoriety in the local clubs for being the only there in the wee small hours on a mid week night. We were drowning in our salad days. Now the young lady who was the object of our desires became a regular stopper outer with us, we hang out together a small hard core group within a larger group of friends. Her parents had already retired and had a caravanette which they’d take on extended road trips around Britain, and the next time they did she asked my friend and me to move in.
And nothing happened, it was great fun. We went out, we came home eventually, and my friend and I took a lot of aspirin in the morning and went to work. Until one evening where we’d blown our bolt too early in the week, and found ourselves on the Thursday before pay day with just enough between us to buy a bag of pork scratchings. My friend, true to his life’s mission, took the money and went to the pub to buy a bag of pork scratchings and to try to scrounge a pint.
My reward for staying in with the young lady was to be led by the hand, without preamble or fuss, to the bedroom to lose my virginity. I was 20.
I thought it was incredible though I expect the best thing about it for her was that it was mercifully brief.
After that I followed her round like a puppy. I had no idea what she saw in me and at the time it wasn’t a question that concerned me, I was completely utterly in lust with her. She was the fountain of all carnal knowledge, she had only to lean forward and let me peep down her blouse, or touch my thigh with a finger and I would have agreed to eat a Manchester tram for her. She 'let me' you see, and would let me again from time to time, just enough to keep me on a short leash.
She worked in a bank and I was suddenly, although temporarily, rich. We had a very good time, I didn’t even mind if she would wake me up in restaurants by hitting me over the head with her shoe like Nately’s whore.
But all good things come to an end, her parents came home from their annual pilgrimage infuriating the other road users in Cornwall and I had to go back to my digs at Uni. Which is when she announced that she was pregnant. She told her parents and then me. Her mother actually seemed to be quite pleased, and I don’t think that it really sank in with her father, he was hard of hearing and had been disconcertingly calling me “Molly” ever since we had been introduced. For my part I wasn’t upset at all, and quite happy to do the decent thing, accept my responsibility and get married if she’d have me. I suggested that she came back to Manchester with me, in the house I shared with 3 friends at first while we looked for a place of our own. Her mother suggested she stayed at home, just for the moment, which she appeared happy to do and seemed to be for the best all round.
And so it went. We had a baby boy. He was born on Christmas eve’ at a few minutes past eleven and I remember running into the church by the hospital and disturbing the Christmas service…”it’s a boy, it’s a boy!”, and one of the ushers saying “yes, he’s called Jesus now bloody well shut up”. And still she stayed at home. We spent some of the holiday with her parents and some with mine, and all the while after the baby was born there was a growing coolness towards me that I thought may be a perfectly natural side effect of motherhood.
I went back to University in the new year, (everyone seemed to think it was a good idea for me to finish the course) and left my “family” once again with her family. It was four months into the year when she arrived at the house, in a car with a girl friend I’d never met before and announced very calmly that she was leaving. Which was complete gobbledigook to me at the time, she was standing there at the door, passing the baby to me and explaining that she didn’t want to be at home anymore, and didn’t want to leave the baby with her parents because they were getting on now, and she certainly couldn’t take the baby with her. And I stood there and nodded gormlessly and finally understood what he’d said to me long after the door had shut.
John was the only one of my housemates at home that day, and I gave him the baby to hold while I went to call #####’s parents. (He calmly tucked the baby in the crook of one arm, he was part of a very large family, so big I think some of them used to sleep in kitchen drawers).
“Hello Mrs ######”
“Is ##### there?”
“Oh no, deary she’s left”
“did she say when she’d be back”
“no, I mean she’s left home, she said she’d let us know she arrived safely”
“did you know she’d left the baby with me”
“yes dear, she said she would”
“do you know that he world has just been invaded by gigantic mutant jelly babies?”
Have you ever seen ‘3 men and a baby’. Well it was absolutely nothing like that whatsoever. It was absolute bloody chaos, we had a council round the kitchen table. I had imagined that we could all muck in, in fact it was all I could do to convince them to let me stay! It was going to inconvenient for everyone to have a baby in the house! Damn right, we it might wake them out of a drunken stupor one night and it would require a modicum of cleanliness, who knows possibly take up a bit of fridge space.
I spent the next 5 months on a huge learning curve and remarkably little sleep. I learnt how to make bottles, burp, pack the necessaries for a day out, choose an appropriate outfit, bathe dry and anoint in scented oils (thank you mum for being on the other end of the phone at 3am) and beg and plead with friends to help out while I went to lectures. To be honest I’d chosen to go to University as an easy method of leaving home, I knew I wanted to be in Manchester, but I (literally) stuck a pin in the prospectus to choose a course. It had landed on Civil Engineering and what I’d learned about dynamics and soil mechanics you could have written with a marker pen on the back of a very tiny frog – so I can’t claim that my studies were affected.
Although my concentration levels definitely were. There’s nothing like a 3am feed and a stroll round the deserted streets of Salford with a buggy to make you feel tired, and nothing quite so debilitating as being woken up again two hours later.
Though it has it’s compensations? I do have one perfect memory of waking up in the early morning, I must have fed pudding in the early hours and drifted off before I’d finished changing him. I was flat on my back, and he was flat out on me on, nuddy baby with his chin on my shoulder and fast asleep. He looked tiny, peaceful and very beautiful…and the moment was only spoiled slightly by discovering that he had pood on us again during the night.
And just as we were getting into a rhythm, she arrived back into our lives as abruptly as she had left. This time she was accompanied with another man, who again I didn’t recognise, and she described matter of factly that he was the father of our baby and not me and terribly sorry but she would have said earlier but “you know”, and they were in love, and she was pregnant again (!), and they wanted to get married and could we just pack up his things now and they’d be gone.
And they were, and that was the last time I ever saw him, and I was a Dad, just for a bit.
I’ve heard from mutual friends that they are still together and the “pudster” is a big strapping healthy lad and the eldest brother of five children, which is nice.
And, please - if you were thinking of saying something, before you do - I regard this as a very, very happy memory.