Pinch, punch and all that

I was at work yesterday. I work shifts now. Yesterday’s shift began at 1.45pm and ended at nine. The extent to which my work is busy depends on the number of passengers passing through whichever airport terminal I’m working at on a particular day. Yesterday was a fairly quiet day, we probably saw three thousand-odd.

Given that I had yesterday morning off, I did the week’s shopping for my family and did two washes which I hung out in the garden to dry. I’d normally start the evening meal for my wife and son; I didn’t do that yesterday because it wasn’t that sort of meal. So instead, I made myself a sandwich to take to work, had a quick dinner and off I went to work.

I returned home at 9.20pm. The washing I’d pegged out that morning was stacked on the kitchen table. The  dishes from the evening meal were in the dishwasher, apart from the frying pan which was still on the draining board full of oil and remnants of the meal it had once contained. The  worktops and floor were covered in crumbs. My wife was asleep on the couch, my son playing x-box games in his bedroom. My son reappeared soon after midnight, drank a pint of milk, then went to bed.  My wife slept till midnight, then went off to bed, leaving the house as I’ve just described. She was awake at 4.00am, claiming she has insomnia. I should be so lucky as to suffer such insomnia.

She left for work at 7.45am. It’s now 10.00am, my son is still asleep. The house is as I left it when I went to bed in the early hours. The washing that I got up early to do, that nobody has put away. The dishes from a meal I bought but didn’t eat, that nobody bothered to wash. I’m off work today. I’m glad I’m off work because I hardly slept. So yes, it’s 10.00am on June the first. Pinch, punch and all that. My birthday is in June. I get a bit reflective around my birthday. I’ll be 53 this year and this is (partly) my life

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This is the kind of thing I’m talking about!

I once told you about a woman called Val*. I last worked with Val nearly three years ago. We were friendly, as work colleagues are, but you can never tell when work colleagues are friends, not until you stop being colleagues. Val and I have remained in contact. We’ve had some in-depth  conversations, one or two meals together. I’d say we’re friends. But Val is flaky as fuck.

Val lost her dad about a year ago. He had lived in Australia for about 25 years and had done very well for himself. When he died, he left Val a life-changing amount of money. We’ve talked about this, and she’s asked my advice on what she should do with the money. I don’t like giving advice, as any advice people give is often coloured by their own experiences and aspirations. Suffice it to say, if I ever acquire a similar amount of money, I’d retire there and then. Val’s not like that; she wants to carry on working as long as she can and has been saying she’d like to start a business. And she’d like me to work for her. My own job, while it’s easy and can be fun, is pretty crap. The money’s crap. The hours are crap. The levels of autonomy and responsibility are crap. So I’ve said I’m interested in working with Val.

So we arranged to meet a few weeks ago. My dad’s death meant we had to postpone a couple of times, then some unforeseen delays in sorting out his flat meant one more postponement. We finally settled on a lunch ‘date’ today. Then yesterday Val told me she had no money for lunch, and wouldn’t hear of me paying for her lunch. She suggested talking via skype. I suggested she came to my house instead and I’d make lunch. She said she’d get back to me. But guess fucking what?

 

* See post entitled ‘I never seem to give you any good news’

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My Dad died

I mentioned in a recent post that my Dad was ill*. I mentioned that he’d chosen a certain kind of lifestyle and that, late last year, it began to catch up with him. What I didn’t explain was the extent to which it had caught up with him. Well, in October he was diagnosed with cancer in his lungs and stomach. He had already been diagnosed with emphysema and damage to the arteries in his legs. He took the news well and decided he only wanted palliative treatment, and the way he took the news made it easier for me to accept what was to come next.

I said some harsh things about him in that recent post, but believe me, it was nothing to the thoughts I’d harboured over the years. I’m not going to go over the embarrassment he caused me on occasion and the resentment I felt. I’ve explored these feelings fully and made my peace with them. And over the past few months I think I made my peace with Dad too. We never discussed any specific events. Neither of us apologised to the other. But we had a few conversations and I came to understand him. God knows, I’m no angel myself, and when I looked at Dad’s behaviour in the light of my own, and more importantly in the context of the time, I understood. I could never condone some of his behaviour (and I’d never ask anyone to condone mine), but I could at last forgive him. I could at last accept him for the man he was.

I’ve written about the worst of him. At his best (and he was usually at, or not far from, his best), he was wise, gentle, funny and kind. At his worst he was, at worst, self-destructive.

So… he accepted his diagnosis and while he wasn’t happy about the prospect of dying, he got on with things. For the weeks following the diagnosis, he looked as well as he had done for years. I visited him on his 77th birthday in February, along with my brother, sister, their partners and my son. For the first time, I got the sense that he was ailing. He was quiet and seemed somehow smaller. On the first of March, he had a minor stroke. He recovered well and tests showed no lasting damage. I spent the afternoon of March 4th in his flat, just spending an ordinary afternoon together. Then on the 6th, he had a fall, breaking his right hip. I spent that afternoon in A&E with him. He was moved to a ward later that night; I stayed till he was settled. He told me, in his own words, that he loved me; I kissed his head. I left at around midnight. I never saw him again.

He had an operation to replace his broken hip on the 7th; he’d had an epidural as he wasn’t strong enough for general anaesthetic. He slept well that night, I worked until 10.00pm and planned to go to see him on the 8th. At 8.00am on the 8th, I got a call from a nurse to tell me he’d died.

I’m saddened and a little bit lonely. But I’m OK with what’s happened. Dad and I made peace and our parting was, to me, beautiful. That’s all I wanted to say

*see post entitled ‘Cos I trust you’

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strippers

 

c0gnoaiwgaauvxsI first saw this picture on twitter on Christmas Day. It was posted by a woman whom I’ve followed for along time and whom I’ve grown to like very much. Like everything she posts, it’s sexy and (for me) thought provoking; on this occasion it inspired me to look back on a time in  my life when I was young and rather unformed.

I’ve tried to write what for me are some some starkly honest pieces on this blog over the past few months. I’ve discussed my relationship with alcohol, issues around my weight and penis size and also some pretty traumatic childhood experiences. I’ve also written about my teenage years as singer and guitarist in a punk band. I suppose the point was to try to make sense of these experiences and how they’ve influenced me too become the man you see before you. What I want to write about today is the seventeen year old youth that the picture made me recall.

I have sometimes said that being in a band forced me to grow up quickly. That’s not strictly true though; what being in a band actually did was force me into a number of adult situations that I was ill-equipped to deal with. Take for example my relationship with alcohol: my childhood home was (compared to some) awash with alcohol. Playing in a band meant spending time in places where alcohol was freely available, and I used it to calm pre-gig nerves and the post-gig adrenalin buzz. There are other examples, such as my attitudes towards women and work. I think I’ve said this before, but it was almost as though I bypassed the developmental stages, in these sink-or-swim situations I never really learned to swim, I just made sure I didn’t sink.

I suppose one of the most damaging aspects of all this was the effect on  my relationships with children my own age. I think I held many of my peers in contempt. I had some close friends with whom I remained close but I increasingly began to hang around with older people, and to do my best to fit in with their lifestyles. One particular group lived in and around the Park Road area of Toxteth in south Liverpool, and soon I was spending Sunday afternoons drinking with them instead of doing my homework. It is my first visit to one of those Park Road pub, Corrins’s, that I was reminded of when I saw the picture.

I’d met the Toxteth lads for the first time in the early summer at a festival. They were big music fans; I told them I was in a band and they came to see us play a couple of weeks later. One of the lads, John Mac, then invited me to a party in his mate’s flat. A fairly routine way for young men to meet and form a friendship? Well, yes, apart from the fact that I was barely seventeen and John was 22. But I went to the party, drank a load of whisky and fell asleep in a corner somewhere. I woke the next morning intending to make my way home but was told that everyone was going drinking on Park Road and that I was welcome to come along. First port of call was Corrins’s to see the jack. Jack as in ‘Jack the Ripper’, or stripper.

We entered the pub, pints were bought, seats were taken. Music started (Rod Stewart’s ‘Do Ya Think I’m Sexy?’) and a blonde woman appeared from the ladies toilet, dressed in a white blouse, striped tie, short pleated skirt and fishnet tights. She seemed to me to be quite mature, maybe in her mid-30s. Her hair was in a ponytail, her lipstick was bright red, her eyes blue. The tie came off first, her blouse fell open. She hooked the tie round the neck of an elderly drinker and pulled his face into her cleavage. She let him drink her in for a second or two, then pushed him away, smiling. Another drinker was invited to undo the remaining buttons of her blouse. She took his hands and placed them on her ribs; she turned around and danced away from him, leaving the blouse in his hands. She sat on yet another drinker’s lap, facing away from him, inviting him to unhook her bra. She cupped the bra over her breasts, turning to face him; he got a private look at her breasts as she peeled the bra cups away for a split second. Then she was in the middle of the floor, letting the bra fall; all eyes on her nipples as she danced and the song faded out.

Another song faded in. I don’t remember the title but the chorus went ‘I want to kiss you all over’. She approached me. She’d picked up a bottle of baby oil from the bar. She put the bottle into my hand, and guided my hand towards her breasts. She squeezed my hands, my hands squeezed the bottle, the oil spurted onto her breasts. She took the bottle from my hands, placed my hands on her breasts and guided my hands in a circular motion so as to rub in the oil. A smile, a slow  wink, she moved on. Back in the centre of the floor, all eyes were on her as she removed skirt, tights and panties. I was glad that everyone, including my new friends were looking at her and not at me. Because I’d cum in my underpants

 

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cos I trust you

My dad’s not well at the moment. Gravely ill, in fact. I won’t go into  detail but he’s 76 and he’s been a heavy drinker and smoker all his life; it’s caught up with him. I’ve had kind of a strained relationship with him since my teens. It was the same with my mam, she died when I was 38 and we’d been going through some shit that never got resolved. Dad’s illness has made me reflect on my childhood and early teens. I’ll share those reflections with you, cos I trust you.

When I was very young I lived in a large house in Liverpool, just off the main road which runs from the city centre to the M62. The house was owned by my grandparents.They lived on the first floor, we (my parents, younger brother and I) lived on the second floor. There was an attic room too, occupied by a lodger, a old woman called oul’ Emily. On the ground floor lived their unmarried son, my uncle, he had a bedroom in what we called the back parlour. The arrangements were quite loose. In fact, apart from the lodger, all I’ve described there were the sleeping arrangements. The actual living all took place on the ground floor; my gran and/or my mam would cook in the back kitchen, we’d eat and later watch telly in the kitchen; we called it the kitchen, you’d probably call it a living room these days. There was another room, the front parlour, but we never went in there.

You might think that those arrangements were quite unusual. Maybe you’re right. But to me, born into that family and that situation, they seemed normal enough. It’s funny, the things you get used to. Especially when you start young. And what I want to talk about today started very young. My uncle, the man who lived in the back parlour, got married and left when I was four. I liked him a lot when I was very young, he was knowledgeable and entertaining and irreverently funny. When I was older I disliked him, he was a bore and a drunk and a bully. Maybe he always was. Anyway…

One evening, we were sat around the dining table having our tea. I was very young, maybe three years old. I don’t remember any conversation, though there must have been one. So I don’t know if there was an argument that got out of hand or whether my uncle just said something unacceptable. Something must have happened though, because my gran smashed a plate in my uncle’s face. She lifted the plate by its edge and hit him with the back of the plate. There was a lot of blood, as I remember, and it was a dark red. I remember him running into the back kitchen and I must have followed because I remember him putting his face over the sink. Quite a disturbing sight for a three year old, you’d think. Well, I don’t remember being too upset at the time. And the fact that I don’t remember being upset has worried me over the years. Maybe I was too young to understand? Or maybe violence was normal to me at that age. Maybe that wasn’t the first violent incident I witnessed, maybe it’s just the first one I remember.

My uncle, as I said earlier, left that house when I was four, then when I was five, my grandad died. My gran sold the house and went to live in London where we had relatives. My mam and dad got a council house in another part of town. But it didn’t work out for my gran in London, I don’t know why, and she ended up coming back to live with us. The tables had been turned I suppose. Instead of us living in her house, she now lived in ours. But the power relation never shifted, my gran continued to rule the roost. If you want to look at it in those terms, that is. And again, that kind of family dynamic might seem unusual; certainly none of my schoolfriends lived like I did.

My mam and dad were both drinkers. Mam would later develop a drink problem which contributed to her early death, but that was later in her life and was something she slipped into gradually. Dad drank like a teenager. He worked all the hours God gave and drank sneakily, at every opportunity. He literally couldn’t pass a pub sometimes. It was as though every drink was an act of rebellion. Every now and again things would get out of hand and he’d come home drunk out of his mind. And when that happened, there’d be trouble. There were various incidents and the earliest of them have become intertwined in my memory over the years. I can’t say how often it happened until I was about twelve or thirteen, but I have memories of shouts and screams, breaking furniture and slamming doors. Language like I’d seldom heard. And the sound of punches and slaps. I remember lying in bed and listening to it, so very tired but afraid to go to sleep. Afraid to leave my dad, mam and gran together. Afraid of what I’d wake up to. I’d keep myself awake till things went quiet. When I’d wake, everything would seem fairly normal. Sometimes my dad would have some cuts and bruises; my mam never did. But the conversations would be much as they had been before.

I think the incidents must have got worse as I grew up. And of course, I’d witness them because I wouldn’t be tucked up in bed when dad would come home drunk. I think the incidents would happen two or three times a year. Dad would either come in late from work, or arrive home at the normal time having left work early. He’d sit down in an armchair and either he’d start swearing at my mam or my gran or they’d start on him. Or sometimes there’d be a normal-ish conversation during which he’d take exception to some remark one of them would make. Then it would run its course until he either went out or went to bed. I’d be told to leave the room, usually I’d go to my bedroom and listen until things went quiet. As I got older, I’d refuse to leave and I’d sit watching it unfold.

I did witness some violence on those occasions. I saw my gran stand over my dad as he sat in his chair, raining blows on his head as he sat impassive. I saw my mam kick him awake from his stupor. I saw her throw a cup of hot tea on him; he tried to grab the cup from her hand, bending and crushing her fingers as he did so. In my early teens I’d watch these scenes unfold from the corner of the room. I’d be very scared and usually I’d be crying but nobody seemed to notice me. Their own anger seemed to give them tunnel vision, to mask everything else. But yes, on reflection, the incidents did get worse as I, and they, got older. On one occasion, my mam phoned a bloke she knew to come and help her. Another time, the uncle who’d lived in the back parlour phoned in the midst of it all and he came tearing round to get involved. But as I got older, I’d get involved myself.

This may be true for most men, I don’t know, but there comes a time when you’re big enough to take your dad on. In my case, that was probably quite early. But your dad kind of vibes you out, there’s that power relationship that makes you doubt that you could take him even if you had to. Most men, I guess, never have to find out. I found out when I was 14. The incident that time was slightly different to the norm as it all blew up when I was asleep in bed. I don’t know how long it had been going on but I remember being woken by the usual raised voices. Then my mam’s voice, panicking, calling my name. I jumped out of bed and ran downstairs. He had her in the hall, hands round her throat. I leapt off the top step, my momentum swept him off his feet and before I knew it I was on top of him by the front door, my forearm across his throat and I was screaming in his face that if he ever touched her again I’d fucking kill him. If he’d struggled then, I think I would have killed him, but he didn’t, he just lay there looking at me. Then my mam ran across and started kicking him in the head and I had to fend her off. Fucking chaos, it was. I can’t remember how the night ended.

I first left home at 19. I hadn’t gone to university at 18, partly because I didn’t know what I wanted to do and partly because I didn’t get very good A levels. But part of it was that I couldn’t trust my dad enough to leave him alone with my mam and my gran. I tried to make my own way in life but kept bollocksing things up so I ended up moving home four times before making the final move. The last time I slept at their house was in 1995. I was married by then, living in Manchester, and my wife was pregnant with our first child. I’d been out with friends in Liverpool and ended up in my childhood bedroom, in my old single bed, alone. I woke in the early hours to the sound of raised voices, I heard my mam screaming at my dad, calling him a fat little cunt. I couldn’t make out his reply but I suspect it wasn’t pleasant. They seemed to assume the next morning that I hadn’t heard any of it; they were making veiled, lighthearted references to the things they’d said and done to each other. I feigned ignorance till it was time for me to go home. I never stayed there again.

My mam died in 2003. She was 59. She’d admitted to her drink problem a couple of years earlier; she’d begun making angry, late night phone calls to my sister, brother and me, complaining about one of us to the other or just being plain nasty to whomever she was speaking to. She began to realise what she was doing, apologised and said she’d get help. She never did, though she cut right down on her drinking for the past couple of years of her life.

My dad still drinks. He drinks most nights and all weekend. I know not to phone him or visit him when he’s drinking. I time my visits and phone calls; to the outsider it looks like I’m neglecting him but I really can’t take him drunk. It’s been like that for the last 13 years. And it will carry on like that. But now I don’t know for how long

 

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That I did not expect!

I spent more time than usual last weekend flicking through my twitter account; I was away most of last week and I’d not had much of a chance. I wasn’t interacting any more than usual, just flicking through the timeline to see what I’d missed. And as I’m sure all you twitter users know, we’re periodically furnished with suggestions of accounts we might like to follow. I usually have a look at these accounts, but seldom go any further. But one account caught my attention, an account belonging to someone called Carly from Manchester. Carly’s avi showed part of her face, her bio said she was newly single and intending to enjoy it. She shared pics, loved to DM and was up for meeting with the ‘right people’. So I clicked on the follow button.

Whenever I follow someone I like to send them a tweet, usually along the lines of ‘Just started following you, thought I’d say hello’. Sometimes I get a reply, sometimes not. This time, I did. We had a brief exchange of messages on the timeline, then progressed to DMs. It didn’t take long before Carly brought up the subject of a meet. She asked had I ever met anyone from twitter. I told her I hadn’t. She asked had I considered it. I told her I had, once or twice. She then said she had a meet arranged for Tuesday morning. She was going to meet a follower for sex and if I wanted to we could make it what she called a ‘MMF threesome’.

Now, call me old-fashioned, but Ii was a bit taken aback by the speed at which the conversation had moved. I hadn’t expected her to be so direct. I’m not sure how I’d have reacted had I been expecting it, but all I could think of to say was along the lines of ‘tell me more’. Carly informed me it would be in a city centre hotel and would cost me £70 for an hour, £100 for ninety minutes or £120 for two hours. She didn’t get a reply. She got unfollowed and blocked

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I pulled the other night

Awful phrase, that, isn’t it? But I did. I found a young woman, I spent some time talking with her and kissing her. It had been a long, long time since I did that.

I’d been out on Friday night.A good, life-affirming night out with old and well-loved friends. A few pints of bitter from two of Manchester’s famous  breweries and a whisky from one of Scotland’s famous distilleries. I was in a very good mood as I boarded my train home, then walked from the station towards my house. And as I walked, I saw a beautiful young woman cross the road and sit herself down at a bus-stop. I never approach women. I never have. Well, I suppose I may have in the past, but it’s never been my style. I’ve never been ‘good’ at it, if that’s the right way to describe it. No, my approach has always been different. But this time, I approached the beautiful woman at the bus -stop. Must have been something in the air.

I asked her did she mind if I sat down, and she said it was fine. I asked her about her night, she told me where she’d been and asked about mine. I asked her about herself, she told me where she was from, where she lived, what she did. And she told me her age: twenty. She didn’t ask much more about me, and I’m afraid I didn’t tell her a lot. I didn’t tell her that I’m significantly older that twenty. I did tell her that I wasn’t waiting for a bus, that I had only sat down at the bus-stop because I saw her there, and she was OK with that. In fact, she smiled when I told her that.

I asked was she heading for home, she told me she was. She told me she that the bus she was waiting for was late, a friend had texted to say it had left the depot late and wouldn’t be with us for maybe twenty more minutes. ‘It’s boring, waiting for buses’ she said. I agreed. I made a suggestion: ‘Shall we kiss till the bus comes?’ She smiled at that too. She moved closer. I kissed her.

I kissed her for the time it took for her bus to come. And she kissed me. I didn’t touch her, apart from an arm around her, a hand on her back. I didn’t want to take advantage of her. Maybe I already had. And when the bus came, she drew away from me and stood up. She didn’t speak. She flagged the bus down and stepped onto it, sat on the seat nearest the door. As the door closed she waved to me. As the bus moved off, I waved back. I sat for a moment or two, then I stood up, took a breath, then made my way home

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