Growing Up Pt 4


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Part four of a Scunthorpe lad's memories. Contains strong language and adult humour.
  Growing up through the 60s and 70s part Four. If you ’ re still with me, you ’ re a Star!My Auntie Ann married someone called Tom. I have no memories of him at all, as wenever saw them. They lived on what was then, and perhaps now, known as a ‘rough’ part of Riddings Estate, Somerby Road. There are several cousins from that marriage,one of my age called Peter, for example, but we could pass each other in the streettomorrow with no mutual recognition. Shame really, but that’s how families go, Isuppose. .Auntie Ann seemed to be the Black Sheep of the family . Oops, can’t say that now, can you? Sheeps’ Rights . But in any case, as a kid, we never saw anything of her or her family. To this day I know none of the intimate details of just what was wrong withAuntie Ann’s family, but I do remember many of the adult remarks were based aroundhygiene, both domestic and personal…My uncle Andrew, Mam’s baby brother, who is only seven years older than me, didn’tmarry until only a couple of years ago. Andrew is gay, has been all his life. Easy to blithely announce this, but as you can imagine he didn’t ‘come out’, as they now call it, back then during the days I’ve been describing. The word ‘gay’ hadn’t even beeninvented in the 1970s, there were other, less flattering sobriquets. As indeed there stillare. My Dad told me that my late uncle Dave, for example, way back in the early daysof Dave and my Dad courting sisters Lynn and Carol, (my mum), had announced whenAndrew was still a small child that he was “a queer little bugger”. Such an offensivedescription should, of course, be viewed in the context of the times. In 60s Scunthorpe,as in most parts of the U.K. homosexuality was not viewed with any sort of sympathy,was the subject of much prejudice. In many respects, they were ignorant times. Thefact that uncle Dave spotted this when Andrew was still a child, however, is interesting.The Gay community has its own word – ‘Gaydar’ – for such an ability.  And I’ve experienced this phenomenon myself, during the last six years of teaching. Many’s the discussion we’ve had in the staffroom, about some particular kid we teach,who we can recognise as gay even before the child themselves has developed in any sexual sense. Of course none of the above was ever discussed by the adults devant les enfants back then, us kids were left to draw our own conclusions, though sometimes the adults would be indiscreet, thinking us kids weren’t listening, giving us clues.  Devant les enfants! Pretentious, moi? I recall a family visit down to London when I’d be about 11 or 12. We, that is myfamily, my Auntie Lynn and her kids, my Auntie Janet and her two, (who was alwaysvery close to Andrew by virtue of the two of them being the youngest), visited Andrewand his ‘flatmate’ Geoff in a flat they’d just moved into. I remember hot whispering between myself, my sister Sally and cousins Mandy and Debbie, about how there wasonly one bedroom and one bed. It would be tempting to modify history a little here, if we young cousins had been offensive or disparaging on realising the true nature of Andrew and Geoff’s relationship. But I can honestly say there was no judgement onour part. The fact that the two of them were obviously a couple, to us, wasn’t right,wasn’t wrong, it just was.  In later years the prejudice and ignorance of the times was to cause, inevitably Isuppose, the situation whereby Andrew and Geoff ceased visiting Scunthorpe and ledtheir own lives in London, Brighton and eventually Spain. One cause directly cited tome when I last saw Andrew in the mid-eighties, was one of my uncle and aunts on myDad's side travelling down and enjoying Andrew and Geoff's hospitality on a visit, butthen being overheard back home referring to the couple as bent as nine-bob bits . Agreat shame.My parents travelled to Spain last year to attend the civil marriage of Andrew andGeoff. At the time of marrying, they’d been together 31 years and are still going strong.Compare that to the track record of most ‘straights’!My Dad had three brothers, Uncles Roy, Barry and Geoff. He also had a sister, Pat. Ididn’t know any of them in my early childhood, the years I have been talking about.They all had kids, cousins of mine, but again they were strangers. To this day I couldn’tlist their offspring accurately if my life depended on it. Must seem strange to somefolk, that fact, I suppose, but that’s was how it was. I also had a grandma on that side,my Dad’s mam. I have never really known her. Talking to my Dad about this the other day, I learned that she is still alive at 90. (Postscript, added March 2012, she has now passed away.) Again, uninvolved observers might find this situation sad, but there it is.Throughout my early life there was some serious unresolved conflict there, that wasapparent, as we almost never visited her. My only memories of her are from occasionslike my Uncle Geoff’s wedding, previously described. Her husband, my Dad’s ‘Dad’,had died before I was born, and Grandma was married to, or lived with, I don’t know,this fella called Les Dixon. I know enough family history now to know that Les wasthe source of much of the aforementioned conflict.I only have one memory of this Les. It was around the time I’ve previously described,when my junior teacher, Mrs Humphreys, had given me a telly, and there was some problem with it. As Les was supposed to be somewhat of a dab hand, I was taken roundthere with my Dad to see him. The memory’s stuck because, while fiddling around inthe back of this telly with a soldering iron, Les received a mild electric shock whichshot the word “Bastard!” from his lips. This was shocking for a ten-year old boy tohear, so no wonder it stuck in my memory. I remember this Les giving me a rueful grinand saying, “Don’t  you ever use that word, it’s not nice.” Maybe my Dad had givenhim a warning glare to mind his language in front of the bairn, I don’t know.Of course, kids of today, especially Middlesbrough kids, would laugh at this whole ideaof language being shocking. It’s a different culture in the north-east, where harrassedmums loaded down with shopping think nothing of chivvying along their little toddler with the encouraging words “Get a move on you little cunt.”My Dad, and therefore we as a family, did develop a closer relationship with his brothers and their families when I got to secondary school, so I’ll come back to themlater.Upwardly-mobile.From a very young age, although we never enjoyed luxuries such as colour T.V.s or a  telephone in the house, we did have a car. The first car I remember my Dad buyingwas an old-fashioned Ford Prefect, which if I remember correctly was a creamy light-green in colour. Not many people back then ran cars and I was very proud of this.They were always second-hand, we’d have one for a few months then Dad would tradeit in for another. Amongst them, in no particular order, was a light-blue Ford Anglia, agreen Morris 1000 (which, I saw on telly, are still made in some place like Indonesia),at least two Minis, a grand old lady called a Morris Oxford and a close relation to thiscalled a Morris Cambridge.In this fleet of vehicles we would set out on various adventures. Some of the earliest Idon’t remember but have photographic evidence – for example, I have a picture of meaged about six riding in a toy jeep. I’m unsure but I think this was at a place calledClumber Park, somewhere out near Doncaster or Sheffield. On this trip I was to havemy only experience of riding a horse, or a pony. To this day I have not ridden a horsesince, which, actually, I slightly regret. Being incredibly handsome, I believe I wouldcut quite a fine figure in equestrian pose.See what I mean? Later trips were more ambitious. Once, we set out to visit LongleatSafari Park, down in Wiltshire. We drove for many hours, then we broke down. Thereis a vague image of being towed somewhere in the rain, Dad cursing and peeringthrough a misty windscreen, anxious not to ram his Good Samaritan up the arse. By thetime the car was fixed, it was too late for our day out. We set out on the long drivehome, bitterly disappointed. To this day I’ve never been to Longleat. Mind you,having caught a few episodes of BBC’s  Animal Park  , I’m quite glad. Have you seenthat tubby Lord that owns the place? He’s a “genuine British eccentric”. Meaning, thatif he lived on a council estate, he’d be put away. One rule for the rich, another for the poor.. Whose greasy palm did he clasp in a Nazi masonic handshake to ensure thosewaistcoats he wears were never checked by Health and Safety?My earliest memories of family holidays are based in Blackpool. Actually, that’s notstrictly truthful, before this we went to Humberstone, a place near Cleethorpes, wherewe stayed in a caravan. But as my only memory of these holidays is these strange mini-canals of ditchwater running throughout the campsite, which I found strangelyappealing, there’s not much point in mentioning them. But Blackpool…. We went therefor two or three years running in the early 70s. We were accompanied on these trips bymy Mum’s Auntie Norma and Uncle Eric, with their son Ian. There are only disjointedimages of these holidays remaining. The famous Illuminations, of course. The trams.. (Take that, Alan Bradley, you bastard!) My Dad’s breathtaking sandcastle creations on the beach. Neil Diamond on the car radio, singing Cracklin’ Rose and Song Song Blue .The days always begun on the beach, we’d spend the entire morning there. It was of course a way to stretch out the spending money. Apart from the odd ice-cream and aride on the donkeys, you couldn’t spend much cash on the beach. Quite often we’d getfish and chips for lunch (though fish for us kids was a rare and much-enjoyed treat), or eat shrimps or cockles from one of those stalls on the prom. Once, when we were on  the beach, the inshore lifeboat was called out. A dozen or so guys were racing thissemi-inflatable boat, resting on a wheeled trailer, across the sand towards the water. Asthey did so, they called out to holidaymakers to give them a hand pushing it into thesea, but in a very aggressive, foul-mouthed way. My Dad was one of those who heededthis call, but I was shocked at the frantic abusive anger with which the Lifeboat guyssummoned help.Blackpool Tower. At the bottom, back then, was a mini-zoo. At least, there was a hugechimpanzee in a glass cage. As a small boy, my first glimpse of this impressive beastwas after I’d wriggled my way through the laughing crowd mobbing this cage. Thewomen, in particular, were in hysterics. Is it my later experience of Teesside thatconjures the aural recollection of numerous “Eeeh!”s? The situation was curious. Whatwas provoking such mass glee? I wriggled my way, breathless, until I was right next tothe glass. Just on the other side, a large, bored chimp sat vacantly perusing the crowdof humans, right hand idly pumping a rigid, purple cock. I managed one short grin of delight before Mam’s rough hand yanked me back through the throng. She wanted tospare us from such masturbatory horror, but was a little late, even my little sisters hadcopped a look and were tittering hugely, if uncomprehendingly. My brief glimpse was probably just as well, I wouldn’t have liked to be next to that glass when a simian jizz- bomb splattered five millimetres from my nose.  I wonder now who that chimp was thinking about as he whacked away. My ownadolescent partners-in-slime were the two girls from Abba. For a long time that poster with the two of them in yellow mini-dresses adorned the wall at the foot of my bed. I’m surprised I could still see them by the time I was sixteen. We went to see the famous Blackpool Tower Circus. Thirty-odd years later, I chuckledwith delight at Peter Kay’s performance there, when he wondered how the bloody hellthey’d got the animals up in that lift. I remember seeing lion-tamers, ballerinas standingon galloping horses, the lot. The highlight, though, was the famous clown, CharlieCaroli. Strangely, though, I have stronger recollections of his ‘fall-guy’. He had thisamazing dozy, poker-face, and no matter what was flung at him he just maintained thisslack, vacant, uncomprehending expression. This got funnier the more he got awfulthings done to him. They got worse and worse until he finally saw something happen toCharlie, whereby he would start laughing with a rising crescendo at his boss’smisfortune. Even as a small kid, you knew this was a mistake, that the retributionCharlie would inflict would be dire, but the anticipation of this just added to the delight.Sound memory again, I can clearly hear that laugh in my head.I wasn’t the perfect child on these holidays to Blackpool. Oblivious to such necessaryconcepts as budgets, I often chafed at the amount of time we had to spend on the beach.I remember moaning to my Mam that I was bored. The truth was, my interest lay morein the hustle and bustle of the countless gift-shops, joke-shops and amusement arcadesthat dinged and bleeped tantalisingly a few dozen yards away. And I wasn’t much of aone for going in the sea. I still couldn’t swim, so was restricted to paddling anyway.Once, I was brave enough to wander out far enough for the water to be lapping at mywaist. My sisters weren’t far behind me. We suddenly found ourselves surrounded byunpleasant invaders. Hundreds of turds bobbed cheerily in the water, all drawn bysome inexplicable magnetism towards us. That scene in  Jaws where Police Chief 
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