A Bolton Lad`s Life
All the names of people or places in this story have not been changed, so if you want to sue, I don’t give a bugger!! By the time this goes to press I shall be sat on a beach somewhere in Torquay, eating a Cream Tea!
I was born at a very early age, on a cold September night in 1957, and after giving my mum 5 days hard labour, I finally arrived. For years I thought I was Italian because I was told I was a caesarean baby, which I presumed was somewhere between the Coliseum and The Leaning Tower of Pisa!! Mind you, as it turned out I was half right because I was christened a Roman Catholic (Answers on a post card please) My early years were mostly spent in hospital with an enlarged heart, but that will be explained later on, as I don’t want to bore you so early into the book! My earliest memories were of watching All in Wrestling from the Writon Stadium, Bolton, while keeping completely still and quiet while my Dad checked his results on Empire Pools. Not an easy thing to do as a four year old! We never won, but we had an Uncle who won £3,500, which was a fortune at the time, but no good come of it. He later died of cancer, penniless but not unloved. This was to start a chain of events that could sound very similar to most people`s upbringing in the North
West of England. So sit back and enjoy my versions of events which differ`s completely from my Mothers!!!
I went to a good catholic school called Holy Infants at the age of five, though my mum had already taught me to read and write, and my dad had taught me how to open a bottle of beer with my teeth before I was four! That was to be the start of a long relationship with the dreaded bottle. Growing up, booze always figured somewhere, my dad would work away all week doing multi drops (This was way before the invention of Techographs) and my mother would work long multi shits making Disposable Bed Pans, I kid you not! So it was up to my poor Granny to put up with my tantrums ECT, her answer, a bottle of Red Rose Stout, just before bedtime, I didn’t stand a chance! My mother couldn’t understand why I was still wetting the bed at aged 10yrs old, it was simple, I was half pissed by the time I got to bed! Mind you, I was a very slow starter, I was breast fed until I was eleven. The stories my friends used to tell their friends were legendary, and my mother never flinched once as she breast fed me through the school railings every lunchtime! Primary school wasn`t too bad, it was right on the edge of Astley Bridge Park where I spent most of my most formative years. That sounds posh doesn`t it? The years spent on the park were as important as any school education, you know, first kiss, first fag, you get the idea, and learning all about loyalty amongst friends was an invaluable part of growing up. There are too many to mention but here goes, Cheers, Mick and Skin! Well, it was a very small gang!!!
Secondary school was a very different matter! The school I went to was called St Anne`s RC High School, just off an estate called Top Of Brow, or, as it was known locally, The Gaza Strip! I turned up on my first day, hungover, in my shiny new uniform, only to find that the normal clothing of attire was a white T shirt, Denims and a pair of Steel Toe Capped Dr Martin`s!!! Boy did I grow up fast! I had never seen such gratuitous violence in my life, and that was just the teachers! The sight of Tony Gill being thrown across two desks and pinned against the wall by a teacher who shall remain nameless but who had the biggest beer gut I had, or have ever seen, shall stay with me for life! You know who you are Mr Liddell, Oops, Ah well, Torquay here I come! And I wouldn’t mind but tony wore Callipers on his legs, so anyone of us could have been decapitated as he flew across the classroom! The one good thing I do remember was So Cool Dinners, as I called them. Now I come from an age of you get what you are given or starve, which preached now, would probably be a breach of some Human Rights Act and have Ester Ranzen foaming at the mouth! Anyway, back to school dinners, we always had a substantial lunch with a proper homemade pudding, and on Fridays we had coffee instead of water, posh eh? Dinner ladies of the seventies, I salute you and thank you, for some of us it was the only decent meal we had all day, and, I needed something to soak up the beer!! By the second year the pecking order was in full flow, and, we wasn`t first years anymore, so a certain amount of respect, all be it small, was expected from them below us. Then, one day after
having plums and custard for pudding, the usual plum stone fight erupted. Just from the corner of my eye I saw this snotty little Herbert throwing plum stones at our table. Well I couldn’t let an opportunity like this pass me by! As I got up and approached the offender I was grabbed round the neck in a choke hold until I nearly passed out, then, as I fell to the floor I was given a right kicking from a fourth year, who just so happened to have a brother who was a first year who liked throwing plum stones! The Tungsten Red shoe polish off the Dr Martins is a right bugger to get off your face once it’s engrained on. That night I also got a right kicking off my old man (Yes kid`s, it is true what you have heard) for not sticking up for myself, and wearing red make up! Happy days. The third year wasn`t much better, in fact it was probably the worst school year of my life. I`d hit adolescence and puberty with a bang and nobody but nobody could tell me what to do or say! I knew everything, or so I thought, anybody that has kids, boys or girls will know what I mean. At thirteen I lost command of the English language. All questions were answered with a WOT, DUNNO or Can`t be bothered. Catherine Tate did not invent it! And for some reason started drinking from the fridge (I still do) and putting the empty bottle back in, sound familiar? I rebelled to the point that I came last in class! I could blame Pat Lyons who was sat next to me during the exams, but I won`t, (Hi ya Pat!) You can imagine the look on my parents faces when they saw my results, then you should have seen the look on my face as I tried to look out of the only eye that wasn`t swollen.
The beatings I got off my dad were regular and often, and I don’t mean a clip round the ear either. My Mother used to say “He`s only doing it because he loves you” I used to think “I used to think “I wish I was eighteen so I could love him back!!!” One of his favourite sayings was “Go and get me something to hit you with” so one day I came back with a balloon! It was worth the hiding just to see the look on his face, still makes me laugh now! By the time I had reached fourth year I had exorcized all my demons and decided a different approach was needed to survive school. I played for the school football team,(average), got involved with most school activities, found out that history was really interesting and English wasn`t half bad! At this point I would like to thank a certain Mr Doyle for all the support he gave me in History lessons, in later years he saw me in a red dress and make up, but that`s a story for the next book ( if there is one) STEADY MADAM!!! The one teacher I did like and who tried until he cried to teach me Tech Drawing was Mr Booth. The times he stood over me, willing me to understand a blueprint, when all I could ask him was why we were learning about Egyptian Hieroglyphics in his class???? None of it made any sense to me so a job in anything to do with DIY or building ECT was out of the question? Wait till you read near the end of the book, you will never believe what I ended up doing, Hey! I said wait!! And so I entered the 5th year full of hope and great plans for the future. That was until my Dad told me I had to leave at Easter, two months before my exams and get a job as times were hard So, gone, before I knew it were my schooldays, and now I was sixteen and facing the big bad world practically by myself with no idea what to do or where to go for work.
When anyone asks about my schooldays I always say they were mostly happy times, I was out of the house and learning to become the man I am today. Oh, and the fourth year who gave me a pasting, was later in life sentenced to Eight Years for unnatural practices with a dog, see, there is a God after all!!!
So, there I was, sixteen years old, no qualifications, UB40 in one hand, and a handful of optimism in the other! In a way I suppose I was lucky, as a new ASDA had just opened on what used to be Old Escrick`s Mill facing where I lived. Getting the warehouse job was a doddle, all you needed were two arms and legs and Hey! You`re hired! I spent about three years there before I went onto pastures new. The only thing I can remember about ASDA is stocktaking day which was always held on a Sunday (Years before they made you work on a Sunday) Some people I know, no names mentioned, used to turn up looking like the wino`s from Moor Lane Bus Station, stock take the clothing department, and walk out at 1pm looking like one of Burton`s Dummies!! In my wisdom I decided to go and work for the same firm as my Dad, big mistake for more reasons than one! The firm was called Automotive Products, which produced Air and Oil filters for cars ECT. After being a labourer for twelve female spot welders, honest, this is no lie; I took my test on a fork lift truck and passed first time. Considering I had never driven anything in my life, and still don’t, I was quite pleased with myself. So there I was, no car, no girl, but could drive a six ton stacker truck!! What a babe magnet!!!
At twenty I met my first and only wife, at twenty three I had three children, and at twenty four I was divorced and on my own again. If you are waiting for the juicy bits you are going to be disappointed! The one thing I do remember is telling a Rep he could park his car in between the two factories we had rented since the old Factory had burned down 2yrs earlier. Having a memory like a err err, no its gone, anyway, on my way back to the goods outward with 4 ton on my forks I suddenly stopped. I reversed, stopped then went forwards again, only to stop again. This I did five times before I suddenly realised what was stopping me going forward! Gingerly, I climbed off my forklift truck and edged my way to where the car was, when I say was, I am not joking, all that was left of it was the bonnet, driver`s seat, then the bumper. My arse nearly fell out of my trousers! After calling for the Rep over the Tannoy by saying there had been a slight accident, Irish Stan the security guard always did have a wicked sense of humour, the rep arrived, head in hands and pointing fingers at me. I ask you, as if I’d be stupid enough to say he could park there! He was absolutely livid!!! At one point I thought he was going to keel over, his face went a lovely colour of crimson and I could see he was weighing up if he could reach me before Stan stepped between us! Eventually all was resolved, with me still denying I had ever spoken to him, and him threatening to sue!! I can still hear him now, The Little lying B*****D, but what was I supposed to do with four lunchtime pints inside me??? One day, redundancy reared its ugly head and the promise of a couple of thousand pounds was too much money to turn down. So off I went, money to burn and beer to drink, by this time it had a real hold on me.
The next couple of years were a real blur, I finished up in a squat with my oldest friend, the bottle, and a handful of mates who liked a drink as much as me. Typically, depression set in, and after a few spells in the local (special wards) I ended up in the Salvation Army hostel on Duke Street near Bolton Town centre. Now there`s a lot to be said for these places, and part of me will be forever grateful for putting a roof over my head, but after drinking with these boys who could drink pure meths by the pint, you can imagine the state I was in. But I will say nobody made me do it and I was 26 at the time, so only me to blame! The only real friend I made was called Mark and one day we decided to explore the country for a couple of weeks. This lasted for nine years, seven of them sleeping rough (Don`t try this at home kids) we ducked, dived, didn’t pay rent and lived off the land, now that was a lie!! We were starving half the time and looked down on like the dregs of society. We worked for the travellers for a few months, Tarmac Yer Drive Sir, and learned just how gullible some people really are. The one that stands in my mind was the Millioneress`s drive in Hampshire. One day while we were Tarmacking the drive, about 900yrds long, she asked if we had anything that would kill the tree stump we had just skimmed round. Quick as a flash, Milo, yes that really was his name, said he had just the thing in the cab! After emptying his bladder into an empty milk bottle, produced the “ Tree killing fluid “ and showed it to the lady, explaining it was an age old family recipe and was sure to work. Just then, her son arrived on the scene, and explained he was a chemist for ICI, and enquired about the liquid. Before you could say p*****g in the wind, he took the bottle from Milo, smelt it, tasted it and poured it on the old tree trunk!!! Look mum, he shouted, it`s working already, its steaming!!!
I had to pretend I had a coughing fit and Mark was round the other side of the wagon, collapsed in a big heap holding his stomach and giggling uncontrollably I won`t tell you what he charged for the job, but I will tell you he charged the son and his mother an extra £50 for his miracle Tree Killer!! Eventually time and the lifestyle took its toll and sadly Mark died of a massive heart attack whilst being arrested outside of Winchester Cathedral. My days as a road man were over, without Mark it was no fun, and I didn’t trust anybody else to mate round with, so homeward bound I went and arrived back I the Sally Bash in Bolton three months after Mark had passed away. Sometimes I still sit and think of him, and the things we got up to, too many to mention in this story, with great fondness. Someone once said, you can count your real friends on both hands only, during a lifetime, I can count mine on one finger. But the stories I could tell my grandchildren, if I ever had any, would be full of adventure and visits to many strange and wonderful places, like Oxford Night Shelter, and the spike at Walkden. From what I remember, a lot of good times were had but also a lot of violent times, which is something that will stay with me to the grave, but all in all, a great Adventure. Even now, I think of those boys I have known, and those who are in the same position now, as I was, especially on cold, wet winter nights, and raise a glass or two for those I have known and those I have lost, albeit orange juice these days!!! Good luck to you, one and all. The next time you pass anybody on the street, homeless, you don’t have to give them anything apart from a smile and a wave. At least then, they know they exist!
The Last Lap
So, there I was, full circle as they say. Back in the Salvation Army hostel, still having a major drink problem, but with a roof over my head for the first time in years, and back in my home town. Staying there did nothing for my drinking, but it did get me back in touch with my parents, who, while a lot older than I remembered, where very happy and relieved to hear my roaming days are over. This came as quite a surprise to me and probably went a little way to accepting that I was getting older and needed to get sensible for once!! Some months down the line I was actually in a relationship with someone who worked at the hostel, but it didn’t last, as I was still a single lad who enjoyed life to the full, who couldn`t and wouldn`t be told what to do or not to do by anybody. It was always destined to fail as she wasn’t really into my kind of lifestyle and the nagging was incessant!!! Then, one day I helped a friend move into a different hostel up the road from where I lived and she was there, my saviour, my soon to become my best friend, and to whom I owe my life to! She has asked me not to name her and her wish is my command so I will call her my pet name “Hobbit” After a couple of weeks of dancing round each other, so to speak, we finally went on our first date. Yes, you`ve guessed it, it was in a pub and to my utter surprise Hobbit didn`t drink or smoke and had never done so!! Turns out she had just come out of a 17year marriage and had two grown up girls and a boy of twelve. Would it work? NEVER! Everybody shouted, it was time to grow up!!!
So, here I am, fifteen years down the line, with three stepchildren who now (Sometimes) talk to me like I’m human, seven wonderful and beautiful grandchildren, and content in every way. I don’t drink or smoke now, but the difference was Hobbit didn’t ask me to give up any of them, I did so of my own accord, and the only down side is at 50 years old I’m retired due to heart failure and can`t work again. No prizes for guessing what kind of lifestyle caused the illness!! So there you are, from start to present day that`s my story, well nearly. Thanks to my darling partner, The Hobbit, who believed in me and supported me all the way, my last job of employment was a Store Manager at a very large D I Y store in Torquay. Mr Booth, my Tech drawing teacher would have been very proud of me!! The Question is, would I do it all again? What do you think?? P.S. Since writing this I have now been diagnosed with Early Onset of Alzheimer’s Dementia/ Lewy Bodies Type dementia/. Isn’t life a ***** sometimes!!LOL