Saturday, 14 December 2013


A young married couple struggle to get by on one wage. They are renting a one roomed wooden dwelling called The Retreat. A baby lies in the corner, in a pram gifted by her sad and guilty grandfather. Her mother sits and smokes for consolation while her father is tuning in a television that he insisted must be procured on hire purchase. Brian does like to have things on the never never but as for Kate she will always save and go without to get the things she needs. There they are living a never never life. Who knows what their hopes and dreams are? They are paying the price for short lived pleasure.

Kate did well at school and had no difficulty in getting a good little job as a book keeper. Her dreams of being a nurse or a famous author had ended a few years earlier when the choice had been made for her not to go to the grammar school in the distant town, with its costly uniform and bus fares. In years to come the story of that disppointment would vary by the teller and how much of it was Kate's stubbornness or her mother's indifference was moot in the context of the time, when a girl's education was not something to fret about.

Starting work meant being able to buy clothes and gramaphone records, go to dances at the corn exchange and do the jive, meet a nice boy and experience romance. But the pay was modest and Kate's parents needed her contribution to the household, so after bus fares and lunches there wasnt much left. Still a girl can dream.

In a market town where the two main employers were the car factory and the brewery, a job on the dray was seen as a stroke of luck - delivering to all the local pubs, riding in the cab, having a couple of beers on the company each day and being fed by the friendlier landlords. Brian had landed this job after finishing his national service. The money wasn't too bad and while he too had to pay his keep, his mother was malleable and always willing to lend ten bob here or there to her handsome son. Louie never could say no to Brian.

Hello hello. Going to pick up his wages and what did he see but a new bit of stuff in the office. I'll have her said Brian to himself and he did, not much later; he could be most persuasive.

Kate's parents had made it clear there would be no unmarried mother and baby in their house. Brian's family rolled their eyes and tried to welcome the brown eyed country girl and everyone helped out to get them married and into a little place of their own as soon as possible. Kate went to the registry office in a two piece suit, the jacket sitting tightly over her swelling abdomen. A new life coming into the world, a new life being made together, there should have been joy, but there was only loss. Brian mourned the easiness of his free bachelor life, Harry grieved for the little girl who had too suddenly become a woman and gone from him, while Elsie was sad for what the girl's obstinacy had got her into. And the girl grew up in a few harsh weeks, understanding that church bells and flowers would never be hers, that handsome is as handsome does and if you bring suffering on yourself nobody really wants to help you.

I have been chastised in the past for saying I was just the result of a knee trembler. But it is true. My mother, a well brought up girl who knew nothing of life outside the village, lost her virginity in an alley to a man whose volcanic rage and jealousy were only just contained by youth and masked by charm and seduction. I was created, just as we all are, by a cosmic accident. No conception is ever really planned, it is all too wonderful and random for that. Nevertheless tbe consequences of Kate and Brian's urgent, unglamorous first coupling have spread over generations, touching many lives, moulding others, casting deep shadows over a few.

Before the wedding Kate had already received a few shoves and slaps and these turned into kicks and punches before the pregnancy was out. She was sixteen when she conceived for the first time and by the age of twenty five had five children, a faithless and violent husband and no means of escape. Kate would almost turn forty before her life would take a turn for the good. And not much later Brian would be dead at the age of forty seven.


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