Number 13 – The house that nobody wanted

Death is not the greatest loss in life. The greatest loss is what dies inside us while we live – Norman Cousins

Its cold outside today.

The weather has changed considerably.

The house that nobody wanted became our family home.

13!

Unlucky for some – unlucky for us.

Its not a case of luck really! The truth is that the families that lived within it’s walls, experienced such loss and sadness.

I’m not sure why my parents chose to move across the road and my guess is that the house was semi detached instead of mid-terraced. It was still a two bedroom property and we were a family of five (well seven if you include the dog and cat).

The previous tennants were a couple with two teenage boys and tragically one of the boys aged 17 died of suffocation in the upstairs airing cupboard. I have no idea how the tragedy happened and I didn’t find out about it until I was a young adult.

Knowing about the poor boy, escalated my fears of being alone in the house.

Number 13 stood empty for a while and it seemed that no other council tennants were remotely interested in making it their home accept for my parents of course!

And why not? You couldn’t get more of a religious, complete hypocrite of an un-Christian like father such as ours who would override any decision that wasn’t his.

But preach he did…

And listen we didn’t!

My father and Godfather separated the larger of the two bedrooms by erecting a false wall with a sliding door. I had the first small room which my brothers had to walk through to get to their room where the airing cupboard was housed. I remember them having bunk beds, a wardbrobe and an old dark wooden chest of drawers. The room was small, especially for two boys. When they were teenagers, my mother found a box full of condoms (un-opened packets) under the bottom bunk when she was doing the housework and I recall her being mortified to think that they may actually be having sex with their girlfriends. Feeling embarrassed, she never mentioned it. Well not to them anyway and personally, I think that it was incredibly responsible of them both.

My bedroom was small too – it seems we were cheated of space. I had a single wardbrobe, a small bed and a scruffy wooden toy box full of old jumble sale toys. The wall between the rooms was so thin that it was like being in the same space together and I often heard my brothers whispering to one another. I wondered what they were saying…

Little did I know how significant my bedroom would become in years to follow.

There are many difficult memories attached to living in the house that nobody wanted and I have often remarked that I couldn’t careless if it burnt down just as long as no one was harmed.

Writing all things difficult can take its toll and in particular this week, I have struggled and edited this post several times. So I’d like to share a fond childhood memory that warms my heart.

My brothers and I played a game of Mr & Mrs, talking through the wall whilst laying in our beds late one evening. The game show was popular on the television in the 70’s and our parents used to watch it and we copied the idea, asking each other silly questions. We were supposed to be going to sleep and I must have been quite young possibly, under the age of 10 but old enough to remember that we had to speak quietly in order not to wake the sleeping dragon. I remember the laughter we shared that night and the feeling that my brothers had included me in a game. That’s quite significant because of the age gap between us – it wasn’t a normal thing that we did. Something tells me that it had been a difficult evening in the house with our father and they were trying to alleviate my being scared as I was unable to sleep.

I am so grateful for my brothers.

I understand who they are 💙

A picture of our house drawn by my eldest brother. Approximately 54 years ago.

All Rights Reserved – The boy in the chip shop 2019

Run Run – as fast as you can

the thing you are most afraid 
to write

write that

- advice to young writers

My mother and I were sat watching the televison when there was a loud hammering on the door.

As a small child, Saturday was my favourite day of the week . After doing the weekly shop, we would go to Woolworths and buy a big bag of sweets to devour whilst watching tv. I can remember so clearly, standing on tip toes to reach up to the carousel of pick a mix, foraging for the toffees with the curly white centre’s and throwing back the ones that didn’t fit the necessary criteria.

How funny…

Mum was oblivious to the fact that I was stealing and I would pop them in my pocket for later. Lord only knows (a term she often used) what my father would have done if he had caught me stealing!

Years later, Saturday’s were no longer my favourite days.

The hammering came from our neighbour who so graciously accepted the role of emergency contact. She relayed an urgent message from the hospital.

And boy!! Was it an emergency?(well for us it was.)

The nurse on duty had called to warn my mother that my father had discharged himself and was on his way home and said that he was in an highly agitated state.

NLP (Neuro-Linguistic Programming) teaches us about states.

The drugs had created a ‘come down’ reaction and his addiction was pushing his body for more.

There was more at home…

He walked the nearby streets in his dressing gown and slippers, carrying a large old black rectangle suitcase-the kind where if you pushed the side in causing a slight dent, then the dent could easily be pushed back out from the inside. I’m not quite sure the relevance of writing that part-maybe the case with a story attached, may have found its way into someone’s vintage collection by now.

I remember his dressing gown, burgundy and grey checked with a tassled ended belt and I wonder now, what passers by would have possibly thought?

We were absolutely terrified, waiting for the grenade to go off and feeling paralysed, unable to run.

UNABLE TO RUN… I’ve always been a runner!

The fear was so intense that there isn’t a word in my vocabulary to describe what I was feeling.

My mother hid his drugs and we waited.

All Rights Reserved – The boy in the chip shop 2019

My Promise

On a summers evening many years ago, I was standing in a queue at the local fish and chip shop waiting for my turn to be served. In front of me was a little boy who was dressed in shorts and a t-shirt that looked like it had the reminants of a weeks worth of wearing on it. He was crying and pulling at the arm of his young Mother who was talking on her mobile phone. The child appeared to be no more than 4 or 5 years old and his knee was bleeding. As he cried and tugged at her arm, she pushed him away and the blood continued to trickle down his leg. The little boy with his arms stretched up to reach his mother, pounded on her stomach trying to get her attention and the Mother pushed harder at him to stop. The smell of alcohol from the young lady was so strong and she was slurred and staggering. After several attempts to bring her attention to his knee and being met with her aggression, he finally gave up.
The boy in the chip shop stood with one side of his face buried into his Mothers thighs, staring at me and periodically looking down at his wound. Tears rolled down his filthy, beautiful little face.
In that very moment I felt a whole wave of different emotions from anger, frustration and fear, to pity and a deep sense of sadness. The Mother part of me wanted to scoop this child up and wipe away his tears. I wanted him to know that he was loved and that he would be okay. I wanted to shout at the Mother to put the phone down and acknowledge her son and his needs as she seemed oblivious to the discomfort that he was in.  Instead I stood by and did nothing and felt ashamed for not intervening with at the very least a tissue for his knee and also ashamed for judging a young person who was clearly not much more than a child herself. You see, I let fear ride over me once again, because she was drunk. I was afraid of the repercussions for the child and myself. If I brought the fact that she was ignoring him, to her drunk attention, I didn’t know how she would react. I remember being frightened as a child. I remember trying to get my fathers attention when he was so drugged up. I remember…
I made a promise to myself all those years ago that I would acknowledge that little boy by dedicating my first piece of public writing to him because he touched my heart that evening and I will always remember him.

All Rights Reserved – The boy in the chip 2019