This is a story of life in the 1970’s, and my reason for writing it, is that although it remains real to people of my age, to many of the younger age groups, it is as remote to them as the the first world war was to me as a child. The only reason I have some understanding of the early 20th century is that I had elder relatives to tell me stories of their youth. Even though I struggle to write long stories these days, I feel it is important to share them as much as I can…
LIKE A SORE THUMB
FRIDAY 16th June 1978
I had to catch the train into work that Friday. I normally got a lift into work with my Dad, but the rest of my nuclear family had gone away the night before on their family holiday. At 18, I was considered too old to want to go away to Italy with my parents. I didn’t really consider myself too old, but as I wasn’t asked, I accepted the situation. So I had gone to work in Birmingham, with my weekend bag, ready to go straight to Banbury after work. Banbury was where my fiancee lived with her maternal Grandmother. We had a long distance relationship, she would come to my house one weekend, I would go to her’s on the other weekend. It was not ideal, but such was infatuation.
Friday was a good day in the Jewellery Quarter in 1978, We all got paid weekly, with real cash in a wage packet. The calculations were obvious, all details on the outside of the packet. Wages would arrive at 12.45, and then we would go to lunch in the pub. Friday was an early finish, we were allowed to leave at three, after doing resets and specials.
Friday, we would go to the pub from 12.45 until 2.00 pm. Then we would pop back to work for an hour and then the weekend was our own! I planned to go straight down to Banbury, to Kate’s, get changed then get back out on the beer.
At 10.00 am I got a phone call. There was a shared phone in the workshop. You didn’t really want to receive personal calls on this phone, as the rest of the workshop would listen in and basically take the piss out of you.
” Can you not come down this weekend?”
” Er, okay, Why?”
” My Nan’s ill.”
“Oh. What’s wrong with her?”
” Oh just the flu or something.”
“Do you want to come up to me? I’ve got the house to myself…”
“No. She needs me here.”
“Oh, okay. I’ll give you a call back later.”
Odd. She didn’t sound like her normal self. She usually insisted on long protracted “no you hang up ” rigmarole, and protestations of undying love, which usually led to ribald piss taking from my workmates.
The Friday lunch time session came and went, and after four or five pints, the summer sun outside hit you like a physical blow when you came out of the pub. I went back to do the least amount of work possible for an hour, then left to catch the bus into Birmingham and then the train to Lichfield. By the time I was on the train, the beer had taken it’s toll, and I fell asleep before we even got to Vauxhall… The first station on the route to Lichfield. I awoke as the train left Shenstone, the last station before arriving at Lichfield…
Did I awake with my head and drool on someone’s shoulder? I can’t remember, but it wouldn’t have been the first time if I had.
I got off the train at Lichfield City train station, and immediately went to the Telephone box out side the station, to find out what was wrong with Kate.
The phone was answered by her Nan. She didn’t sound ill. She said that Kate was out and wouldn’t be back until late. Where had she gone, I asked. Her Nan had answered cryptically that she thought Kate should tell me that.
That did not sound good. I thought of getting back on the train and going down to have it out with Kate. However, The drink I’d had at lunch time, was still swilling through my veins… So I thought Fuck That!
The only problem with the family home was that it was a good mile and a half from the train station. I could, of course just go over the road and get on a bus… BUT… Between the family home and the train station were approximately 52 pubs. I had money in my pocket, beer in my belly, which was fast wearing off. I decided, Chips first, to line my stomach and then a crawl home visiting as many pubs as humanly possible. By 5 p.m. I had 6 more pints in my belly, and I was literally crawling down the back lanes, known as the windings, back home. The journey had taken on the epic nature of the Odyssey… I had been thrown out of two pubs; had an argument with an old school friend about football, been threatened by a couple of drunks, who to be fair were in a worse state than I was… I do not know how I got home but the next thing I knew, it was Saturday and my bedroom floor was covered in sick.
(To Be Continued)