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…



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.

Kate called.

” 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.”


“Speak 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.


There is a false dawn when you wake up on a sunny morning after a skinful of beer the night before… It comes just before you move a muscle. You eyes open on to the bright sunlight which is streaming through your window, and you feel great, how good it is to be alive! This feeling lasts a nano second, because you then make the mistake of moving your head. Big mistake! The room, you discover, is still defying the laws of physics, and spinning around in a crazy Alice in wonderland way. So you shut your eyes again… Another rookie mistake! It is not the room doing somersaults, it is your brain! Your cerebral cortex is completing a spin cycle you didn’t even know you’d started.

Then your stomach joins in. You start those hiccuping movements… like a dog with a bit of bone stuck in the back of the throat… And you know you are going to be sick. The next question is: can you reach the bathroom in time. You jump out of bed…(big mistake – you left your brain in idle mode), step in the sick on the floor from the previous night, slip and fall. And as you fall, you spray the wall with an arc of vomit, reminiscent of Jackson Pollack. Then you just lie there. Sick everywhere, dry retching on your back like a perch that has just been pulled from the river… One hand on your head, the other on your stomach. Under normal circumstances your mum would usually be beneficial at this point. she would hear your plight, would bring a cup of coffee, alka seltzer, a towel… an argument or admonishment… But not on this day, on this day she is 3000 miles away in Italy with the rest of your family and  you are quite alone. Alone and safe to wallow in the detritus of your stomach and your life.

I’d like to say that having been sick, this early version of me, immediately got up, cleaned up and generally took care of business… Like to, but can’t.  This version of me, poor sad young fool, promptly fell back to sleep, right there on the floor, in a fetal position, only occasionally grunting as a movement brought more pressure on his solar plexus to emit more contents from his stomach.

So, two hours later, when the urgent sun had slipped over the roof and away from my window, I awoke again, on the floor, this time with the pressing need to evacuate my bladder. This time, I made it to the bathroom. Having Peed, I made the mistake of looking in the shaving mirror over the sink. I looked like  I felt. I dipped my head under the cold tap and swallowed a gallon of good cold water. I gingerly lapped some of the water over my face. I was alive, in a fashion, and had an endless lonely weekend stretching before me. No Kate, no family, no work, no sport, it being summer, and no thoughts on how I would spend the next 48 hours. Obviously, I was never going to drink again, that was a given.

It is amazing how big the house suddenly feels when you are alone in it. With the sudden crush of parents and brother are removed, it feels like a big aching chasm with nothing to fill it. It doesn’t matter where you place yourself, you just don’t seem to fill the void.

The obvious place to occupy would be my bedroom, I could listen to music, play my albums, on my space age music centre, bought in a moment of inebriation, from a work colleague, renowned as the local Shylock, who happened to catch me at a moment of weakness, and offered exorbitant h.p. rates on a 2nd hand radiogram at shop prices.Money management was never a strong point! I ate some food. Hastily scrambled egg on toast, which of course made me feel sick again. I drank coffee. I drank some more coffee. I went upstairs with a cloth and a bowl and tried to clear up the sick. I don’t really do sick. In effect cleaning up sick makes me sick. I cleaned, I gagged, I cleaned, I retched. I ran to the bathroom and deposited my breakfast back into the toilet. I took a towel. I wiped up the remainder with the towel. Then I shoved the towel in the washing machine. I drank more coffee. I noticed a letter on the door mat. It wouldn’t be for me, I guessed. I didn’t get mail. I hadn’t had mail since 1969, when I had a penpal from Leeds. I went to see who it was for anyway. My heart sunk. The letter was in a hand I recognised.



Dear John, blah blah blah.

Upshot. Don’t want you any more.

I was angry. Upset? No angry… mostly.

I went upstairs to my old Imperial typewriter. I had wanted to be a writer since I was 11, and my dad on had bought me the typewriter for Christmas in 1974.

I tried to compose a pithy letter back to Kate. The anger and the tears, ok, yes there were tears, made typing difficult. I was smashing down the keys with heavy thuds until the inevitable happened, the keys got jammed. I tried to disentangle the keys which had jammed in my ham-fisted angry way and promptly sliced the top of my right thumb off. Joy of joys.

Blood now gushed forth. What to do, what to do? The A&E dept was a mile away on the other side of town. There were no Doctors open, it was the weekend… Band-aids. I found gauze and band-aids ( plasters). I wrapped up the injured digit as tightly as I could, and looked for another towel to clean up the blood. It found it’s way into the washer. One day on my own, and two towels down already! As the family had taken most of the towels away on holiday with them, I would have to be careful with the thread-bare towels now left in the airing cupboard. Use them Judiciously, or face the wrath of the washing machine. This was a taboo implement which no man had,at that time, ever encountered. No, I would use the rest more sparingly.

(to be Continued)

Dale ‘m’



Many a slip tween cut and lint. Given that the cutting of the thumb occurred at 10 a.m., and the temporary remedial lint and band aid assembly took around an hour to come up with, after dancing around as if attacked by a wasp nest and showering blood across a large area of my bedroom… so recently sullied by voluminous amounts of vomit, and then hastily cleaned by two moth-eaten towels… Now languishing in the darkest depths of the taboo washing machine, which no man should ever use.

With this state of play, the letter in response to Kate’s Dear John missive, was put largely on a back burner… As by this time it had ceased to be of paramount importance. Of paramount importance at this time, was to anaesthetise the throbbing pain of my thumb. Given that the primary anaesthetic I had access to was paracetamol, whisky and coke, the cola variety not the nose candy, I took 4 tablets and half a pint of whisky and coke.

I sat in front of the tedious  Test match between Pakistan and England on the T.V. In the late 1970’s television consisted of three channels. BBC1 BBC2 and ITV were the full smorgasbord of our in house entertainment. BBC2 had a wide selection of talking beards on open university, and ITV offered the british version of WWF wrestling, which involved fat man rubbing bellies together, the cricket was the only game in town.

I lay on the couch, drunk my medicinal whisky, and fell asleep.

At four, there was a knock on the door. I woke and jumped up. I grabbed the lounge door, with my right hand and screamed. The knock at the door became more insistent.

I opened the door with my left hand. There stood my soul mate. Mary.

“Are you ok?”

I tried to smile.

“Given that I yelping like a beaten dog, and my thumb is the size of a belisha beacon, (in the UK) an orange ball containing a flashing light, mounted on a striped post on the pavement at each end of a zebra crossing. ) I think we can safely say, I’m not at my best”.

“Can I come in?”

“Of course.”

She came in. I shut the door. She hugged me. I hugged her as best I could. I smelt her hair. Is that weird?

“Did you just smell my hair?”



“Because it smells nice?”

“Still weird then?”

“So it would appear… You still beautiful then?”

“What do you think?”

“You know I think your beautiful.”

“Ok, getting way too earnest already…”

” Would you like a cup of tea? Is that more formal?”

“Yes. I would love a cup of tea.”

“Please do come in sit down, I will make you a cup of tea.”

She sat down. I went into the kitchen and put on the kettle. I got cups out, then realised there was no tea. We, as a family, drank coffee.

“I’m sorry we don’t appear to have any tea. Do you want a coffee”

“Not particularly.”


“No, a bit early for whisky.”

” I’m sorry I’m all out of small talk. What do I owe this pleasure?”

“Just an off chance really.”

” An off chance?”

” Yes, on the off-chance that you still have the acoustic guitar I bought you for christmas.”

Tricky. I did still have the acoustic guitar, but it only had three strings. I cannot begin to tell you what happened to the other strings, suffice to say, they were stretched across a wicker work clothes basket, in a vain attempt to create a bass sound for my musical creations. I was in the process of becoming a rock star. With two tape decks, an electric guitar and amp, a bass made as above mentioned and a drum made from an oil can and spoons… The acoustic guitar with three remaining strings, I bowed with a metal coat hanger. In my defence, I was a fucking idiot and 18, not necessarily in that order.

Did I tell Mary that? No. This is what I told Mary.

” I’ve got the acoustic guitar, but three of the strings were broke by my little brother when he was using it as a bow for his arrows. Little bastard!”

“Oh, that’s disappointing.”


“I wanted to teach my flatmate how to play acoustic guitar, so we could go out busking together…”

“Who is he?”

“Not a he, a she, she is called Deborah.”

“So not a man then?”

“No. Not a man. I’m Married.”

“You’re fucking what now?”

“I got married!”

“You are married? You can’t be married.”

ok. The back story. I knew Mary was my soul mate. Mary knew I was her soul mate… The reason we were not still together… Fucking hormones! I was besotted with her, but I was a teenage boy… And I couldn’t resist temptation… Ever! Not even when my life depended on it. And boy did I have time to repent at leisure!

“It’s no big deal. I got married so that I couldn’t be asked to give evidence against him in court.”

“Seems a pretty big deal to me… So where is your husband now?”

“In jail. They had enough evidence to convict him without my evidence being required.”

“Seems an awful big commitment to me. So what happens now?”

“I wait til he gets out of jail then get an annulment.”

“Is that even a thing?”

“Yeah my solicitors says should be fine, he got sent down the day after we married, so now chance of consummation. So, providing he agrees we should be able to get the marriage annulled.”

“You don’t love him then?”

“God no, he’s my fucking dealer!”

“Your Dealer? What you on smack now?”

“Sometimes, maybe.”

“injecting? You fucking hate needles!”

“Don’t be daft, I’d never inject, just chasing the dragon, a few times.”

“And this is what?”

“Just inhaling the smoke.”

“Oh right, nothing serious then.”

“No, nothing serious.”

” But worth getting hitched  to a junkie dealer for?”

“He’s not a junkie.”

“Well that’s a relief. And you accuse me of making bad choices…”

“You, my love, are led by your dick, you have a good mind but you never use it because your cock is in control… I am led by the desire to experience everything… This is why we are not together. We are bad for each other. You know that, I know that. But you are still my best friend. I love you.”

” And I dream of a day when you have experienced all you need and I have fucked all I need to fuck, and finally, we can settle down together.”

“Chances are fairly remote.”

“Mary, I know the day will come.”

“Ok. I wanted the guitar to sell. How nice am I now?”

“What did you hope to get for it?”

“£20. I hoped too get £20, just enough to get some food for the next week.”

” I can give you a fiver.”

“You can… Why? Why would you give me a fiver?”

“I feel bad I ruined the guitar. I wouldn’t want you to starve.”

“Bless you. You are such a sweetie.”

“What you doing tonight?”

“Oh um… I’ve got a date, But Debs is at a lose end, would you like to take her out for me?”

“Really? You want me to go out with your flatmate?”

” As a favour? She has massive tits…”

” Oh please, that’s your thing not mine!”

” I know. I’ve already seen them!”

“So your fucking your flatmate too?”

“Don’t you find that exciting?”

“Ok. Maybe. Are we normal?”

“Who the fuck wants to be normal?”

“Good point. What chance did we ever have of being normal?”

“We are what we are. So if you come to the flat, sixth floor of Bosworth House, about six, then you can meet Debs, and take her out for a while.”

“Ok. I’ve got nothing better to do.”

“Just one thing…”


“Don’t mention that we’ve been together to her, she doesn’t want any one to think she’s a dyke.”

“Oh, ok.”

“And Dale…”


“About that fiver”

” Yes”

“Could you make it a tenner?”

So I had a date. My only interest,the fact that she may or may not have slept with Mary.

Interesting times.

Dale ‘M’

6 P.M.

So I had a date. A date with someone I’d never met. Someone called Deborah. Deborah. Ok, so I walked the half mile between my house and the flat where Mary and Deborah lived, with the earworm of Debora by T.rex ripping through my mind.

It didn’t auger well, oh Debora you look like a zebra… It wasn’t a look I could get behind.

I knocked on the door. Mary opened it.

” Oh you came.”She walked away from the door as if my following her in was a given.

Two bedrooms, a bathroom, and a toilet, were passed down a dark corridor, at the end of which was a door. Through the door was a large living room and a kitchenette. The view through the french window was exciting. It was six floors up. There was a small balcony. The prospect of standing on the balcony terrified me. The urge to jump from the said balcony would be great. I did not have a fear of heights, I had a fear that the urge to jump would overwhelm me. In the middle of this living area, Mary had stuck a double bed. Handy. I looked around and saw no evidence of a Deborah.

“Handy place to keep your bed.” Mary looked as if she might bridle at my comment. Then she thought better of it.

“It wouldn’t fit in the bedroom. Plus I like to lie here and look at the sky.”

A plausible explanation.

“Where is Deborah?” Mary looked a bit vague.

“She went out. She will be back soon…”

Mary started looking for something.

“What are you looking for?”

“My pussy.”

“So true… it’s what we are all looking for isn’t it?”

“Don’t be a prick, my cat, Loki, I’m terrified he will get himself out on to the balcony…”

“That would not be Lucknow would it.”

“Loki not Lucky, you knob.”

So humour was not making this any easier… The cat, Loki not Lucky, was sat on the kitchenette worktop, licking his arse. Nice.

“He’s there.” I pointed. Mary picked him up. She snuggled him up to her neck.

The front door opened, and a shout rang out.

“Only got some weed, nobody’s got anything else.”

I looked at Mary. She’d spent the money I’d given her on Dope. Perfect.

“We’re in here Debs.”

Debs said no more. Both cats were out of the bag.

“This is Dale.I told you about him.”

“Hi.” She said and then crashed into the one chair next to the double bed.

She had acne on her face, and mousy shoulder length hair. She was not a beauty, but had the advantage of not looking like a zebra. She also had a very prominent pair of breasts. In this age before implants, breasts that big were only dreamt of. I tried to talk to her, but she seemed not to be interested in me.

“Shall I skin up?” She spoke to Mary. Mary looked at me.

“You want a joint?”

I shrugged. Alcohol was my poison. Drugs had weird effects on me. Cannabis fucked my head up and not in a good way. I became a spastic in time. Literally. Time ceased to have any linear projection. A second would last for hours and hours would pass in a nano second. A lucky accident. The most prevalent drug of the seventies did not chill me out, but thanks to a freakish chemical imbalance in my brain, it freaked me out instead. I don’t know if this a common effect on other people, I’ve only ever been inside my own head, but being lost in time and space is not much fun, in certain circumstances it becomes a nightmare which you feel is never going to end.

So after the communal toking on the joint, of which I willingly partook, because why the fuck not when it was my money that paid for it, the narrative became somewhat blurred and dream-like.

We talked and laughed, we smoked and talked and laughed some more. At some point in the proceedings Mary got up and went into the bathroom. She was in there for an indeterminable length of time… It could have been  hours, it could have been minutes, but when she came out she was made up, unruly hair calmed and straightened, and she was dressed to the nines.

“He’ll be here in a minute, best you two kids disappear to the pub.” She shooed us out.

I looked at Deborah as we ran down the stairs,or walked, or flew, as I say I wasn’t really in the moment, and I thought… Nothing. She was not of any interest to me. Not very bright, not very pretty… Not my type. I’m sure she grew up to be a perfectly respectable person, but at that time and on that night, she was just a fucked-up kid, led by others. If I try to picture her now all I get is a benign Susan Atkins aka sexy Sadie (Charlie Manson acolyte)… A follower.

We went into town. We drank at the pub which had the vaguest concept of under-age drinking. I was of age, she was not, she was sixteen. She had very little conversation. I drank a lot. She couldn’t keep up. We left after an hour and a half. Walking her back to the flat, a distance of about a mile, was not a merry stroll. She was sick twice. Time began to  return to me, and it turned out I wasn’t having a good one. I thought, as I walked the unsteady Debs back, typical fucking Mary! Playing fucked-up games with me.

We entered the flat. The door to the lounge at the top of the hall was open. A naked Mary, bouncing energetically up and down on a blissful crew-cut soldier. She looked at me and winked. Winked. I grabbed Debs by the arm and led her into her bedroom. I stripped her off.

“Oh right.” She mumbled and lay on her bed. Her large breasts collapsed back into her chest and under her arms, like an under-cooked souffle. I felt repulsed. This is not what I want I thought. I would like to say that I pulled the covers over the poor girl, and left the building. I’d like to say that, but it wouldn’t be true. I had sex with her. Out of anger. Not violently, because violence is not n my nature, but in a perfunctory way. She moaned and held me tight, like a lover… and when I stopped, she was snoring. I dressed. I walked out of the room, out of the flat, without looking around to Mary. I went home.

this is the first episode of this story which is not accurate to fact. A lot of different experiences have been conflated, just to give the atmosphere of the time. In reality nobody was drunk, stoned or fucked without given consent.


To be continued.


11 P.M. 17TH NOVEMBER 1978


You know when you get morose drunk? When you have left your friends on the route home, and suddenly thought, I don’t want to go home? That’s the sort of feeling that gets you into trouble. So it’s 11 p.m., and I’m sitting on the stairs one floor above Mary’s flat. It’s been a while since I’ve seen her. In fact the last time I saw her was the wink. As a consequence of that little dalliance, I had caught scabies, and had suffered agonies because the doctor had not told me that I only had to paint the ointment on my skin once. I had put it on every day for a week, with the unforeseen occurrence, that I looked as if I’d been flayed. When I presented my skin for the doctor’s perusal a week later, he thought I was a complete idiot. You only use it once, no wonder you look like a lobster.

Luckily, the skin settled down relatively quickly once a curative balm had been administered. However, since that fateful night, I had decided to stay clear of my Mary, as she wasn’t particularly good for my health. Well, when I say I stayed  away… this wasn’t the first time I’d been sat sitting on the stairs above her floor, waiting to see if she came home alone. I had sat there maybe three of four times before, but as she had a guy, probably the army guy with her, I’d hid above and listened to see if he went in. He did, and I went home.

So this stalking behaviour had become a habit. What did I want? I wanted to make everything and everybody else just disappear. I wanted her to be with me forever. I think I wanted to make one last effort. I had a dream that if she knew how I felt, she would see what I could see, we were made to be together. I know a facile thought, but I was 18 and I loved her. I knew she loved me too. So why not?

I heard steps coming from below. No voices. A good sign. It was a long wait. 12 series of stairs take a while, even when you are young and fit. I looked over the parapet and saw her mop of crazy black hair below. She was alone. As she pulled on the fire door to her floor, I stood up. She stopped stark still, as if frozen in time.

“Hello” I said.

She looked down the stairs to see if anyone was there.

“Come in quick”. She looked afraid.

She shepherded me into her flat.

“You shouldn’t come here.”


“He’s out on Monday.”

“Who’s out on Monday?”

“My husband. He gets out of prison on Monday. You need not to be here.Seriously.”

“It’s Friday, I think it’s safe.”

” He has people watching me. He wrote me a letter, saying if I didn’t ditch the squaddie (english slang for soldier), then he would.”

“He would what?”

“Put him in a ditch. He would do it too, you don’t know the people he goes around with.”

“How did he find out about soldier boy?”

“I told you he has people watching me.”

“For fuck’s sake Mary, why don’t you just leave? You don’t need to be around this creep.”

“I can’t. He’d find me. You don’t know what he’s like.”

I hugged her. She didn’t push me away. She was shaking inside. I pressed my head to hers and felt the tumult inside her mind. We had that kind of connection, we could feel each others emotions. She hugged me so tight, we felt like siamese twins. I stroked her hair. We sat on the side of her bed… still in the living room.

“I’m here, I will always be here.” I said.

She sobbed heavily.

“That’s just it you can’t be here, I can’t bear you being here, don’t you understand?” I held her tighter and kissed her eyes.

“I love you, Mary, you know that, why not just come with me, I will look after you.” She looked into my eyes. I knew she felt the same, how could she not? We had been through so many other lifetimes together… (but that’s for another story)

“He will, kill you. You are still a boy.”

“I know people…”

“You don’t even know how to tie your shoes, my beautiful boy. You are my dream, my hope of happiness. I got myself into this shit, I will get myself out of it. You will go and have a happy life without me.”

An air of finality. She hugged me. I hugged her. I cried. I cried a lot. We undressed. We held each other into the night. We never let go of each other. It was a pure moment, a pure moment in a lifetime of madness. We relished it until finally we fell asleep.

I awoke about eight. My leg across her legs, my arms around her waist, my nose engulfed in the mass of her hair. I wanted to sneeze. I didn’t want to sneeze, I needed to sneeze. I wanted not to sneeze. I wanted the moment to last forever. The watery sun burst through the window, casting her long legs in light and shade… Always with Mary, the light and the shade! She was the most beautiful intelligent woman I had ever met, she was love personified, yet always she brought in the shade… The dark moods, the drugs, the ridiculous lack of faith in me… warranted I grant you, to some extent. She at that age had taken me to heaven and hell. And the men and women she paraded in front of me.

But as always, I wanted to scoop her into my arms and take her away. To look after her all my life. I wanted to protect her. Yet, she insisted on protecting me. I stroked her perfect skin, I held her perfect breast. I tried to slip my hand inside her knickers.

She grabbed my hand.

“No. None of that. Time for you to go now.”

I got up.  I got dressed. I had tears again, I tried to hide them.

I waved to her prostrate form as I made for the door.

“Dale. Don’t I get a kiss.” She leaned on a elbow. I lent over and kissed her on the lips.

“I love you with all my heart, Mary, won’t you come with me?”

“I love you with all my heart, Dale, I can’t come with you. I have to sort my life out, and you do too. Please don’t come around again, he will seriously fuck you up.”

I walked out of her life.

For 33 years.

It’s a funny way to live don’t you think.




The world was safe in 1973,

Nobody died, a houseful of relatives,

brother, mother, father and dog,

great grandma, two nans, a granddad, a step granddad,

A step great grandfather, an uncle and aunt,

and an aunt and uncle, three female cousins.

A crowded house of kin.

A safe place to go slightly mad.


Did I have a girlfriend?

probably Susan Lovelly,

A nice girl to love in safety.

By 1974, all was to change,

and the dance with death…

made celebrations hard to take.

all the empty seats…


And over time you grow to occupy each,

first the father’s, then the grandfather’s,

then the widowers…

and mortality etches lines across your face,

and death chokes the joy of it all.

Does hope die too?

I don’t think so.















I still recall the wondrous moment:
When you appeared before my sight
As though a brief and fleeting omen,
Pure phantom in enchanting light.

In sorrow, when I felt unwell,
Caught in the bustle, in a daze,
I fell under your voice’s spell
And dreamt the features of your face.

Years passed and gales had dispelled
My former hopes, and in those days,
I lost your voice’s sacred spell,

The holy features of your face.
Detained in darkness, isolation,
My days began to drag in strife.
Without faith and inspiration,
Without tears, and love and life.

My soul attained its waking moment:
You re-appeared before my sight,
As though a brief and fleeting omen,
Pure phantom in enchanting light.

And now, my heart, with fascination,
Beats rapidly and finds revived
Devout faith and inspiration,
And tender tears and love and life.



































Never have I lived such a sedentary life,

Hour upon hour contemplating,

navel-gazing, aimlessly vacillating,

Between world and unworldly,

Arcane or basely visceral…

I have no momentum…

Inertia has rendered the body immoveable.


Literally immoveable.

Back has seized up like a gate spring.

Frozen in time and space and velocity,

How to move on?

There are no locks in real space,

Just in my mind.


All carnality, or thoughts there of,

Are acts of betrayal…

But who am I betraying?

The promise dies with the person promised?

I just don’t have the theological maturity to know.

I’m like a child left to their own devices…

With the admonishing words of lost parents

ringing in their ears…

Do you continue to hold to their social norms?

I cannot hear her voice in my ear,

only in my heart.

always in my heart!

unfettered ramblings of a lost boy.

Dale ‘M’





There was a moment in time, maybe only a couple of months, when “Saturday Night Fever” was cool. A heady summer, when Punk music had yet to arrive and the Bee Gees were the only game in town. It was this moment when, failing to find a band to become a star in, I took to the local dance floor to show my star quality. Of course, this could have been a disaster… but for the fact that I had been to dance classes in my youth, and though tap and ballet were not de rigueur in the flashing lights of a disco, they did give me the edge on most of the other male dancers. There was not a lot of competition amongst the guys to be fair, as most men in those days stood on the sidelines and drank until the last three slow songs, where they all moved in, trying to score a woman to walk home at the end of the night.

I did not want to drink, I wanted to dance. As I was still quite shy,  I would drink four pints early doors, before the disco started. Then I would dance for hours, or until a crap song came on… and in that eventuality I would sit at a table of four or five girls, who were mates.

On this particular night, I had been invigorated by a long session of my favourite songs to dance to… Get up James Brown, a 12″ version of rasputin by Boney M, which had a really great middle eight break that gave you a real buzz. Then the mood crashed, something without a decent groove was put on by the incompetent deejay, and I went back to my table and drank what was left of my pint. Opposite me sat a woman I didn’t know. I shouted into the ear of the girl next to me.

“Whose she?”

“Don’t know, I think she’s a bit pissed.”

She was an attractive woman, but she looked older than us. A lot older, we were all under-age drinkers, nothing more than seventeen. In those days, nobody cared if you were under-age just as long as you had the money to pay for your drink. I smiled at her and she smiled back. Slightly weirdly, as if she was enjoying her own joke.  I frowned, was she taking the piss? As a Seventeen year old boy, I was always wary of people making fun of me. One’s ego was a self-inflated balloon, and easily deflated. I got up to refill my drink, on a whim I asked the woman if she wanted a drink too.

She smiled that sad smile again and said yes please. She got her purse out and offered  a pound note to me,

“Get yourself one too.”

“I asked you if you wanted a drink, not to buy me one.” This was a period where the man expected to buy a woman’s drink, unless you were out with female friends, who would then just buy their own.

She pushed the pound not into my hand, and said that I could buy the next one. She asked for a Brandy and Babycham, which was a popular drink amongst women who wanted to get drunk quickly. Babycham was a sparkling perry, so it was a double bubble type situation.

I went to the bar, bought and pint and her drink and came back with change… Ahh those were the days!

I came back to the table and sat down beside her. She looked very exciting from this angle, she had on a short little black dress, and I could see evidence of stocking tops. To a provincial boy, with limited sexual experience, stockings were considered the Nirvana of erotica. She saw my gaze and then gave that sad rueful smile again. It was a definite mood chiller.

” What’s wrong?” I shouted into her ear, conversation rendered difficult due to the decibel levels of the music.

“You seem like a nice boy, you don’t want to be wasting your time on  an old woman like me.” She slurped her drink with heavy intent. She obviously just wanted to get wasted. I searched for something clever to say… but being slightly out of my depth, I drank my beer.

“You look very attractive to me.” I shouted. she looked perplexed for a second and then twigged I was coming on to her… She through her head back and laughed loudly. Tears rolled down her cheeks. I felt crest-fallen. She saw my look and laughed even louder. But the laughter dried in her throat and the tears came harder.

“Listen, I’m sure you are a real catch, you’re a lovely young man, but I’m old enough to be your mother…”

“No you’re not, what are you, 25?” I played a line. Was that too flattering? I was sure older women must like to be mistaken as younger. She looked at me hard. Her words were slightly slurred.

” You’re a wee chancer aren’t you, I bet you get all the wee girls wetting their knickers, don’t you?”

I was in uncharted waters, this lady was playing a game I didn’t understand, but she was exciting me and scaring me in equal measure.

“It’s true, you don’t look any older than twenty five, just saying like…”

“And you look Fifteen tops, You want to get me arrested as a cradle snatcher?”

“I’m old enough.” She placed her hand on my fly. She smiled at my stirring ardour.

“I feel your pain son, but I’m just a sad old woman, married to an awful two-timing cunt, and I only wanted to feel desirable, and you have done that for me, thank you…You’re awful sweet.” She kissed the top of my sweaty head. She drunk up and then stood up, wobbly on her red stilettos. I stood up quickly,

“Let me walk you home.” I said.

She grabbed my arm.

“Ok soldier, you can walk me home… But don’t expect anything.”

We walked outside into the summer’s evening, twilight lolled across the sky like western backdrop, pinks and purples spread across the yellowing night. We walked away from the Pub/disco and made our way through the park. She didn’t appear to be quite as drunk as she had before…Was that a ruse? She lent against me, and suddenly disavowed me of that impression. She threw up over my shoes. Nice. We reached some picnic tables down by the stream in the park and I bade her too sit down. I gave her my sweat covered handkerchief, which I carried to wipe the excess sweating caused in the heat of the disco. She wiped her mouth. I took  a packet of trebor mints from my pocket and offered her one. She took it. She smiled wanly at me.

“What a good little Boy Scout you are, prepared for any eventuality aren’t you?”

“Just luck, I guess. Lucky for you, I carry a hankie because I don’t like to sweat and the mints are so my mum can”t smell the beer on my breath when I get home.” She looked at me weirdly again. Tears welled in her eyes.

“I’m sorry, you don’t deserve me do you… Just out for a good time and you get stuck with a nutty old woman.” I stroked the back of her hair.

“You’re a very pretty  nutty old woman.” She pushed away my hand.

” No, none of that! Go! Go back to your disco, go back to your pretty young girls.”

“I’m walking you home.”

She stood up determinedly. She towered over me by a good four inches, She slapped my face hard.

“Look sonny, I tried to be nice, But just fuck off okay?” I rubbed my face. Unsure of what I had done to offend her.

“Can I have a kiss?” I asked sheepishly. She laughed. A full no holds barred kind of laugh. She bowed her head towards me and kissed me chastely on the top of my head.

“Now go, I’ll be alright from here, you go on home to your Mummy.”

I walked away. She began walking a different way. I looked back. She did not. I wasn’t sure what kind of event this had been. My cheek stung. She looked kind of small as she walked off into the distance. I felt sorry for her. I felt sorry for me too. I never got to touch those stocking tops or suspenders. Yet, later in my bed, as I lay thinking about her, I imagined touching those stocking tops and suspenders, and in my mind the weirder aspects of the liaison were lost in the overall eroticism of what I had imagined.

Now, in my dotage, I can appreciate the maelstrom of her emotions, and I’m glad she ended up with me that night… because I was mostly harmless. She could have ended up with much worse people than that.

This is another nearly true event from my life. An event whose memory was triggered by  this poem  one night stand.






Just talking about silly hats, and I remembered this one… And the tears just run down my cheeks like a spoilt child! Marie was the only woman I ever knew that would wear clothes entirely for comfort rather than for show. She didn’t care a jot that her silly bloody hat looked ridiculous, that her duffle coat was twenty years out of fashion, as long as she was warm, she was happy.  And this the woman who would think nothing of spending two hours torturing her tumultuous hair into tight ringlets after washing it! But this was not a fashion thing it was a practicality… naturally her hair would be a well-sprung thatch, a storm cloud above her head, so the trussing was an essential part of her well-being. I miss her silly hair, I miss her silly bloody hats… I miss every bloody inch of her gorgeous body. These are the thoughts and feelings which populate every minute of every day, if I let them. I hold them tight in a net, but sometimes they leech out and cannot be contained.

oh hum.





There is a moment of time in the regular regime of a hotel in the middle of the afternoon where nothing much is happening. A moment when two young scalawags can safely adventure towards mischief. This was such a time. Having been invited back to the Hotel for tea, by the son of the owner, we wheedled our way up from the Friary, our school, to the citadel of the hotel, which crested the hill about a half mile distant. Chris, the son of the hotelier, had recently become a close bosom friend. As was the nature of schoolboy alliances, it was not a long lived dalliance, we lived too far away from each other to become regular buddies… But my butterfly nature made it difficult to maintain a regular best friend… I got bored easily! So this trip to the Cathedral Walk Hotel was a novelty, a new experience for me. At the age of twelve, this was my first visit to a hotel in this country… and only my second visit to a hotel in all my days. The first had been in Spain, where I had learned a valuable lesson… Spaniards had a penchant for cute Blond boys, I had been able to get pretty much whatever wanted from the staff, cokes, ice-creams, sweets whatever, all I had to do was smile at them and they would fawn like servants to my every need. A heady reality to a boy of six, which I had exploited for most of the fortnight we were away, until my mother discovered my sophistry, and told me firmly I was not to take treats from strangers… “But Mum, they are not strangers! It’s Pablo and Maria, they work here!”

They are not working all these hours just to provide you with free drinks and Ice creams, young man! If you want a drink or ice cream you wait until we get you one… Don’t exploit the good nature of the staff!”

What does exploit mean?”

It means you are being spoilt, so stop doing it!”

This had taught me a valuable lesson… When you’ve got a good thing going don’t let your parents find out about it!

Back to the Cathedral Walk Hotel. Chris and I trudged around the back of the auspicious facade of building and entered through a side door. His mother sat in their kitchen, drinking tea and eating a large slice of Victoria Sponge. She was a rather round and squat lady, and I felt a little swamped by her mass. She was however, a very pleasant lady and smiled at us. She hugged her son to her and whispered words of endearment which I didn’t understand. She bade us sit around the table and brought out Ginger beer and sandwiches and more cake.

mangia i miei piccoli!”

She left the kitchen to answer a bell, which range from the main foyer.

What did she say? Why does she speak foreign?”

My Mum’s Italian. She said eat my little ones, I think… I’m not totally fluent in Italian.”

That’s so cool, I wish I had an Italian Mother!”

He ate. I ate too. He looked pleased. I had passed an unwritten test. I was not judgemental of his foreign Mother, I’d said it was cool to have an Italian Mother, and though he secretly thought so too… He would never have said it out loud. After tea,Chris had asked if we could go and play up in the unused hotel room, which he had been allowed to use as his playground. He went upstairs to the reception and brought back a big iron key. We walked up the backstairs and snuck along the corridor to the room where he played.

This room was exciting. It had a sink on one side of the large double bed, the first time I’d ever seen a sink in a bedroom. The large wardrobe housed a massive collection of toys and games.

Chris brought out a large board on to which was stuck a subbuteo felt. Subbuteo was a game which was all the rage in the seventies, it allowed boys of a certain bent to recreate the excitement of a football match in the safety of their own bedroom.

The board was set up on the top of the made-up bed and we each chose a team. He chose the blue of Chelsea and I had to make do with the Red team. He didn’t have a team in the colours of my favourite team, Aston Villa. Red would have to be Liverpool. When I told him that my Granddad had been offered professional terms for Aston Villa, before the war, and that he had won an international cap for England as an amateur… Chris had claimed an Italian Uncle who had played for Inter Milan, and been picked for Italy, this too before the war. I wasn’t sure I believed him, but when he said that his uncle had been killed in the war, just had my Grandfather had been, we saw this as a union. We had both lost our claims to fame. His Uncle had been killed in Italy, just as my Grandfather had been… But on opposite sides of the wire!

We played our game of subbuteo… Flicked our players into a stalemate. 2-2.

Where’s the toilet?” I asked, as the ginger beer went straight through me.

You can piss in the sink.” He pointed to the basin beside the bed. I looked at him aghast. The thought of sullying such an innovation as a sink in the bedroom, with my hot piss I felt was sacrilegious.

In the sink?”

Of course, that’s what I always do. Fuck it! It’s easier than walking all the way down to the back kitchen!” Strangely, this was the first time I’d ever heard anyone of our age use the word Fuck! I’d heard it frequently when listening to adults, particularly on the rugby pitch, when I used to watch my Dad playing… but in those days, certain swear words were never uttered by youths. We would certainly use Bloody, or bugger, prat or bastard, and piss was ubiquitous, but the F word was taboo, as was the C word. How time has changed!

I climbed on to the bed and undid my zip.

I can’t do it if your watching.” I manipulated my penis ineffectually. He looked on and smiled, then when he saw my tortuous look of embarrassment, he looked pointedly out of the window.

Ok now, you big baby?”

I answered with a splash on the porcelain.

I zipped away the appendage, and breathed a sigh of relief.

A light went on in the mind of my comrade.

Wait I’ve got something.” He pulled across a wooden chair which lay next to the window, and pressed it close to the wardrobe. He climbed upon the seat and then carefully stood on the wooden back. He reached across to the very back of the wardrobe and pulled out his prize. It was a large flat box. It had a bow across it like a birthday present, and also had a picture of various glasses containing different coloured liquids.

What is it?” I asked innocently.

It’s chocolates… with booze in.”

My jaw dropped. What on earth…

Liquor chocolates, I nicked them from my Granny at Xmas.”

Oh.” At the age of eleven, it had never occurred to me to steal anything from anyone. I wasn’t sure I approved of such behaviour.

Shall we eat them and get drunk?” He asked excitedly.

I looked around the room. What if we were caught?

What if your Mum comes up?”

Don’t worry, I’ve got a plan.” I gulped. I wasn’t at all sure I wanted to get drunk. I’d seen enough of people getting drunk to know that it was not always a pleasant experience.

He pulled me earnestly towards the door. He inched it open and looked around.

Come.” He ran across the corridor. He reached a door at the far end, and put his large key into the lock. He opened the door and beckoned me in quickly. He locked the door behind him.

Where are we going?” I asked.

Where no-one can find us. Quick up the the stairs.”

We climbed the narrow set of stairs and once again he placed his key into the lock of the door at the top. The door was tightly shut and wouldn’t budge when he turned the handle.

Give us a hand, It’s a bit stiff.” He pressed his shoulder to the door and I followed suit. It didn’t budge.We took a run up, pushed and voila… A vista opened before us. The roof. The building had two apexes and between them was a v-shaped space with duckboards. At one end was a brick wall and on the other an opening, which looked down on the houses below. In the distant the three spires of the Cathedral loomed in the sunlight, like religious icons.

Whoa, this is amazing. Is your key magic?”

It’s a skeleton key… It opens all the doors in the hotel.”

I’d like a key like that… Do you think the school has a skeleton key? I’d like to get in to the staff room and see what that’s like…”

I’m pretty sure they must have, probably kept around Miss Stones neck, the way she always pops up unexpectedly… I bet there are secret passages there, just like in this hotel.” I had images flash through my mind… Miss Stone with an old fashioned candlestick, walking through secret passages, spying on all of us boys… It would certainly explain how she always found out about all the naughty things we were up to.

We sat at the far end of the roof, away from prying eyes. He took out one of the chocolates and then offered me one. I took one shaped as a barrel. I watched as he shoved his in his mouth. He looked disgusted… like it tasted of earwax.

Go on… Eat it.” I bit into the inoffensive chocolate, and felt the fiery liquid burning its way down my esphogus, I retched.

Disgusting isn’t it?” Chris smiled across at me.

Positively vile!”.

Think the chocolate might be off. I think it would be better to just bit the end off them, spit the chocolate out and then just drink the liquid.” His advice seemed geometrically opposed to my own point of view… From my experience of the vile tincture, I would have said, bite the chocolate eat it then pour the liquid out and eat the rest.

However, so as not to seem a pussy, I did as instructed, each in turn pulled out a different liquor, and swallowed the tiny portion of alcoholic beverage housed within. I didn’t feel drunk at the end of the experiment, just rather sick. Chris began to act weirdly, as if he was drunk, the placebo effect I now feel, but at the time, I felt that he must be drunk, so I began to act drunk too.

Chris went to the far end of the gully and looked out across the city below…

Of course!” He said.

Of course?” I asked.

Don’t look so worried, I’ve got a plan!”

Oh good, I thought, another plan. To be fair, this adventure on the roof had been exhilarating… Apart from the miniature liquors, which had been ghastly!

We made our way, silent as assassins, back down through the Hotel. We went out through the back of the Hotel into the Car Park.

Quick, let’s get out of here, before anyone stops us.”

We ran down the road, and then he cut into a four storey building just before reaching the BP garage on the opposite side of the road. The door to the building was slightly open and he pushed his way in.

The building was unoccupied. The floors were covered in mess… Not just the mess of an empty building, not just the stale dust of un-use, but an enforced mess… like someone had deliberately been creating chaos. Bits of light fitting had been smashed to the ground, skirting boards had been jemmied from the bottom of the walls, doors had holes smashed through their panels… Intricate plaster architrave had been smashed into a fine chalk dust. Mantle places ripped off and then used to break further fixtures and fittings. This place bore all the hallmarks of acts of vandalism that the local papers had been warning of for many a year.

Chris mistook my look of horror for a look of awe.

I did this. I did all of this. All on my own. Great isn’t it?”

Why?” It was the only question I could think of.

It feels great to break things, really great!”

Why?” Again the only word I could emit.

Because it’s against the rules, I suppose, don’t you ever get fed up of all the rules?”

Not really. If I don’t like rules I just ignore them… I never felt the need to break anything.”

You should try it.” He led me up the stairs to the third floor. He showed me into the bathroom. The sink was intact. The bath had been chipped but with iron at it’s core, Chris had not found a weapon strong enough to damage it further. He pointed to the porcelain sink and proffered a lump of marble from the detritus of the once perfect fire surround.

Go on, Hit it.” He pressed the lump of marble into my hand. Not sure how to progress with the act, I flung the marble into the sink. It bounced around the bowl but did not break it.

For God’s sake, fucking hit it hard on the edge!”

I picked up the lump again and whacked it down on the lip. The basin split without rapture, in two. The metal plug hole cover fell out and the plastic drainage pipe listed forward as if suffering from a superficial flesh wound. Chris giggled like a girl. He ran around, looking for his weapon of choice. He came back with a brick with plaster on it and a piece of electrical wire steadfastly attached to the electrical plug socket housed in the brickwork. He swung the the lump of brick around his head like a medieval flail, and brought it crashing down on the remains of the basin, it splintered into many pieces and crashed in a tumult to the ground.

That’s how you fucking do it, you little pussy!”

All of a sudden he was a dervish, running from room to room, smashing into this and that… Clouds of ancient plaster work created a blizzard across the upper floor, and coughing like miners we ran downstairs. I looked at Chris, and saw that he looked like a ghost.

You look like a ghost!” I said obviously.

So do you.” I looked down at my school uniform and found that he was right. My red blazer was now white. My Grey flannels were also white. My shoes too. I was for it. If I returned home like this, I was certainly for it. Not only was I for it, I’d have to provide some valid excuse for the state I was in. That was beyond me. I couldn’t think of a single plausible reason for being covered in plaster. Maybe I’d been caught out in a board cleaner accident. I’d been asked to clean all the chalk off the school’s board rubbers and some how become covered in the resultant cloud of chalk dust? Couldn’t see my Mum buying that one…

Chris took us back up the backstairs of the Hotel, and back into his play room. Once I was inside, he nipped out across the corridor and raided the linen cupboard. He came back with a couple of large bath towels.

Here, use one of these, wet the corner a bit, then brush the dust off your clothes… See like this.” He took his towels and put a corner under the cold tap. He wet the towel and then rung it out, so that it was only damp. Then he brushed the dust from his clothes. It worked passably.

Don’t have it wet, whatever you do, if its wet it will just form a paste then you will never get it off.”

I looked down at the sink. I looked up at him.

I’ve just pissed in that sink.”

So what? I run the tap didn’t I?”

So I began the process. I ran the tap awhile, just to make sure no piss was still present, then I dampened down a corner of the towel and wiped away all the plaster dust from the front of my clothes. It looked ok, I might just get away with it if I ran straight upstairs when I got in and changed out of my uniform.

Ok Chris I think it’s time I went home.”

You can’t go home yet.”

What fresh hell was he about to unleash on me?

Why not?”

Because both yours and my clothes are covered in plaster on the back.”

Good point. I’d not thought of that.

Tell you what,”He says,”What if I do yours and you do mine?”

Oh, Ok”. I took a fresh corner of the towel and rubbed away the offending plaster from the back of his clothes. Then he began rubbing away the dust from my clothes… He seemed to be very attentive in his ministrations, until I heard a sudden swish, and then a sting on my arse… the wet towel trick!

Ow Pack it in!” I yelped.

I made for the door.

You Can’t go yet.”

What this time?” I’d had enough of his nonsense.

You need to wash your hands and face! Look at yourself!” I looked in the mirror above the sink and saw that I still looked as ashen as a spectre.

Go on wash your hands and face.” He pointed at the sink. The pissing sink…

I walked home in the half light of the evening dusk, and wondered what this experience had been? In the end I came up with a single word… A revelation!