Tommy gets married. Brian gets a first sight of Lynn.
Chapter 2. Summer 1966A year later I weaved through the guests at the function room of The Labour Club with my friends, Badger and Kenny. We were making our way out from Tommy and Vivien's wedding reception as the disc jockey began playing Frank Sinatra’s, Stranger’s in the Night. It is hard to believe the time has passed so quickly since Tommy's first date with Vivien in the public room of this very club. However, I didn't wish to dwell for long on that night a year ago when I had the failure with Amanda, an embarrassing disaster which caused me concern ever since.
"Well, who'd have thought it?" I remarked. "Tommy's wedding, the biggest social event of the year and they still closed the bar at eleven o'clock."
"Should've gone to Minstrels at ten o'clock like I said," Badger replied. Badger is three years older than me. All my friends now are older than me and were the good friends of my workmate Tommy. I started to hang about with them at the top end of town following an embarrassing moment when the local policeman ejected me, for the second time, from the King's Arms in the town centre. Badger worked for a builder and told everyone he was a fully qualified carpenter. He wasn't, but knew enough to get by.
"Tommy would never forgive us if we'd left at ten o'clock," I said.
"We didn't tell him to get spliced, did we? Letting us down, leaving us. We're supposed to be like the three musketeers and now there's only three of us."
"That don't make sense," Kenny said. "There are only three musketeers anyway." Kenny is the oldest of my friends. It often amuses me how Kenny’s hair and clothes still look like they belong in his rock and roll days of the previous decade, but I wisely keep the thoughts to myself.
Badger made sure he was not in striking distance before answering. "Don't ya be daft now, Kenny. Any fool knows there were four musketeers."
Kenny gave a stare towards Badger. "Did I hear you right, Badger? Did you call me daft?"
"Oooo no, wouldn't dream of it, Ken. Now you come to mention it maybe there was only three of them; the fourth came along later." He looked at me and gave a grin. "It's all right, kid, no need to call the ambulance." He began to laugh, a false contrived laugh as unique to him as the prominent light streak down the front of his hair; the same streak had given him his nickname. A bus was passing on the other side of the road and Badger began scanning the windows looking for young women. "Here, is that your Norma on the top deck?"
I glanced at the bus. "No, and she's not my Norma. We've finished."
"Oooo, look out girls. Brian's playing the field again. And I bet you're eager for it after banging Norma for six months, eh kid?"
"Yeah." I laughed but didn't mention Norma was not that sort of a girl. She was a nice girl. Since my encounter with Amanda, I had reverted to dating nice girls. I thought on how passionate Norma was but she would not allow any sexual intimacy, and it suited me for a while.
I reflected on my dance with Vivien at the wedding reception. I always got on well with her but sometimes felt she was chatting me up though I didn't know why. Amanda was sure to have told Vivien about my failure in the guard’s van but Vivien never mentioned it and I was grateful for that. "She's all right is Vivien,” I said.
Kenny and Badger glanced at each other as if they were puzzled at such a remark from me. "I don't know what he sees in her," Kenny said. "He's been with some nice girls so why the hell did he get himself lumbered with her?"
"Well I think she's all right," I said.
"She used to hang about with Amanda before she flitted to Manchester. A right pair of tarts they were an' all. Did you know Amanda, Brian?"
"No, I don't think so," I lied. "Anyway, I think you're being a bit harsh. Vivien’s not that bad."
Badger laughed. "Not that bad; she's had it off with all the blokes in town."
"Not with me, she hasn't." I said.
"Nor me, thank you very much," Kenny said.
"All right, she's had it off with one in every three blokes in town." Badger paused before continuing. "Credit where it's due though, she's not a bad shag."
"Don't let Tommy hear you say that," Kenny said.
"He knows I've done her. About a year ago, just before they started going out together. The four of us went out but he was with Wendy from Middlefield." Badger gave one of his short false laughs. "Ain't it right, there's always something wrong with a woman, always something that will let them down? Wendy was gorgeous with a figure to die for and she was a great laugh but I gave her one once and it was like having sex with a corpse."
"You're sex-mad," Kenny said.
"Yeah, I know but I haven’t found a better hobby yet." Again, Badger gave a burst of his laughter. "Anyway, Vivien,Tommy started seeing her after bumping into her one night at the Labour Club, and…"
"I could really do with another drink." I interrupted badger because I didn't wish to listen to any more bad remarks about Tommy's bride, nor any further mention of Amanda, and I thought it best to change the subject.
"I've got a Party Seven at home," Kenny said.
"What's a party seven?" I asked.
"A big can, I bought in the off-licence yesterday. Seven pints of bitter."
"All back to your place then."
"Look over the road," Kenny said. "What kind of fool lets her out on her own like that?"
I looked across at a young girl walking towards us on the pavement on the other side of the street. She was tall with long shapely legs, wearing a short skirt high above her knees, and a leopard-skin bolero jacket. She looked about the same age as me and the type of girl I fantasised about going out with. I would have liked to cross the road to chat with her but I didn't want to risk the ribbing I would get from my friends if she ignored me.
"I know her," Badger said. "Julie from the record shop." He gave a wolf whistle and shouted across. "Hey, pretty-legs, wanna come to a private party?"
The girl was about to pass on the other side of the road, but she stopped and looked over. "A private party with three lads, I don't think so, Badger," she called. "But have you got a light? My lighter's gone dry."
"I don't believe it," Badger said. "She's just asked me to shag her." Badger looked at Kenny and they both started laughing.
"She only wants a light," I said. "Give us your lighter and I'll go over and give her one."
"Piss off, I'll give her one me self and I'll give her a light as well. You go and find your own ride." Badger trotted across the road calling back over to us. "See ya later, suckers. Enjoy your Party Seven."
Badger set off down the pavement with the girl, both of them smoking her cigarettes, while Kenny and I set off for Kenny's small Victorian terraced house in the town centre.
I sat on the sofa in Kenny's house waiting for Kenny to open the huge can of beer. I noticed a photograph on the coffee table and picked it up. "Cor, that's some photo, Ken. That's you isn't it?" I was impressed. Kenny looked a lot younger dancing with a fit-looking girl whom he launched up above his head as good as any gymnast.
Kenny walked in, took the photograph from my hand and put it in a drawer. "It was a competition we did in Blackpool," he said and walked back out to the kitchen.
"Did you win?" I called.
"Course we did."
"Who was the girl?"
"Mind your own bloody business." I would have liked to know more about the photograph, but because Kenny seemed a bit hostile about it, I decided to let the matter drop. Kenny walked back with two full pint glasses and put them on the table before dropping into the armchair. He just sat down when there was a knock at the door. “That’ll be Badger,” he said. “He’s not the Casanova he thinks he is.”
After helping to dispose of the Party Seven Badger went home but I decided to spend the night on Kenny's sofa. It was a good hour's walk home and because I didn't have to work the following day it hardly seemed worth the effort.
The next day we set off for a lunchtime drink in the bar of The Ring O'Bells which was almost opposite Kenny's house. As we stood waiting to cross the road a driving school car passed. There was a short pip of the car's hooter and Kenny put his hand up in acknowledgement. Although I didn't get a good look at the driver I noticed she was young and blonde.
"Who was that, Ken?"
"That's Lynn, a friend of mine. I know her old chap."
A nice blonde and perhaps soon to get her own car. I was thinking she was the ideal girl for me to date and Kenny knew her. I couldn't let this opportunity pass and thought it must be worth a try. "Can you fix me up with her?" I asked.
Kenny looked at me as if I had swore at him. "No, mate, and if you ever get the chance to take her out you'll need to be on your very best behaviour."
I grinned. "Why's that?"
"Cause if you're not, her dad will knock your bloody head off."
"Oh, bit of a local hard man then, is he?"
"Yes, kid, you bet your life he is."
"Might give her a miss then."
"Might be wise."
"Oh well, like they say, plenty more fish in the sea." But I was wishing the fish would swim my way a bit more often. "Are you off to Liverpool again tonight?" I waited for a reply but Kenny didn't answer. "Why don't me and Badger come with you for a change?" I continued. Kenny often went to Liverpool, but always alone.
"No thanks. I'll go on my own. My mate runs a gym there."
"There's a gym in town, Charlie's. Why don't you use that one?"
Kenny's look showed a kind of contempt for my question. "I wouldn't be seen dead in there with that bunch of posing overdeveloped prats. And the gym up near Meadowview went downhill when Martyn left, it's only for youngsters now. My mate's gym in Liverpool is a proper gym, a fighters' gym."
A fighters' gym, and Kenny has a bit of a reputation for being a fighter but I thought that one gym was as good as another; just somewhere to go and get fit when you were not drinking.
We arrived at the Ring O'Bells and as I walked to the bar the heels of my Cuban-heeled boots clipped on the old quarry tiled floor of the passageway. The old-style inn is more like a big house with a bar in the passage than a busy public house.
I ordered the drinks and nodded to an old man sitting on a barstool at the end of the bar. The men playing dominoes in the large room could be heard arguing; they often came to blows if their partner played the wrong domino. I carried the two drinks into the smaller room where Kenny was checking out the new records on the jukebox. The jukebox sat opposite a large chimney breast giving the room a sort of hourglass effect. The room was empty with no attractive girls I could try to chat with. I sat on a padded bench seat at the far side of the room and Kenny soon joined me having left the jukebox remaining silent.
Although I tried to give the impression I had dismissed any thoughts of involvement with Kenny's blonde friend, she remained firmly in my mind. I looked at Kenny and grinned. "That girl in the car?"