Brian arranges a night out with Tommy.
Kenny asked me to meet him in The Ring O'Bells at seven o'clock on Monday night. I met him as arranged but had no idea why he wanted to meet me so early. Perhaps he had decided, at last, to take me to Liverpool with him. "So, Kenny, what's up?"
"Up, nothing's up, not yet anyway." Kenny gave a laugh. "Just a nice surprise to cheer you up."
"Oh, where we off to then?"
"Nowhere." Kenny looked at his watch. "If she turns up. She's a bit late though."
A huge smile spread across my face as I thought of the learner in the car. It could only be the blonde girl who Kenny knew and Kenny also knew that I had taken a fancy to her. "What are you on about," I said, hoping my thoughts were correct and I was about to meet his attractive blond friend.
We both looked towards the door as we heard the front door slam shut followed by fast footsteps before a girl walked into the room. But it was not the girl who I was hoping for. The girl's makeup, though expertly done, seemed a bit over the top to me and not something I was impressed with. She wore a white chunky roll-neck jumper, with a Hendrix type ring belt pulling it in at the waist as it continued down to her thighs, leaving just a glimpse of her short skirt.
"Brian, this is Sandra, a friend of a friend."
"Sister of a friend actually. Kenny used to goose my sister before she went off to get married. Didn't you, Kenny?"
Kenny ignored the question. "What can I get you?"
I was staring at Sandra's enormous breasts, which were thrusting out from her white jumper like a pair of alpine peaks. I realised that she noticed me looking and I looked away. I knew that she was not the girl for me. She was quite attractive but looked rude, forward, and trampy, a bit like Amanda. I was unsure of her and thinking that just as I was beginning to control my fears and was feeling more confident following my heated caress with Judy, Kenny brings me a girl that could shoot me down in flames again.
"Vodka and orange," Sandra said and sat beside me while Kenny went to the bar. "Do you come here often?" she said after a silent spell. "An old and well-used question but it always gets some kind of response doesn't it?"
"We just come in here to meet up before going off somewhere else."
"Oh, good. I don't fancy staying in this dump."
Kenny came back with the girl's drink and another pint of beer for me. "Just going through for a game of dominoes. See you at the weekend, kid." Kenny grinned and walked off. Sandra and I finished our drinks without much conversation and set off into town to find a more lively bar where we may break the ice a bit better amongst some other youngsters.
"Do you mind if we pop home for my coat?" Sandra said. "I'm getting a bit cold and I don't live far from here."
We were soon at her door and I was hoping she wouldn't be inviting me in. The last thing I wanted was to meet her parents.
"Well, come in then," she said.
"Look, Sandra, I don't want to meet your family."
"Good, because they're not in."
I followed her into her living room and was surprised that it was not as I had expected. It was spotless with expensive furniture and ornaments. We sat on a plush leather sofa and started kissing. My hands wandered onto her breasts as they did with other girls when we had reached that stage. The types of girls I dated usually stopped me from going any further but if they didn't I would find an excuse to break away. Sandra didn't try to stop me and I eased back on my advances but she took over putting me on the receiving end. Her hands were all over me. I didn't like her that much and felt no desire to start a relationship with her, feeling she was not the girl I wanted to remember as my first sexual partner. She was rubbing her hand between my legs. She wasn't loving and gentle, but forceful and rough.
"It's all right," she said. "Don't worry. I'll soon put some life into it." She started to undo my belt. I wanted to stop her and leave but knew I couldn't do that. Sandra might not be the sort of girl to keep things to herself. It could be all over the town and I thought I would be a laughing stock. I heard a motorcycle pulling up outside and I noticed a look of panic on Sandra's face. "Shit," she said. "It's my dad. Come on let's go."
Her father walked in and although not hostile, he ignored me and I felt uncomfortable and I was pleased to agree with Sandra and leave.
The following day an old Class Eight steam locomotive trundled down the bank towards the small Cheshire town with a long tail of wagons following behind squeaking and groaning. I sat in my bib and brace overalls. My feet were resting on the tray above the firebox doors and the billycan of highly stewed tea sat inches away from my boots. I looked up at the boiler gauge glass and then stood up to pour a mouthful of tea into the lid. I swilled the hot dark liquid around my mouth before spitting it out through the cab window.
"Not long to go now, mate," my driver Ernie shouted.
"No," I replied, and suddenly burst into song. "Wooly Bullyeeeee, Wooly Bully." I began dancing around the cab as I sang. "Wooly Bully, Wooly Bully, Wooly Bully, watch it now watch it."
"Wooly Bully, what kind of a song is that, Wooly Bully." Ernie laughed, his laughter brought a smile to my face. It amused me the way Ernie's stout frame joggled up and down as he laughed. "Wooly Bully." He laughed again. "Now here's a better song. A mouse lived in a windmill in old Amsterdam..."
I let my driver sing the first verse before joining in. We were still singing as the train stopped at the station platform where the relief crew took over. The relief gave us strange looks at our choice of a song but they could see the funny side. We walked across to the locomotive depot and signed off duty.
"It's only two o'clock, Ernie. Do you fancy a pint in The Railway Hotel?"
"Oh no, mate, if I go home smelling of beer I'll get the frying pan over me head." Ernie began to laugh again.
I laughed as well. I didn't find the statement particularly funny nor was I laughing mockingly at him, I was laughing with him in a kind of contagious laughter.
I walked over to the cycle shed and took out my father's old rusty bicycle from the rack. I looked at the motorbikes at the other end of the shed and wondered how much longer I would have to wait until I got my own motorbike back. I looked back down at the dilapidated bicycle. My father had dumped it behind the garden shed when he bought his Austin Cambridge motor car and intended to let the scrap men take the bicycle but it had been forgotten until I retrieved it for work after my own cycle was stolen.
I cycled over to The Railway Hotel and left the bicycle in the old stable yard before going through the back door into the public bar. The small L-shaped room was crowded as usual with railway workers but I soon noticed my friend Tommy sitting at the bar with an empty glass.
"Hey up, Tommy, do you want a beer?" I called out as I walked over to join him.
"No thanks, Brian, I'm off home. Vivien's laid up with a bad cold and I only nipped out on the quick for a loaf of bread."
"Don't sell bread here, Tommy."
Tommy lifted a carrier bag from the floor. "Made a bit of a detour on the way."
I called across to the landlord who had just started pulling a pint for me. "Pint for Tommy as well, John."
Tommy shook his head but offered no further protest. "It's a good thing it's my rest day, I suppose. I can help out a bit at home while she's bad."
"Oh yeah, cleaning, ironing, quite the domestic now, aren't we?"
"Yes, all right, but it has its good points doesn't it? Been wed just over two months now and I've no regrets. Anyhow, I see you've moved up out of the shed link and into the spare link with my old driver Ernie. How do you find him?"
"He's all right, better than some of the miserable old sods."
"Well, I was glad to see the back of him. Those silly Christmas cracker jokes and daft songs that he comes out with and that bloody laugh. Give it a couple of weeks and you'll be putting in for swaps just to give your ears a rest."
"I don't think so, Tommy, I think he's quite funny."
"Give it time, kid, and you might change your mind. When the novelty wears off he'll drive you mad." Tommy's beer arrived and he took a large gulp before looking back at me. "Still riding that poxy old bike or have you got the Goldie back?"
"They haven't fixed it yet. They're messing me about, I think. Still, it keeps me fit."
"I bet you don't ride up Warwick Hill though, do you?"
"It's a struggle but I can manage it all right."
"Yeah, I'll bet."
I gave a smile. Every day I thought I would try to cycle to the top of Warwick Hill but I usually gave up and walked the last bit. I nearly made it yesterday. I was three-quarters of the way up and was thinking of getting off and walking when the bakery works bus overtook me. The girls were waving from the windows and I thought I would look weak if I gave up so I persevered until the bus was out of sight before dismounting to continue the last bit on foot. I thought of the girls waving at me from the back window. A blonde girl and a girl that looked like the girl I had seen on the bus to town; the girl that had given me that lovely smile when I was sitting with my mother.
"What are you grinning at?" Tommy said.
"Nothing, just thinking," I replied but carried on grinning. "Why don't you come out tonight? You haven't been out for ages. Viv won't mind and you'd be better off out the way if she's got a cold."
"I don't know, I'll see what she says. Viv likes you so I suppose it'll be all right but if her cold gets any worse then I'll have to give it a miss."
"Right, I'll meet you in The Ring O'Bells at seven o'clock and then if you like we'll go on to Minstrels."
"I'll probably meet you in The Ringers but I'm not going to no club. Closing time and I'm off home, okay." Tommy quickly dispatched the remainder of his drink. "Look I've gotta go, but I might see you later."
I sat and finished my drink before setting off for my bicycle ride home including the climb up Warwick Hill. I was well-pleased that Tommy had agreed to meet me that night.
Tommy left the bar and walked the short distance to his small terraced house. He looked at the chain-link fence over the road and noticed the hole he used as a shortcut across the railway sidings to the locomotive depot had been laced up again. He opened his front door. There was no passage in the house and he walked straight into the living room.
"You've been a long time for a loaf of bread," Vivien said, not bothering to move from the sofa.
"Yeah, I popped in The Railway for a drink with Brian." Tommy looked at his wife as she lay on the sofa, feeling dismayed by the weight she had put on in the short time that they had been married. Her clothes were creased and it looked as if her hair had not seen a brush all day. This was not the rosy future they had sat and planned. This was not how it was supposed to be.
"Oh, how is he? Why didn't you fetch him back for a cup of tea?"
"I wouldn't fetch anyone back to this pig hole. Why don't you tidy up a bit instead of lying there puffing cigarettes all day?"
"You know I've got a cold. How about a bit of sympathy?"
"Sympathy! Maybe you'd feel better if you got up and done something. Why don't you get a job? Christ knows we need the money. They are advertising for girls down at the bakery." Tommy's voice grew louder as he walked out to the back kitchen. He looked through the far door into the bathroom at the pile of dirty clothes spilling over from the basket into the bath.
"I'm not working with that lot. They're all common," she shouted back. "I'll wait for something better."
"You'll wait a long time for a job as a sofa tester," he said. He prepared the sink and made a start on the pile of dirty dishes on the draining board. "By the way, I'm going out with Brian tonight."
"Please yourself, I was thinking about going out myself tonight."
"I thought you were ill?"
"Well, perhaps a few drinks will do me good."
"Perhaps a smack in the mouth will do you good."
"Pardon," Vivien yelled.
"Nothing," he said and carried on with the washing up.