The Four Gifts

Contents

1. The Fabulous Invention of Barnsley (poetry)
2. The Four Songs (short story)
3. The Place For Breath (poetry/prose)
4. The Four Gifts (Forthcoming short novel)

1.The Fabulous Invention of Barnsley

Contents

Accidental Industry

‘Town Without History’

The Fabulous Invention of Barnsley

Afterthought

Accidental Industry

From the wood
laid low too make it plain
and easy working Smithies for iron
two monks discovered and cast aside
black stuff that somehow caught fire,
like their terrified smiles.

Homespun yarns
from Cheshire caused riots among weavers
shreds of whom were given
transportations of terror
like their horrified employers.

Navvies sweat
cut water and rail tracks
for coal to fire
engines revolutions
like their widows grief.

Coal gas came
to blow expanding refractions
of hot faces into fragility
like redundant workers.

‘Town Without History’

How
in 1969 to commemorate
centenary of towns incorporation
Naturalists Association Antiquarian collection
was emptied onto feet
of young boys who kicked
the stuffed birds down Eldon Street.

And how
in Locke Park'{victorian memorial
to Joseph, local
ironroad engineer who
made inrails to respectability.)
a medieval tithe barn
dismantled and stacked
was stolen by cold miners
in a strike.

Old beams became warmth
stuffed birds became play,
linked in becoming
links in belonging;

a new arriving
home to find you have not moved
it’s a new time and place

NOTE: This was published before the brilliant Experience Barnsley was installed in old Barnsley Town Hall

1. The Fabulous Invention of Barnsley

TRACY DESCRIBES HER WEDDING DAY

We chose a day when the sun rising
all red and bruised my brother Jimmy said
like the day was driven to commit suicide
before it was born.
It was brilliant, he said
like it was expecting.

And my ceremony in the church was too.
Dad was all puffed up and sweaty and red.
He was angry at Bill for giving me a child
but I told him it would be a beautiful boy.

When I said ‘I do.’ he was so naffed off
he had a heart attack and died,
and lilies grew out of his wound.

I put them in my bouquet and when I threw it
all petals falling off like dandruff,
Mary caught it.
She’s been blind since birth
and smelt it coming towards her.
She’s always loved lilies.

At the reception
Jimmy had been up all hours.
Suffers from amnesia see. Jimmy
had caught a fish big as a Rover Metro.
At Worsborough Res.
Early in the morning.
And its scales fell off
in dribs and drabs.

We used them for plates.
The meat was tender, melted in the mouth.
The whole town came
and Mr. Prime Minister played Nipsey
with King Arthur at Locke Park
where Bill and I strolled
after the ceremony.

Jimmy and Mary had gone round ‘specially
polishing up the graffiti
till it was like chrome,
all shiny like a new day,
like a beautiful boy,
or so Jimmy said.

BILL DESCRIBES WALKING HIS GREYHOUND

Its always night, the bairn,
gob like a c.d. system on full
screaming till the whole town shakes
and the rest of our street ablaze with his bawling;
cracks in the pavement and sewers,
across the neighbours ceilings
and dishes and plates tummel
on the floor and break into pieces,
like rust on the bottom of our Lada

showing us up. So I leave
Tracy to it. Take Grosvenor Milton Concorde
for a stride and flit down the Dearne,
where it’s quiet and Gonna can run to his hearts …

Porsche of a dog.
Nought to ninety in three seconds.
Streamlined like our Tracy before
we got hitched; as Lozzies exotic pet what scarpered
when we ambushed him bound home,
after school, round here-Tinkers Pond.
Flit as light on water.
Slid away.
Never seen since, though Blind Mary
felt its clamminess courting …

Look there! Gonnas nosing the exact spot.
She was courting Jimmy, the brother-in-law.
We know what she means.
Dirty bitch. Gonna’d be after it , if it was living;
Sharp as a Stanley knife,
sniff out lolly wrappers
as lads know its home-time
and time for egging nests in these bushes,
for screaming, cracking and bawling
and keeping shut down Tinkers.

The whole town knows
it’s more than their lives to call
when anglers are round the Pond.
Silent as the grave what Dearne
is for Lozzie , ‘cos he lost his footing
and drownded , poor mite and him
not more than nine and the water
weren’t more than three feet down.

Jimmy and Mary blames this
slippery bridge,
and crossed over now Lozzie’li be fondling
his exotic pet like some brand spanking motor.

Some shiny spice packets crackling in the grass
and wind slapping oily plastic against rivers side scares the bloody living out of Gonna and me.
Him on edge, what he’s got to be , to be good;
sharp as a float or them anglers round Tinkers
waiting … waiting …
for that yanking line.
and when they do … some break to pieces,
even round here where it’s quiet
and ought might happen
and nobody’d call
any different. Eh Gonna!

MARY DESCRIBES MOVING HOUSE

We’re being repossessd.
We can’t afford the bills.
So it’s out by noon, God willing.
Uprootings hellish.’specially last minute.
And we’ve had this house … What? .. Five years.
Since we married in fact.
And if we had a choice, eh Jim! Violins should be playing now.
Bill and Tracy say they’ll put us up,
while we get sorted. Glorious couple.
Bill’lI be arriving any second now
with that inarticulate van. If he remembers.
(Always does his allotment on Saturdays. )

I just thought, Jim. (forgive us, love.) That photo. of your father you told me about.

It’s still on the mantelpiece.
Make an effort and get it.
Radarl Call it what you like.
I can always tell
when he’s forgot something.
Not like his father.
His dad was an elephant.
a big, red, loud voiced, loud footed,
marvelous man, with a prodigious memory.
But it’s a beautiful picture, according to Jim.
Taken outside Dodworth pit
before it closed and The Old Mammal died.
His dads life was that blessed mine.
Hated every (God forgive me) damn minute.
By Jims reckoning his dad only went down
because he lacked the required qualifications
to better himself at college,
and he had a wife, Jim and Tracy to support.
Jim says the reason lies in him going to college
and coming out with different ideas
but I know it was me.

Thanks ,love.
You can tell it’s Jim.
Quick footsteps. Like he’s forever in a rush.
God forgive me , speaking ill of the dead.
his father could never forgive
and forget his only son marrying a cripple.
Look! Can you see his father there?
You have brought the right one Jim?
What’s he like!
That’s alright then.
It took the pit accident, breaking both his legs
The old man ended his life a shot-firing deputy.
Never go down will you Jim?
Not since The Great Red Elephants last accident.
and Jims overtures to him
to persuade the Prodigious Mammal to retire and put extra effort
into his glorious prize lilies.
Jim fretted himself sick, waiting for them to bring him up.
A week later.
Tracys wedding, in fact. The marvel shuffled off
to the Elephants Graveyard .
Jim’s taken over the horticulture, now.
And Jim doesn’t mind me saying this . in front of folks:
Neither were on speaking terms the last five years.
You retake possession of your past when your forced to move.
In the rush Jim unearthed
a photo of my previous husband.
I thought I’d destroyed them all.
But Jim called me a daft bat
and said he’d not remind me again if with Gods help I forget Bert ever existed .
That’s Bills van!
I can always tell.
Jim told him to reset the points. Hell freezing overs more likely!

JIM DESCRIBES ATTENDING HIS FATHERS GRAVE

He is a gentle man in essence.
I try to arrive five o’clock,
every Thursday. He doesn’t like me late.
My father tells me stories, told to him by the illiterate dead.
I take him my latest lilies.
Fresh out the greenhouse. He advises, with the Creator ofEden, no doubt, putting in his twopenneth too.
I clip the grass round the plot and refill the vase. Sometimes
I have to clean graffiti off the stone.
He tells me when I’ve left a bit.
I think he’s mellowing with age.
I tell him we’ve moved, and what Tracy’s bairn’s christening was like.
She called him Scott, after dads favourite explorer. I’ve told her to watch him like a hawk if he says
He’s popping out and won’t be long.”
There are other Barnsleys beneath the pavement.
Here endeth todays lesson!
But dad’s clued-up already.
Not that Tracys been. She’s too scared to show respect. She’s seen
too many horror movies.

The dead are the most
convivial people you could ever hope to meet.
Most people, like my wife, ignore them or are scared witless like Bill.,.
Now that’s an obscenity!
You deny your own history.
Some person, like dad, set up shop on the Dearne invented the town.
You cannot discover
something if it aint there in the first place.

Land Is History

p>Is a past pitman. Father, a nailmaker whose strong coffin nails  stout fastened the woods  grain swish as land without a skeleton to hold its’ skin.

Both, like open cast places. Redundancy has ripped old features from their faces, old skulls from beneath their skins.

Redundancy within weeks drained the Dearne from arteries, smoothed disused canals from cheeks, wetlands asset-stripped from eyes.

And children sit on father’s knee as on a hill hear how men made hills a sack of land a weight of meaning emptied.

Land no longer propped  by miners hands                               subsides

into history.

The Gold

A SHOCK OF GOLD, Barnsley 1992

Now tha’s got money,
tha’s made. Tha can do owt!”
Me grandad says.
“What were t’name they gave it?”
“Treasure Trove.”

I tell him
and think of
a shock of gold
in blue jeans
who got on bus
no eyes for anyone else
but boy she left
at stop in dark.

“Thas got me mystified.
Finish that Youth Slavery Scheme.”
Me grandad says
“Whatever it’s called!”
“Apprenticeship.”

I tell him
and think of
shock of gold
underground
dug out with spade
sovereigns in glass bottle
plumbing St.Helens Hospital
new start come to light.

“Think of thi-sen ,now.
Your dads redundant,
mam earns a pittance.”
Me grandad says.
“A chance to make
something of yourself.”
“Homeless.”

I tell him
and I think of
shock of gold glistening
upstairs in bedroom
article in paper
where that pensioner
talked of Workhouse.

“If there”s owt I’ve learned.
It”s enjoy thi-sen, while tha can.”
Me grandad says.
” Never owe owt t’ anybody.”
“Breadwinner.”

I tell him
and think of
shock of gold,
rumoured coin
hidden by design,
accidentally a dreamer
spent up like fever,
cleaned out these hands.

Buried Treasure (1830 in doggerel verse)

Industry left these hands again,
Circumstance marooned me
To endure workhouse stain
To tell me I am lazy.

In damp cellar worked a loom,
Bailed water three times a day,
Candles enlightened gloom
Books had something to say.

Small window let in light and air.
Water dropped from eaves.
No drain but my window there
I did as I was leave.

My creed as skilled fancy-weaver
“Give me not poverty, lest I steal.”
Now bring up blood like fever
Do penance on workhouse wheel.

Too many times Ship of Linen
left me like Crusoe castaway
To return God knows how or when.
I thought it was I sinned today.

Strip, search, old clothes aflame
heavy locked door.
Workhouse always same
For destitute and poor.

Towns Improvement Commission
Promises paving, drainage
rich are well provisioned
clean water and sewerage

Dying fools weave tale
Of treasured gold coin
Not beyond the pale
When I get out it’s mine.

Barnsley General Hospital was built on the site of the Union Workhouse

“Abandoned Workings”

Wont give Allowance
cos, too old
but I’m jenned
up on gold

apprentice plumber found
digging hospital ground
here, in paper. 

Nowt to nobdy.
Am not history, yet.
Just pensioner
as can remember.

Tramps ‘casuals’ then.
And real not draft-dodgers and like.
Never seen summer-time.
Come harsh winter came.

Parents to separate dorms,
Children to children’s homes.
Families split up of course
Old folk suffered worst.

Me body abandons workings.
Waterworks last legs.
‘No Mobility’ makes debtor
after forking out  on wheelchair.

Minds not abandoned workings
as ‘casuals’
abandoned belongings
outside Workhouse.

I’m News.
Never been
so busy.
Local historian
says I’m history.

Not. Just pensioner
who remembers
Codgers’ homes not for us,
waste government cash.

Never burden to State.
I carry me sen not Fate

Afterthought

When this brain Is medically dead . will I pray I locked the door?

Or made presentable by morticians knife fret I left the Box plugged in;

Then lowered so others cast first soil or flame-grilled to fine urn ash tell myself I left the oven on;

Or gladly leave this legacy a real reminder how I used to be.

The Four Songs

CONTENTS

1. The Mother, The Best
2. The Electronics Buff: The Wind Beneath
3. The Singer’s Wife
4. The Home Help: You Gave Me A Mountain

1.The Mother, The Best

LINDA APRIL 20TH 1993 </p>

l owe Kath a lot, kid, but there comes a time when you know nothings changed, that you want more.

I think it was the night of her birthday that did it for me.

LINDA NOV. 18TH 1992
~ Doesn’t the bride look beautiful? Ehl Why’s everybody got sad faces? It’s a wedding isn’t it? Her dad’s died! Poor soul. I don’t know why you want to interview me. I’m just an ordinary
housewife. Kath? Move over and I’ll tell you about her. You’ve got a tear in your jeans. Eh! Watch yourself, kid. Half a chance I’ll have ‘em off.

Kath. You won’t tell anybody will you? Will you? Kath took me in when I needed. it. I went to the football club and her son Neil was performing. There wasn’t any seats but she ushered me over and said ‘No need to be on your own lass. Sit with us.’ and I did.
I enjoyed the company, kid.
I told her my name was Linda and she said I know.
0, sorry, kid. I’ve got this habit of touching people when I’m chatting. It doesn’t mean owt.
Anyway I was shocked that people had been talking about me. Did she know something about me? Had she contact with my husband? You know the worries, But she said Don’t fret lass. I’m clairvoyant.
That was a relief.
I told her this night was a one off; that I was more used to sitting on the edge of the bed every .night and not venturing downstairs. Going out rare if ever. This night was a one off when I’d arranged a baby-sitter for my little boy, Ben – You don’t mind children do you, kid ? .. I’d just started one day a week in the market and got some extra cash. Then she told me more about myself than I thought nobody else knew.
When my husband was threatening me .. we’d separated- Kath said Ben and me could stay over at hers. Where do you come from?

KATH INTERRUPTS:- Don’t talk while turns on.

INTERVIEWERS DIARY NOV 18TII 1992 WORKING MEN’S CLUB-SCENE OF KATH’S BIRTHDAY AND WEDDING RECEPTION OF TRACY AND BILL
. Decor reminds me of the film ‘Kes’. That scene in a working men’s club. Purple upholstered chairs. Backdrop of the stage like silver tinsel around Christmas trees. There’s gold tinsel too. Neil, the singer and Buff, his technical help have been heaving the speakers onto the raised wooden stage. Neil checks the sound system and his tapes. He’s been asked to perform at the reception. Likes Neil Diamond: sings ‘Crackling Rosie’ and asks us if the sound is O.K. We say yes. Kath his mother and organiser of the group I’m recording is talking business with the management, She dresses in black, as do the rest of them. Accepted hanger-on wear. (The rest of the group agree with hers and Henry Ford’s notions on the appropriate fan’s colour.) She also wears a jewelled butterfly brooch. Just talked to Linda. She laughs easily and has the kind of smile that makes me weak at the knees. She’s stunning in black leggings and black silk jacket. Would you believe she’s forty? Buff is very protective of her. He moved to sit with us when I introduced myself. He is BIG. With a little encouragement from Linda (She hugged his arm and made it into a joke) he reluctantly agreed to be recorded.

My name? is … er … Buff. Do? Help Neil set up.
Kath? At one of Neil’s gigs. He’d been coping by himself. I think … yes … at the Pheasant. I got up to give him a hand. Been with him since. Kath uses my video and tapes to record Neil on stage.

Linda and Maggie? I go out with them on a Tuesday night. Make sure they don’t get any hassle.

Live? With my parents. Work? Various, checking pipes under houses. Various. Drink? Yes,
It’s a whisky. Linda and Maggie worry I drink too much.

Girlfriends? Once. Not saying.
I’ve got a recorder like that. Let’s have a look.

LINDA TO INTERVIEWER
Kath’s got a dog you know? Haven’t you Kath!

KATH:  Linda, I believe in respect and good manners.

LINDA (whispering to Interviewer) Kath doesn’t like us talking while Neil’s I was saying about Smudge.

– Shhh. While acts on. (Kath smiles while she says this.)

INTERVIEWERS NOTE
The air is cold. Kath greets no one when she enters with Neil and Kerry, his wife· When she sits down she refuses a drink. Everyone says ‘Hello. Happy Birthday.’ Linda introduces me. Kath gives me a cursory glance then she gets up and goes to talk to the Bingo caller.
I ask Linda “What’s wrong?”

She says “Ignore it. Kerry bought Linda something for her birthday she didn’t like.” Kath’s son Neil is all apologetic to his mum but he knows he has a show to put on.

INTERVIEWERS DIARY newspaper extract, wedding photo and piece.
Pictured after their wedding at Barnsley Registry Office are Tracy Lister and William Widdop. Tracy is the only daughter of Mr. and Mrs. Ernest Lister, Green Lane, Gawber and William the only son of Mr. and Mrs. Michael Maudslay, Skinpit Close, Darton. The couple held a reception at High Green Working Men’s Club, High Green, and spent their honeymoon at Mablethorpe.

LISTER, Ernest –
Precious memories of a loving Husband, Dad, and Grandad, who died on November 18 at the Wedding of his daughter.
Words are few, thoughts are deep, Memories of you will always keep.
-From loving wife Ann, daughter Tracy and Bill, son Jim and Mary.

EAVESDROP RECORDING OF WEDDING GUESTS CONVERSATION:</p>

~ What’s to do? We can’t celebrate when her dad’s just died at altar.
~ Be respectful. All we can. Congratulate her and him on their wedding but sympathise at the death of her father .
• When Martha’s son Lozzy died he had a dream. She dreamt that she was the best at growing lilies but they overran her house
~ She’s weird anyroad. Staying in all the livelong …

LINDA NOV 18TH 1992

0, God. Neils playing this again. I hate dancing to this , you know. Be back soon, kid. And don’t watch me dance. I’m awful. You don’t know this, love. You’ve led a sheltered life, kid. It’s called ‘Running Bear.’ Kath likes us to dance it together. All girls, you know.

INTERVIEWERS DIARY NOV l8th 1992
NEIL ON STAGE

‘The next song is for somebody very special to me. My mum.
There is a ripple of applause as Kath stands prompted by Neil. It’s her birthday today.
The applause gets louder.
We hear the introduction to Tina Turner’s ‘Simply the Best’ and when Kath gets up to dance for the first time that evening all the lasses get up. Linda asks me whether I mind. It doesn’t make any difference to me and I am surprised that she’s asked such a question. We are not that close yet.

I call you, I need you,
My heart’s on fire.

Neil is looking at Tracy, the bride. Kerry dancing with the other girls acts as if she hasn’t noticed. I glance over at Buff who leans over as if I’ve given a sign I want to talk to him. Tracy is dancing without Bill. She’s dancing with her girlfriends. She smiles at him and whispers something into her friends ear. They giggle.

You come to me, Come to me, Wild and wired.

And all the girls in the hanger-on group are making fists and pushing out their pelvises while pumping their elbows behind their waists in unison as in ‘The Timewarp. ‘ Maggie puts a lot of oomph into it. Linda looks across at me and makes it look as though she is only doing it because the rest of the group are.

Oh, come to me,
Give me everything I need.
Give me a lifetime of promises, And a world of dreams.

Linda is looking straight at me and smiling. Kath whispers something to her. Linda gives me a glance as if to say, ‘Kath’s at it again.’

Speak the language of love, Like you know what it means.
It can’t be wrong,
Take my heart and make it strong, babe.

And all the girls in Kath’s group join in the chorus holding hands and looking at each other. I feel apart from everybody’s warmth and desolate inside, as if this companionship is something I’ve always wanted to be a part of. Then I quickly remind myself that I am an Interviewer and can allow myself these feelings so long as they don’t affect my work. I have a job to do.

You’re simply the best, Better than all the rest, Better than anyone, Anyone I’ve ever met.
I’ve stopped on your heart,
I hang on every word you say, Don’t tear us apart,
Baby I would rather be dead, You’re the best.

Tracy bursts into tears and runs out the room, closely followed by her mother.

it’s in your heart, It’s in the start, Of every night, And every day.

EAVESDROP RECORDING OF WEDDING GUESTS CONVERSATION:
– Would you credit it? Wedding and bloody funeral same day!
– Decorum please. Just got to treat it right. Like Martha did at Lozzy’s, Though she went a bit crazy after. She was the best mother a lad ever had. Some say he was adopted.
– And seen the groom, Brought his greyhound along. I ask you! A dog at a wedding!
Who’s club act? That his mother over there?

INTERVIEWERS DIARY NOV 18TH 1992
In your eyes, I get lost,
I get washed away.
Just as long as I’m here in your eyes, I could be in no better place.
Each time you leave me, I start losing control.

Kath takes up a position dancing in the eye-line between Linda and myself.

You’re walking away,
With my heart and my soul.
I can feel you,
Even when I’m alone.
Oh, baby, You’re my goal.

LINDA TO INTERVIEWER
Kath has been right about all of my relationships with men. She warned me about my last husband,
‘Watch out for him lass! He will want to control you’.
…. Then he was violent to me. He tried to make my mends hate me. Told them lies. Said to them ‘She’s told me “I don’t want anything to do with them.” Then he tried to take Ben away from me. She told me my last boyfriend was a drunkard. She was right. He tried to make me sen my house, to him! You’re not like that are you?

Don’t let Kath get her claws into you. Yes, you’re right. Once she’s got a lever on you she’ll use it. She invites me to Sunday lunch and the following day gets Buff to phone me up, to ask me if I want to see Neil perform again. And because she’s given me lunch I feel obliged. Don’t let her get her claws into you.
She’s spoilt Kerry’s evening. In the toilets Kerry told me Kath has told her ‘If you want to stay with my son pay more attention to my likes and dislikes, madam. ~ Reduced Kerry to tears.

INTERVIEWERS NOTES
At the end of the evening Neil has to do three encores. One of these features ‘Wind Beneath My Wings’ by Bette Midler. Linda asks me up to dance this one slowly with her.
As we are all putting our coats on, Kath says to the assembled group,
” I am putting a charity gig on for Thomas Darfield, next Sunday. He suffers from luckaemia. You will be there won’t you?
Neil will be competing”
Linda smiles at me and says “Do you want to come back for coffee?”

2. The Electronics Buff: The Wind Beneath

LINDA’S PHONE CALL TO INTERVIEWER NOV 22ND 1992

Buff’s downstairs, love.
I don’t know how to get rid of him.

What’s Buff been saying to you?

You’ve got to watch Buff. Don’t let him scare you. He doesn’t scare you does he, kid? He sometimes says things that aren’t true. No, I’ve never been with him. And no I don’t fancy him if that’s what’s been worrying you.

Buff walked me home, kid. He’s downstairs now, playing with Ben and the dog. I don’t know what to say to him, love. He’s capable of anything, and you know how strong he is. He’s kind walking me home but I can’t talk to him like I can talk to you. The last song that I dragged him up to dance was one of your favourites. ‘Wind Beneath My Wings.’

I only need him up here in case He, you know -my last husband,shows his face. Like He does when I’m not expecting it. And the dogs no bloody use. I wish Ben would look after it more. Take it out and feed it. He’s old enough now. And the sofas full of dog hairs. Every time I go through the front room I’m picking up bloody hairs. And it costs to feed it. It’s eating everything in sight. All it’s rubber toys have lost their squeak, Thank God. Sorry God for blaspheming. But He understands doesn’t He? I think it eats them. Buff bought him a new plastic bed that’s on it’s way out. I’m at the end of my bloody tether. The gardens a mess with him digging his way out and Ben’s always afraid that the dog will scarper out the front door whenever anybody opens it. Like his last one did and we never saw it again.
I wish I could get everything straight in this house.

BUFFS CONVERSATION WITH INTERVIEWER NOV 18TH 1992

No, it’s OK. I’m getting her a drink. And something special she likes. I always buy the girls a Pepperami. Yes, it’s a Pepprami, kid. Linda likes one with her half lager. What do you want, kid? No, I insist.
What do you think of Lindas bedroom, kid? The bed’s a bit hard, eh! Make sure you treat her right. You’ll have me to answer to, if you don’t.

INTERVIEWERS DIARY NOV 18TH 1992

The way she eats a Pepperami puts the Flake advert to shame. Carefully peeling off the see-through wrapper as if it was a condom. I felt embarrassed and excited. She just laughed when she looked at me and licked around the stick before the quick dip over the lips into her mouth.

Neil was on stage singing ‘Fever’. He’d got a lass to sit on a chair he’d placed in the middle of the stage. Then he’d switch the tape deck on and gyrate his thighs and put his leg on the chair suggestively. He always picked one of the fatter lasses. All her mates were giggling. I felt embarrassed for her. I asked her afterwards what she felt. Said I was doing a radio programme on Club singers. She said ‘It’s a bit of fun int it. Makes the night. ‘

LINDAS PHONE CALL TO INTERVIEWER NOV 22ND 1992

A bloody dog attacked me on the way home. I know the owner. He was at the Club when that couple got married. Dog were called Gonna and came at me. Buff got in it’s way. Bill, that’s the name of the owner. Anyway he calls out ‘Gonna ’11 not hurt thee lass. Will tha fella.’ While the dog were up at me face barking like hell. I had a notion to take Bill aside and ask if I could borrow his dog for the duration. Lot better than that bloody soft animal we’ve got downstairs. No, daft sod I’m not talking about Buff, love. Any way Bill took me to one side and said ‘He’s back. Him and his mates were driving around in a car. Only r l ee t Lngc., Don’t know what he was doing round here.’ There’s only one rea”n« for Him to be round here. Me. Mark my words. He’ll be visitIng. God am I glad Buff came back with me.

BUFF’S CONVERSATION WITH INTERVIEWER NOV 23RD 1992

Yes, I go out with Linda and Maggie on a Tuesday night. What’s it matter?
I can handle myself. Last Tuesday in the men’s bogs at Wath two lads either side of me. Saying things like ‘Lass int leggings and-black jacket is a bit of alright. Wouldn’t push her out o’bed in a hurry. Tha won’t mind would tha, mate. Their our shout and going to waste with thee.’ I slammed ’em agin the wall and gave ’em what for. Linda and Maggie got no more trouble rest of night. Listen lad I’ll not have anybody hurting them, alright. OK, kid. Just so long as you know.
I get angry. S’why I don’t drink. As much as I have done when I were younger. I can handle myself, kid. You’ve no worries on that score.

LINDAS PHONE CALL TO INTERVIEWER NOV 22ND 1992

How am I to get rid of him? I tell him ‘It’s time I went to bed Buff.’ Not being offensive or ought and he totally ignores me. Or just laughs it off. How do I do it? Yes, without offending him. Cos he’s a good mate, really. I know he comes on a bi t strong and I can’t cope with it right at this minute. I’ve told him again and again and again’that there’s nought between us, but he just won,t listen. I mean I’ve asked him to lose a bit of weight. I couldn’t fancy him the state he’s in. You know the kind of men with bodies I fancy, don’t you?

I wish he’d drink less. Cos me and you know he drinks too much. And that puts on weight doesn’t it? And it’s bound to affect his heart int it, love? He told me tonight that he’s been having dizzy spells. I told him · Get to a Doctor!’ But he says he won’t cos all they’ll tell him to do is lose weight.
I mean I’m going to have to cut down. I can only afford cheap cans from Lateshopper, as you know from those you brought up last night. You know, 3% gravity. He bought some to bring up, but he drinks so slow. He’s put t i ng in another phone for me, upstairs. For if He comes again and unplugs them. Then I can get Ben to come up here. Send him out of the room so he can switch the alarm on the new phone.

INTERVIEWERS NOTES 21ST NOV 1992

Her house was situated in a cul-de-sac. The last one at the end of the road. Her window looked out on the moors.
Inside the decor was sparse but comfortable. The cassette player was opposite the sofa. There was a wooden coffee table in front of the sofa, under which were piles of magazines and newspapers. The mos t noticeable magazine was Cosmopoli tan. ‘How to improve the intensity and frequency of your orgasms’. Lying crisp and clean on the table when I arrived. Also on the table was an ash tray and one of those spindly plants that does not need water. The dogs tail kept brushing the tendrils of the plant as it flapped past in a friendly wag. Linda shouted ‘Kitchen!’ to the animal who cowered before her voice and retreated through the open plan to the kitchen, passing through the dining room. I sat on the sofa because there was Ben’s Micro machines and coat on the single chair. When the dog was let out through the French window in the ‘Games’ room which con tained Ben’s Snooker cum Pool table she told me ‘Watch him like a hawk. He digs up the garden plants.’ He’s Border Collie cross, black and white, and fit as a rake. He’s still a youngster and cowers at Lindas word. I’ve seen her throw him across the room when he couldn’t control his bowels and she’d just had a visit from Him. She said ‘It’s not my dog but Ben’s. Bloody useless when it comes to protecting us. ‘
I smel t “Cluuie I NO.5’. The cassette player was playing a collection of soft and slow songs. There was the fragrance of furni ture polish from the table. She came through from the kitchen. She was dressed in black leggings I’d not seen before. They had a Celtic curvilinear pattern to them. The swirls went up her thighs. She came through with a bottle of liebfraumilsch and two glasses. Sat down by the side of me brushing my thighs with her elbow as she settled the glass down and poured me some wine.

EXTRACT FROM CONVERSATION BETWEEN BUFF AND THE MOTHER AT WATH WORKING MEN’S CLUB

KATH: You haven’t brought it then. The blank tape.
BUFF: I thought you wouldn’t be taking so many pictures.

KATH:  And I told you always to bring some reserve film along with you. Didn’t I ?
BUFF: Yes Kath. Yes you did.

LINDAS PHONE CALL TO THE INTERVIEWER NOV 22ND 1992

I know Kath treats Buff badly. He’s the one that buys the film she uses. It’s his video camera she’s filming with all the time.
He’s got a sheltered life, love. Still lives with his mother and from what I’ve heard she’s very strict. He’s only been out with one lass that I know of. His mother disapproved. Kept calling her a whore and said ‘My son deserves better than you!’
I know he’s very lonely but he’s no right to keep hanging on me all the time. I can’t help him. That’s what I say, love. He’s got to get out of it himself.
And Kath uses him, like she uses me and you, when she needs extra folk to fill up the taxi when they’re going to see Neil. He gives me a ring and asks me whether I’m going. I can’t see why Kath don’t phone herself. That barking you can hear and Ben’s laughter is cos Buff’s brought dog up another toy.
Buff’s at the end of his tether with Kath. She’s told him if he don’t buck his ideas up he’ll never get a lass. She’s naffed off with him he says because he won’t let her use his video camera again. He’s told her ‘If you want. Apologise.’ He told me ‘I can get back at Kath anytime I like. I’ve got the leads for Neils setup on stage and if she tries ought I can make sure he never performs again. So I’m not under the thumb like you think, Linda. ‘
He’s been meeting me off the bus when I come in from college but you know last time I stayed over at your place he was waiting then and was very angry with me for not telling him. He can arsehole. I’m not letting him dictate my private life. And when he’s walked me up he expects a cup of tea and constantly overstays his welcome. I’ve told him ‘I can’t afford to give you any dinner.’ All he says is ‘No worries. I’ll get some snap from Lateshopper on the way up.’ And if I put too little sugar in his tea or coffee he laughs and says ‘I’ll train you up, lass.’ which I hate. He can be so bloody patronising.

INTERVIEWERS NOTES 21ST NOV 1992

We talked and drank and drank and talked. Later she brought through a can of lager for us to share and then another. She put her feet on my lap and her head to my neck while we were talking.

I started to trace the patterns on her leggings gradually following the curves further and further up her thighs. The pattern curved into her thighs and out again. I followed figures of eight and said. ‘This is the symbol of eternity, you know. ‘
‘Yes. ‘ she replied, kissing my neck and I had to hold her back while she did it to s top her from falling backwards on to the rest of the sofa.

LINDAS PHONE CALL TO THE INTERVIEWER NOV 22ND 1992

Every time we go out with the gang to see Neil Buff waits in the taxi till everyone has been dropped off and it’s up here for me. I think he expects to be invited in for coffee. Well he’s not. He can arsehole. He’s always got excuse for coming up that he’s got a new cassette he’s recorded for me, or repairing my broken video.
Last time he left he said ‘I’ll only go if you give me a kiss.’ So I kissed him on the cheek. And the next time he said the same thing, you know how he repeats himself so you can’t have a proper conversation. Anyroad, this time he says ‘I’ll only go if you give me a proper kiss, this time.’ And laughed and took me in those great hulking arms of his almost squeezing the living breath out of me. I told him straight ‘You’re hurting me.’ He let go and I never gave him what he asked for I just told him ‘It’s very late and I’m very tired Buff so can you please go!’
And he’s waiting downstairs now. What am I to do?
I wish you were up here. You’re much better at words than I am. You said you were painting a picture of the moors for me. How’s it coming on? Oh, really. I don’t really want to face him downstairs, right now. It’s alright for you you’re a man. I’ll have to think of something to get rid of him. I’m going to college tomorrow I could tell him I’ll meet him off the bus then tell him to go after his cup of tea because you’re coming up. You wouldn’t tell him would you? I can say that can’t I? I know it sounds like a lie and God wouldn’t like it. But he don’t mind small ones, does he?

INTERVIEWERS NOTES 21ST NOV 1992

After a while when she went to change the cassette, she went to the dimmer sw i tch and turned it down and said f I don’t like harsh light, do you? We kissed but I was a bit too soon with my tongue and she said ‘Not yet. ‘ quietly but firmly.
As we stroked each others skin she was lifting up my shirt from out of my jeans and I began to do the same to hers. Her body was warm and fresh smelling. I eased my hand through to her breasts. The elasticity of the bra dug into my skin as I did so. She moved my hand to her breasts again saying ‘This is what turns me on. Do it some more. I’ll teach you. Grasp it between you’re thumb and forefinger and twist, gently. That’s it.’ I started to experiment twisting and pulling the teat away from her body at the same time. This seemed to evince even more excitement. So I thought I was going along the right route. I started to move my hands under her leggings and thought how easy they were to remove when tight jeans would mean a lot of pushing and pulling, and generally stopping the other activity, such as her massaging of my earlobes with her tongue.

LINDA TO THE INTERVIEWER THE NEXT NIGHT WHEN SHE ASKED HIM TO COME ROUND

I asked Buff to go because it’ was late and said I’d see him tomorrow like I told you. He went quietly.
Ben opened the door to Him while I was ironing in the dining room. I had just sent Buff away. Ben heard the door I didn’t. When he came through the door with His Minder. I shook. They were in suits and I could see the car parked at the bottom of the drive with others in suits inside. Everything he says is a command. I just have to do. it.
I said ‘What you doing here?
And who’s he? What right has he to come into my house?’
He’s my Minder. Now stop what you’re doing. Put that iron down. I still love you. Now come and sit on the couch and explain to me again why you sent me away. What did I do?
You know what you did! You tried to isolate me from my family and my friends. You tried to take Ben away from me.’
Now, Linda. I love you. I would never do something like that. I asked you to see a psychiatrist. Nod if you agree with me Linda? That’s my baby.
What’s he doing? He was unplugging the downstairs phone.
Stay where you are Linda! He’s just making sure we don’t get disturbed. You wouldn’t want to get in touch with anybody, would you. I’m the one that loves you.
Mum.
Ben should not be here. Ben go upstairs. I’m not having my son hear this.

Go upstairs Ben. husband.
I divorced you.
Your mother doesn’t want you to be with her

Now if I loved you why would I want to harm you. You are speaking nonsense again. Aren’t you Linda? Now if you were of a sound mind you would not speak nonsense would you? I am right. You are wrong. Check the door.

There was a knock at the door. His Minder answered it. A policeman entered. He didn’t flinch. He just turned to me and said’ There’s no need for this.’ and as I stood up John came between us.
My friend John, asked him ‘What are you doing here?’
He answered ‘I was about to ask you the same question officer. There is no need for alarm I am having quiet word with my wife. Is that a crime?
You are divorced are you not?
My ex- wife, yes, officer.
If it is a quiet word then what is he doing here?
He’s his Minder and he unplugged my phone.
Is this true?
He’s just a friend.
So there is no reason for him being here then. And no reason for you unplugging the phone?
No officer.
And John bundled the Minder out the door saying ‘Join your mates in the car, lad,’
When he returned he asked me ‘Do you want him here?’
I said ‘No.’
And John politely asked Him to leave. Which He did. John said he would have extra patrols round the area to make sure He never returned. 0, I’m frightened. I don’t know what to do. I’ve asked Buff to collect me from the bus this time and he says he’s prepared to stay over. It’s too far for you to travel int it? I’m worried what the neighbours ’11 be saying. All these men coming to the house. I’ll be getting my first husband, Ben’s father, saying there’s too many men in Ben’s life. What’s it got to do with him? Exactly. You’re more sensible than I am. What should I do?

3. The Singer’s Wife

BUFF TO INTERVIEWER MAR 15th 1993

It is a cold early evening. Buff is leaning on the bar of The Pheasant, ordering another glass of Malt Whisky to wash down his pill. He wears a T-Shirt saying ‘I’m Mad, but it helps’ and a pair of faded blue jeans. He speaks in a quiet, firm tone but has a tendency to mumble into his glass.
I gave him the benefit of the doubt. It weren’t important, kid, so I told her. I thought nothing could destroy what they had so solid. It’s tablets from the Doctor for my heart condition. I’ll kill you if you say owt, to any of them. I’m telling you in confidence. And I’m not joking, kid.

INTERVIEWERS NOTES MAR 1ST 1993

When the magic goes it’s time to move on. Linda and myself, Neil and Kerry.
Neil is deteriorating.
His face and stomach are getting fatter.
His shirts no longer billow so much as contain. He sweats on stage.
His thighs are gaining more weight, so his movements are laboured
The voice quivers more often, and he can’t hit the highest or lowest notes as he did last year.
His marriage is falling apart.
His singing of ‘Fever’ has no sex in it.
Reasons?
I try not to judge, but to let people speak for themselves. I’m an editor of experience.

INTERVIEWERS NOTES NOV 27TH 1992

Neil always asks Kerry up when he sings the last slow songs, takes her in his arm and croons into his mike. Neil is slim, wears tight black trousers and shirts made by his mum. They emphasise his broad shoulders. He wears a series of short, bolero-type jackets throughout the evening’s three sets. On the last set the jacket is gold to suit the rock n’ roll.

You can see the light in Kerry’s eyes when Neil performs. The only difficulty is Kath, Neils’ mother. When he performs and they’re both there, they compete for his affections. Usually when we meet them at the Club there is a tense atmosphere. A kind of fall out from a row: as there was at the wedding when Neil sang ‘Fever’ while eyeing up Tracy, the bride. It takes the rest of the night for the relationships to get on an even going on again.

LINDA TO INTERVIEWER NEW YEARS EVE 1992

It is freezing night outside. Ten o’clock and we sit in a West Yorkshire Working Mens Club. The rest of the group are dancing to ‘Simply the Best’ by Tina Turner, sung by Neil. Linda is taking a sip of her half lager. She is dressed in black leggings with a curvilinear design, a black silk jacket which hides her recent putting on of weight, and is wearing ‘Chanel NO.5’. Her speech is deep, smoky, and giddy:
When I find the right man for me I want it to be like what Neil and Kerry have, love. You understand, don’t you love?
Hold me tight.

INTERVIEWERS NOTES FEB 20TH 1993

Neil’s coming on stronger to Linda and Maggie now as if he wants confirmation that his looks aren’t going. He’ll find it difficult with Linda. I tried to tell her I would not be staying but she kept describing how her other men had left her at a time of need and I wouldn’t do that would I? And yet in the same breath describes how she asked these men to leave.
I’m confused.
A good interviewer should be detached.
I’ve broken my ideal: Never get personally involved.
Lindas said If I don’t feel something’s right I move on. Is that bad of me?’ Of course I said ‘No, it isn’t. ‘

WEDDING GUESTS CONVERSATION

– When she was deep into her grieving, Martha dreamt that her son was a Lada.
– A what!
-A Lada. You know what the Russians made.
– Lager.
– That’s right. Anyroad. Her son being this Lada, and her having never driven he takes
control.
– Her son, the Lada. What’s she been on? Jungle juice?

RECORDING OF CONVERSATION BETWEEN LINDA AND NEIL 20TH FEB 1993

As Neil brings over his third pint in his first break singing at Barugh Green Working Men’s Club while the others are playing Bingo Linda calls to him:

Neil! I’ll dance a slow one with you. You don’t mind do you (to Interviewer)? It’s because Kerry isn’t here this time.
I’ll dance with anybody that looks as good as you, Linda.
I’ll dance with anybody that looks as good as you, Neil.

INTERVIEWERS NOTES DEC 20TH 1992

An attractive woman ordered a drink from the barman ‘Can I have a Woodpecker?’ Neil asked her ‘A flesh one do?’ Kath, his mother, thought that was wit at speed and looked proud of her son while looking straight at me.
The working men’s clubs are not a pint of bitter and a good singer laced with Bingo. The big 13 is laced with the other two. The singer is not appreciated.

MAGGIE TO INTERVIEWER FEB 15TH 1993

Blue-eyed, tall and vivacious on a wooden stool, Maggie speaks huskily in her kitchen, situated in a run-down housing estate. Her thin legs emphasised by the tight blue jeans and white T-shirt with the message ‘Electric Dynamo’.
You can’t say it was only ‘Fever’ broke their marriage. It din’t do it no good though. And I’ll only tell you if you promise it’ll go no further. We agreed that night – Linda, Kath, Buff and me – that Kerry needn’t know about Neils indiscretion. And you don’t go spouting it off. I don’t want Kerry or Neil finding out I’ve told you, right! OK, then.
It was in January. Early. Kerry wasn’t there. He chose this lass from the audience. Usually, he chooses the fattish ones. Well, she most definitely was not that. Wore one of those dresses split right up to her Mufty. It was meant to look and it did! Well, he’s set a chair at the centre of the stage. And she sits down on it , but you could see the way she looked at him Light in her eyes, burning right through him. Anyway he asked her her name , she said Samantha. He turned ‘Fever’ on, by Peggy Lee. You know the one. 0, you don’t! Showing my age again, aren’t I love? Flatterer. He always does it like, a bit of fun. Anyroad he starts off;
Samantha
Never know how much I love you Never know how much I care
When you put your arms around me I get a fever that’s so hard to bear.
I light up when you call my name,
And you know I’m gonna treat you right. Sun lights up the daytime
Moon lights up the night.
Swinging his hips round the chair where she’s sat, legs open, revealing more than modesty. Like I do, kid. It’s indecent, I know, but I’ve noticed you noticing. But, Linda and myself have got an agreement. We never touch each other’s fellas.
Anyroad he’s gyrating. Giving it a bit of bump and grind, singing

You give me FE- VER
when you kiss me Samantha
FE VER when you hold me tight FE VER in the morning,
FE VER all through the night.
And she hauls him down to sit astride her on the chair.
Everybody’s got the FE VER. That is something you all know.
FE VER isn’t such a new thing FE VER started long ago.

And there’s us watching, like Kath tells us to. You know what she’s like, kid. And we can see Neil’s enjoying the attention. What man wouldn’t? He’s giving it some snog. Giving it some welly. And we’re all gobsmacked. Like we haven’t seen him enjoy himself so much for ages!

WEDDING GUESTS CONVERSATION

-Queer int it! What folk dream.
-Her son taking control because she doesn’t know how to drive.
-Exactamundo!
-Wonder what dreams Tracy be having marrying Bill?
– Bill’s a Porsche under his bonnet!
– Wild and untamed, I know!

LINDA TO INTERVIEWER 20TH FEB 1993

You didn’t mind me slowdancing with Neil did you? I really didn’t like it. He’s fatter. Sweaty. You’ve noticed haven’t you?
Neil’s started staying over at Maggie’s. Now you know. And you won’t tell anybody, will you? Kath’s sweating blood. If I didn’t have a reason for speaking to Kath I wouldn’t. She won’t speak to Maggie. Says ‘I don’t to whores. I
Feels betrayed!
As if.
Mag’s just recovering from Gaz. She don’t want no extra hassle. I’ve been nursing her tears till three in a morning. She says she’ll never let any man as close again.
Sure, her and Kath who’s a married woman, mind – say love ’em and leave ’em. And I know of one occasion when Maggie did that to one visiting Club band when we wanted to speak to them in their dressing rooms she was dragged off, all smiles, to this room and was cleaning up her makeup and straightening her clothes and saying ‘God, that was good arse.’- but she wouldn’t want any extra hassle from Kath.

MAGGIE TO INTERVIEWER FEB 15TH 1993

Anyroad she won’t let him go and he’s singing
Romeo loved Samantha, Samantha she felt the same,
When he put his arms around her, he said, “Sammy, baby, you’re my flame”
And she chimes in ‘0, baby!’ Well, we all cracked up. Falling about. And he’s singing 0, Thou givest fever, when we kisseth
FE VER with thy flaming youth
FE VER-I’m afire
FE VER -yea, I bum for sooth.
‘Anytime, baby!’ she answers and all of us can hear her and she’s not drunk or owt. She’s taken his zip down on those tight black trousers of his and he’s got one hand holding that mike with the extended flex and caressing her hair with the other – hand. We were killing ourselves.
The smile on his face! Before he realised there’s the rest of us ogling on, like. You could of fried a full English Breakfast on his face. Could we ten his wife, you know Kerry, the next night? Could we ‘ell us. Anyroad to finish me tale. He got to that bit in the song …

LINDA TO INTERVIEWER FEB 20TH 1993

I know Neil’s a looker. I’ve fancied him myself. But us girls have an agreement. ‘Hands off your mates bloke’.
0′ I know me and you aren’t at the moment, but Maggie’s not your type of woman is she? There you are then.
She’d eat you alive. And if Neil comes up here for comfort while he’s away from Kerry, I’ll tell him what situation is.
Kerry’s been ringing me up, anyway. We’re good friends. Me and her. She’s told me how he’s been treating her. We’ve got a lot in common.

LINDAS RESPONSE TO KERRY ON THE PHONE FEB 13TH

… And he wont talk to you about it. Just walks off. Goes down the pub or out with his mates. You can hear me laughing ‘cos I know what you’re saying. Remember.
You’ve been speaking to Buff.
Aye, and if you can’t trust one another … what’s the use? And every time you call Kath’s she won’t speak to you. You and her have never had a good going on. Have you?
No, Neils not been up here.
You’ve been having a word with Buff?

NEIL TO INTERVIEWER FEB 10TH

Neil is leaning on the bar of ‘The Woolhall’ into his fifth pint of lager. It is three o’clock in the afternoon. Blue denim shirt and jeans, and a gold stud in his right ear.
Look, man, I told her (His wife Kerry) last week ‘If we can’t trust each other,- that – we may be- need some time – apart.’
I didn’t even get the benefit of the doubt. She’d heard about that time at Swinton Club. You know when that lass came on strong to us. Followed us into the mens bogs. I tried to explain, but somebody had told her. I’ll bloody kill them. Maggies one of the few that understands.

BUFF TO INTERVIEWER MAR 15TH 1992

All I said to Kerry was ‘Neil had to deal with a keen fan singing ‘Fever’ at Swinton Club.’
She asked for some details and I said’ Ay! a lass.’
Loads of lasses fancy him, but he knows where he’s best off. 0, I know he likes talking of his conquests. What man doesn’t? And for telling her I get Coventry from Linda, Maggie and Kath.

LINDA TO INTERVIEWER 20TH FEB

Well, I didn’t know what to say. Kath don’t know Keny’s been ringing me. If Kath gets wind of this I’ll never get back the money she owes me. There you know now! Don’t you say anything, will you? I’m being serious now! None of them know it. Apart from you, Kath and me.
I don’t know how Kerry heard about ‘Fever’, or whether she’s known all along what he’s like and tried to change Neil.
I just don,t know.
We all use each other, eh kid!

MAGGIE TO INTERVIEWER FEB 15TH 1993

Captain Smith and Pocahontas had a very mad affair
When her daddy tried to kill him, she said, “Daddy-o don’t you dare. ”
And he looks at her his hand on her breast now and shouts to the audience. “Dare I?” Well at that she got all red faced and started to push him away and him singing
Give me a fever, with your kisses, FE VER when you holds me tight. FEVER – Your my Missus,
Oh Baby won’t you treat me right.

She eventually pushed him off and he turned round to us as if Neil had gone off and
finished song.
Now you’ve listened to my story Here’s the point that I have made Chicks were born to give you FEVER Be it fahrenheit or centigrade.
They give you FEVER, when you kiss them. FEVER, if you Jive and learn
FEVER- till you sizzle.
What a lovely way to bum.
And said’ A round of applause for Samantha!’ And she got off stage as embarassed as owt. Mind you that weren’t the end of it!
She followed him into the men’s toilets-his changing rooms-you know how it is, darling. Wen, Neil’s a typical man. He tends to exaggerate. As far as any of us can gather that was the only way he could think to get rid. So he could leave without hassle. Boy, he’s a warm ‘un.

MAGGIE TO INTERVIEWER MAR 21ST 1993

Red faced and walking in a deliberate way Maggie has seen me coming out of Lateshopper with my groceries.
Here, lad! Oi!
There were only a few people knew about ‘Fever’. I’ve known Buff and Linda yonks.
They’d not say ought so it must ‘ave been thee told Kerry. Why? What’s tha got to gain out destroying them. EH!EH!
Tha nothing thee. Nought.
Move on.
Betray the trust Linda’s given thee.
Prying into folks’ business where tha’s no right to be. Go fuck thee sen.

4. The Home Help: You Gave Me A Mountain To Climb

INTERVIEWER’S NOTES LINDA’S BIRTHDAY
They enter the pub in dribs and drabs. They look at one another as if surprised. As if each have led separate lives for the last few months. They greet me as a stranger. I have not seen them for a month or two myself.

LINDA TO INTERVIEWER

When Ben’s old enough I’d like to sell up. Sell this house and use the money on a trip around the world. Would you come with me, darling?

INTERVIEWER NOTES

I heave the speakers through the pub door and onto their stands. There is no Buff. Neil plugs in the appropriate leads. He plays Neil Diamonds ‘America’ to test the sound levels. He does not check the sound is right with the group. He has a beard.

KATH TO GROUP

The group’s dead. I said at the wedding you’d all leave me, and I was right.

INTERVIEWERS NOTES LINDAS BIRTHDAY

Neil is getting a beer belly and his notes keep failing.
He sang Linda’s favourite song. ‘You gave me a mountain.’ by Marty Robbins.

Born in the heat of the desert My mother died giving me life.

 Deprived of the love of a father,

blamed for the loss of his wife.

The rest of the group joined in with Linda for the chorus:

This time, Lord you gave me a mountain to climb A mountain that I can never climb.
It isn’t a hill airy longer.
You gave me a mountain this time.

WEDDING GUESTS CONVERSATION

– You know the first dream Martha had about her son Lozzy’s death had a talking dog in it.
– A dog!
– Ay and it were called Death.
– Death.

NEIL
I’m sorry lad for having a go at thee. I know, now Linda’s had a word, that you can be trusted.
I’ve heard the aggro and hassle she gets from Buff. You can’t trust him, you know. He’s even tried it on with me. I couldn’t laugh at him, kid, but I came close, and we always thought he had such a good heart, you know.

WEDDING GUESTS CONVERSATION


– And it were going to tell her how Lozzy died, but she woke up.
– Is this supposed to help us cope with Ernest’s death? ‘Cos it aint.

MAGGIE TO INTERVIEWER

I don’t want Linda under Kath, like me, love. She’s got to get some other life.
Kath took me in after my last husband left me for dead.
Kath couldn’t do without me. I’m’ The One Who Did’ for her: washing-up, washing, cleaning her house, cooking her meals.
She’s mostly on the phone organising Charity events for poor sods like the one who suffered from leukaemia, remember, she asked us to go at the wedding. Anyroad she also takes in troubled young ‘uns. She used to record other acts with Buffs video camera and send them to television and radio. But now-she’s seen Buff’s true colours she’s caught betwixt and between.
I’ve got a large family. Three teenage daughters with husbands and children all in and out of our house. I’ve got five other children as well. I couldn’t cope with Kath and The Family. I thought I could. lowe Kath a lot for bringing me back from a brink. But I’ll never tell her it’s too much, even when she don’t visit me when I’m ill. I was wasting away but she still kept ringing, asking me to do stuff for her.
I don’t believe in Linda’s God. I can get out of this myself. I admire Linda. I love her as a friend. She’s someone I can talk to. She’s cleverer than I am. More intelligent. Education’s not for me – All that bookwork, I can’t concentrate for long. I’m only a housewife.
Linda and myself have false teeth. Our real ones were knocked out. You can guess by whom.

LINDA TO INTERVIEWER

I’ve missed my period for a few weeks, kid.
If I get a child I won’t abort it. You’re going to think I’m crazy, mad or summat, love. You won’t tell anybody, will you? Promise me! I had an abortion after Ben. The baby we were going to call Scott appeared to me in a dream and asked me “Why didn’t you want me?”
I couldn’t answer him. That’s why.
The problem might be my age, I know. It happens in your Forties. The change. Of life, love. You wouldn’t understand would you? I thought not, kid.

WEDDING GUESTS’CONVERSATION

– Marthas never going to come out of herself while she’s still grieving over Lozzy’s death. And then her husband Arthur weren’t no help, dying too. Would you credit it!
– We all have a time to go, ~
– Ay. When it’s gone its gone. History.
– Live for the present. Bloody useless dwelling on past,
– Ay don’t make a mountain out on a molehill. ‘Notherpint to wash sorrow down?

INTERVIEWER~ NOTES LINDA’S BIRTHDAY

You know Lord I’ve been in a prison for something I’ve never done.
It’s been one hill after another
And I’ve climbed them all one by one.
The rest of the group joined in with Linda for the chorus.’
This time, Lord you gave me a mountain to climb A mountain that I can never climb.
It isn’t a hill any longer.
You gave me a mountain this time.

LINDA TO INTERVIEWER

I’m working now, you know. Making umbrellas in this sewing factory. My first husband got sick of Child Support on his back, so he drives me up there. Luckily, they’d just laid off a lass. I promised myself I’d never be in one of them factories again, kid.
It’s given me back my dignity.
Don’t get an ore than on Social, though. They’re a good crowd, the lasses.

Kath arranged this Do, and now she’s asking us to pay for the sandwiches! I’m sick of this group. Neil always sings the same songs. Same people, same places. 1 don’t ask for much. A bit of variety, that’s all. I’ll still keep in touch with Maggie. We have a lot in common. False teeth for one.

INTERVIEWERS NOTES

Neil sings The Best’ by Tina Turner. None of the women get up and hold hands and dance to it as they used to.
Linda tells me Neil and Kerry are divorcing. Maggie has a new boyfriend, so she can no longer spend as much time with Kath and her house as she used to.
Linda’s toldMaggie ‘Be careful.’
And Maggie’s told Linda I will never trust another man again. No worries.’

LINDA TO INTERVIEWER


Linda dressed in a new cream jacket with her ubiquitous black leggings crosses her legs away from me when she sits down. She has bought her own hill! lager.
I’m trying to stop smoking and cut down on the drink. I’ve started putting too much weight on. Look, a tyre .
. Kath’s not really clairvoyant, you know. She changes her opinions of people. Tells me they’re the one for me, then when I meet her next she’s telling me ‘I should-watch him. He’s-no-good for you.’
Some of the lasses at work go to rock concerts and discos. My kind of night out. They hold intelligent conversations, you know. Talking about what’s happening with the Bosnian refugees. Talking about issues in the news. Stuff like that.
I’m taking an 0′ level at college. What course? psychology.
It’s bad of me, I know, but I been reading my Bible lately. He wont be pleased with me, will he?

INTERVIEWERS NOTES LINDA’S BIRTHDAY

My woman got tired of the heartache Tired of the grief and the strife. So tired of working for nothing. Just tired of being my wife.
The rest of the group joined with Linda for the chorus:
This time, Lord you gave me a mountain to climb A mountain that I can never climb.
It isn’t a hill any longer.
You gave me a mountain this time.

LINDA TO INTERVIEWER

I agree with you. Everyone in the group has limited horizons. Maggie is just happy to go out drinking and dancing and a bit of sex here and there. Buff always repeats himself and is very immature. Kath is too taken up in herself to be interested in anyone else. 0, dont get me wrong. I know I wouldn’t be the way I am now if it weren’t for them. They brought me out of myself. I was quiet as a mouse. Like you, now. They learned me not to care what other people think.

LINDAS CONVERSATION WITH MAGGIE

LINDA: At least Kath’s not going ‘Shush, while turns on.
MAGGIE: hush, while turns on
I believe in respect and good manners.

Both women collapse into laughter

3. The Place For Breath

The place between me and you. The place between words between sentences is the same between pictures in a gallery. I find that which we have in common and fill in the gaps between our chat on telephone or in fact. Each time I am left with a different picture of you to contemplate. A different pause between one part of a sentence, and the next. I’m afraid at some point reaching a full stop.

Whispering Breath

I’ve not told you everything he did to us.
(whispering breath)
Why I’m sat on edge
of bed using upstairs phone.

Got to speak quietly.
My fault.
He keeps telling me

(conspiratorial breath)

I caused it
by what I did.

(questioning breath)
Is it something in me that’s at fault?’
Have l something wrong with me?
Am I a good person?

 I’m afraid of him. What he might do
If I do this or the other.
I have no feeling for him.

(accusatory breath)
He says I’ve made the Love go.
He threatens me
because this is the only way

to

get it back.
I’m terrified, love.

(weeping breath)
Doesn’t lack of love mean more love needs to be given, not hate?

(angry breath)
He likes Old Testament. ‘Eye for an eye … ‘
calls himself Christian.
Knows the Bible off by heart.
Laughs at my attempts

 to read it and so argue against him,

(determined breath)
Each person’s got to be responsible for themselves.

 

The Two Words Make One

1.

I lay with you. Two words make one.
You say ‘You’ve strong legs. Your too heavy. ‘

No space for breath. Our words.

Make too short. A sentence.

I kiss you.
You say ‘You have a firm jaw.

You smother. ‘

My word does not make room for yours.

You lay with me. Two pictures make one
My heart bloody in my mouth.

 I want to crush you into my frame.

You kiss me
I press till all feeling goes.

My frame has no blood.

2

too much leaves nothing else

a space, a breath, a gap. Almost a full stop.

 too little leaves an absence

a space, a breath, a gap. Almost a full stop.

Enough
is rare for both of us.

perfectionists

we put up each others

inspiration, expiration

for reasons to stay not to be alone

a single word, a single sentence

without company of another

a picture with a wall to itself, a room

to itself, a gallery to itself

reasons to be alone
but not to stay that way.

You are afraid I will wander,

hold anothers attention, anothers breath

in my mouth

because I am younger.

I think

how promises are never kept

 We both agree
‘Never’ and Always’
are not to be said. Words that do not belong in our sentences.

Pictures that we do not want on our wall

The Bridge And The Birds

First Saturday together

with your son at Bradford Museum of Film and Photography.

The bridge radiated

its structural pains

as the train ran over its spine.

I struggled to explain

to ten-year old Ben

why these shimmering lines of stress changed

with the altering weight

of the locomotives passage.

You urged your son to listen to me,

as you had urged him not to talk to strangers,

I was a stranger to him.

Behind its glass the train went nowhere, but out and back

across the same bridge

showing its structural pains

through special lens

to each curious onlooker.

The special lens of our eyes looking out the Museum window.

We wondered at the massed flight of birds dipping and arching

over the city as the sun faded.

Ben shifted from foot to foot

as I held your hand.

Ben drummed his fingers as I smelt your hair,

moving your body closer to mine.

Each bird adapting the air

under Its wings

as its partner adapted the same;

a swarm of grey specks.

We looked tor ages

through our lens

Ben asked why they moved like that.

The birds went nowhere

but out and back

across the same city.

Ben was a stranger to them.

Need to move

from a state of siege,
from neighbours eyes,
from counting pennies,
from doing without

from checking windows,
caught breath
from skimp, save
and charity,worn furniture

Clothes prying eyes
heated breath
 from called ‘permissive’, abnormal,
 idle, sponger, mother to undisciplined kids, a threat to The Family.

Indignant breath

to a new boyfriend
 who stays over
 without Social
 saying we’re married

after three consecutive nights,
 withdraw my book
 and tell him he’s to support us

From never depending on a man,
 his money his car, his reliabliity, his word

to a state of independence

Breathe

The Cathedral

Cold chucked it down. Short. Frantic. Breaths. Pain. Neck a weight.
I opened the door
I opened my mouth.
Quiet took me.
deep intake bad dreams, sleeplessness, worries for others, his fists, noise
his Voice, filled
my lungs.
cathedral and myself kissed. All breath slowly expelled prayer.
Taken in by lungs cathedral this pain rose and out
till I could no longer understand it.
Taking new breath again
lungs filled with Himself:
I cried, quietly:
comfort acute.

 

SIGNS OF HIS PRESENCE

Kitchen door dented

where your ex flew off the handle

 at the slightest.

 Your ears attuned to strange cars in the cul-de-sac.

Twitch
open curtains, check.

 You could not
 say his name for six months

after
 you told him to go.

SAFETY 

 Dumb-bell by your bedside.

 

Under your pillow baseball bat.

Knives on surfaces
 lead poker on landing,
 Or are these in your head?

  Knives sharp,
 dumb-bell heavy
 as stories of his holding
 frying-pan above your head

make his point,

 He is here
 in the household wait

for you to be alone
 to bring him out

The Home of Breath

Her breathing place

 is at home sometimes.

familiar furniture,

pot plants, pictures.

Her conversation easier.

No annoying silences.

Her stomach chums,

especially when someone knocks

on door

phone rings

Especially when she recalls

his threats on her

childs life

echoes off walls

she wants 

 cannot afford to paper.

Front room window-frame crumbles

one day pane will fall out

her house open itself

to wind

 here family is close

 friends minutes away.

Death Sentence

Our chat was dead

 silence annoyed us

so much left unsaid

 

incomplete sentence

Chatty Christmas, New Year nothing left to say

nothing left to share

I tried too hard

 You worried his harsh sentence

a visit from him

 

his mates in suits

to you and Ben

alone in the house;

 invitation for abuse.

invitation for him

to invade, unplug phones,

demand she sit with him

answer again why

no love for him

last night we finally talked, a

agreed I would not physically fight him,

 feelings had walked,

saying ‘Let go.’ ‘I’ll hug you

 if you find pleasure

in the arms of another.’

Death sentence

The Brandished Knife

A Filey Clairvoyant

You will meet the Right Man and know it in two years time.

His name begins with,

I can’t quite distinguish

a P or B or R.’

 Well, I’d had- a Bernard and Paul.

I feel sorry for Ray

tells me his fat

girlfriend just sits

around house

no housework.

He prepares all meals.

She just sits

reading Mills and Boon.

drinks and sleeps

Never together when out.

She with her friends, he with his.

He goes out,

 returns she’s brandishing a knife,

 interrogates him

 where he’s been.

He is a designer

 witty with it.

 Manager at my workplace

 he sends me a picture

of an American Indian

 with palm up

and five statements on how

we should get together.

I ask

 Why haven’t you moved out?

He says

When my last marriage broke up

my wife got house and everything

 and my girlfriend won’t move out.

He makes sense.

I want a boyfriend with either

 motorbike or a landrover.

He’s just sold his bike.

Landrover is soft topped.

Takes me and Ben out walking

 to Dark Peak.

We enjoy pictures rather than words.

He makes meals for the family.

My friends said if my last husband turns up

Ray

would not hesitate to lay him out.

We spend evenings planning places

 things we can do, together.

He smokes

socially when he drinks, like me.

Suddenly,

Christmas he moves in.

On way out to a Parents evening

 Ben’s school I tell him

We’ll talk when I return

On return I find all drink gone

him crashed out drunk in my bed.

In morning he says

Please forgive me.

Over the next month we go out

hold hands, and are gentle

down by the bridge while Ben plays

 ahead with our dog.

Over next month he fills my wardrobes

with his clothes

my shelves with his CD’s.

Then I notice

him going to pub straight after work,

returns home crashes out to sleep.

he works drinks sleeps

Comes from work after pub

says he’s tired, sleeps rest of night

I wait for him downstairs.

I sit alone in house on an evening

or when he is in

he gawps at TV in bedroom.

He does not let me to go

out with my friends.

We go out again after I have words.

Two weeks later he is back

drunk and sleeping again.

On few occasions we go out

he leaves me on my own

 he spends evening talking to a biker

or someone at bar.

 I talk to his fat girlfriend Sophie.

She’d been holding a knife because she

was cutting veg, as she always did

preparing meals for him while he went

Out and got drunk.

He catches me talking to her

says 

‘Don’t believe her, she’s a liar. She’ll say

anything to get me back with her.’

Tells me all the girls at work

are after him.

 

I talk to them.

They wouldn’t touch him.

He promises me I’ll not go drinking

starts excuses when I smell it on his breath

 told him so.

I say

I’ll go to a counselling session with you

He’s having none of it.

his tears when I phone him at local pub and tell him

Your stuffs in the driveway.

 Down on his knees he is, tears and moans, begging me to reconsider. Says

Your right in everything you say. I’m at fault and I’ll change.

He is really suffering. I nearly break

 but people never change.

 I meet him a month or two later while out with my mates.

He comes in pub.

Sends one of his mates over to mr

Ray wants a private word

 I say

 Whatever Ray has to say he can say while my mates are present.

Anyway he comes over.

I aske

Hows Sophie?

he tells me

 Eff off.

I feel nothing.

Mark is the man for me, but he is married and she is kind. I have known the family for ten years now. It is only recently I admit to myself I love Mark. I would not hurt their kids . I have seen them settle down round meal table of an evening. I come home, collapse on sofa and cry for I know we would be good together. want to settle down. For a time with Ray I forget about Mark. Ray never knew about him. I see Mark less. I will not move from this cul de sac because I feel safe with Mark down the road and the fabulous view of the moors. Perhaps because I love Mark I find it difficult to love

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