Here are the first five memories from “1000 Memories”, available as a Kindle book here (UK) or here (US).
Other boys collected cards
Other boys collected cards, cards with pictures of footballers on them. They brought the cards into school sometimes, stacks of them with rubber bands round them to hold them together. Two of the boys would get together and compare their cards. One boy handed his stack of cards to the other, he took off the rubber band, and went through them, saying “Got it, got it, ain’t got it, got it, ain’t got it, got it, ain’t got it, got it, got it, got it, ain’t got it”. He flicked the cards into two piles not very neatly: a pile of cards that he already had and a pile of cards he didn’t.
A few of us would watch for a while. I never had any of those cards with pictures of footballers on them so I didn’t watch for long.
None of the boys ever said “got it” properly, with the T at the end of the each word. It sounded more like “Goddih, goddih, aingoddih, goddih, aingoddih, goddih, aingoddih, goddih, goddih, goddih, aingoddih”.
“Mummy, what does Hammersmith Boy mean?”
“On the front of the bus, it says Hammersmith Boy.”
We were waiting for the bus at the stop opposite the church. The 267 arrived and it said Hammersmith Boy in big letters, HAMMERSMITH BOY. I’d seen it before but never asked.
“That’s not an O, it’s a D.”
“Hammersmith B-D-Y? Hammersmith BDY?” I tried saying, it, like BODY without the O. “What does …”
“It’s short for Broadway, Hammersmith Broadway.”
“Oh, I see.”
Some Saturdays we went to work with Dad
Some Saturdays we went to work with Dad, to whichever site he was working on at the time. Sometimes the site was a big hole in the ground, no floors, no walls, nothing. Usually it was a building of some kind, with floors and no walls yet, and you had to go up and down on ladders. It was a bit like a multi-storey car park, with ladders instead of ramps and stairs.
We didn’t wear our usual clothes, we wore thick rough shirts and dirty jeans and wellies. During the morning you’d say hello to most of the other men on the site, “the lads” as Dad called them. Usually they gave you money, a threepenny bit or a sixpence, sometimes a shilling or a two shilling coin. I never got a half-crown but Jim did sometimes. He always got more money than me, probably because he was older. If I got threepence Jim would get sixpence. That’s the way it was.
We used the money to buy presents for Mum on the way home, chocolates, flowers, and ice creams for the rest of us, from Mylo’s.
Each site had a hut where the lads made tea and looked at plans on a big slab of wood – it wasn’t really a desk – covered with stains from their mugs of tea. There was always a calendar on the wall of the hut. Each calendar that I saw had pictures of naked women on them, not completely naked, but naked from the waist up. They’d be wearing shorts or the bottom half of a bikini. I noticed that most of them had suntans, and white marks where their bras or the top half of their bikinis would have been. I thought it looked odd, suntanned skin and white strips of skin. I wanted to flick through the calendars to check if the other pictures were like that but I never did.
I wanted to be a crane driver. The crane drivers were different from the other lads. They didn’t say much. When they weren’t up in their cranes, miles above everybody else, they were in the hut, drinking from big mugs of tea, reading the paper. The other lads would be chatting and laughing and joking, but the crane drivers just sat there, drinking their tea and reading their papers.
Can’t Buy Me Love
I remember sitting on the floor of the living room, playing, my sister beside me, not able to walk yet. I was singing as loud as I could, singing the words to a song. “I don’t want to muck the money”. They were all words that I knew, want, and muck, and money.
Many years later, Christmas 1973, when I was 11, I was given the two Beatles double albums, the red one and the blue one, 1962-66 and 1967-70. I played them in order, and I knew most of the songs from the red album, She Loves You, I Feel Fine and I Want to Hold Your Hand. We had all of those on 45s, black labels with white writing. The inner sleeves of the albums had the words to the songs, but I didn’t need them, I knew the songs well enough.
Then I heard a song I hadn’t heard in years, Can’t Buy Me Love. We didn’t have that on 45, and I hadn’t heard it on the radio anytime recently. I didn’t need the words for this one either, but I checked them anyway when the chorus came on. I blushed and remembered being two or three years old, sat in the living room, belting out “I don’t want to muck the money”. Of course. The real words made much more sense. I played the track again, moved the needle back to the start of the track and sang along, with the right words.
It’ll all be over before you can say Jack Robinson
“It’ll all be over before you can say Jack Robinson.”
That’s what they said, Mummy and the nurse with the injection. There was a big needle and she was going to stick it in my arm. I had to have my injection.
“It’ll all be over before you can say Jack Robinson.”
She put the needle in and squeezed the syringe.
“Jack Robinson Jack-Robinson JackRobinson JACKROBINSON JACK-ROBIN-SON!” I screamed it five times before the needle came out again.
“1000 Memories” is available as a Kindle book here (UK) or here (US).