Hazy Crazy Days of Summer: 1963
Part One :
“What’s the matter?” Thomas sighed, resignedly setting aside his book, as Martin flounced into the sitting room and flung himself on the couch with a face like a thundercloud.
“Nowt!” Martin folded his arms, scowling ferociously.
“There’s no such word as ‘nowt’ and if you’re going to snap at me like that, young man, you can go straight to your room.”
“Sorry,” said Martin, insincerely.
“Where’s Paul, don’t tell me you’ve had a row with him again. Really Martin, it’s only the second week of the holidays and you’ve done nothing but quarrel. What on earth is the matter with you?”
“He’s playing with Laura, and I hate him.”
“Oh dear, you have fallen out haven’t you. Do you want to tell me about it?”
Martin shook his head, fighting tears. Upset and angry though he was, he couldn’t bring himself to be disloyal. If his father found out what Paul and Laura were up to, the dirt would really hit the fan. He sniffed miserably, usually he enjoyed his cousin’s company, he and Paul were very close, but this last week had been awful. Paul and Laura were as thick as thieves, indulging their wild streak to the full, egging each other on into acting more and more outrageously. Martin felt sidelined, because he refused to join in some of their more dubious activities. Laura had said he was like a fussy old woman and his nagging was getting on her bloody nerves. She and Paul had then ganged up on him jeering at him, calling him Captain Sensible. The last straw was when they decided to climb over the wall of the local off-licence to pinch empty lemonade bottles from the crates stacked outside the rear door. First Paul, and then Laura would boldly take a load back to the shop, reclaiming the deposits. They’d mocked him when he said it was like stealing money, because the owner of the off-licence had already paid out the deposits once. Then they’d gone to the sweet shop to spend the money, but Paul had said why waste their money buying sweets when they could take them for free, and save the money for later. That was when Martin had decided to head for home. It wasn’t that long ago since he and Paul had been caught stealing from Woolworth’s. Paul might have forgotten the row, not to mention the spanking they got, but Martin certainly hadn’t. He had learned his lesson about stealing. He looked miserably at his father. “Where’s mum?”
“She’s got one of her migraines. She’s upstairs, lying down, so I would rather you didn’t bother her. What have Paul and Laura done to upset you?”
“Nothing, I’m just fed up with Paul, he’s being a pain in the neck.”
Thomas looked at his son’s miserable face, then at his book, which he’d been looking forward to reading. Oh well, he was on holiday for a week; he’d have plenty of time for reading. He closed it and put it on the coffee table. “How do you fancy a trip to the coast, just you and I? We’ll get some fish and chips for supper.”
Martin’s face brightened. He nodded eagerly, “yes please, daddy, I’d like that.”
Thomas picked up his car keys and went to tell Evie where he was going.
Martin was pleased at the prospect of a run out with his father especially as he got to sit in the front of the car because his mother wasn’t there.
“Seat belt Martin.”
“Aw, dad, do I have to? It’s uncool, no one actually wears seat belts, most cars don’t even have them.”
“Mine does. Seat belt, or back indoors, it’s entirely up to you.”
Martin heaved a big sigh, but obeyed. It was pointless arguing with his father, he never gave in, or if he did it usually ended up as something of a pyrrhic victory.
They ended up at the seaside resort of Redcar, walking along the sands and poking among the rocks and shells looking for fossils. Then they stood at the waters edge playing ducks and drakes with beach pebbles, his father was really good at it, effortlessly making the stones skip along the surface four or five time before they sank.
“We should have brought a container and done a spot of winkling,” said Thomas as they investigated a rock pool that contained a fair number of the black shelled little creatures. Martin grinned as he remembered a joke, “hey, dad, guess what the definition of a winkle is - snot with a crash helmet.” He started giggling.
Thomas shook his head. “Martin, that’s quite disgusting. I expect Laura told you that.” He ruffled his son’s hair, to show he wasn’t really annoyed.
It was a fine warm evening and Martin felt suddenly happy. It was ages since he’d had his father all to himself. It reminded him of being really young when his parents would play with him on the beach, each holding a hand and jumping him over the waves as they rolled in, while he squealed and giggled with joy. As they meandered along the water’s edge, he resisted a strong urge to slip his hand into that of his father. Boys of eleven heading on for twelve did not hold their father’s hand.
They bought fish and chips and ate them out of the paper, sitting on the sand watching the tide creep slowly up the beach towards them, the sun sinking lower on the horizon. Thomas slipped an arm around his son’s shoulder, drawing him a little closer. Martin leaned against him and they talked, about school, sport and of course, his beloved Laura.
“Thanks, dad,” Martin smiled up at his father, “I’ve enjoyed myself.”
“So have I,” Thomas lightly kissed his head. “Come on, let’s head back, it’s past your bedtime.”
“Do I have to have a set bedtime? It’s so uncool.”
“Yes, young man, you do have to have a set bedtime, uncool or not. Really, the way you young people speak these days.” He held out his hand, “you’re allowed up later at weekends and holidays, but when I say it’s bedtime, it’s bedtime.” He rolled out his favourite saying. “When you’re sixteen, you can make more decisions for yourself, until then, I’ll make them, and I’ve decided it’s time you were in bed.”
Martin held his father’s hand all the way back to the car, fighting a childish impulse to skip alongside him, like a happy six-year-old. After all, there was no one here that knew him; he liked holding his father’s hand even if it was a bit sissy. Paul would laugh if he knew and he’d have an absolute field day if he knew that he still sat on his father’s knee for a cuddle. He never did it while Paul was around of course, but as soon as Paul returned to his own home, Martin liked to cuddle his mother and father. It was like reclaiming them for his own after sharing them with Paul. Twelve, he thought to himself, as they walked along, when I’m twelve I’ll stop all the baby stuff. He would still hug his mother occasionally that was okay, because mothers were different.
“Goodnight.” Martin reached up and hugged his father as they stepped inside the hall.
Thomas playfully swung him off his feet to hug him back, painfully aware that such shows of affection would grow less, as Martin got older.
“Tom, thank heaven you’re back.” Evelyn, white faced, came out of the living room.
“What on earth’s the matter, are you feeling worse, Evie?” Thomas quickly set Martin down and took his wife’s arm, escorting her back into the living room. Martin followed.
“David called round, looking for Laura. She’s not home yet, neither is Paul. He’s gone out looking for them. You know how anxious he and Catherine get if she goes too far over her time. Especially after that business at New Year.”
Martin stared tearfully at his irate father as he hammered out a serious of questions.
“Where did you see them last? Why did you leave them, what were they doing that upset you? I want to know, Martin, I shall be very angry if you’re withholding something from me.”
Martin shrugged evasively. “Nothing, they were just carrying on, calling me silly names. I was fed up. They were outside the sweet shop when I left them. I don’t know, dad, honest, I don’t know where they could be.”
“Wait until I get my hands on that little wretch. If he’s been up to anything suspect, I’ll wallop his backside so hard, he won’t be able to sit down for a fortnight.” Thomas picked up his car keys and set off again, firmly refusing to let Martin accompany him. He arrived back at eleven o clock, having met up with Laura’s father. They phoned the police to report the children missing. Martin was sent off to bed, with the promise that he’d be told as soon as there was any news.
Martin lay in bed wondering about what could have happened. Something must have, to keep them out this late. Paul liked to sail close to the wind where his uncle was concerned, but he would never dare stay out this far beyond his curfew on purpose. Martin was torn between worry about Paul and Laura, and annoyance that their antics had spoilt the mood of the evening he’d happily spent in his father’s company.
“I knew you pair were up to no bloody good.” The guard glared angrily at the two children. “Well, you’re stuck now aren’t you? We can’t do nowt ‘til we get to York, that’s the next station down the line. Come up the front where I can keep an eye on you. Little buggers, your parents are probably worried sick.”
Paul looked sadly at Laura. “We’re gonna catch it now, Lollie, uncle Thomas will be really cross with me.”
Laura grinned, “with a bit of luck my dad will have had a drink and think it’s all a bit of a laugh.” She shoved Paul playfully, “I told you this was the wrong train didn’t I?”
“I wish uncle Thomas would have a bit of a drink, it might loosen him up.” Paul gloomily realised that the chances of his uncle seeing it as a bit of a laugh were about a million to one. They looked at each other, bursting out laughing. They’d caused mayhem all evening, jumping trains, dodging guards and platform attendants, getting as far as Darlington without paying a penny or being collared.
The guard shook his head. “You wouldn’t be laughing for long if you were my kids, cos I’d belt your ruddy backsides until you couldn’t sit down.”
Laura and Paul glanced sideways at each other, trying to stifle their giggles. “If I was your kid mister,” retorted Laura cheekily, “I’d throw meself under the bloody train, never mind get on it.”
Thomas looked relieved as he put the phone down. “They’re both quite safe. Apparently they’ve been hopping trains. They got on the London train by mistake when they were trying to get back. They’ve been put off at York Station. I’ll drive up to collect them, do you want to come with me, David?”
David nodded grimly. “Aye, indeed I do, Thomas. I’ve got a few choice words for our Laura, worrying her mother like this.”
“Not much of a welcoming committee is it?” muttered Paul, as his uncle and Laura’s father walked into the stationmaster’s office. “I don’t think your dad’s had much of a drink, and uncle Thomas definitely hasn’t, he looks as if he’s got a mouth full of carbolic.”
“Hiya, daddy.” Laura smiled disarmingly at her parent, but it failed to work it’s usual magic.
David took a firm hold of his daughter’s hand. “Just wait until I get you home, young lady.” Laura sighed and scratched her head, which had been uncomfortably itchy all evening. They both fell asleep on the journey home, leaning against each other. Covered in sooty grime, they looked like a couple of Victorian street urchins.
David Archer glanced behind him, smiling reluctantly. “Talk about angels with dirty faces.” He shook his head, “Martin’s the only one with any sense.”
Paul woke up as Laura’s father lifted her from the car to carry her into the house. He sat up straight, feeling groggy and slightly sick, his stomach protesting that he hadn’t fed it properly since lunchtime. It was a silent journey home, his uncle not speaking a word. His aunt was waiting up for them, despite her headache. She exclaimed in horror when she saw the state of him.
“You’re not going to bed in that state, you naughty boy,” she scolded, “I’ve just changed the sheets. You’ll have to have a bath. I’ll go and run one.”
Thomas turned chilly blue eyes on Paul, “well,” he growled, breaking his silence, “what have you got to say for yourself, young man?”
Paul started to cry. He was hungry, thirsty and tired. “Sorry, uncle Thomas, we were just having a lark, we got carried away. Don’t tell dad, I promised him I’d be good this time,” he pleaded, looking much younger than his eleven years, as tears poured down his face, leaving tracks in the grime.
Thomas shook his head. “You deserve a good spanking, you really do. Luckily for you, it’s late, I’m tired and I don’t think I could do it justice. Go for your bath, I’ll get you a drink of milk and something to eat, then it’s off to bed with you.”
“Thank you, uncle Thomas.” Paul gave a watery smile. His uncle was a good sort really.
“Don’t thank me, Paul,” said Thomas, somewhat tartly, “you haven’t got away with anything. We’ll be discussing this further in the morning, believe me.”
Straight after breakfast, Paul was lectured, at length, about the trouble and worry he’d caused with his stupid, foolhardy behaviour. Not to mention the expense, as there was every chance the railway company would send a bill for the tickets that he and Laura should have bought. He was made fully aware of the dangers posed by playing around railway stations and warned that any attempts to repeat such behaviour would not be tolerated. Thomas finally stopped espousing and looked keenly at his nephew, strongly suspecting that his words were like water off a duck’s back. He sighed irritably. It was little wonder that Edward lost his temper with him; it was one scrape after another where Paul was concerned. “Off you go, Paul, back upstairs. Apart from mealtimes, you’re not allowed out of your room at all today. If you can’t behave yourself when you’re out, then you’re not going out, it’s as simple as that.”
Paul gave a gasp of dismay. “But that’s inhuman, it’s like being in prison. I’ll die of boredom.”
“A taste of prison life might do you good, because that’s where you’re going to end up if you don’t start behaving yourself. As for boredom, you needn’t worry, you can apply yourself to the schoolwork your father left for you.”
“Schoolwork in the holidays!” Paul stamped his foot in disgust, “it’s just not fair.”
“If you applied yourself in term-time you wouldn’t have so much to catch up on. Your father doesn’t pay school fees for you to act the goat and get yourself into trouble.”
“I don’t ask him to pay school fees do I? Anyway, he doesn’t, it’s paid for out of my trust fund. I hate going to a private school, so does Martin, you ask him, most of the kids are toffee nosed...”
“That’s enough cheek. Do as you’re told and go to your room.”
“Why don’t you just spank me? I’d rather be spanked than be stuck up there all day doing homework.”
“I’ve obviously made the right choice of punishment then, haven’t I?” Thomas wagged a warning finger; he did not appreciate being argued with. “Just go, Paul, or you’ll get your wish, only it’ll be as well as, not instead of.”
Paul thumped upstairs muttering and mumbling to himself. Banging the bedroom door shut he flung himself on the bed and punched the pillow as a substitute for his uncle’s head. He was a pig, that’s what he was, a rotten pig, just like his dad, it was easy to see they were twins.
Martin wondered if Laura would call for him, or whether, like Paul, she would be kept indoors for her escapade of the day before. He decided not to call for her, still hurt that she had taken sides against him with Paul. He called for his friend Colin instead, but he’d gone fishing with his older brothers so Martin moped miserably around the house, getting under his mother’s feet.
“For goodness sake, child,” said Evie irritably, after almost falling over him for the third time. “Why don’t you invite some of the boys from school over to play?”
“Cos I don’t like most of them, that’s why. There’s only Sam and he’s gone to France for the whole eight weeks. Lucky sod.” He yelped as his mother autographed the back of his bare leg with her hand. “Sorry, mum, it just slipped out.”
“Well don’t let it slip out again, young man. What about Lucas, and Jamie?”
“Lucas goes to Cornwall in the summer months, and Jamie gets on my nerves.”
Evie gave up. “Play outside in the garden then, before I fall over you and break my neck.”
Martin wandered into the garden where his father was reading in his deckchair, Panama hat tilted over his eyes to shade them from the sun. He sat down on the grass, resting his head back against his father’s knee, feeling a bit better as his father ruffled his hair.
Paul, watching from the bedroom window, felt a stab of envy at this casual show of affection between father and son. He enjoyed living with his cousin, being part of a family, even if his aunt and uncle were rather strict and old fashioned. They expected good manners and obedience, but at the same time they weren’t afraid to show affection. Paul didn’t mind that there was no television, or that he had to go to bed when he was told and be home on time for meals and such. He secretly enjoyed the sense of security that such rituals brought with them and he loved his aunt Evie, especially when she fussed over him, mothering him, he even looked forward to being ill sometimes because it meant that his aunt would care for him. He envied altogether the relationship that Martin had with his parents. His relationship with his own father was strained, and growing worse. All his father seemed to do, when he saw him at all, was criticise him. Their last meeting in particular, had not been a happy one. Edward had hit the roof over Paul’s poor school report. His Housemaster had commented that if he dedicated himself to work, as readily as he dedicated himself to causing mischief, he’d be top of the class instead of bottom. His father had raged, red faced with anger, finally yelling, ‘sometimes I think you need to see a psychiatrist Paul,’ to which Paul, thinking he was being witty had retorted, ‘well give us the name of yours dad, and I’ll call him in the morning.’ His father had registered his disapproval in no uncertain terms. Paul had arrived back at his cousin’s house with a tear stained face, going straight up to the room he shared with Martin. His father had left without even saying goodbye. Then there was the ghastly Susan, his father’s fiancée. Paul hated her with a vengeance, another cause of friction between him and his father. Paul sighed, turning away from the window. Uncle Thomas was a pig all the same, a real pig, fancy sending him to his room for the whole day. When his aunt called him down for lunch, Paul took the stairs two at a time. The eternal optimist he hoped to persuade his uncle that he’d learned his lesson; thereby leading to a shortening of his sentence.
“Where’s Martin and Uncle Thomas?” he asked, staring round the empty dining room in surprise, and noticing with a touch of unease that only two place mats were set out.
“They’ve gone for a walk darling. They’ve taken a picnic.” Evie smiled at him gently, knowing he’d be upset.
“Where to?” asked Paul, in a small voice.
“They’re driving over to Osmotherly, there’s some lovely walks around there.”
Evelyn placed a plate of chicken sandwiches in front of him, and a glass of milk.
Paul bit a small piece of his sandwich, but it nearly choked him to swallow it. Gone for a walk and a picnic without him, the beasts. It wasn’t fair, it wasn’t! He was stuck doing homework in a hot, stuffy bedroom, while they were out enjoying themselves. He leaned his head against his hand, fighting tears.
“Elbows,” said his aunt automatically. “Take your elbow off the table Paul and sit up straight while you’re eating. You’ll get indigestion slouching like that.”
Paul abruptly stood up, “I’m not hungry.” He raced back upstairs almost slamming the bedroom door off its hinges. Flinging himself on the bed, he gave way to angry tears. His rotten dad never took him anywhere and now his uncle and cousin had gone off without him.
“You’re not the only one missing out Paul.” Evelyn sat on the edge of her nephew’s bed. “I would have liked to have gone on a picnic; it’s such a lovely day. But, here I am, stuck here, on account of you. You deserve to miss out after your behaviour yesterday. I don’t.”
Paul sat up wiping his eyes with the back of his hand, “sorry Aunt Evie, I never thought of it like that.” The tears welled up again, “why couldn’t Uncle Thomas have taken me too? He could have sent me to my room tomorrow, or waited until tomorrow to go on a picnic.”
Evelyn put her arms round him, brushing the blond hair back from his forehead with her fingers. “You know your uncle. Once he’s made up his mind, that’s it. Be thankful that he’s not reporting this latest incident to your father. Come and finish your lunch. There’s no point going hungry.”
“Please Aunt Evie, pleeease, uncle Thomas won’t know.” Paul begged to be allowed to stay downstairs, “I can do my homework down here, or even in the garden.” But his aunt stood firm, shaking her head as she stacked their empty plates together. “No Paul. Your punishment was being sent to your room for the day, and that’s that. Maybe you’ll think twice before misbehaving again.” She carried the plates over to the sink, seriously doubting whether Paul ever thought twice about anything. She had always thought that he and Laura were much more suited to each other than Martin and Laura.
That evening, Paul sat glaring resentfully across the dinner table as Martin chattered on, telling his mother all about his day. “We walked up to the Lady Chapel, didn’t we dad? It was lovely and...”
“Shut up!” snapped Paul; “it’s not very polite going on about what a nice time you’ve had when Aunt Evie was stuck here.”
Martin flushed, taken aback. He hadn’t thought of that. “Sorry mummy.”
She smiled, patting his hand, “it’s alright darling, I’m glad you’ve had a nice day.”
“Selfish idiot.” Paul wouldn’t let it go.
“You’re the idiot.” Martin glowered at his cousin. Anyway it’s your fault mum was stuck at home, not mine.”
“That’s enough.” Thomas spoke quietly, “I want to enjoy my dinner in peace, not referee an argument between you two.”
“We had a really nice time yesterday evening, didn’t we dad, when we went to Redcar?” Martin let Paul know that he’d missed out there as well, outlining in detail what they’d done.
Paul scowled. “So what! I had a great time with Laura; we had much more fun once you’d gone home. She likes me better than you now, she said so.” He didn’t dare outline in detail what they had done.
It was Martin’s turn to scowl. “She does not. Anyway, at least my nice time didn’t get me stuck in my room all day, doing school...OUCH!” Martin yelped as a hard kick landed on his shin.
“Sorry,” smirked Paul, “my foot slipped, it was an accident.”
“Make sure there’s no more accidents of that nature Paul.” Thomas looked coldly at him. “Otherwise there’s going to be an accident involving your rear end: a hand on collision you might say.” There was no humour in his voice.
Paul gulped, keeping his feet to himself after that.
Martin grinned triumphantly.
“Sorry mummy.” Paul started, as soon as Martin came up to bed. Hot, bored and resentful, he was spoiling for a fight. “You’re such a big girl Martin.”
“Shut your fat gob.” Martin’s parents wouldn’t approve of his choice of words. He got undressed, pulling on his pyjama bottoms, but leaving off his top because it was too warm.
“You’re just jealous cos I’ve had a couple of nice outings.”
“You’re a great big sissy,” jeered Paul. “Fancy still calling your parents mummy and daddy. What a drip. Even Laura said you were a drip yesterday and she said you were a right moaning Minnie.”
Martin was upset. “You’re lying! Laura would never call me names, you take that back.” He clenched his fists. Paul was always trying to poach Laura from him.
Paul laughed at him. “Make me, drippy drawers. Know what else Laura said? She said you were too scared of your dumb old dad to do anything without asking his permission first. She said you didn’t even dare wipe your own arse without asking if it was all right first. She said your dad runs two prisons, one at work and the other at home, and your mother is the chief warder.” Paul recklessly put spiteful words in to Laura’s mouth. “She doesn’t want you as her best friend anymore, she wants me, cos I’m more fun to be with.”
Martin flushed with anger and decided to hurt back. “At least I’ve got parents who care about me. Your dad cares more about his career than you. I’m going to tell dad that I don’t want you here anymore, then your dad will have to send you to a boarding school, after all. Once you’re in one, you’ll never get out, not even for the holidays. And I for one will be glad, so will mum and dad, cos they’re sick of you too. I heard them say so.”
Now it was Paul’s turn to flush. “You bloody rotten liar,” he yelled. “Take that back, or I’ll punch your teeth out.”
Thomas shouted from the foot of the stairs. “Settle down, or there’ll be trouble. I don’t want to hear another sound from your room.”
“There he is,” hissed Paul in a low voice, “jailer man Mitchell. Your mother will be up shortly, jangling her keys to lock us in. Everyone laughs at you because your parents are such squares and you’re such a baby.”
Martin lost his temper. Darting across the room, he grabbed his cousin, dragging him off the bed with a bump. They rolled around the floor, yelling abuse, punching, biting and pulling each other’s hair.
Thomas stormed into the room. Hauling them apart he briefly spanked their pyjama’d behinds before thrusting them onto their respective beds. “I don’t want to know who started it!” He snapped, as they both hurled recriminations. “I’ve just finished it and it had better stay finished. I don’t want to hear another sound or movement from this room tonight. In fact Martin, you can go and sleep in the guest room.”
“Why should I have to go in the guest room?” snivelled Martin, poking a finger in Paul’s direction, “he’s the guest, he...”
The door of the guest room banged shut and Martin wisely climbed in to bed without further ado.
“What was that all about?” asked Evie as her husband came back into the room.
“Goodness knows,” Thomas sat down and picked up his book. “I didn’t ask, but it wouldn’t surprise me to discover that Laura figures in the equation somewhere.”
Evie smiled, “it wouldn’t surprise me either, but it’s not always her fault. Paul’s always trying to usurp Martin’s position as her best friend, it drives him mad.”
“Martin is apt to let his jealousy rule his head where that young lady is concerned. I’ve banished him to the guest room, it will do them good to have some time apart.”
copyright Ester Phillips / Cat 2007 /2015