Is your dad bigger than my dad?
Odd, this childhood growing-up thing. Is it not? Funny how you learn how other people live, other children anyway. First maybe your neighbourhood kids; those you are friendly with. Then after a while your horizons broaden a little when you start school. Some friends have parents who both work others have their mum at home. Some eat as a family at table others, as and when they are hungry or just to fit in with what is on the TV or right there in front of the TV. All this after the open fire had past into history.
Fathers though, what are they all about? Hard to tell when you are a child, time holds that lesson in store; oh boy, doesn't it just!
I found out more about all this one summer although the time of year does not have all that much to do with it. It was more just that time of life; growing-up time. Different children take the same sort of thing in different ways. Some children, as a young boy myself, I would find hanging around upset that they had been ordered out of the home to go play, some others would appear running out of their front doors just ahead of the slippered foot of a parent arching just short of their rear ends, "get off ye wee scallywag!!" or similar, these 'scamps' would often take this in their stride, all part of life's rich tapestry. We each learned through our early years of neighbourhood freedom just how different and how similar our lives were. Families eh? Can't live with them... Then again some parents had had better wars than others too. Some had reasons for being the way they were. Private conversations among adults told us that.
One day, when I was about nine, myself and three other lovers of the outdoor life were wondering how to spend our day. We decided at last to take our bikes past a quarry two or three miles away to where there was a steep zed-bend. A true challenge to life and limb, how could we resist?
We left the housing estate/village and turned right, away from "John and Yoko shop here." (see earlier tale).
The road had been made straight and level by the war-time need for shells and bombs and by the promise of the soon to be opened Forth Road Bridge. For better than a thousand years before that the cart-track became a cart road and then a tarmac road only to be abandoned to keep us all safe. Remnants of the old road could be seen to right and left; tight bends below the embankment each with a house or two a pub or two and a church. Adventures for another day.
We took our time, the sun at our back, deep in conversation. We had the road to ourselves.
[But first, to explain. The landscape around us resembled a custard flan cut into quarters, the knife wounds being road ways, we approached the crossing from 'six-o-clock'.]
We saw ahead a stranger, coming our way, cycling on his ever-so shiny new bike. This was how we knew he was a stranger. He flagged us down, we stopped and he came over the road to talk.
He was about our age, but smaller and had a shock of blonde hair parted on the left and he was clean, Sunday clean.
"Could you tell me where the nearest railway station is? I need to catch a train to England, I'm running away from home."
We just looked at each other astonished. As if to say,"These English, eh. Jeesh they're something else!" We asked him what the trouble was and his reply did not help us with what we thought of him and his sort. "My father hit me, I'm running away, my grandmother will buy me a ticket."
What was any of this to us?
We told him where the nearest station was that catered for trains going south, it was back the way we had come down towards where John and Yoko shopped and a bit further. We wished him well and went back to our bikes.
Each of us, with wonder in our voices, related tales of when we had felt the hairy side of our father's misunderstanding, but run away??? It didn't help that our grandmothers were only a bus ride or less off from our homes.
Back to our adventure, life goes on...
None of this put any speed into our pace, we had that bit more to talk about too. Ahead of us we could see a car approach the cross-roads from 'three-o-clock', slow to a halt, then turn left and head our way. We were, when all is said and done, only boys and cars were of interest to each of us and this car was a little bit special. It was one of the more bulky Rovers, a middle class Rolls I suppose. The car stopped short of where we were, the driver rolled down the window and called us over.
"Have you young lads seen anything of a young blonde boy on a bike? We have had an argument and he stormed off."
While we weighed these words I looked around the interior of the motor. The walnut dashboard, the leather upholstery. The driver's mid-tan brogues, casual slacks, with a sharp crease, tweed sports jacket, camel hair waistcoat, pale blue shirt and a cravat. He too was High-Mass Sunday clean.
He may have asked his question once more, his eyes searching us for the least sign of deceit. As he spoke his hands were on his lap gripping the ends of what I think of as a bull-dog leash. One, short and made from a twisted rope of leather strips. This leash he would grip tightly and twist and re-twist as he spoke. His words measured, his tone nearly level.
"Yea", I said, "we have seen the boy, a little while ago, he said he was running away, he wanted to know where the railway station was, yea, we told him. We sent him to the only railway station we knew of. Back down there and to the left."
The driver scanned us again, we innocent guileless children, said thank you and turned his car around, drove off, turned left (nine-o-clock) and headed for Cowdenbeath and the local coastal and power station coal rail station.
Again all we could do was stand there and watch him go, look again one to another, re-mount our bikes and...
We wondered if mum would make a sandwich or something to eat..we each felt that the best place to be right then was home.
t/a Oudeis @Yo!Liverpool 9th December 2010