I spent the first 5 years of my life living in a 3 storey (4 storey if you count the flooded cellar) Victorian Council House in Chesterfield Town Centre, a house that the local council very kindly bulldozed away in the mid 80s’ to make way for a brand new By-pass. (The cruel price of moving with the times) Surprisingly, even at the ripe old age of 5, I still have quite a few memories wrapped around that creaky old house. It was always dark and cold, the damp and mould decorated every wall in every room. I remember we had a piano which, looking back, was a bizarre item to own considering my family was very poor. The piano was situated in what I believe they call a parlour but what I call a front room ; ironically, I never heard any of the family play it, it was there purely for decoration, the only time I did hear sound coming from it was when my little fingers banged down on the black and white keys until I was told to “STOP” by my mother. (She seemed to say that word to me an awful lot)
My parents never had much money apart from the benefits they received from the social. I remember they were always struggling to find money to keep the house warm and their 3 children fed. (So why didn’t they sell the bloody piano?) My father (The illusive Irish tinker) became very adept at breaking into the gas meter to relieve it of the 50 pence coins he had fed it previously so mum could use the Arger to cook on and also to enable him to scoot off to the pub, again! One of my abiding memories of that house was the smell of bread baking in the oven and my father tasting the first hot slice with pork dripping melting into it. That’s right, we ate well!
The house had 3 bedrooms, one of which was the attic that nobody ever used. It had an ancient 4 poster bed in it, fully made up but covered in dust and cobwebs. Us children were never allowed up there for some reason (It was probably condemned) but I would sneak up commando style, but only as far as the top of the staircase, to take a peek at the perfectly made up bed that was covered in a thick layer of dust with cobwebs in every corner of the room. On one particular occasion my mum, in her infinite wisdom decided to lock me in the attic room as punishment for being a naughty boy! I don’t mind admitting I was terrified and banged on the locked door screaming and crying until she let me out. I can tell you I wasn’t naughty for a long time afterwards. (But I have been since)
Actually, I remember that everybody in the family, me, my older siblings Michael and sister Catherine, mum and dad, all slept in the same bedroom in a failed attempt to keep warm (I wonder why i got into swinging!) JOKE. The bedroom was directly below the four poster in the attic and we could see the bed through the hole in the bedroom ceiling. One particular night we were woken abruptly by two pieces of the attic floor boards falling onto the edge of the bed. (I shit myself) However, my father didn’t wake up because he was snoring through one of his many drunken slumbers.
For some reason, about a year before we vacated the house, I was playing outside amongst all of the rubble, which turned out to be the back garden, when I picked a broken piece of roof slate up and preceded to push it into my right ear! Good old watchful mother !! came outside and witnessed the aftermath as blood poured out of my ear. As a result, I have been partially deaf ever since. Actually, there’s always a silver lining because it comes in handy now when I’m in bed and struggling to sleep; I turn over onto the left side of my body and I enjoy almost complete silence. (By the way, I don’t recommend pushing a roofing slate into your ear as an eventual antidote to a restless nights sleep)
On the morning we left the house, I was the last one to walk out of the front door before my father locked up for the final time. I was the last one out because I had a problem with my sisters favourite doll, the evil ‘Tiny Tears’. At least I think I must have had a problem with the doll because my very last act in the house was to sneak it away from my sisters gaze, run through the house, outside into the back ‘Rubble’, into the outside lavatory, and stuff Tiny Tears head down the u-bend. Sometimes I think about the dolls’ head being the only member of our dysfunctional family to never leave the house.
I never lived the murder of Tiny Tears down because my sister never allowed me to forget it, even right up to the point when my sister left home to live with her boyfriend when she turned 18. Ahhhh, I miss the old days, NOT!!!!