From a very early age I went to a Catholic school. My brother and sister, 6 years and 4 years older than me, went to the same school. Every Thursday morning, at 9am, the whole school went to a church service. Even from a very early age, I had no interest in religion, all I wanted to do was play football as soon as the service had ended. Not one of my school friends seemed interested in going to church, so we were marched to church by several teachers who for all I know, had little or no interest in marching us there.
My parents were much the same as the school teachers. Every Sunday, all three of us were made to go to church with mum and dad (When he was sober or not off on one of his jollies) When he wasn’t around, which was often, my mum still forced us to go with her!
This forced religious practice went on for years. However, as my parents marriage became more and more strained, they stopped going on Sundays, but still made me and my siblings go. So, this was an opportunity myself and my brother couldn’t miss. As we watched my sister disappear through the church doors, we would make a detour and go to the nearest football pitch about a 5 minute walk away to watch a Sunday league match. My sister kept our secret for a few years until the day came when I was allowed to make my own choice.
By the time I could make my own choice, my brother had already stopped going for a couple of years before me because of his age, but my sister dutifully remained true to her ‘Faith ‘ but still kept my secret. Then she discovered boys and decided they were much more fun and eventually stopped going.
I was about 13 or 14 (I think) when I was able to inform my mum that I was going to watch the football instead of going to church.
The reason I am recalling my childhood days as a reluctant church goer is because Christmas is approaching. That was the only time I didn’t mind going because of the beautiful Christmas tree in the church and the Christmas carols that replaced the usual hymns that were sung. I also came away from church at gone midnight clutching a selection box, which was a proper treat when I was a kid.
One particular Christmas eve, my sister accompanied my mum and a sober dad to church, leaving me at home alone because I didn’t want to go. When they walked out of the door, I watched the last half of a movie on tv and then started to tidy up before they arrived back home. My mum had left the kitchen looking a bit of a mess because she had been hurriedly baking mince pies and jam tarts, leaving me to clean up after her.
Believe it or not we didn’t own a Hoover. All we had was a very stiff yard brush and one of those push along sweepers that were usually found in caravans before the miracle of electric hookups. So I used the sweeper on the kitchen floor and the yard brush on the living room carpet. It took me a while to make the carpet look plush but I stuck at it until I was happy with it. We didn’t have a stair carpet but I swept the wooden stairs anyway, just to finish the job.
When they arrived back home I didn’t even get a thank you from mum. That was the last time I swept up for mum.
In fact, that was the last Christmas we were all together as a family, and I wasted Christmas eve sweeping the living room carpet.