The girl next door

Maxie Forster is a binman who carries out ashes from the coal fires of North Shields the holes in his leather soled boots are letting in water from the rain and he cannot afford to go and take the boots to the cobbler shop in Billy Mill. He tries repairing them with some old lino and cuts the shape out with a stanley knife and glues them with some evo stick then places cardboard in the insides. Looking over the road on his round he spots a family being evicted by the bailiffs - the wagon is loaded with furniture and the woman and her five children stand in the rain as the barrow with everything she owns is pushed down the street.

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The sound of thunder woke Maxie Forster from his sleep; he woke with such a shock and looked towards the window of his house in Briarwood Avenue. He’d never liked the sound of thunder or the lightning that followed as it flashed a brilliant clear white light through his bedroom window. It reminded him too much of the war when he was in the artillery regiment of the Northumberland Fusiliers. The sound of the shells being fired and exploding nearly sent him crazy as he prayed to God almighty that he would return home in one piece. He had seen things and done things in the trenches that he would not repeat to a living soul. The memory of it haunted him as he lost friends and even one of his next door neighbours in the conflict when a shell blew his head from his body and it lay in the mud in the trench right next to him. The eyes staring back at him as he looked in utter horror. For nearly five years he’d managed to keep his head down with no heroics the see VE day, the liberation of France and victory in Europe.

He was one of the lucky one’s he thought as another thunder clash boomed in the back garden that looked onto St Josephs School. He sat on the edge of the bed and slipped on his trousers, he fed his arms through the straps of his braces then adjusted them on his shoulders then made sure that he didn’t kick over the chamber pot that was under the bed before getting to his feet. He looked over at the alarm clock next to his side of the bed as his wife Shirley lay sleeping contently.’

The rain began to trickle down the window pane and Maxie cursed knowing no matter what the weather was it would not stop the bins from being emptied. He had been a binman with the council now for over twenty years since being demobbed. Now 1966 was just around the corner and the Ridge Estate in North Shields still had a reputation.

There was no getting rid of the stigma attached to the place. No matter how he tried people from other areas looked down on him and his family as if they were no more than dirt that they had stepped in. It was only the canny folk of the town who pulled together in times of hardship and there were plenty of those.

“Everybody was on tick (Credit) in those days. Those that told you they weren’t were liars.’

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