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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“I do hope that you don’t use slang Ridges talk when you meet George’s parents next month we are all invited to Christmas Dinner in Jesmond.

“Now you listen to me young lady I will speak the way I want; an nae body is ganna tell me how t’ talk.’

“If you do father I will never speak to you again she said; and turned on her heel and left the room.

 

Max filled the pot just as Shirley was retuning from the netty outside. She lifted her skirts and warmed her backside on the flames of the coal fire.’

“Pour me a cuppa tea will yer love.’ said Shirley as she reached up on the mantle piece and took down a packet of Players N0 6 cigarettes she placed the cigarette in the corner of her mouth then lit a piece of newspaper and held it to the end of her fag then inhaled. She coughed and spluttered but still took another drag from the cigarette then flicked the ash from it with her thumb which was stained brown with nicotine. She had tied her black hair which was rapidly turning silver grey in places with two clips at the side and when Maxie stared at her close up she looked older than her forty three years. The crow’s feet in the corners of her eyes and lines on her forehead and lose skin on her neck made her look around sixty he thought.’

“What are we going to have for tea tonight?’

“Well I’ve got a few spuds maybe I can gan doon to the Fish quay and pick up some cod cheeks and make fishcakes and chips.

“Is that all?’

“It’s all that you’re ganna get until you get paid on Friday.’

“Is there owt for me breakfast then?’

“Not a bloody sausage.’

“It Looks like am ganna have to pinch another bottle of milk on me way to work from Kevin Brands milk float.’

“At least you’ll be getting’ summick then; aal be havin’ nowt until the neet when you come in.’

“Aye but I’ve got to lift heavy bins aal day lang until I come in.’

“Whey I will be cleanin’ this hoose and doin’ aal the weshin’ as well.’

Try possin’ aal your clothes full of coal ash and soot.’

Maxie added four spoons of sugar into his mug of tea then handed his wife’s over with a drop of milk in it.

He sat on the wooden chair next to the fire place and put on his work boots there was a hole in the leather soles and he would have to take them to the cobbler shop near Billy Mill, old Ted Alexander the cobbler, fixed his boots the last time at a cost of seven shillings and sixpence. They had lasted him nearly a year but would not last the winter if he didn’t get them repaired before the onset of the snow. He placed a thick piece of cardboard from an old box inside the boot and hoped that the rain would stop before he left the house or his feet would be soaked all day.

 He put on his black donkey jacket then his flat cap on his head. He finished the dregs in his cup then bent down and kissed his wife on the cheek before walking down the passage and then slamming the door on his way out. Tommy Toby was coming out of his path at the same time and Maxie waved as he lifted the collar on his jacket then hurried down the street to the cooperation yard to meet his wagon. The water from the rain soon leaked into his boots and his feet were soaked.

Morning Bill, said Maxie as he climbed on board the bin wagon. The Green coloured Bedford wagon with three compartments to empty rubbish into was started up then they drove down the lane towards Laburnum Avenue where they would start their 

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