The Jolly Boys

Shirley Stephenson is a bored housewife who never stops day in day out, its the same humdrum existence. Bob her husband is a lazy good for nothing. who lost his leg in an industrial accident and is claiming benefit fraudulently. he keeps her short and moans because she goes to the bingo. Shirley finds the courage to file for a divorce and free herself. her life is suddenly transformed after she finds all of the compensation that Bob has been hiding from her. she orders a taxi she takes £30.000 and takes a box with some things that her gran had left her.

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Leopold Sedar Senghor from Kenya where I was born is in power at the moment and economically we are struggling in the worlds markets. We cannot compete with the likes of Britain.’

“It’s always the working-class man who gets shafted, the rich in the south aren’t bothered, and their wages are a bloody damned sight higher than ours. They don’t give a shite about us down here. They never have. As long as they have the likes of us will do all the shitty jobs like emptying bins, sweeping the streets, and every other labouring job needing doing they are happy.’ They just sit in their ivory towers looking down on us.’ I used to be a skilled man and now I’m resigned to working in a taxi office directing cabs all over the bloody place.’

“I was lucky, said Isaac I was able to go back and carry out the job that I was doing before’

There was a lot of climbing involved in my job and bloody health and safety inspectors said it would be too dangerous for me to go up a height with a false leg. So, I was pensioned off, put on the bloody scrap heap Isaac. “Another two pints mate shouted Bob to the barman.’

“It’s my shout isn’t it said Isaac.’

“Don’t worry about it, you can get the next ones in.’

“I was meant to be getting back home, I’d better ring my wife and let her know where I am.’

“Well my missus won’t be bothered about me. I could be dead for all she cared.’

“I take it you and your wife are not getting along then?’

“I’ll tell you all aboot my wife when you come back.’ Bob paid for the drinks then brought them over to the table where they were sitting. Isaac asked the barman where the phone was and he pointed to the corner near the exit.’

Dialling the number Isaac waited for an answer but there was none then he remembered that she would have gone to collect Rosalind from school even though she was now ten years old Kathleen still felt the need to collect her from school. She was a half caste and had been bullied in her first year in the Linskill School yard but she had stuck up for herself and had overcome the prejudice. She had made two friends Marlene Rogerson and Pam William’s who had invited her to their houses for tea and in turn Kathleen had invited them to her house.

Isaac returned and sat with his newly made friend he didn’t have many friends at work they mostly kept themselves to themselves. Bob seemed to have accepted him even though he was black. After all they had something in common, two yellow legs. He picked up the pint and took a drink then waited until Bob began to tell him about his wife. It seemed as though his marriage was all but over. Maybe it was because of his accident, before Bob had been a strong lad; he was able to pick up bags of grit two at a time and carry them up a ladder. Since his accident Bob had started to go to seed. He had a beer belly and had gained two stones in weight.

No matter what he did he could not shift the weight; the combination of drinking and playing on the darts team at the East End Club had seen to that. Each Tuesday night a buffet was laid on and he couldn’t resist tucking in even though he’d eaten his dinner. It got to a point where when he walked into the club to play his matches Freddy Leck and Paul Hodgson would begin to sing “you fat bastard”, “you fat bastard.’ A song favoured by Roy Chubby Brown a local North- East comedian whose use of the “F & C words during his shows were not for everyone but he appealed to some. There was a warning on all of his posters telling people that if anyone was offended by his use of expletives then not to come.

“On stage, Chubby would just walk on and would say if you don’t like it.’ Just fuck off.’

The darts team included Micky Brown, Glen Elsdon, Andy King, Geordie Lockie, John Southerland (Slack Arse), and Sergeant Bilko who was the driver. No one called him by his real name in fact nobody asked. Each week they’d do a draw to see who was playing and of course if you won you kept your place on the team. If you lost twice in a row you were dropped for the next game until someone else lost two games and you were back in. the games were highly competitive, several pints of ale being drank was par for the course. It was only sergeant Bilko who drank shandy all night. Each week Bob who was called “The Banker” apart from the odd expletive from all of his friends collected the subs, there was money to be collected in for the trip to Blackpool which Bob and the lads all went to every year. They left on a Friday night and came back on the Sunday night.

It was a great excuse for a piss up where they either went to a pro darts match or frequented the local bars. Either way it was a three-day drinking session. Away from their wives, a lot of the lads, 57 of them in total got in some extracurricular activities with the tourists. What went on in Blackpool stayed there as no one spoke of the trip apart from the fact that they’d all had a good time?

Bob took money from the darts lads for the meat draw and sold ten domino cards which brought in extra money if they won. Then there was the money that they won on the bingo and the club members draw. All of the winnings went into a pot and when the trip came they waited in line for their share of the money. There was always’ enough money to cover the weekend away. Micky Brown who ran a café down on Saville Street brought with him trays of Corned beef and onion pie, Cheese and bacon quiches and mince beef pies. They were about four inches wide and three inches thick.

They were neatly placed on disposable trays, Micky made at least ten trays with different pies on them. The bus made one toilet stop and then drove all the way to Blackpool. Many of the young lads began drinking as soon as the coach left the club having already drank two pints before getting on. They usually had a collection for the driver who turned a blind eye to them as they got steadily pissed.

The volume of noise went up as the lads got into drinking mode. Expectations were always high as usual with the young lads all eager to get with some young woman. The older members all knew how to pace themselves and never went daft.

“Do you think you will stay with your wife said Isaac as he went to the bar and got a round in.’

“I don’t think so Isaac, I cannot be bothered wi all the agro these days, hence that’s why I gan oot most of the time. I would rather be on my own than put up wi aal the crap.’

“So, will you get a place of your own?’

“My mate says with me being disabled I would get a downstairs flat no problem. I can get it adapted so I can have a walk- in shower rather than a bath. The cupboards can be lowered so I can reach them.

“If need be I can get a taxi to the club, would you stay in Wallsend?’

“Oh aye, Wallsend bread and born me. My mother had a hoose on Frank Street then we moved to Sydney Grove. Then I moved to Holy Cross when me and the witch got married.’

“You call her a witch.’

Oh aye, she is a right witch at times. I mean she’s the mother to my two kids but she just dotes on wor Jimmy. She’ll run to hell and back for him but if I ask hor to do owt there’s such a hue and cry. He’s spoilt rotten Isaac; do you have any kids?’

“Yes,’ I have a daughter called Rosalind she is my life.’

“Margaret my daughter is closer to me than wor lass mind, I’ve only to ask her and she’ll do owt for me.’

“Well at least you have someone who cares about you.’

Yes, that’s something aye.’ When are you going back to Africa?’

Next month for five weeks, it’s hardly worth trailing half way around the world for a week or two.

The whole village will come out to greet us and there will be huge festivities and music. They have never met my wife or my daughter; I’ve sent photos and l write each week to them but they are looking forward to meeting them both.

“Do you have brothers and sisters Isaac?’

Yes, a brother called Jacob and a sister called Rowena. What about you?’

“I have a sister who’s older than me, she comes over to see me at least once a week.’

“It is good that she still comes to see you.’

“It’s a good job she does really Isaac, my mother is dead now, she died about five years ago now. Mam died of cancer she was only fifty- four. And me fatha well he met this woman who I call Betty Bumface.

“Bumface, you do not like this woman?

“No, she is a lying, cheating little cow.’

When Isaac finished his pint, he told Bob that he would have to go. Isaac ordered a taxi and told Bob to get in and that he would pay for it.’

“Are you sure man, I can get the bus?’

 “It is no trouble Robert, maybe we can meet up again sometime.’

“Yes, I would like that Isaac.’

“Where to mate said the driver.’

“Jackson Street North Shields please.’

The taxi cab sped down past the fire station and St Hilda’s Church, it carried on past “The Spread Eagle” and “The Gunner turned left at the Church then along Albion Road turning onto Linskill terrace then past Trevor Terrace and into Jackson Street. It stopped outside of number 23 and Isaac paid the driver to take Bob home. He shook his hand then turned and walked up the path.

“It was just after three forty- five when Bob returned home. Shirley was hanging out washing on the line. There wasn’t a sign of any of his clothes to be seen. “That was a long appointment wasn’t it.’

I met up wi someone and we went for a pint.’

“It’s always just a pint Bob, but it soon leads to more.’

“What’s the matter wi you any way.’

“Nowt’s the matter, I just slave after you lot aal day long that’s all.’

“Whey why don’t wi aal gan oot the neet.’

“Oh aye, and where we ganna get the money from to gan oot like.’

“Whey a got a few tips the other neet there and there’s enough for us to gan to the Club wi.’

“We’d be better off putting’ that money and gettin’ some grub in the hoose.’

“Have yer not bought out like? What happened to all that money a give yer last week?’

“Bob where do you think aal the money gan’s; it’s gan’s to pay the rent and aal the other bills that’s got to be paid for around here.’

“Whey a give yer nearly aal my money what yer doing wi it.’

“What you give me Bob doesn’t gan far. Yer not workin’ doon the yard now yer know.’

“What difference does that make like?’

“A hell of a lot more Bob, you used to give me more to live on then.’

“Aye and yer was squandering’ it doon at the bingo wi that Joyce Marti.’

Shirley picked out another peg from the bag then hung another one of Jimmy’s shirts out.’

“Diven’t yee be tellin’ me that I was squandering’ money when you were swilling’ beer doon yer neck doon at the club every neet.’

“That’s utter bull and yer know it Shirley. I was workin’ neet shift so how was a drinking.’

“Look Bob do a look stupid.’

“A won’t answer that, it may incriminate me he joked.’

“Don’t you be funny Bob Stephenson, Cheeky bugger?’

“Look man it was Lynn Winky Carruther’s who telt me that you and a few of the lads were climbing the wall and gannin’ to the pub for a good session. Yer aal took yer turns. I bet you were oot the neet yer fell off the scaffolding and smashed yer leg.’

“You just shut yer gob, a diven’t want the whole world knowing my business.’ And for your information, I wasn’t drinkin’ that neet. Had they smelled alcohol on me a waddn’t of got a big lumpa’ from the compensation people would I.’

“That’s because aal yer other mates covered for yer and were poppin’ Trebor extra strong mints doon yer neck before the ambulance came.’

“Shut yer gob man woman, yer diven’t na who’s listenin.’   Shop you as soon as look at yer around here.’

 “Anyway, what’s for tea I’m starvin?’

“You can wait until wor Jimmy and Margaret come in’

“How long they ganna be like?’

“They shouldn’t be long.’

“Whey am hungry now.’

It will do you the world of good to starve a bit, am mean look at you.’ yer belly’s hanging over yer pants.’ Yer look like a pregnant duck the way yer waddle aboot.’

“Christ here’s Marylyn Monroe talkin,’ have yer looked in the mirror lately?’

Shirley picked up the wash basket then went into the back door; she pushed it beside the washer that was on. It was on the rinse cycle doing another load before Shirley replied.’

“I have a good right to look haggard Bob, I never stop, aal day long I’m on the go from morning’ until neet. A mean, a can’t go for aal those facials, nail extensions, and hair do’s like others around here.’ Sandra Walton’s husband over the road gives hor the money so she can get a make -over every week.’

“Christ have yer seen the clip of hor, nae wonders hor husband gives hor the money.’

“Some men think more of their women than you do.’

“What you trying to say like.’ Yer na, I can’t do right for doing’ wrong me.’

“You never give me the money and say here gan and get yersel a new dress or your hair done. It would be pampered every now and then. At least I’d feel as if I was valued around here. What about Jimmy he’s earning’ more money than me.’

Leave jimmy oot of this, he works hard that lad and he’s always stumping’ up to keep this hoose afloat.’

“Oh, a forgot, the special one gets aal the privileges around here doesn’t he. Nowt’s got to be said aboot him has there.’

Just then Margaret walked in the door with a shopping bag from Iceland.’

“Hi Margaret pet, have you had a good day?’

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