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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THE JOLLY BOYS

By Terry Patterson

 

 

 

“Shirley has wor Jimmy been using my bloody deodorant the bottles are almost empty.’ Bob Stephenson shouted down stairs to his wife from their bedroom. He had taken to hiding the deodorant and other toiletries in his wardrobe because his son would use anything if he himself ran out.

“How the hell do I know, I bought him one on Sunday from Pound land.’

“Well I had a full one in my wardrobe and now its bloody empty, you know that kid will use anybody’s stuff as long as he’s not paying for it.’ I cannot leave a razor blade or anything lying around because the bugger will use it to do his neck line around that beard he’s growing.’ Have you seen my razors there’s none up here either?’

“I put them all into the basket in the bathroom with all your other gear.’

Bob walked from the bedroom to the bathroom across the hall he looked in the cabinet then the shelf in the corner of the bathroom where there was normally a vast array of shampoo’s, hair conditioners, bath salts, hair spray and other women’s stuff. On the bottom self which was his, Bob had his shaving foam, shower gel, body wash and talc. There was a square basket in the left-hand corner with other toiletries like soap, toothpaste, three different kinds because Shirley used a smoker’s toothpaste to get rid of stubborn tartar. Jimmy used Gibbs SR and Bob used Colgate. He swore by it and had been using nothing else for over thirty-five years.’ He moved and then pulled out the bottles and tubes in an effort to find a new disposable razor. Shirley bought him Wilkinson sword blades because her husband would use nothing else.’

“Shirley there’s no bloody razors up here.’

“Have you looked in the basket?’

“Aye I’ve looked everywhere and there none up here.’ The one I hid behind the sponge is gone an aal.’

“They must be somewhere I only bought a ten packet on Sunday.’

“I bet Jimmy has them in his room.’

Well don’t go mooching’ around in his room because I’ve just washed and ironed his tee shirts for work and I diven’t want you messin’ his drawers up.

“Whey; he’s favoured isn’t he; I diven’t get my shirts ironed, yer just fold them then flatten them oot under a pile of Next catalogues.’

 “Think yersel lucky that I do that, yer na I hate ironing and its only cos’ wor jimmy works in a gym that his have to be ironed.

“So, because I’m not workin’ a diven’t get mine iron is that what you’re sayin’.’

“Diven’t start Bob, here’s yer bloody razors. Shirley threw the packet into the bathroom. It landed on the bath mat and Bob picked it up then took one out. He was about to run the hot tap when he noticed that Jimmy had used the electric shaver as well and there were hairs all over the sink.

“How many times have I got to tell that lad to clean his mess up after him, have you seen the state of the sink up here.’

“Jimmy hasn’t got time Bob, he starts work at seven thirty.’

“That’s right stick up for him, but if it had been me who’d left the bathroom like a shit hoose there would be hell on.’

“I get bloody sick of cleaning up after him Shirley. You do everything but wipe that lad’s arse.’

“Don’t be so crude.’

“Whey, it’s true, he gets up ten minutes before he’s due to leave the hoose knowing that you’ve put up his bait, whey if you can call it that. You’d think he was feeding’ a bloody army at work.’

He’s got two packs of sandwiches, a tin of soup, yogurt and bananas. Then there’s umpteen bottles of flavoured water every day. I wouldn’t mind but he comes home at eleven thirty, then you have to cook him a hot meal. You never did owt like that when I was workin.’

“You never worked the hours Jimmy does and besides he’s burning of a lot of calories in that gym. You never did.’

“Hey I bloody worked hard doon that Shipyard before I lost my leg.’

“Give over, Alan Thompson told me you were always getting’ your head down on the night shift and that you would jump over the wall in Smiths and end up in the Crane or the Ballarat.’

“Whey so would you an aal if you worked as hard as I did. We had to strip bloody paint for hours on end then shot blast it then put on the primers. Up and down ladders all day long. See if wor Jimmy can do that.’ “A day doon the ship yard would kill him.’

Bob Lathered his face then almost burnt his hands in the hot water in the sink. He cried out as he ran some cold into the basin then swirled it around until it was hot enough to stand. He adjusted the small mirror then began to scrape away the bristles on the left side of his face. He rinsed the blade in the water then banged the blade against the sink to release the trapped hair.

When he was finished he sluiced his face with cold water then picked up the towel that had just been flung any old how. it was wet and Bob thought about complaining again to his wife but thought better of it. He was wasting his breath. Nothing would change no matter how he complained. The thing was, Shirley got on at Margaret their seventeen-year-old daughter all the time. Margaret never said boo to a goose and went to work without complaint. She put up her own bait each morning and did her own washing and ironing as well.

Margaret Stephenson worked on the tills at Iceland food store she’d been there just over a year since leaving Norham High School. It was 1980 and Margaret Thatcher was in power having been elected as Britain’s first woman to hold office. Nothing had changed as far as the working classes were concerned. They were still being down trodden by what Bob called a capitalist regime. There was still mass unemployment in the North East and in Wallsend where Bob lived one in every three men were out of work. Bob cleaned his teeth then took out a polo shirt from the sliding wardrobe with mirrors on it and then put it on before sitting down over the edge of the bed he adjusted the plastic sleeve that went over his stump before putting on his on sock and then fixed the false leg on. It made a popping sound as he stood up. He burped loudly then excused himself. Putting on a pair of jeans he sat down again to put on his training shoe. He’d already tied the left one onto to his false leg which was no more than a large cup that his stump fitted into then a steel rod with a plastic foot attached at the bottom. It was a horrible shade of yellow not the colour of his skin. He was reminded about his accident every day of his life when he fell of the scaffolding and landed badly on the leg breaking it in four places, the ankle bones were shattered as well as his femur, tibia and fibula. For over two years he had operation after operation trying to save the leg. He got an infection and they then told him that in order to save his life the leg would have to come off below the knee. Bob was very philosophical about it and joked that the doctors could now make him taller if they took off his other leg as well. He always wanted to be over six feet tall instead of the five feet six that he was. Bob found himself having to go to physiotherapy to learn how to walk again with a prosthetic leg. He had to laugh one day when a black guy he met one afternoon came in to the ward wearing a pair of tracksuit bottoms. He was around five feet eleven and had been knocked off his Kawasaki motor bike by an impatient driver. Like Bob he had gone through a lot of surgery until they told him that they could not save his leg.

“Take it off then, it’s useless to me. I am in constant pain with the damned thing.’ He went through the months of treatment as Bob had learning how to walk with a false leg. As they sat together Isaac Obannion told him that he was born in Nairobi his father was a doctor in the small village and made enough money for him to go to university in England and study engineering. It was there that he met his wife Kathleen, who was taking an art degree. Kathleen Jenkins was a white woman and acceptance in a white man’s world was hard even in the early seventies when they were married. Isaac told him how the council refused to house him after they were married and he had to go to a private landlord in Jackson Street in North Shields to get a house. His neighbours were not very sociable either and resented the fact that he’d married a white woman. They looked down on him and his family. His daughter Rosalind was only two years old when she was told that she could not play with the neighbour’s kids. She played out with her little pram and doll whom she called Mollie by herself. She would make up games and talk to herself. Later when her mother took her to school or to Northumberland Park to play other mothers would pull their children away and look at her as if she were some slut. Her parents did warn her of the problems they would have to face but she loved Isaac who was kind and gentle. Even his voice was soft spoken. He would often tell Rosalind stories from Africa about the nature reserve in Kenya and all the different wild animals that lived there. Rosalind was fascinated by her father’s stories and asked when they were going to visit her grandparents in Nairobi. “Soon was all he father would say.

Bob asked what Isaac was doing at the clinic as the surgeon was came around to talk to other amputees.

“Are you having problems with the new leg?’

“Not as such, I mean I can still work Robert but wearing shorts on holiday is a bit embarrassing. I am thinking of going back home to Nairobi soon and I would like a new leg.’

“Yes, I know what you mean everyone looks at my false leg and when I get into the pool they think it odd when I swim around. Mind you I don’t think you’ll have much luck getting a spare leg. They cost a fair bit and the NHS are strapped for cash.’

The Surgeon looked at Isaac and remembered him straight away. “Hello Mr Obannion isn’t it. Ralph Mason I’m the consultant who performed the surgery on your leg. Isaac shook the hand that was offered him.

“What seems to be the problem?’

 “Well I was wondering if I could have a new leg.’

“Is there something wrong with the one that you have now I mean we can get it adjusted if you have a walking problem.’

“No, I’m walking fine with the leg, it’s when I wear shorts it is very embarrassing.’

“Yes, a lot of people will stare at you especially someone with a prosthesis.’

“I’m not bothered about the fact that I have a false leg Mr Mason it’s just this.’ Isaac pulled up his trouser leg then showed the surgeon.

Ralph Mason looked down at the false leg and inspected it.’

“It looks fine to me Mr Obannion.’

“You have overlooked one small problem Mr Mason.’

“Have I, and what would that be?’

“I am black Mr Mason and the false leg is yellow in colour.’

“Oh, I see,’ I’m terribly sorry; excuse my ignorance Mr Obannion I will see what we can do for you.’

“Well I was hoping to go back home to see my parents in Nairobi next month and was wondering if you could sort me a leg out the same colour as my good leg. It will also stop the sniggering that I get at work. “I work on board different ships as an engineer Mr Mason and I have to wear shorts on board because of the heat out at sea during trials in the Mediterranean.’

“Yes, I understand completely now; I’m sure that we can do something for you.’

“And what about you Mr Stephenson how can I help you?’

“I’ve brought my shower leg in because it needs repairing.’

“Are you managing alright with the false one?

“Well,’ like Isaac here it would be nice to have a flesh coloured one rather than this yellow one which stands out like a yellow traffic cone.’

“I see this is definitely something that needs addressing isn’t it said Mr Mason with a look of concern on his face.

“Whey with modern technology and such you would have thought so like.’

“I will write to the manufacturers and see what they can come up with.’

“Thank you replied both Bob and Isaac and with that Ralph Mason continued his rounds.’

When he had gone Bob turned to Isaac and said “I wonder how many black guys are walking around with a yellow leg?’

“I think there would be more of you white guys with them said Isaac. Then they both turned and laughed.

“Fancy a pint said Bob as they walked out of the clinic?’

“Not if you mind being seen with a yellow legged darkie said Isaac. He smiled and the gap between his front teeth stood out like piano keys .

“Give over will you said Bob I worked with a lot of Jamaicans and African’s when I worked in the ship yard.  As they walked down the road from the Rake Lane hospital on Barnstaple Road Isaac and Bob chatted away.  They came to the corner then waited for the traffic to let them across then they walked to the Fox Hunter’s pub and went inside. The barman gave them a look as they both walked in looking like a two headed Rolf Harris when he did “Jake the peg.’

What can I get you gentlemen said the man behind the bar?’

“I’ll have a cold pint of John Smiths, what can I get you Isaac?’

“I’ll have a pint of Carlsberg lager Bob.

“The barman poured the beers out then set them on the counter. “One pound eighty please said the barman.’

“Nearly a pound a bloody pint Isaac; the bloody government making money hand over fist out our one enjoyment in life. “Do you know it costs the breweries seven pence to make a pint of beer and the rest all goes to the government?’

“No, I never knew that.’

“Whey now you do, all our hard- earned cash going in the coffers of the Tory government- blame Kenneth bloody Clarke he’s the one who’s putting up the prices of everything.’

“Do you vote Isaac?’

“Yes, I vote but does it matter who gets into Parliament, to me they are all the same. They all line their own pockets.’ 

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