Jimmy “Kid” Taylor

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Jimmy has just lost only the second fight of his professional career. He sits alone in his dressing room contemplating his future. His Manager walks in…

 

“Look Tommy, I could have gone another two rounds. The ref stepped in too early. I…”

He was interrupted by his Manager, Tommy Seabrook. A tough east Londoner who didn’t mince his words.

“Fuck off. Don’t kid yourself Jim. He beat you. He was all over you in the ninth. The ref had to stop it. It’s over. Time to call it a day.”

The words hit him like a sledgehammer. Retirement had never been mentioned before. He came back the only way he knew. Fighting. He lunged at Tommy Seabrook and grabbed him tight by his collar and tie.

“What the fuck do you mean by that? I’m twenty nine for fucks sake. I’m in my prime. I’m three fights away from a title fight and you’ve got the balls to tell me to call it a day? Fuck off Tommy. Just fuck off!”

He let him go, moved away and sat down on an old wooden stool in the corner of the dressing room. Annoyed with himself for losing his temper.

Tommy straightened his tie. Took a deep breath. Realising that his words may have been a bit harsh. He waited for a few seconds before he spoke again. This time his voice was quiet and slow.

“Look Jim. Gonzalez beat you fair and square tonight. The ref stepped in because he was worried you were taking too many punches. No way will we get a rematch. He’s moving on. Already lined up a bout with Romero. That’s a title eliminator. He wins that and he gets his shot at Suarez for the title.”

Jimmy’s head dropped into his chest.

“Okay, okay, just line me up a couple of easy fights and I’ll bide my time till I get another chance.”

Tommy shook his head.

“Jim, listen to me. You know the rules of this game, whether it’s inside or outside the ring you never, ever, take a step backwards, you’ve always got to keep going forward. You start fighting nobodies and you become a fucking nobody.”

Jim heard Tommy’s words but was lost in his own thoughts. British Lightweight Champion at just twenty three. European Champion at twenty six. Jimmy “Kid” Taylor was the golden boy of British Boxing. Unbeaten in all amateur and professional fights. No one went more than eight rounds with Jimmy the Kid. Then he fought the world number four, a Mexican called Garcia. This guy was different to anyone he’d ever fought. His punches were accurate, crisp, sharp and everyone of them felt as though he was being pummelled with a ball hammer. He won on points, but his body was never quite the same. He pissed blood for two weeks after. The spiteful punches to the kidneys had taken their toll. The vision in his right eye was permanently blurred, something he’d never told Tommy, and he was now partially deaf in his right ear. But he won and that was all that mattered. He took ten months off hoping to fight Suarez for the World title. But Suarez was busy fighting the world ranked number two. So Tommy decided the big money fight would be a re-match with Garcia. Big mistake. This time Garcia destroyed him in three rounds. He couldn’t see Garcia’s left hand punches until it was too late because of the poor vision in his right eye. He was on the canvas six times in three rounds. He was in hospital for five days after the fight. But was training again within three months. Then tonight he’d fought Gonzalez and the ref stopped it in the ninth. He’d taken another beating and lost.

He cleared his head and looked up at Tommy. They’d been together for thirteen years. He knew exactly what buttons to press to get what he wanted.

“Yeh, I know the rules Tom and I agree. Lightweight is no good for me. But think about this just for a second. What if I put on five pounds and move up to Welterweight. THAT Division is wide open. AND there’s that new kid from Lewisham who’s knocking everyone out. How about lining up a fight for me and him. Would be a great British fight. You’d sell out Wembley for that one. Maybe even get the TV guys interested?”

He could hear the wheels going round in Tommy Seabrooks head. He’d just suggested something that could make Tommy a lot of money. He knew what the answer would be. He watched as Tommy nodded his head.

“Well, as long as you’re sure Jim. This Lewisham kid is good, hits hard, great left hand, quick, fast, accurate and agile. But he’s never fought anyone of your class before. Okay let me see what I can do.”

Tommy walked over to Jimmy and patted him on the back. He said something to Jim as he left. But Jimmy Kid Taylor never heard him. He was now completely deaf in his right ear.

 

The Sherbet Lemon Conversation.

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I’m on a flight from London Gatwick to Faro Portugal. Easyjet. No frills, no time. Just two and a half hours of boredom. I’m sipping a vodka and tonic and reading the in flight magazine. Apparently there’s a big discount on L’Oreal Mascara this week.

The middle aged woman sitting next to me smells. Not great. A mixture of cheap perfume, garlic and sweat. I’m guessing her dinner last night was chicken Kiev and because this was the first flight out this morning she didn’t have time for a shower, so just sprayed herself with the female equivalent of Lynx.

Me? I was in bed by nine and up at four. Showered and dressed by five and at the airport by six. I smelt good, Bulgari was my choice this morning and I’d eaten nothing for twenty four hours. The risk of having to take a crap in the toilet on the plane was just to gross to imagine. Once I was in my seat I wouldn’t move until we landed.

I have my headphones on and I’m listening to a new band called New Street Adventures. They’re good, soulful, a bit like Weller when he became The Style Council. I’m aware of the smelly woman nudging me. I take off my headphones and look at her. She’s offering me a sweet.

“We’ll be landing soon. Would you like a sucky sweet?”

I smile back and take something from the bag. It’s a sherbet lemon.

“Thank you. That’s very kind.”

I open the wrapper and put the sweet in my mouth hoping that the smelly woman doesn’t want to talk. I’m wrong.

“Are you going on holiday or do you have a place in Portugal?”

I decide not to be rude so I answer her question truthfully.

“I’m here on business. So only staying for a few days.”

As soon as I say the words I know it’s a mistake. This woman will want to know more.

“Business? What sort of business are you in?”

Again I’m polite and answer as best I can.

“I’m a negotiator. I’m here to negotiate a settlement for my client.”

I crunch the sherbet lemon in my mouth and taste the sharpness on my tongue. I turn away from smelly woman and attempt to put my headphones back on. But she’s having none of it. She nudges me again.

“Sounds exciting. What line of business did you say you were in?”

She’s fishing. So I give her a bite.

“Recovery.”

Now she’s intrigued. Smelly woman starts to think.

“What sort of recovery? “

Before I can answer, the pilot makes an announcement.

“Ladies and gentlemen we will shortly begin our descent into Faro airport and should be on the ground in around fifteen minutes. Please take your seats and fasten your belts.”

The announcement doesn’t phase her. She asks again.

“What sort of recovery?”

I make an assessment in my mind. In less than thirty minutes I’ll be off this plane and never see this woman again. If I make something up smelly woman will keep on with the questions and I’ll run out of answers. I might as well tell her the truth.

“Money. A man in Portugal owes my client a large sum of money. I’m here to negotiate a settlement.”

Smelly woman seems excited at this news.

“Sounds very important. I suppose there will be lawyers involved, a court case maybe?”

I smile at her.

“No. The man in question doesn’t know I’m coming.”

She seems confused at my answer.

“But won’t he need time to put his affairs in order?”

I shake my head.

“The man owns two bars and a nightclub. I’m here to take possession of those assets on behalf of my client. The man only has to sign the papers that I have in my briefcase and then I can return home.”

I can hear the wheels going round in smelly womans head.

“But what if he decides not to sign? Surely the lawyers will get involved then?”

I turn to face her. I stare into her eyes and at the same time I very slowly make a cutting motion with my hand along my throat.

“He’ll sign!”

I’m aware of the sound of a bag of sweets hitting the floor…

Infinite Sky.

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The sun was shining. Not scorching, but one of those glorious hazy early summer days. Stevie picked up a patio chair and carried it to the bottom of the garden. His dad’s perfectly manicured lawn was like a cushion under his bare feet. He sat himself down under the big old chestnut tree. This was his spot, his favourite part of the garden. Far away from the house, no distractions, the perfect place to think. He craned his neck back and looked up at the blue sky. He was always overwhelmed by the vastness of it all.
He remembered back to when he was five years of age. His grandad had taken him by the hand and led him to this very spot. He could still hear the words in his head.
“Whenever you need to work things out little Stevie, this is where you should come. Just lay back, look up at that sky and think. Soon everything will fall into place.”
He didn’t understand back then what old grandad was talking about, but as he got older he realised just how wise those words were. This place inspired him and today he would need all the inspiration he could get. Today would be a turning point in his life. Today a decision had to be made.
His exam results had come through that morning and he’d got exactly what he’d expected. A 2 – 1 in Biomedical Science. He now had his degree. Not only that but he’d received the phone call he’d been waiting for. He’d just been offered a dream of a job in the laboratories at the new private hospital in East London.
All great news. But then there was the band.
The band was important. Possibly the most important thing in his life. He played lead guitar and sang lead vocals. He also wrote their songs. They were good, very good. At University they’d become quite an attraction and gained a big following. They played twice a week on campus and had a regular midweek slot in one of the nearby pubs. He was sure one day they would make it. Make it big.
But he couldn’t do both. Not a full time job and the band. One had to go. The other three band members were unanimous. They’d decided to put their careers on hold for a few years and concentrate full time on the band. Only Stevie had yet to decide.
They’d already been offered two regular gigs. Friday afternoon and Sunday evening at the Crown in Lewisham. Another pub was interested in having them on Saturday nights and there was also a chance of a Wednesday evening slot at the Lamb and Flag in Shoreditch.
No way could he work all week at the Lab and then evenings and weekends with the band. Impossible.
So the decision had to be made. Career or the band. His heart said Band but his head said Career. Jobs were scarce and he knew he’d beaten hundreds of other applicants to get the job. Starting salary was nearly thirty grand, five weeks paid holiday and private healthcare. Job of a lifetime. He’d be mad to decline it. Plus, what would Mum and Dad say?
Well, he knew what they’d say. They’d go mad. They’d supported him financially through three years at University. He couldn’t let them down, could he?
He kept staring upwards, waiting for something, anything, any kind of sign. But nothing, just lots of empty blue sky. There wasn’t even a cloud to focus on. He closed his eyes and thought of his dearly departed grandad. “Come on grandad, tell me what to do. I’m in your favourite spot at the bottom of the garden. You told me that if I looked up to the sky everything would fall into place. Please grandad, tell me what to do!”
He was brought back to reality by the sound of his mobile ringing. It was Robbie, the drummer in the band. He answered.
“Hello mate what’s happening.”
“Everything’s bloody happening that’s what. You’ve only gone and bloody done it with that song of yours.”
“Whoa, slow down Robbie, what you on about?”
“You know that song you wrote and then last week we filmed ourselves playing it and stuck it on YouTube?”
“Yeh?”
“It’s only had nearly a bloody million hits in the last forty eight hours.”
“You better not be winding me up Rob.”
“Serious man, some bloke from Gamma records has been on and wants us to meet him tomorrow. They fucking love the song Stevie, your bloody song.”
“Shit!”
“Get your skates on mate we’re all meeting in the pub in an hour, this is it Stevie. This is it.”
He hung up. He remembered writing the song in exactly the place where he was now sitting just two weeks ago. Yep “Infinite Sky” was a good tune. He smiled and shouted aloud up at the sky.
“Thank you grandad. I’m gonna be a rock star!”

That Morning.

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I got up late that morning, too late. My head was pounding like cannon balls being fired from an old galleon ship. Far too much whiskey was drunk the night before and far too much money was lost on that bloody poker game. The last hand could have been mine if it wasn’t for DAVE. I had two pairs, Aces and Queens. I was confident I’d take the pot. But DAVE with his fucking full house did me like a kipper. Over three grand in the pot and DAVE took the lot. Although Dave was my best mate, that morning I hated Dave. That morning Dave was a wanker!

But, that morning I decided to be positive. The dawn brought with it new possibilities. The papers arrived and The Racing Post would surely be my saviour. After an hour’s studying I had the day planned. Romford Dog Track would be the place to get my money back and a few extra quid on top. I got there at eleven o’clock, just in time for the first race. I didn’t bet in that race, just watched. Trap two, the favourite, led all the way and won by a distance. Today would be a day for favourites. I was sure of it.

I ordered a pint and wandered around the track hoping to see some familiar faces. I was looking for Old Charlie. He had dogs, half a dozen at least. He knew what he was talking about. If Old Charlie gave you a tip, you lumped on. Once, he gave me a tip for a dog at Catford. It pissed home at seven to one. I had five hundred quid on it and went home with over four grand that day. Yep, that morning I needed Old Charlie.

That first beer was hard to get down, but the second was smooth, hit the spot. A whisky chaser helped it on its way. I was beginning to feel human again and the headache was a distant memory. I checked what cash I had in my pocket. Six hundred and twenty quid. But I also had my emergency card. A card I’d never used. A card that would allow me to draw out up to a maximum of five hundred quid if I needed it. I was deciding whether or not to go to the cash machine when I spotted Randy Roger at the bar. He was with a gorgeous bird, at least ten years younger than him and with the best pair of tits I’d seen in a long time. Randy Roger was punching well above his weight these days. I wandered over.

“Hi Rog, any luck?

He had that smarmy grin on his face, he knew what I was thinking. Just to rub it in he kissed his dolly bird on the cheek and grabbed her arse at the same time. She giggled like a naughty schoolgirl. He turned, looked at me and winked.

“Get on the four dog in the next race. Mate of mine owns it. Says it can’t be beat.”

I walked away a happy man. Good old Randy Roger.

I put my bet on. Six hundred quid on trap four. The bell rang, the lights went down and the traps opened. The four dog came out last and that’s exactly where he finished. LAST.

I looked for Randy Roger and his tart. They were nowhere to be seen. Why did I listen to that pratt? The only thing he knew about dogs was how to shag them!

But that morning my luck was about to change. I spotted Old Charlie talking to a couple of blokes I’d never seen before. They were all huddled together. Lots of nods, winks and whispers going on. This looked promising. I waited a few minutes until they parted company. The two big strangers walked off and left Old Charlie on his own. I called over.

“Charlie. How you doing mate?”

Old Charlie came over. I was sure the man was worth a fortune, yet he dressed like a tramp. He didn’t answer my question. Just leaned into me and whispered in my ear.

“Those two guys I was just talking to have brought a young dog over from Ireland. It’s running in the next race. Trap three. Apparently over there it’s beating everything in sight. Some kind of super dog. Get on it!”

Old Charlie walked away. I loved that man. True gent.

I had five minutes before the start of the race. Time for another quick beer and a nice chaser. I went over and spoke to the spotty faced kid behind the bar.

“Pint of Stella please mate and a large Glenfiddich.”

He quickly served up the drinks and I paid with my last twenty pound note. I drank down the Scotch and took a swig of the Lager. Time to use the emergency card and get my five hundred quid. I walked over to the cash machine. I pushed the card into the slot. And THAT was the morning.

THAT was the morning…I forgot my PIN number.

 

When The Boxes Open.

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He’s seven and his young brain soaks up everything like a heavy duty kitchen cloth.
He sees things. Things he doesn’t understand. Things that go into little boxes and are tucked away in dark places inside his head.
Like his hero, his dad, getting ready to go out on a Saturday night dressed in his new made to measure suit and large black Crombie overcoat that he wears with pride. Yet Mum always gets her clothes from the local charity shop.
Like his hero’s temper that flares up when Mum asks what time he’ll be back so that she can have his supper ready. And the quickness of his hand when she says it once too often.
Like the way his hero buys him a packet of crisps and tells him to sit in the corner and be quiet while he attends to business.
Like the money his hero slips into the hand of a skinny man with tattooed arms who winks and gives him small plastic bags in return.
Like the way his hero punches a man in the face and kicks him when he’s on the floor for saying the words “ I don’t have the money tonight.”
Like his hero kissing a drunken woman outside the pub at the end of the night while Mum stays indoors with the two girls. Girls his hero calls “the bitches offspring.”
He’s now twenty four, married with a young son and the boxes have come out of the darkness and are slowly beginning to open.

The Old Couple From The Banjo.

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Ted and Florence Carter lived down the Banjo. Yep, that’s where they lived. Down the Banjo. Now some of you won’t know what a banjo is. Let me explain.

When this particular council estate was being built back in the twenties, the architects decided to be a bit clever. Street designs included cul-de-sacs that were built in a particular shape. A long open walkway with a grass verge on either side suddenly opened up into a large circle of houses. They called it a Banjo.

Ted and Florrie considered themselves lucky. They’d moved from a one bedroom flat in Bermondsey, South London to a three bedroom council house in the leafy suburbs of Dagenham. Here they survived the war, raised their five children, danced their way through the fifties, saw all of their children married in the sixties, cried with grief when they buried one of their sons, but cried with joy as they saw eleven grandchildren born in the seventies. It was now 1984.

They’d both been retired for a number of years and had settled into a daily routine. Everyone knew them as “that nice old couple who live down the banjo.”

Ted’s day was always the same. He was an early riser. At six thirty he was up, washed and shaved and taking Florrie up a nice cup of tea. Then he would walk the short distance to the paper shop where he would buy the Daily Mirror and the Sporting Life. Back indoors Florrie would serve up his breakfast of eggs and bacon at seven thirty which was washed down with two big mugs of tea. Florrie made the best tea in Dagenham. After which he would start to pick out his horses. One pound a day was his maximum bet. Yet he would pick out as many as eight horses and do them in doubles and trebles all for a few pence each. Then he’d tackle the crossword. He set himself a target of finishing it before ten o’clock. He rarely did. At ten thirty he changed into a suit with shirt and tie. He liked to look smart. He left the house and made his way to the betting shop to put on his bets. By midday he was walking through the doors of his local, The Fanshawe Tavern to have his “constitution.” His “constitution” was to stay there for two hours and have five or six pints of bitter. He met his pals here, played crib or dominoes and generally had a laugh. He was always indoors by three at the very latest. Time for a quick nap till four thirty and ready for Florrie’s delicious dinner at half past five. The old Victorian piano in the front room had also survived the decades just as they had and usually took a bashing from Ted at around seven for an hour. They’d both sit down to watch a bit of television for a while in the evening and then off to bed at ten.

Florrie’s day was slightly different.

Ted brought her up a cup of tea at six thirty. She would have preferred another hour’s sleep but when Ted was up everyone else had to be awake as well. She was also convinced that the tea was to make sure she was awake and ready to start cooking his fry up. He insisted on having his breakfast on the table at seven thirty, so she started cooking his bacon and eggs at seven fifteen. The look on his face was pure evil if god- forbid she put the plate in front of him at seven thirty five! She watched as he gambled away seven pounds a week. Money that could be better spent on house-keeping. Ted was in charge of their combined pensions and gave her what he thought she could manage the household bills with. The rest he spent on himself. Either gambling or alcohol. Besides, he never won. If he did he kept it quiet, she never saw any of his winnings. Her favourite time was when he left the house at eleven and didn’t return until three. She would sit and have tea and biscuits and watch a bit of daytime television. But not for long. There was a bed to make, suits to press, shirts to iron, washing up to do, hoover and duster to put round and of course she had to start cooking the evening meal. Ted liked the house to be spotless. Even though he’d never picked up a duster in his life. According to him that was her job. He also liked a proper cooked meal every night. Meat, potatoes, veg, gravy and a nice pudding to follow. So most afternoons were spent baking meat pies, meat puddings, jam sponges or ginger cakes. When Ted came home at three, usually a bit worse for wear, he would sit down in the armchair and fall asleep. He would then snore for the next two hours. After that the piano would feel the full force of his massive fingers as he bashed away at various notes to try to get a tune out of the old Joanna. He would sit at the dining room table at five twenty five, knife and fork in hand waiting impatiently to be fed. She would put the dinner in front of him and he would start to eat. He never said thank you. He turned on the television after dinner and HE would choose what they watched until they went to bed. She was never allowed to stay up after ten o’clock.

It was Wednesday and it was after four. Ted was late home from the pub. She was in the middle of making bread pudding in the kitchen and worrying just how drunk Ted might be when he eventually got home. What mood would he be in? Would he raise his hands or simply fall asleep in the chair? She heard a key unlock the front door.

She left the kitchen and went into the hallway. Standing there were all her grown up children. Kay, the eldest spoke quietly.

“Mum, come and sit down, we’ve got something to tell you.”

Kay took her mums hand and led her into the front room. She sat her down in Ted’s armchair. They all took their places on the sofa. Kay knelt down beside the armchair.

“Mum, it’s about dad. He felt a bit unwell in the pub today and they called for an ambulance. One of the other regulars called me at home. He had a heart attack mum. He’s gone. Dad’s gone.”

Kay squeezed her mums hand and started to cry. Florrie put her head in her hands and started to rock back and forth.

“It’s okay mum, we’re all here for you. It’s going to be okay.”

Florrie took her hands away from her face. She was smiling. She started to laugh. Uncontrollably.

Kay looked at the others who were all bemused by their mum’s reaction.

“It’s okay, someone go and put the kettle on. It’s shock. Mum’s just in shock!”

Ginny. ( Part 5)

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I’m one of three kids. I have two sisters. One older and one younger. Barbara is the eldest and now lives in Australia with her husband Ray. She’d always hated Living in London and couldn’t wait to get away. Lesley is the youngest and lives in Nottingham with her partner Steve. They moved there from Walthamstow eight ago when Steve’s company relocated. No way was I going to tell them about Bobby Nolan. Barbara was like me and I was confident she wouldn’t be too fazed about Dad’s affair, but Lesley was a hot head. She’d go ballistic. I didn’t want it to taint their memory of dad.

I sat on the bed staring at the address on the piece of paper. 32a Belmont Road, Chelmsford. Underneath, Jack had written “above the betting shop”. Below that was the name of Bobby’s supervisor. Stephen Wilkes.

It suddenly occurred to me that I’d forgotten to ask Ginny one very important question. I took my mobile off the bedroom table and scrolled down to find Ginny’s home number. I dialled. She answered.

“2474.”

I smiled. Just like Dad she answered her phone by repeating the last four digits of her own number.

“Hi Ginny, it’s Tommy. You okay?”

I could hear the excitement in her voice.

“I’m fine thank you Tommy. Are you calling about Bobby? Is there any news?”

“Not yet Ginny. It’ll take a few days before I get anything. But there was something I forgot to ask you yesterday. Did Bobby know that my dad had another family?”

She didn’t pause or take time to think she answered quickly.

“Your dad told him when he was twenty three. He sat him down and told him everything. “

I was taken aback.

“Everything?”

Once again she didn’t take any time to think it through.

“Yes, all about your mum and you and the two girls. Everything.”

Now I was really intrigued.

“And…how did he take it?”

I could hear her voice begin to tremble.

“Badly Tommy. He was never the same after that day. He changed. He was always angry. Started hanging around with the wrong crowd and getting into trouble. He moved out a few months later.”

“Where did he go?”

“He moved in with one of his friends.  Only came back to see me about once a month. If your dad was here he wouldn’t stay long. Broke your dads heart it did. I can’t remember the amount of times he said he was sorry but Bobby wouldn’t listen. Three years later Bobby went to prison and your dad had his heart attack.”

I had dates and times flashing through my mind. Dad would have told Bobby the truth in 2003 that was the same year that he turned seventy. That was also the year that he started taking antidepressants. Mum confided in me one day, she said that he seemed “down” all the time. She made him go to the doctors and they gave him some pills. I always thought it was because of his age. Three score and ten was always thought to be the families allotted time, anything more was a bonus. Now I realised it was because of Bobby Nolan. I had a few more questions that needed answers.

“Ginny, help me with something. How did dad keep it a secret from Bobby for so long? How on earth did he explain the fact that he was never there?”

I heard her sigh.

“We told Bobby that your dad was away a lot because of his long distance driving. Which was true. We saw him twice a week usually, sometimes more if he could get away. But…he would phone Bobby every night to say goodnight before he went to bed. He never missed a day.”

I started to imagine just how much stress dad must have been under. No wonder his heart gave out.  I heard Sandra call my name. It was time to end the conversation with Ginny.

“Thanks Ginny. It’s a shame it couldn’t have ended better. I’ll give you another call when I get more information. Take care.”

We said our goodbyes and I put the phone down. I opened the windows in the spare bedroom and breathed in some fresh crisp air. I was beginning to change my opinion of Bobby Nolan. Here was a kid who’d suddenly discovered his whole life was a lie. His parents weren’t the people he thought they were and his dad was most definitely someone else. No wonder he was angry. I thought about how I might have reacted in the same circumstances. Confused? Angry? Violent? Probably all three.

One thing was for sure. I had to meet up with Bobby Nolan and have a conversation.

 

Ginny. ( Part 4)

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It was after seven and the Scotch was still coming fast and furious. I’d been up on stage twice, once for “That’s Life” and once for “Summer Wind”. The only two songs from my repertoire that I knew word for word and confident I wouldn’t embarass myself half way through by fluffing my lines. I was deep in conversation with an old lady who had once been a “Tiller Girl” at the London Palladium when I noticed Uncle Ted calling me over. I made my excuses to the old girl and pushed through the crowded bar to where Ted was standing with Jack Simpson.

“Good news Tommy. Jack’s got what you wanted.”

Slasher handed me the piece of paper that I’d given him earlier that day.

“I’ve written his address on the back. He was released on licence in 2013. Served seven out of ten. Normal conditions apply. He has to be a good boy and not get into any trouble. He can’t leave the country. He has to look for work but it has to be approved by his supervisor. I’ve written down the name of his supervisor as well in case you need anything from him.”

I didn’t look at the paper, just put it in my pocket.

“Thanks Jack. I really appreciate this. What do I owe you?”

I said the words but already knew the answer. He just looked at me.

“Don’t be a cunt.”

Thankfully he smiled as he said it. But then the smile disappeared and he tilted his head to one side.

“Just one thing Tommy. This kid Nolan did armed robbery. Amateur stuff, Building Society in Walthamstow. No way were they going to get more than a couple of grand between the four of them. But here’s the thing. The old bill take a dim view of armed robbery, so does the legal system. Usual sentence is fifteen to twenty. Three of them got fifteen, but your man only got ten. I wonder why that was?”

I thought I knew the answer.

“Replica guns? No one got hurt?”

Jack shook his head.

“Replicas? Don’t know where you got that from. These were the real thing. Proper shotguns. All sawn off.  Nolan also beat up a guy who was in the queue just waiting to be served. No, they should have ALL got the fifteen. Minimum. And Nolan maybe a bit more.”

I didn’t know what to say. Ginny was either lying or she didn’t know the truth. I wasn’t sure what to believe.  But I did know what Jack was inferring. Bobby Nolan might be a grass. Before I could say anything Uncle Ted butted in.

“Come on you two. Let’s have a drink. Whatever this Bobby Nolan is or isn’t his mum should be able to see him before she pops her clogs.”

The three of us headed for the bar just as the “Tiller Girl” started singing “Show me the way to go home.” I was amazed that someone of her age could still kick her legs above her head!

Uncle Ted poured me into a cab around nine.  I was completely wasted.  He, on the other hand seemed as sober as a judge. True to form as I went to pay the driver he told me that “The old boy” had already covered it.

Sandra wasn’t too pleased when I stumbled through the door. She took one look at me and said “You’re a mess” then headed up the stairs to bed. The spare room seemed like the best place to go in the circumstances. Once on the bed I must have passed out.

I woke up and for a few seconds didn’t know where I was. My head was pounding and my mouth and throat were so dry I thought I must have eaten a bag of sawdust during the night. I was also fully clothed. Then it started to come back. Ginny Nolan, Uncle Ted, Bobby Nolan and Slasher. It had been one hell of a day. I glanced at my watch. It was ten past eight. I needed to apologise to Sandra.

Even though I brushed my teeth twice and rinsed with strong mouth wash, I could still taste last night’s Whisky. I showered, splashed on some aftershave and got dressed. Sandra was in the kitchen when I went downstairs. She gave me one of her looks.

“I can smell toothpaste, mouthwash, soap and aftershave.”

She paused for a second and before I could say anything she continued.

“Oh yeh. And Whisky!”

But, she smiled and I instantly knew she was okay. I put on my sad face.

“Sorry babe. It was the most bizarre day. I’ve got so much to tell you.”

She pulled out a chair from under the kitchen table.

“Sit down. I’ll make coffee and then you can tell me all about it.”

I loved this lady. She was my second wife and the most understanding woman I’d ever met. We had two great kids all grown up and married now, so it was just the two of us rattling around in our big old house.

The coffee tasted good. I gulped it down and then told Sandra about my visit to the cemetery, my meeting with Ginny Nolan and then the revelation about Dads affair and then the bombshell. I had a step brother. I think she was even more shocked than me.

“Bloody hell Tommy, who is he, what’s his name, where does he live, are you going to see him?”

It was at this point that I decided to change certain details. Don’t ask me why, because I can’t explain it. I just left out the bit about Bobby Nolan going to prison and being a total scumbag.

“Ginny hasn’t seen him for a few years. They had some kind of row and he moved away. But she did have his National Insurance number and date of birth, so I went to see Uncle Ted. If anyone could track him down I knew he could.”

Sandra grinned.

“Now I know why you came home so plastered. Once you get with your Uncle Ted it all goes wrong. How is he?”

I pictured him in my mind. Immaculate in his suit, Whisky in his hand and singing “My Way” at the top of his voice.

“He was in great form. Still looks ten years younger than his age. I gave him the details and he said he’d get back to me in a few days.”

Once again for some reason I can’t explain I withheld the truth. She poured me another coffee.

“That man is a force of nature.”

I nodded. I couldn’t disagree with her analysis. Then I remembered the piece of paper that Jack had given me. I hadn’t looked at it yet to find out where Bobby Nolan was living. I drank my coffee then kissed her on the cheek.

“I’ll go and clean up the spare room. It’s a mess and to be honest I think I need to open the windows and let some fresh air in.”

We both laughed and I went back upstairs to look for my prize. I found it and looked at the address.

Bobby Nolan was living thirty miles away in Chelmsford in Essex.

 

Ginny. ( Part 3)

green eyes

It was 2.30pm, and on a Friday I knew exactly where Uncle Ted would be. The Stanley Arms in Bermondsey. It was a tradition. The pub put on food and live music from 2.00pm every Friday and all pensioners drank for free. All paid for by Uncle Ted and his mates, who were the local “faces”.

The journey took forty five minutes and as I drove through the Rotherhithe Tunnel I couldn’t help but wonder if Uncle Ted knew anything about Ginny Nolan. If he did he would surely also know about Bobby. Ted was dads’ younger brother by four years. They were close. But close enough for dad to confide in him about his secret? I wasn’t sure.

I parked the car outside one of Uncle Teds “lock ups” and walked the short distance to the pub. I could hear a piano playing and people singing well before I got there. I opened the door and at 3.15 on a Friday afternoon the pub was heaving. On stage was a pianist and a drummer playing “It had to be you” a particular favourite of dads. At least eight old couples were dancing and singing at the same time. Then I heard a familiar voice.

“Well, well, well. Here he is! The pride of the east end. My favourite nephew!”

Uncle Ted was standing at the bar looking immaculate in his dark grey suit. His thick silver hair was slicked back. He had on a blue shirt and red tie and the shiniest black shoes I’d ever seen.  His arms were outstretched and his smile was as wide as the Thames itself. I walked over and hugged him. Although he was seventy nine years of age his arms held me in a vice like grip for a full thirty seconds.

He let me go, took a step back and looked me up and down.

“Look at you. The spitting image of your old man. Good to see you Tommy.”

Uncle Ted introduced me to his mates. All in their seventies, all dressed as though they were going to a posh wedding.

“This is my brothers’ boy, Tommy. He’s from the other side. But he’s okay apart from the fact he supports West Ham.”

There was a chorus of boos and jeers. This was a staunch Millwall area and The Stanley Arms was a Millwall pub. I just shrugged my shoulders and laughed. So did everyone else. The ice was broken. I offered to buy a round of drinks. The group fell silent. Uncle Ted put his arm around me.

“Don’t embarrass yourself son. You’re in my manor and we have to abide by the Bermondsey Rules. We buy the drinks. When we come to your manor…you buy the drinks. Them’s the rules.”

Uncle Ted said it with a smile on his face. But I knew he was serious. These men lived by certain rules.

“So what you having?”

I was tempted but I’d already had two gin and tonics and I had to drive home.

“Just a coke. I’ve got the car with me.”

Uncle Ted shook his head.

“Fuck that. Leave the car here. I’ll get you a cab home and get one of the boys to drop your car off in the morning. Deal?”

I loved my Uncle Ted. Whatever the problem, he always seemed to have the solution.

“Deal!”

No one was drinking beer. It was all top shelf and all doubles. I ordered a scotch, Uncle Ted led me to a quiet part of the pub.

“So come on then. Why you here? You in trouble? Need a bit of money to tide you over?”

That was typical Uncle Ted. Always the first to put his hand in his pocket. Always the first to step up.

“No. Nothing like that. I was hoping you could help me get some information. Do you remember a Ginny Nolan?”

Uncle Ted frowned. It was obvious he knew the name but I could tell by his face that he wasn’t sure where from. Then he clicked his fingers.

“Nice girl. Green eyes. Worked with your dad. I think he might have had a soft spot for her if you know what I mean. I met her a couple of times when I was out with your dad at some of his work dos. Why?”

He was sincere. He obviously didn’t know the full story. I quickly made up a story.

“I bumped into her today. Got talking about dad and the old days. Seems she’s not well. Might not have long, maybe a few months that’s all. But she’s got a son and she hasn’t seen him in years. She’d really like to see him before she pops her clogs and has asked me to help if I can. I’ve got all his details. Seems he’s been a bit of a rascal. Done a bit of time so he should be easy to track down. I wondered if you knew anyone who might be able to help?”

I took a piece of paper out of my pocket and gave it to Uncle Ted. It had on it everything Ginny had told me about Bobby. He looked at it, turned and gestured over to one of his mates.

“Jack. Come here. Need your help with something.”

I recognised Jack Simpson. He’d done more time inside prison than out. In the mid seventies he was on the front page of every daily newspaper.  His nickname was slasher and not because he pissed a lot! Now he was an elderly gentleman and lived off his reputation. But…you still wouldn’t want to be on the wrong side of him. Just like Uncle Ted he was dressed smartly in a dark suit, white shirt and blue tie. I noticed his hands. He had a gold ring on every finger including two big chunky sovereigns. Uncle Ted gave him the paper.

“Can you find out where this kid is Jack?”

He looked at it for a few seconds then put it in his pocket.

“Easy Ted. Might take a couple of hours but I’ll make some calls. Always easier if they’ve done a bit of time. He’d have had to have an address to go to before being released. Then they’ll be a probation officer who he’ll have to report to on a regular basis. I’ll sort it.”

Uncle Ted shook his hand.

“Thanks Jack.”

Slasher turned and walked away. But then he stopped and looked back at us and casually asked.

“Do you want him hurt?”

Ted smiled.

“No Jack, nothing like that. Just doing someone a favour.”

Jack Simpson shrugged his shoulders and walked back to the bar.

Ginny. ( Part 2)

green eyes

I heard her say the words but I found it difficult to comprehend them. For some reason I took my hand away from hers.

“Sorry Ginny. Did you say you and Dad have a son?”

She put her hand to her mouth. I could see her green eyes begin to water.

“I’m sorry Tommy. I shouldn’t have said anything. I know it’s a shock. Perhaps I should leave.”

She stood up and started to button up her coat. I didn’t want her to go. Not yet.

“Sit down Ginny. I’m fine, really. Just shocked that’s all. You sit down and I’ll get us another couple of drinks.”

She sat back down and I went to the bar. I returned with two more G&T’s.  I could see she was apprehensive so I decided to break the ice once more.

“You really are one for surprises Ginny. I think we deserve these drinks so take a sip and then tell me all about your son Bobby. My brother.”

She did as I asked. She took a large swig of her Gin and Tonic and then told me the story.

“Bobby was born in 1979. Let me tell you straightaway Tommy it wasn’t my idea. As soon as I knew I was pregnant I was adamant that I’d have an abortion but your dad was having none of it. He really wanted the baby. You were all grown up by then, getting married if I remember correctly?”

She was right. I got married in 1979 at the age of twenty one. Only lasted a few years, no kids, thank god. I nodded and gestured for her to carry on.

“It was difficult, what with me having a full time job and your dad only being able to visit a couple of times a week. But somehow we got through it.”

It was all coming back to me. Back in 1979 Dad started doing long haulage. He kept saying they could do with the extra money. But he’d be away two or three nights per week. Mum hated him being away but he did it for six or seven years then went back to local jobs. Ginny was still talking and I heard her say something about prison.

“Sorry Ginny what was that last bit?”

She stopped in mid sentence then repeated.

“Bobby went to prison in 2006. Broke your Dads heart it did.”

Just when I thought things couldn’t get any weirder they just did.

“What did he go to prison for?”

She seemed a little embarrassed to tell me. Her voice trembled as she said the words.

“He got involved with a bad crowd. They held up a Building Society in Walthamstow. Used replica guns. They got caught and all sentenced to ten years.”

I was doing the sums in my head. Bobby gets done for armed robbery in 2006, the same year Dad had a heart attack and died. When she said it broke his heart she was right. It did. There was one thing I desperately needed to know.

“When did Bobby get sentenced exactly in 2006?”

I could see Ginny thinking. She spoke softly, it was as if she didn’t want me to know.

“March, the twenty sixth.”

Fuck me. Everything was now falling into place. My dad was the fittest, strongest man I’d ever known. Never a day sick in his life. Looked twenty years younger than his age. Yet at the start of 2006 he changed. He suddenly looked old. In April of that year he had a massive heart attack and was dead before he hit the ground. Just seventy three years of age. Know I knew why.  Because of this fucker Bobby. My half brother.  Ginny could see I was angry.

“Don’t blame Bobby. Your Dad was already complaining of chest pains a year before he died. I tried to get him to go to the doctors but he just wouldn’t. Kept saying it was just indigestion.”

I played it down.

“I know Ginny. No one is to blame. That’s life, as Dad would say. So where is Bobby now? Not still locked up?”

I could see that Ginny was relieved.

“No, he was released four years ago in 2013. Served seven years out of his ten. I visited him regularly while he was away. Wandsworth then Bedford then Peterborough. I went as often as I could. But one day I turned up and they said he had been released. I haven’t seen him in five years now.”

Now she cried. All the talk about Dad and never a tear. But talking about Bobby made her tearful. My mind was racing. I knew what I had to do.

“So you’ve no idea of where he is now? Where he’s living? What he’s doing?”

She was wiping her eyes with a tissue as she spoke.

“No. Nothing. Not a word since that day. I miss him so much.”

I put my arm around her and she cried into my shoulder. We stayed like that for a few minutes before she broke away and finished her drink. Her green eyes not so green anymore.

“Look Ginny. Maybe I can help. I have a mate. A good mate who’s quite senior in the Police. I’ll get him to do some digging. Maybe I can find out where Bobby is. Help him out if he’s in any trouble. I mean…I have to…he’s my brother after all.”

It was a lie, but she beleived me and threw her arms aroung my neck.

“Oh thank you Tommy. I’d love that. You really are a good boy. Just like your dad always said you were.”

We talked for another fifteen minutes. Ginny told me everything she could about Bobby. She even had his National Insurance number written down in a small notebook that she kept in her bag. I offered to give her a lift home but she wanted to take the bus and do some shopping at Asda on her way back. I collected my car and drove home. Just one thought on my mind.

I needed to find this fucker. This scum bag Bobby. This thirty eight year old bastard who’d been the cause of my father’s death.

I needed to see Uncle Ted from “the other side”.  Uncle Ted was a “face” in South London and if anyone would know how to find Bobby he ‘d be the man.