was a fairly peaceful evening at the ‘Castle’, which was usual during the week after Christmas; few people had
much money left after the festivities and what they had got was saved for the New Year.It gave the foursome a chance to chat about family matters, the fortunes of the Villa and Blues and get to know Maurice
better.At the same time, Tony had spent most of the evening glancing at the
bar, where Elsie was busy serving customers.After the third round of drinks,
Brian, who was not in the habit of drinking, began a melancholic, slurred account of his life with Lisa, bemoaning the fact
that she had refused to have children and spent most of their money on frivolous household stuff and jewellery.His job had taken them down to the south coast and, although she wallowed in opportunities to sunbathe
on the beach in the summer, she spent the winter complaining that he’d brought her to a ‘dead hole of a place’
and how she missed the big stores and nightlife of Birmingham.Maurice related
facts about his childhood, how he had known their mother from schooldays, his degree course at MedicalSchool and BirminghamUniversity
followed by placement at the Queen Elizabeth hospital.
was also in a mood to talk openly.Seeing his brother’s eyes constantly
switching to the barmaid, he said “She’s a beaut, Tone….. can’t blame you for fancying her …..but
what about Floss?......I thought you pair had plans ……are you going to let her down?”He then told Tony of the ruse he and Floss had set earlier, pretending to be involved just to see how he
reacted.“Tell ya the troof bruv…….erm …..I’m not
sure.I like Floss a lot and, when she frew ‘erself at me t’other
day, I was gobsmacked….I dunno….. I was flattered more than anyfink.”
looked hard into his brother’s eyes, then over at Elsie.“OK ……
it’s best you come to your own decision, but I hope you’re not making a mistake.Elsie’s a nice girl but most of the blokes in here have tried to date her – and she’s snubbed every
one of ‘em so what makes you think you’ve got a chance?”
Aitch, I don’t even know if I’ve gorra chance wiv Elsie, but we’re gonna be t’gever for about four
weeks so I’ll soon find out, won’ I?”
orders’ was called,Brian and Maurice declining Harry’s offer to
replenish their glasses.The brothers settled for a quick ‘half’,
then they all made their way outside to Brian’s Jaguar Mark VI, a gleaming black job that drew admiration from many
onlookers.Harry thought that, for all his self-pitying banter in the pub, Brian
wasn’t doing at all badly if he could run a motor like that.
back home, they found Lisa, Floss and Val watching an old film on tv.Lisa said
Meg had gone to bed early as she was still feeling a little tired from her ordeal.After
checking on his dad down in the shed, Tony decided to call it a night too, followed by Harry and Maurice.Lisa cursed her husband for drinking as he stumbled around whilst they prepared the sofa and armchair for
their beds.Val took the hint, annoyed that she wouldn’t see the ending
to the movie, switching off the tv before retiring.
morning, Tony was late getting up.He’d spent half the night thinking about
what Harry had said, About Floss who blows hot and cold; one day telling him she loves him then dissing him the next, then
‘thinks’ she loves him the day after.He finally drowsed off, deciding
Floss was not for him.He would make his play for the girl who had been constantly
on his mind.Could be that Elsie would find him a bore or she might be just flirting
with him – but he had to find out.The breakfast table had been cleared
all but for a plate, holding a bacon sandwich and covered by another, upturned, plate.Returning to the crowded lounge, still eating his bacon sandwich,Tony
announced “Hey…… I managed to scrounge a few tickets for the New Year’s Eve do at the ‘Castle’
tonight.Lonny Donegan’s on ……. and Frankie Vaughan ……
should be a great night” …………………
group were watching a children’s programme on BBC and it was Val who eventually turned her head to acknowledge Tony.“I think mom and dad have booked up at the Mackadown for tonight……
dad’s favourite…. Ruby Murray………
and I’m going to a dance at the Westley Hotel.” she said.
the way……where is dad……..was he alright after last night…….he must have been freezing
down in that shed.”Tony asked.
chuckled.“He’s got his ass in his hands this morning……..stormed
out, slamming the door ……. We think he and mom have had another barney.”
said Tony “We get this every Christmas…oh, well….. I fink I know where he’s gone ……he
mentioned yesterday that he’d gorra go down to pay his dues at the Sheldon British Legion…..fink I’ll go
down there ……see if he’s OK.”
for me …. I’ve got to renew my subscription too and could do with a ‘hair of the dog’ anyway ………you
coming…… Brian?......Maurice?” said Harry, jumping up from his chair.
stared directly at Brian with a ‘you dare’ look.“Erm not for
me, Aitch…..erm…..had enough last night…..my stomach, you know…..” Brian replied sheepishly.Maurice waved a hand “Thank you for the invite, Harry, but I think I’ll
just stay here…… if you don’t mind.”
and Tony arrived at the Legion Club in the old Jowett which their dad had still not sold.Parking round the back of the club, they entered the reception area where Eric and Scouse were on ‘door duty’.
“Wotcha, lads” greeted Scouse “Yer old man’s in the back
room – yer comin’ t’night?....good show on…..fancy dress n’all.”
mate……..we’re workin’ t’night” Tony lied for want of a better excuse.The whole family had been to last year’s Legion New Year’s Eve do and it had bored the pants
off Tony with members in the audience getting up on stage trying to sing.He
cringed as he remembered the ordeal.The club was rather crowded, this being
the last day to renew subs, but they found Colin in the back room, standing at the bar.
dad” greeted Tony “Wotcha drinkin’ ……usual?”
was startled by this interruption to his deep thought.“Oh…………hello
lads……er ….yeah, but only a half for me, Tone……. I think I had enough last night, eh?”It showed too.Colin looked tired and
drawn.Harry, having noticed a group vacating a table in the corner, swiftly
moved across to claim it, waiting for the other two to join him.
Tone” said Harry as his brother slid a pint of Manns Brown in front of him. “Now,
dad, what’s all this business with you and mom ……. I thought everything was cleared up now?”
did I son………..but lately your mother pays more attention to waifs and strays than she does to us.The way I feel at the moment,I’m ready to be just as
selfish and do what I want to do for a change…………………. Like soddin’ off to
Texas………that’d make her sit up and
take notice”Colin said.
dad….. you can’t do that….y’ve only just bought anuver ‘ouse!” exclaimed Tony “Surely,
it ain’t got that bad ….. we fort it was just a tiff.”
dunno…..maybe it is…..but the way your mom’s been acting…….I don’t think I can take much
more of it.”Colin confided.
head appeared round the door; it was Scouse.“The ‘C’s next”
he announced in a loud voice.
us dad…..let’s go pay our subs.” Harry said, rising from his seat “Tone…….. get me another
pint, will you?.......be back in a minute……. Then we’ll go home and sort this out with our mom.” …………………………………………………….
back home from the Legion, Colin went straight into the parlour.Harry winked
at Tony, saying “I’ll have a word with mom.”
OK bruv……..er…. I’m just goin’ upstairs to check my case ….. gorra funny feelin’
I’ve fergot summat.” Tony said, wanting to keep out of the way.
walked through the lounge where Val and Lisa were still watching tv.“’Blige
me… you pair’ll go square-eyed watching that box all the time.” He quipped.Looking out through the back window, he could see Brian and Maurice, they were inspecting his dad’s runner beans
and cabbages.Moving into the kitchen, he found his mother in the process of
preparing sandwiches.“Hi mom.Hey
…..what’s up with dad?He’s really glum ….you been having
know he’s in a bad mood ….and I think it’s my fault…..but he’ll snap out of it when his hangover
wears off.” Replied Meg as she peeled a Spanish onion, wiping a tear from her eye.
think so.He’s shut himself in the front room ….and he’s been
talking about Texas again.I
think you ought to go in there and sort things out with him……..please, mom.”Harry begged, placing a hand on her shoulder.
alright……..I suppose I should have a word with him…………..when I’ve done these sandwiches.”she promised.Harry nodded and went out
into the garden to join the men.
lay back on his bed, staring at the ceiling as he thought about meeting up with Albert tomorrow……. Yipes!He’d said by the firestation …..have to watch the time tonight….get back as soon as possible after .He dragged
himself off the bed then, taking a suede jacket and a pair of black strides from the wardrobe, he lay them across the bed
before searching under it for his favourite dark green suede brothel creepers.He
chose and discarded two shirts, deciding that the pale yellow one would be more effective under the untraviolet spotlights
on the dance floor.A pair of fluorescent pale green socks completed his selection.Feeling peckish, he went downstairs.As
he passed the parlour, he paused to listen at the door but, not hearing any voices, he put his head inside the room.
dad……..erm…… yer off to the Mackadown t’night ain’tcha?”he queried, using it as an excuse for butting in.
I?......oh, good grief, I’d forgotten about that……er…….yeah…..I suppose we’re going
….. depends how your mom feels.” Replied Colin.
then, Meg came through from the lounge.Tony stepped back out of the parlour,
allowing his mother to enter.As she closed the parlour door, Tony heard her
saying “Colin, I think we need to have a few words …..what’s up love….……”
at the ‘WarwickCastle’ at just after , Harry and Tony found difficulty in finding a parking place, finally opting to park at the top end of Duke Street, walking back to the pub.First
stop was the bar for a pint.Tony knew that Elsie would not be working tonight
but he wanted to take a look-see at Elsie’s stand-in whilst she was away.
you Jean……Elsie’s friend?” Tony asked as the barmaid gave him his change “Elsie’s told
me all about ya ...... you’re Johnny Taylor’s sister aintcha?...... he was in my class at school…….
is he still workin’ at the Morris in Drews Lane?”
our John’s still there ……..married, with a little girl now, you know.I suppose you’re the chap Elsie mentioned …er…. Tony is it? …… you’re going on
this cruise with her tomorrow …… I tried to tell her she’s taking a big risk …..but she wouldn’t
listen …… suppose it’ll be alright though……….”
tugged at Tony’s sleeve. “Come on, Tone, sounds like the show’s started upstairs.”
they left the bar, the sounds of Lonnie Donegan’s ‘Cumberland Gap’ could be heard from the room above.The room had been rearranged,
the small tables had been set around the walls, leaving quite a large floor area in the middle which was packed with dancers.Looking around the room, the brothers decided that the best spot would be at the bar
end on the back wall.As they negotiated a path around the dancers, Harry cursed
as a wannabe Shakin’ Stevens’ elbow caused him to spill his beer down his beige trousers.Tony nudged his brother, having spied a couple of girls sitting alone at a table near the bar.
fancy yours, Aitch….er…. blimey, tasty, eh?” he said.They
edged their way over to where the girls were sitting.
love…..er ….. mind if we join ya?.....no spare tables…. flippin’ packed, ennit?”Tony said to one of the girls, looking straight down her deep plunging neckline.
so…. hang on” said the girl, lifting their jackets from around the spare chairs to allow the lads to sit down…………
the way” said Tony, as he drained his glass “We’re the famous ‘Charlton Brothers’…….this
is Jackie an’ I’m Bobby…..but I’m wearin’ a wig t’night……haha” he quipped.
replied the girl with the low-cut top, pointing to her friend “This is Mary Hinge…….. and I’m Betty
Swollocks!” she joked, breaking into a raucous laugh that pierced the already noisy atmosphere.
winced, wondering whether choosing this table was such a good idea after all.“Actually,
I’m Harry and this is my brother Tony……we just popped in here for a few minutes……. got to go
soon.” he fibbed, giving Tony a sideways glance.
That’s a shame…… oh……I’m Shirley and this is my friend Brenda…….. she’s
the quiet one……..hahahah!” said the loud one.Brenda blushed
coyly, obviously embarrassed by Shirley’s brashness.
had already perceived the stark contrast between these girls.Shirley wore a
black, tight pencil skirt and pink angora off-the-shoulder jumper that exaggerated her ample bustline.Brenda, on the other hand was dressed in a smart white shirtwaister blouse and blue dirndl skirt, colourfully
embroidered around the hemline.Her wedge-heeled shoes seemed more appropriate
for the occasion than her friend’s four-inch stilettos.She was a very
attractive girl, he thought, wondering if she was romantically attached.
yer drinkin’ ladies?” asked Tony, getting to his feet.
for me, thanks” Brenda said.
believe her…….she does……Bacardi n’ coke for me and a Babycham for Bren.”Shirley interjected….pausing from her hand-clapping and singing along to the skiffle group’s
rendition of ‘My Old Man’s A Dustman’.
followed his brother to the bar.“Hey, Tone, don’t get too involved
with these two……….remember…..you’re off early in the morning.”
worry, Aitch……just ‘avin’ a laff….. after all….it’s New Year’s Eve, ennit?Play ar cards right and we’re in ‘ere, bruv.”
sat across the table from Brenda, unable to take his eyes off her.As the evening
had progressed, he’d grown more aware of her natural attractiveness and modesty.“Sure you don’t want to dance, Bren?” he asked her, looking across to the corner of the room where
Tony and Shirley were dancing to “Does Your Chewing Gum Lose It’s Flavour on the Bedpost Overnight”.
yet…..if you don’t mind …….you want to dance with someone else?”she asked, casting a hand over the room.
no….course not…… I’m not really into this type of dancing anyway ….. too energetic for me ...hehe”
said Harry, continuing “So, what do you do for a living, Bren?”
a common shop assistant, I’m afraid …. I work at a wedding dress shop in High Street …… and you?”
in the wood business ….. a timber merchants in Ward End …… you know that area? said Harry.
to live in St Joseph’s Road ….. before we moved to Hall Green.”
came the reply.
Green?” said Harry with surprise “Blimey……you live just up the road from us then …… Acocks
small talk continued as the pair got to know a little more about each other.At
the music stopped and the compere announced a 30 minute
interval.The rush was on for the bar, which Tony had pre-empted by replenishing
drinks five minutes earlier.The foursome chatted about movies and what music
they enjoyed.Although Harry was not at all impressed with Shirley, much too
loud and forward for his liking, he was prepared to tolerate her company only because of Brenda.She’d had several glasses of Bacardi and was now swapping crude jokes with Tony; Harry was sure that
her piercing laughter would shatter the glasses on the table.
the interval, the room became much quieter as Frankie Vaughan went through his repertoire of hits.When Frankie announced his next number“Give Me The
Moonlight”, Harry coaxed Brenda onto the floor, holding her close as they moved around on the spot.He could feel the pounding of Brenda’s heart against his ribs as he squeezed her close, basking in
the smell of her hair and the peach-like feel of her skin as they danced cheek-to-cheek.He had not been too keen on coming to this dance and had almost told Tony that he wouldn’t be coming.It must be fate that he’d agreed to come. This was the girl of his dreams.His thoughts were broken by Brenda’s gentle voice.“Harry……..
I’ve got to go soon…….. I promised mom and dad I wouldn’t be late ….I’ve really enjoyed the evening.”
it’s New Year’s Eve….. you can’t leave before …. you’ll miss the ringing in of the New Year!”Harry was desperate – she was going to disappear from his life like a puff of smoke; he couldn’t
let that happen.“Ok….Bren…..don’t want you getting into
trouble with your folks…….but please let me take you home….. I’ve got a car …… and we
could stay here until about and……”he blurted.
……… I don’t know…. I think I’ll catch the bus …… and I don’t want to
spoil your evening…..thanks anyway.” she replied, hoping he would not accept her answer; she was not disappointed.
be safe with me …… honest, Bren ……please let me take you home ….. I’m not bothered about
seeing the New Year in either …….. please.”
looked Harry in the eyes and, with a nervous curl of her lips, replied “Alright …. If you’re sure you want
to ….. but I can’t be late.”
remained on the floor until when they
rejoined Shirley and Tony to explain the new arrangement.Tony was amazed that
his brother was willing to miss out on the festivities – and for what?This
rather plain young woman?
bruv ……. I’ll catch a bus ….no sweat….. seeya back home later then.”
Bren …. I’ll call ya tomorra” screached Shirley “ ……and don’t do anything I wouldn’t
do will ya!.....HA!HA!HA!HA!”Brenda was noticeably embarrassed by Shirley’s
uncouth behaviour, turning away as she buttoned her jacket.
escorted Brenda from the venue, collecting the Jowett from Duke Street.Driving into Coleshill Street on the way down to Lawley Street, Harry couldn’t help wondering if Tony would be
sensible enough to dump Shirley at the pub and get home at a reasonable time, considering his early morning departure.He doubted it!
pulled up outside the house in Russell Road, Hall Green, just before .
you are, Bren…… just in time, before this old banger turns into a pumpkin….. you got to go in right away?”He was loathe to release her from his gaze but didn’t want to get her in bother
with her parents.Just then, a young man arrived at the garden gate.Brenda, unable to raise the car window, opened the door calling to the lad.
tell mom I’m home and I’ll be in, in a few minutes……. OK?” she instructed.Dave mumbled something as he walked up the path, disappearing indoors a few seconds later.
thought he recognized him as one of his Sea Cadets.
Taylor?......he’s one of the lads on our ‘ship’.
my young brother……” Brenda informed Harry “He’s only sixteen ……. dad’s going
to give him a mouthful, coming home this late.”
pair chatted about their home life, work and other interests.In the distance,
simultaneous ringing of churchbells could be heard from St Michael’s and St Mary’s.Then the stroke of and
one or two doors opening, neighbours greeting each other from their doorsteps.Harry
took hold of Brenda’s hand, squeezing it gently.
New Year, Bren” he said, smiling happily.Leaning over to kiss her lips,
Harry was a little disappointed when Brenda turned her head slightly so that the kiss met her cheek.
she said nervously, “Happy New Year …..erm…… Harry.Must
go in now…..thanks for a nice evening and the lift home.”
regretted his earlier move, feeling sure he had now spoiled any chances he’d had with this girl.
been a great evening, Bren……Ok….if you have to go……erm….er…… can I see you
again?”Harry braced himself for a negative reply.
smiled coyly.“Alright then………if you’re sure you
want to……….I’d like that.”
relief on hearing those words showed as he beamed “That’s great ……..er….. tomorrow?......er…..well
today, Saturday?..... fancy going to the ‘Odeon’ up town….. they’ve got ‘Monty Python and the
Holy Grail’ showing there ….. or there’s ‘Jaws’ on at the ‘Forum’?”
don’t mind….you decide.”Brenda replied.
I’ll pick you up at about …..
you won’t be home late….. I promise.”Harry assured as Brenda
got out of the car.She waved back to Harry from the front doorstep as he revved
the Javelin’s engine.
he drove homeward, Harry was floating on air, unable to believe that this girl actually wanted to see him again.The New Year had started kindly for him…………………………
entertainment at the ‘Castle’ drew to a climax with the compere leading the revellers in a countdown to the hour, heralding the birth of 1976.Balloons were released from the ceiling and a crescendo of kazoo-blower noises filled the air. Shirley threw her arms around Tony’s neck, devouring his lips in a wet, passionate kiss.Tony, although surprised by this sudden onrush of affection, offered no resistance; aided, no doubt, by
the substantial amount of alcohol they had both consumed.The clinch was broken
in time for the pair to join the line for a ‘Hokey-Cokey’ circuit of the room.
ya live, Shirl?” asked Tony as they descended the staircase, still donning their jackets.
Durham Road……. y’know it?” she said.
replied Tony “….I’m goin’ that way n’all” being careful not to pinpoint his exact locality.
up Aston Street, Shirley’s shrill voice piercing the cold night
air as they tunelessly sang Lieutenant Pigeon’s “Mouldy Old Dough”, they crossed over into Corporation Street.Shirley
was clinging on to Tony’s arm, barely able to keep up with him due to her tight skirt and stiletto heels.On reaching the corner of James Watt Street, facing the Law Courts, Shirley stumbled as they stepped off the pavement.
it….. me bleedin’ heel’s broke!” she screeched loudly.
blow me!” Tony exclaimed
in front of all these people…..HA!HA!HA!HA!HA!”she guffawed “Oooh…….I
need a pee n’all.”
Shah Jahn restaurant on the corner was still open, so Tony suggested she used the loo in there, helping her as she hobbled
through the door.Waiting outside, Tony cursed under to himself; he was not so
inebriated as to not realise that, at this rate, he was going to be home very late – and he needed some shut-eye ready
for that early start.The pick-up point was just a few yards from where he was
now and he wished he’d had the foresight to bring his suitcase with him.Perhaps
he should make a run for it, leaving Shirley to find her own way home.He dismissed
that thought as he checked his wallet contents.He had spent £35 this evening
– mostly on this girl, so he was expecting some pay-off for the investment.Bus
services had been extended to to cater
for tonight’s celebrations.Looking at his watch, he noted that it was
reappeared after about 5 minutes and they continued up Corporation Street slowly, hindered by her heel-less shoe.
Tone…….turn round…..you’re gonna have to give me a piggy-back.”With that, she eased her pencil skirt up over her thighs, exposing the pink flesh above her stockings. Leaping on Tony,
she wrapped her legs around him, almost strangling him with her arms about his neck.Reluctantly, Tony supported her legs with his hands, having great difficulty in keeping his balance as he trundled
on.The severity of their plight did not deter them from bursting into a medley
of popular songs, including ‘That’s a Fine Time To Leave Me, Loose Heel’.
they reached Bull
Street, a vacant
black cab turned the corner.Tony raised his arm, flagging the vehicle down.
Tony puffed as he bundled the girl onto the back seat, clambering in beside her. “Durham Road….Sparkbrook, mate” he commanded the cab driver through the
slightly open glass screen.The cab took them through the Bull Ring, Digbeth
and over the narrow Camp Hill flyover leading on to the Stratford Road.Shirley had snuggled into Tony, nibbling
at his ear and had unbuttoned his shirt, sliding her hand inside and caressing his chest.Tony felt his sap rising sharply as she tantalisingly teased his nipple.What
the hell, he thought, perhaps he’d get a chance to sleep on the way down to London.On arrival at Shirley’s home, Tony
winced as he paid the driver £6 – twice the normal charge.
led Tony to an entry at the side of her house, holding on to him for support.The
entry was dark and an icy blast of wind sped through it, stinging Tony’s sodden ear, but alcohol had numbed the pair’svulnerability to the elements.Tony took
Shirley in his arms, pressing her against the wall and sliding both hands inside her jacket hoping that her body heat would
warm his hands before they explored further.Shirley needed no guidance, she
had obviously had much experience in the act of courtship and again instigated an oral attack on our young man.Tony was not at all experienced in such probings of the larynx and was not sure that the mixing of saliva
was hygienically acceptable.Nevertheless, the lashing of her tongue was having
a pleasurable effect on him, causing involuntary reciprocation of the action.Sliding
his hand under her angora jumper, he explored the warm flesh of her back, searching for the clasp that would release untold
treasure.Shirley gave a sharp intake of breath as Tony’s cold hand caressed
her spine and then fumbling with her bra strap.Succeeding in this operation,
Tony drew his fingertips slowly down her spine before travelling frontwards and upwards, eager to bag his prey.Lifting the j mp r a d brto h r ar pi s, he w s nodis a poi ted.H r bre stwe e fu l a d rou d d, h r ni pl s st od pr ud a d fi m.Sh r l y pre
s d To y’she d d wn on o thpul
at ng mo nds of fl s .H s mo th enc r le a ri id nip lgr ndi g it b tw eh s teh……………………………………………..
de r, it s ems my ke boa d h s go e on t e bl nk….. s ch a pi ty!Flo s
e wo ld h ve enj y d th r st of th s pi ce………………………………….
Tony was walking up Durham road on his way home, he began to regret his amatory
interlude with Shirley.It was and he had a long walk home from here.Crossing the Stratford Road and down St. John’s Road, he entered onto the Warwick Road, thankful that the snow had all but disappeared.The journey gave him time to ponder over the evening……. Harry going off with that rather plain Jane, Brenda
– he wouldn’t get much change out of her ………. Shirley, what a nympho she turned out to be….not
the type of girl you’d want to take home to your mother …..but very generous with her affections.He had promised to phone her when he came back off holiday ……maybe he would….maybe he
wouldn’t…….that would depend on how he got on with Elsie.By
the time he’d reached the Serck Radiator factory, his legs had recovered from the recent knee-trembling encounter.
entered the front door, being particularly careful not to make any noise that would wake the household but, on entering the
bedroom, Harry rolled over, leaning up on his elbow.
heck, Tone…..I thought that tart must have got you in some kind of trouble…..where she live……Varna
Road?” he whispered harshly.
funny……and warrabout your bint, eh?......did Mother Theresa gi’ ya a shellacking for getting’ ‘er
back to the nunnery after ?.....bet
ya wasted yer time n’all.” Tony taunted.
didn’t respond, turning his back as Tony got into bed.As he wound up and
set the alarm clock, Tony cursed that he had to be up at .Laying back on the pillow, he closed his eyes.Running the morning’s itinerary through his mind, he suddenly realized that the buses wouldn’t
be running on New year’s Day until .
a lift in the mornin’ ?” he whispered
suppose so……glad to see the back of you for a few weeks……..now shut up and get some sleep!”
his brother snapped.