Thursday, February 28, 2013

1981: Suddenly it struck me

A bleak half-term in prospect. Dad's away, everything feels very temporary in these pre-Bahrain days. O-levels are looming very large, it's grey and overcast and we're going to Bristol for a few days to stay with Norma and Derek.

Actually, I was fond of Norma and Derek. They'd been friends of my parents for as long as I could remember. Mum met her when she was a Hoover demonstrator in a department store in Bath where they lived in the early Sixties. From then on, we must have seen them about once a year, either at their place or ours.

Theirs was best though. A huge house - or series of huge houses - in the middle of Bristol, with rooms they let out to lodgers. We'd have great fun knocking on doors and hiding, or exploring the numerous empty rooms in the always spooky houses.

Norma and Derek didn't have any children but always seemed happy. He was a hoot, she was too, they both liked a drink, she drove a DAF in which there were cassettes of Shirley Bassey singing Kiss Me, Honey Honey, Kiss Me and she hacked that car like a maniac. They played badminton and went for curries and always seemed on the go. And they always treated me like a grown-up. When I was packed off there at exactly the same time the next year, though I was furious at missing the party of the season, there were worse places I could be.

So it was a shock to discover a few years ago that right since they were first married she'd had a string of affairs, most notably with a TV repairman called Sid, which lasted for years.

Derek was a funny man. Funny ha-ha - he was practically a one-an show - but perhaps funny peculiar too. No one knows what goes on behind closed doors. He was never out of the sweet shop, offering round sherbet-filled flying saucers on our day trip to Ross-On-Wye, Reward by Teardrop Explodes never off the radio. That song always reminds me of those few damp, dark days on the England/Wales border. That urgent brass a portent of doom, reminding me of all the horrible things I've yet to face and making me wonder what I was doing in that car at my age. Shouldn't I have been doing something more exciting?

Oh, those first six months of 1981 were, shall we say, difficult. But that was then. Love this song now, though it kind of makes me shudder a bit in a self-indulgent lucky escape way.

Anyhoo, my parents truly went off Norma and Derek in later years. Not sure why. I think they just didn't have anything in common anymore. We rarely saw them. The last time I saw them was at mum and dad's silver wedding in 1986, where I could have killed Derek who made me do a speech. I'd prepared nothing, it hadn't even crossed my mind, but luckily being on the hoof it was from the heart.

He died last year, she's still around and now goes on cruises. Apparently she's missing Derek dreadfully...


  1. I used to know a TV repair man a little while back - and, completely without bragging, he told me that he was constantly being offered sex on his rounds, by the bored, Valium-fed, baby-doll toting housewives of the South Coast. He spoke about it as though he was offering a kind of Social Service, which I suppose in a way, he was.

    I love this song, by the way. Reminds me of several parties...

  2. Incredible - perhaps the most accurate representation of seventies suburbia ever: swishy Norma, creepy Derek, affairs, Hoover demonstrator in a department store. Incredible... Like Confessions of a PIF...

    There must have been a cocktail/drinks bar in the living room at their place