My father had a social life so diametrically opposite to mine that we might have come from different species let alone different families, in short he was never in the house.
He once told me that he made a pact with our mother that she could look after me and our Ned when we were young and then he’d take care of us when we were older, there was no agreed cut off point for this arrangement but in fact it all happened at or around our 18th birthdays, strangely coincidental with the dual facts of us attaining the drinking alcohol age and our obtaining a driving licence to drive him places to drink alcohol.
I don’t want to give the impression that he was a perpetual drunk because he wasn’t, its just that all of his generation were rabid alcoholics compared to us these days. He was a member at several working mens clubs and a trustee at one of them and when we were kids I can’t recall him ever spending a night in the house watching TV with our mother and us – being a good standard snooker and billiard player helped a lot too as he played in local leagues on three or four nights a week.
He had several groups of friends through his lifetime, one of whom were his Jewish jeweller friends who occupied his Saturday morning and lunchtimes, I went with him sometimes as a kid and his Saturday mornings seemed to consist of sitting in chairs in the office of a jewellery wholesaler speaking in an outrageously, arm waving camp Jewish style amongst others of the same ilk who didn’t seem to realise that he wasn’t of their religious persuasion, not that they seemed to be either because they should have been at the synagogue on a Saturday lunchtime – it was a strange circle to move in but he used the wholesalers for the spare parts he needed to repair clocks, which was just one of his cash-only sidelines that supplemented his “proper job” income.
He always had clothing to sell, just random clothing, usually from another of his contacts Bennett. Bennett was a member at one of the clubs and was a supplier of knocked-off goods to the gentry, basically if you wanted anything you just asked Bennett and he’d turn up next week with the thing you’d ask for, it might not be the right colour or the right style or even the thing you’d asked for, but he’d turn up with it anyway and you’d always have to buy it.
Bennett specialised in clothing and our dad was his main distributor, in fact after a few years everything that Bennett had to sell was channelled through our dad, lets just say that if it had once been in a Burtons shop window then I was usually wearing it to school a season after it had been removed from the window.
Our dad sold suit lengths mainly because Cyril over the Road worked for a tailors and from time to time came across whole suit lengths that no-one appeared to need anymore, Cyril over the Road would walk over the road and ask our dad if he thought he could shift it on for him, our dad would sell the suit length to some unsuspecting drunkard and then when the drunk woke up the next morning to find that he’d spent all of his wage on a suit length he’d ring our dad and ask him what the hell he was supposed to do with twenty yards of cloth to which our dad would point him in the direction of Cyril over the Road who, for a very reasonable fee and a back-hander to our dad, would make up the cloth into a suit – the perfect circular scam – my dad may have known lots of drunkards but they were all well dressed.
Cyril over the Road once got his hands on twenty plum coloured double breasted blazers with wide lapels and brass buttons, our dad sold them all to the sales managers in every branch of the company he worked for, plus one to the sales director – his only downfall is that he told them all that the plum double breasted brass buttoned blazer was unique, it was a sample and not a production model and no-one else would have one anywhere – this is a perfectly true story but at a monthly sales meeting every person who arrived at head office that day was wearing the same plum coloured double breasted brass buttoned blazer, all of them under the impression that they were wearing a unique item of clothing.
He even became an illegal bookie for a year when Peter, one of his snooker mates, told him that the bloke at Kirkstall Forge who handled the betting circle there had retired and they were looking for someone to take over the job, our dad bankrolled Peter and for a year he collected the stakes on each days horse meetings from a regular circle of confirmed gamblers and would spend half an hour weighing up whether or not to place all of the bets at the local William Hills or to stand the risk themselves – they ended the year with a tidy little profit and sold on the franchise to some other idiot who then got caught and prosecuted 18 months later.
He almost got arrested for stealing bricks once, and i was with him at the time (although only around 8 years old so would probably have only served short time in juvenile jail) – he was laying a new concrete drive at home and needed some hardcore as foundation, luckily the council had demolished swathes of streets worth of houses in Kirkstall and left all the rubble laying around for weeks, he took me down there and we’d only been loading bricks into the boot of his Vauxhall Viva for ten minutes when a police car pulled up and a young police officer strolled over and asked what one earth he thought he was doing.
I stood and watched in awe as my dad stared the young policeman up and down a couple of times then told him to mind his own bloody business, turned his back and continued loading bricks.
And without saying another word the policeman turned around, went back to his car and drove off.
He could walk on water could my dad.