Having a father who loved performing as much as mine did, having a father who loved his working mens clubs as much as mine did, having a father who simply refused to go anywhere unless there was a “turn” on, then you will not be surprised to learn that I have seen more than my fair share of professional, semi professional and downright amateur entertainers.
I’ve written about many of them, for instance, the one about the bloke who played the saw he was rubbish he was.
From an early age I was embroiled in the world of amateur entertainment, no not me personally, but I couldn’t avoid having to watch my dad get up and sing or tell jokes at even the slightest of prompts in clubs and pubs across the land, our annual summer holidays were only booked after my father had enquired as to whether the holiday camp had “a club” and whether or not it had a talent contest night and then on that talent contest night we’d have to sit and watch my father do his usual “Lady Is A Tramp” or “That Old Black Magic” Sinatra impression, usually winning his weight in beer for the rest of the holiday, or one year a propelling pencil set to which he was absolutely disgusted and handed it back to the camp site gift shop in a cash refund sort of deal, even though he hadn’t bought it himself, “it was a prize love, somebody must have bought it”.
His Saturday nights were invariably spent with my mother in the Meanwood Con club, a club where he was a trustee, had been the concert secretary, captain of the billiards team that won the Leeds and District League, and willing volunteer to get up and sing every time the “turn” let them down.
After I’d passed my driving test my father struck upon a wonderful wheeze for allowing him to continue getting blind drunk every Saturday night and yet not have to drive home – he’d get me to drive instead.
And as part of this plan he traded in his very staid and respectable Austin Princess and instead purchased a Mk1 Toyota Celica, a two seater sports car with a ridiculously powerful engine for its size, in yellow, with lots of chrome in a very 1970s stylee – and every Saturday and Sunday night he would throw the keys to me and tell me I could use the car for the night as long as I’d give he and my mother a lift to and from the club.
It worked, the master plan was of course that the Celica was a proper “bird-puller” although I’m sad to report that it never pulled any birds for me, maybe trading on Jimmy Savile’s home patch was always bound for failure, but still, I got to drive his Celica wherever I wanted every Saturday and Sunday night, a car that would spin its wheels and scream its tyres in frustration every time you dropped the clutch, a car in such a bright yellow that people turned to look and them shielded their eyes, a car that preferred to steer sideways around most minor bends and one that would often describe perfect 360 degree spins on tighter bends as I chickened out and slammed the brakes on halfway around – if only my father knew what jinks we got up to in that car of his when he entrusted me to it every Saturday and Sunday night then he’d never have entrusted me to it, nor the Mk2 Celica in white he purchased the year after.
But when the fun was all over and the pubs chucked us all out at 11pm sharp I had to drive back to the con club to pick up he and my mother and hope that he didn’t notice a distinct lack of petrol compared to when I’d dropped him off, and of course because this was a private members club they could abuse the licensing laws a little and run on a bit later than the pubs did, hence why I always ended up sitting at their table, stone cold sober, amongst dozens of drunken friends of my father and mother all of whom were so keen to tell me what a wonderful night they’d had and how I missed a really good “turn”.
“Nest week, next week” my father would try and explain through his beer fuddled brain, “next week you’ll have to come in, we’ve got a bloody good turn on, haven’t we Don ?”
“Eh?” would ask Don, his mate and concert secretary
“I’m saying Don, Next week, next week, he’ll have to come in won’t he, bloody good turn”
“Oh aye, bloody good turn next week, oh aye”
“Bloody good turn, we saw him last christmas, eeeh he’s bloody good, isn’t he Don”
“Ah say, bloody good turn isn’t he, next week ?”
“Oh aye, bloody good turn”
“You;ll have to come, next week…”
And I’d sit there, stone cold sober, and smile at every one of my mothers friends who’d come up to me stinking of cheap perfume and babycham and ruffle my hair or pinch my cheek and tell me that the last time they’d seen me was when I was in a pram and I’d smile back and resist the temptation to remind them that if they didn’t get so bleeding drunk every frikkin week then they’d remember that they actually saw me last Sunday and said the same thing.
“Are we ready to go yet?” I’d ask my father
“Oh aye, ready when you are” he’d say, “hang on, just finish me pint” and he’d sip from probably his tenth pint of the night that would be nearly full still and I’d look from him to the table, and there would be another pint waiting for him on the table as well,
“Is that yours as well ?” I’d ask
“oh aye, probably” he’d reply and laugh and nudge me, “aye up, we’re having a bloody good night aren’t we eh?”
“Can you hurry up a bit ?” I’d ask and he’d pick his spare pint up and put it in front of me, “Here” he’d say “help me out with this one, go on, you have it”
“I’m driving” is all I’d say with a look of disgust, this was classic role reversal, it was supposed to be parents who got disgusted at the drunken antics of their children, not the other way around, every Saturday and Sunday night I had to sit there for at least another hour after I should have gone home and wait for my mother and father to sup up their drinks and then spend half an hour saying good night to every single person in the club as I stood at the door waiting with the car keys in my hand until finally my father would come across and say “have you brought the car to the door yet, come on we’re waiting for you, where’s you mother gone?”
She’d have gone to the toilet now and as everyone knows when a woman goes to the toilet thats another half hour you can add to your wait because she had to say good night to everyone in the toilet too, and then when she came out, if you missed her exit from the toilet she’d wander back into the concert room and start saying goodnight to everyone again.
The quickest time that I have ever seen the Meanwood Con club empty from the steward pulling the grill down on the bar to actually locking the front door was 92 minutes, 92 minutes in which every single member said goodnight to every other member three times minimum, some weeks, after a particularly bloody good turn it would be Sunday morning before we got home, I am not exaggerating when I say that during the shortest nights of mid-summer, we have pulled up in our house driveway as the sun arose over the horizon for a new Sunday and the end of a bloody good night that didn’t end until we had extracted my mother out of the back of the Celica for of course she was never a lightweight woman wasn’t my mother and the Celica was only a two seater so she had to wedge herself behind the seats, sitting on the back parcel shelf, for a woman who could never be described as “slim” my mother did a marvelous job as a contortionist or magicians floozy squashed into as small a space as possible during a magical illusion.
I have often wondered since, is this where I learned that drinking alcohol just isn’t worth the effort ?