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Archive for the ‘Flashback’ Category

My Aunty Denny

On Friday the 13th of March 2015 I went for a meal at Annaya’s Indian restaurant in Helensburgh, with my brother Andrew. I’d gone for a couple of beers after work before heading back, so when we got to Annaya’s at around 8pm I was in good spirits and ready for a slap up feed.

When we entered the restaurant I was happy to see my Aunty Denny and Uncle James sitting down the back, so I asked the waiter if we could join them. He showed us to the table right beside them and the banter started before we’d even taken our seats.

“Och! Denny, they saw us!” James laughed. “Shush, you!” She said back to him.

Aunty Denny and Uncle James had always been a great double act. When I was younger I used to get quite stressed at the way they constantly tormented each other, but it became a source of great entertainment over time and I loved the comedy of it when I was in their company.  We spent the next hour or so laughing and talking as we ate our meals and I was so glad we’d happened upon them on the night.

They were finished before Andrew and I, and, after a bit of fuss over not being able to find her scarf, Aunty Denny came back from getting her coat to give us £30 towards our meal. I immediately protested, saying it wasn’t necessary, but she told us that she’d won big playing bingo earlier that week and wanted to treat us.

She’d always been a fan of bingo. I remember when we went on family holidays at caravan parks or Butlins, Aunty Denny would waste no time getting stuck into the bingo halls. I never knew she still played it, but her winnings were impressive.

It was such a kind gesture for her to share her windfall with us and I gave her a hug and a kiss as she left. James was already at the door, eager to get to the pub and going “C’mon you!” Denny scoffed and theatrically rolled her eyes as she went off to join him, waving us goodbye as she went out of the door.

That would be the last time I ever saw her.

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Toca’s Miracle

There are certain songs that instantly pull you from the present and whisk you off down memory lane in an instant. Toca’s Miracle by Fragma is but one of many that can initiate instant time travel for me, with a memory so vivid that it’s hard to believe the moment it takes me to is nearly 11 years ago at the time of writing.

It’s Saturday, March the 4th 2000. The very dawn of the new millennium and my first day in London after flying down to Luton the day before to start a new job on the Monday. Until then, I hadn’t spent any appreciable time in the capital, save for a brief visit when I had been a child.

To say it’s an overwhelming city is an understatement to a newcomer. But there I was on Oxford street with Cousin Iain, shortly after emerging from Oxford Circus underground station. It’s like that scene from The Matrix where Morpheous is with Neo in a simulation of the matrix, walking effortlessly through the crowd as Neo negotiates and bumps his way through the oncoming tide of pedestrains. Not that Iain had spent a huge amount of time in the city himself, but he knew his way around and wasn’t trying to take everything in to the same extent as I was.

So Cousin Iain is forging ahead while I struggle to keep up, until he pauses at a clothes shop opposite HMV. We go in to browse the jeans, t-shirts, and winter clearance items on sale. They have Capital Radio on loud, and soon enough Toca’s Miracle comes on. It had been around for a while by that point, having been a late summer hit in Ibiza, but was gaining the domestic airplay that would see it peak at number 8 in the charts in April.

As the song builds to the first chorus I find myself just being really aware of, well, everything in the here & now. The music, the store, the crowded street outside, and the unknown path I’m just setting foot on, all come together. Somehow I know it’s a moment I won’t forget, despite the fact we’re not doing anything particularly memorable aside from browsing in shops when we should be finding me a place to live.

I stand for a while immersed in my thoughts, before Cousin Iain approaches and asks if I’m ready to go.

“Yes.” I nod, and we leave the store as Coco Star continues to sing about needing a miracle. I still smile at the sentiment, but for me I knew it wouldn’t come to that. All I needed was a little luck and my London adventure would turn out fine.

Just the way it did, in fact.

Like Riding A Bike

It was the long hot summer of 1976 and I was four years old. On this particular day, my Uncle John (I didn’t know he was crazy back then) had let me play in his car, parked as it was by the kerb outside our house. With no key in the ignition I could sit there and pretend to drive for hours and the family knew just where I was.

I don’t know how long I’d been out there, but the kid who lived next door, Tommy McLaren, wandered over after spotting me in the car. Tommy was a few years older than me and he was really into cars – cars and The Fonz. He was a good kid – his parents were friends of the family by virtue of our houses sharing one big back garden. He always had time for me and I never felt threatened by him like I did with most of the other older boys around the estate.

He was cool too, I suppose, but then at that age I guess all older boys appeared to be cool because they had better toys and bigger bikes. That last part was a sore spot because, being four, my bike had a little red saddlebag and stabilisers. Back in those days the cool bike of choice was a Raleigh Chopper and they were much too big for me. Tommy had one of those – I was never really keen on them, but I could appreciate why they were cool – with a big red gear lever in the centre console and a fat rear tire, it looked like a man’s bike. His also had a CB ariel sticking out from the seat pillar – bikes didn’t come much cooler than that in the mid 70’s.

After I wrestled down the window, Tommy asked if he could play in the car with me. I was delighted, but the problem was he wanted to do the pretend driving. I told him that Uncle John had let me be in charge of the car and that although he could join me, he couldn’t drive it.

“If you let me drive, I’ll teach you how to ride your bike without stabilisers.” Tommy said.

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