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Archive for the ‘Flashback’ Category

Goodnight, Tommy

Around 25 years ago, when I was an apprentice electrician for the MoD, I would wait each summer morning for the bus to work at the submarine Base. An older guy, Tommy, whose name I had gleaned from the other bus stop folk who spoke to him, would usually be waiting there at that time in the morning, too.

I quietly observed that Tommy was pretty eccentric. Even then he had a bit of a stoop to him and a face full of character. He would wait seemingly indefinitely on the bin lorry picking him up on the way past and he’d chat away about this and that to everyone who shared the bus shelter. I didn’t know what he was on about half the time, but I would still humour him on his chosen subject of the day because I liked Tommy.

Even though I was a naive young man, somehow I was astute enough to appreciate that the world needed more people like him. He was a bin man, which, let’s be honest, is regarded as the lowest of working class jobs, but that didn’t stop Tommy talking to anyone and everyone as an equal. Apprentice electrician or bank manager – it didn’t matter to him and it’s a trait that I thought was admirable.

He was a kind man with it. One time he saw me running in the distance and asked the driver of the bus I was clearly going to miss to wait for me. That was a big deal to me – I didn’t have the best timekeeping record as an apprentice and Tommy probably saved my bacon that day.

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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.