What do I want to write about? I've got a funny thing about that. Ha. Ha.
It's a question I've never thought to ask until recently.
Something landed on the sea floor of my mind recently and disturbed the memory of Tony. The ordinary, boring, truth of Tony. I'll tell you a tale of a man I really liked, not because it is shocking, or even interesting, but because it happened and I liked him and now I remember him again. Who knows what (or who) I'll remember or forget in the next 15 years?
My first job was in a pine furniture shop, I sold pine furniture, organised production and delivery of pine furniture. If I was working in the shop, I was usually the only employee there. The owner was in a local boozer. I was good at it. I got paid £20 a day, plus commission and lunch. There was a cellar full of stolen goods. My first job was interesting, a 14 year old version of interesting.
Part of my job was sometimes to go out and assist on deliveries. I am, and was then, about 5'7". We sold "made to measure" pine furniture, some of the pieces were big and heavy. I remember laughing at the delivery driver the first time I arrived with him at a house after a longish drive. I realised what it meant for me to be expected to help him put a triple wardrobe into a bedroom up two flights of stairs. He was built like a brick shithouse, had clearly been doing this or something like it for his whole life. He wasn't messing around, he needed me to help him get this big solid-hollow block of wood up the stairs. He was going to show me how, but he needed me to get into it. He showed me how to lift anything I could get my fucking hands around. I developed callouses and muscles. He's a big part of the reason I'm strong. I was amazed at what I could do, it's a great feeling for a little kid. Thanks Tony.
Me and Tony used to go on the van together sometimes. He was the kind of man who cheerfully and resignedly describes himself as "thick". He wasn't wrong. He was also what we call "sound". He was a bit of a drunk, but only in the evenings. He was quiet behind the wheel of the van, but we had a laugh. I remember three funny things from working with Tony. The first, we all used to go for a pint in the local pub and get our wages, except Tony. He would drink a couple of cans at home with his girlfriend every night instead. He invited me over to his place, and I finally went. I couldn't drink Special Brew, so I drank something else. I sat in his flat with him and his girlfriend, probably one Friday, it was OK.
The second funny thing was when we did a house clearance one day with another lad, a bit older than me. The three of us "found" a big box of mothballs in a huge worthless old wardrobe that we matchsticked. On a beautiful Summer's day in Manchester, as carefree as could be, we pelted cars and carefully selected pedestrians with mothballs that exploded in puffs of white powder that seemed made for nothing else. On Moseley road, there was a parked (unattended) police car that we covered in dust as we waited for the lights to change.
The third thing was when the other guy, the one who was a bit older than me, was in the van. He was rabbiting, talking shit. He'd eaten at least 3 filing cabinet pills before noon and was driving us mad. Blathering. He finally talked himself into a bit of a corner and was debating with himself, around and around in circles. I wanted him to jump out of the window. Tony, after half an hour of silent driving, with perfect comic timing, threw the van over to the side of the road and suddenly, after obviously trying and failing to tune him out, said simply;
"Come on! Which is it? We won't be able to sleep tonight!"
I've stolen that. Might seem like nothing to you. Imagine a big man keeping quiet for miles of shit-talk and suddenly swinging a van full of furniture to the side of the road just to take the piss out of someone who was barely on planet Earth. Makes me laugh.
You know what? Number four. We put a rat in someone's lunch once. I just remembered. That's called craic.
I fell out with the owner of the furniture shop, kind of. I lost touch with the crowd. About 5 years later I bumped into one of the lads I'd worked with, in a pub called "The Albert" in Rusholme. Maurice. Top man.
Fucking hell Tony. I really can't bring myself to type any more. You'd be so happy how I remember you.
(i look at the story for an hour)
This is hard.
Tony used to tell me about his daughter. He was a shit dad and his daughter, about 18 at the time, had ran away to Glasgow. She was on the streets and addicted to heroin. How he knew this, I never asked. Tony's big dream was to go up there and get her, and sort her out. It was weird when he would talk about it. It seemed so unlikely that he would ever actually manage to find her. One of the barriers was that he considered himself too fucked up with the beer and he had no money. At the same time, I took him seriously. I really believed, that he believed he would at least try to do it, to go and get her. He would get emotional sometimes when he would talk about her. The way he would talk about having to sort himself out before he even tried to get her made an impression on me. It was complicated.
I saw Maurice and Maurice saw me. We had a word or two together. Maurice told me that Tony did eventually go up to Glasgow to get his daughter. Incredibly, he found her, and ended up getting on the gear with her, fucking up, and never coming back. That was about 13 years ago, draw your own. I remember, now, being angry and hurt and confused when Maurice told me this. Maurice was a good man, and he clearly knew what had happened, and wasn't the type to repeat bullshit. This all got buried in my mind until recently.
I've got a funny thing about what I want to write about. I've got a funny thing about names as well. I don't like naming them, usually. On this occasion, names have not been changed. As always, thanks for reading.