By Parson Thru
My God, it’s a difficult one. What do you write?
Well, I was born into a fighting family. Should have been a bit of a hard-man really, but it wasn’t really me. I tried a few times. Didn’t work.
There are a number of ways you can go when you have gone through childhood terrified of your father and seen your mother beaten-up. This is nothing to do with sex, of course. Most adolescents try out the options anyway. It’s about how you feel inside.
My family was full of matriarchs and weak booze-addled men. You kind of follow the men partly ‘cos you’re meant to and partly ‘cos you don’t know any other way. We had the Second World War pouring out of the TV every Sunday afternoon, so fancied ourselves as soldiers – except I preferred the German uniforms. An aesthete even then. How do you square away a love of aesthetics and a leaning towards cooperative economics? I suppose it’s like anything – you don’t have to buy the whole deal.
I thank my ex-Polytechnic for giving me the capacity to see things this way. They called it “Pluralism”.
When I was a kid – I mean real small, like eight or nine – I went to Sunday School. A bus used to pull up outside our house (my mother still lives there – I thank God for the ghosts). It was an old bus. A short thing with a curvaceous coach body – probably by Duple. It was owned by Ernie Vile’s Coaches and had a beautiful arc sweeping from front to rear, ending with an elegant flick over the rear wheel like the end of a signature. It had two curving windows following the roof-line over the driver. They had amber glass in them and Venetian blinds. Inside, a clock with gold hands was just below them and above the split in the windscreen. This bus was gorgeous.
And so, one day I just had to get on to see where it went. Fortunately, I’d done my research at school. It took people to the Elim Pentecostal Church in the centre of York, and the kids got to go to Sunday School. It just happened that my class-mate Richard and his parents were of that persuasion. So off I went.
I learned some good stuff there. Like really attractive older girls liked me and wanted to mother me. Even at that age, I knew that was a good thing. I also learned stories that today I’d recognise as parables. But these had a home-grown feel to them – like the hen that protected her chicks under her body as the hen-house burned down. I feel that story even now. One of the older girls gave me the beautifully-painted posters that were used to illustrate the story. Deep blue background of thick poster-paint. I wish I had them now.
They took us away for days out on the beach at Filey. Huge picnics, games on the beach, then hymns – during which I was shared between the mothering older teenage girls. Heaven.
It all ended on the Sunday morning that the adults asked if I wanted to be saved. Never one to say no in those days I was willing to try anything. Finding myself in a small room at the age of eight or nine within a circle of adults all placing their hands on my head was a step too far. I think that’s the first time I recall keeping my mouth shut and voting with my feet. Ernie Vile lost a passenger.