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A Reason for Living - Chapter 4

Book By: Billy Casper
Non-fiction



A Reason for Living - Chapter 4: of a Powerful and Compelling True Story of a Childs Fight for Survival from Abusive Parents


Submitted:Jan 22, 2013    Reads: 27    Comments: 2    Likes: 3   


Chapter 4: Betrayed

When the actual day for my leaving arrived I said a general and casual goodbye to the lads and most of the staff and then went to see Mrs Poole. I had to say goodbye. I could feel the sorrow in my heart and see the sorrow in the face of Mrs Poole. She told me that she would have liked for me to be able to come to her house for the weekends but she had been told by the headmaster that he thought she was becoming emotionally involved and it therefore could not be allowed. I had suspected something like this for quite some time, it hurt but was no surprise. I gave the woman a hug and fought to hold back the tears, it was time to go.

Within days of leaving school my mother started nagging me to get a job and earn some money. It started me thinking about the last time she started going on about work and money. This time I was lucky and found myself a job in a factory in Tyseley, near to where my father still worked. I was feeling very proud and told my mother the good news. I wanted her to be proud of me. She took me to the pub to celebrate with a quiet and peaceful drink, almost treating me as an adult. I was no longer her little boy and could see straifht through her ploy of caring parent. I never trusted her.

On the way back from the pub the questions started. "How much money are you thinking of giving me each week?" she asked.

"My basic wage is £21.50 per week. I was thinking of about £11.50 per week, if that's ok," I replied.

She went berserk. I thought she was going to push me under the passing bus. "I want £15.00 per week to start and £17.00 per week when you get some overtime."

'You haven't changed. I knew I was making a mistake in coming home. No wonder dad's working himself into an early grave, I can see why now,' I thought as we walked down the road, trying not to be intimidated by the look of hatred in my mothers face.

I started my job and soon managed to earn extra bonus pay on piecework. At times I walked out off work at the end of the week with £29.00 in my pay packet and felt really good, until I got home. My mother would see my pay slip each week and would usually leave me with about £5.00 per week. She would just take the rest. Out of this remaining money I was to buy my bus pass to get to work costing £2.10 and my cigarettes and clothes. When I got home from work, my brother or elder sister would usually be washing up from the evening meal.

"What's for tea?" I asked.

"Meat pie and mash spuds. It's in the oven," Laurence told me, "but try not to eat it." I looked in the oven.

"Burned again," I observed. The following night was meat pie and chips.

"Do you realize we've had meat pie every day this week?" I remarked to my brother.

"Have you looked in the cupboard? It looks like we've got them all next week too," Laurence suggested.

The week continued with meat pie and . . . Each night I was coming home to burned offerings and was sick of the sight of meat pie. I left it in the oven.

"Don't you want your dinner?" my mother asked, surprised at my reaction to her cooking. "There's nothing wrong with meat pie. Your father's got the same and he's not complaining."

I actually thought that I was eating my fathers dinner from the night before and that my mother must be cooking him a fresh dinner, but things just didn't make any sense. I started to get suspicious about all these pies.

"Do you remember when we were little and dad bought Michele a rabbit for her birthday? I asked my brother. "Well, it only lasted for a few months and it died. Mother told us the neighbours had poisoned it."

"Did you believe her?" I asked.

"No. I think mother killed it because she couldn't be bothered to clean it out," Laurence replied.

"Then dad bought her another rabbit to replace it and that also died," I said. "When that rabbit died do you remember what mother told us?"

Laurence remembered, "She said the next animal we have, when it died we were going to eat it."

I opened the oven door and looked suspiciously at my dinner. I looked back at my brother, "Where's the dog?" I asked. We both suspected the same...

I often had the mysterious burned offerings for my tea, if I had anything at all. Although the beatings and whippings had stopped, my mother still knew how to make life unbearable. I knew I had made the wrong decision on leaving school but my mother realized I was a bit bigger now and thought twice about beating me in the way she so obviously wanted, but still the nightmare continued.

I couldn't face the nightmare any longer. A determined mind over-ruled my churning, weak stomach as I swallowed the two hundred tablets to end my miserable existence. No goodbye note this time, I just left the house with my stomach feeling very heavy. Life seemed so very empty and meaningless. I was found floating face down in the river and woke up in East Birmingham hospital. I couldn't remember anything, not even my own name.

"We are taking the matter very seriously," the doctors told me, "This is about the third or fourth time you have attempted to take your own life. This time you very nearly succeeded. You were in fact dead on arrival but we managed to bring you back. You've been in a coma for the last ten days and we didn't think you were going to make it."

I was taken to Highcroft Psychiatric hospital and labelled `a high suicidal risk'. They were right. I had absolutely no interest in living at all. I simply wanted to die. I wanted people to leave me alone so I could decide where and how I was going to die. I didn't care about anything anymore. I had only one thing in mind, I had failed another attempt and would try again. I really wanted to die.

When first admitted to the hospital I was put on ward B1, where I was kept on drugs and given Electroconvulsion therapy (E.C.T.)

ECT is where, after having a general anaesthetic, electrodes are placed over the temples and electric currents passed through the brain. When I woke up all I knew about was the headache, nothing more. This was no ordinary headache, it felt as if a bomb had been exploded inside my head. The sort of headache you never forget. I knew I was walking around like a zombie because I was so heavily drugged. I could see other people wandering around aimlessly, without any apparent feelings or emotions, as if in a permanent hypnotic state. Whatever the purpose of the ECT treatment I don't believe it had any effect on me, apart from the horrific headaches. If this treatment was supposed to help stop the suicidal feelings it didn't work. I was sixteen years old and had no wish or any reason to live. I wished I was dead and this wish was constant.

After a few months on this ward I was moved to ward F3, a therapeutic ward, where patients where encouraged to talk about their problems. While on ward F3, I was taken off all medication and was no longer given ECT. I telephoned my father while on this ward, just to see how he was and I guess to apologise for what I was doing and intended to do. We started talking and told him why I kept trying to commit suicide and I told him about the way my mother had treated me for years. I told my father I was still having nightmares from when I was locked in the shed with the cats and I told him what happened. I had been having recurrent nightmares for years about that incident and had an uncontrollable fear of cats. This fear resulted in me being given the nickname `Budgie' but nobody knew why I was so terrified of cats.

"Why have you never said anything to me before about all this?" my father asked.

"It was mainly out of fear. I was simply too afraid to say anything most of the time and you were never around anyway," I replied.

"You always believed the bloody stories mother told. If I had told you, I don't think you would have believed me," I said.

"I might have done," my father replied.

"That only proves my point," I said. "You, might have done!"

"Do you remember the day when you came home from work and I got out of bed and came into you pouring of blood?" I asked. "You took me to the hospital to have my head stitched up. That was my second visit to the hospital. I had already had eight stitches in my head earlier that same day, thanks to mother. Then she tries to bash my brains out in the middle of the night with a bloody frying pan, for no sodding reason." I said.

"I remember you had to carry me home and I remember what you said to mother when we got back home. I heard all the lies she spewed out. I wanted to come in and tell you the truth, but she would have killed me. Do you know what she did about that? She locked me in the shed. I was in there for days and you didn't even notice I was missing," I said bitterly.

My father didn't really know what to say. "I'm sorry. I'm really sorry," he said. "I had no idea." I found it impossible to believe he knew nothing about what was going on.

"I think you did know, I think you just didn't want to believe it. You just couldn't accept what was going on behind your back. I think that's why you were never at home, always too busy working."

On ward F3 I never talked about my problems but listened to other people each day in the 'therapeutic' morning meetings. I didn't see what good it would do talking about my problems now. As far as I was concerned I only had one problem, I was still alive. I had no feelings or emotions for anyone or anything anymore, my own life meant nothing and neither did anyone elses.

Patients on this ward were allowed out of the hospital grounds. Each day I went out with two of the other patients from the ward and we would stay in the Queens Head pub until we were thrown out. I regularly staggered back to the hospital drunk and spent most of my time staying drunk. If I had no money, which was usually the case, I would steal bottles of cider from a local supermarket. My depression had hit rock bottom, I could see no way forward, no turning back, I just wanted it all to end. I tried not to think about things and the only way I found I could do this way to stay drunk. I often started drinking soon after the supermarket opened in the mornings and I would drink until I passed out.

One of the female patients on the ward had been admitted for very much the same reason as myself and we regularly went out drinking together and regularly got drunk together. We started having a sexual relationship while in the hospital and were caught having sex in the male dormitory during the night, by nursing staff. We really couldn't believe it when the next day this was bought up for discussion in the morning meeting. We started laughing. We just couldn't believe they wanted to discuss what we were doing, we walked out of the meeting and went to the pub.

Shortly after this incident I stole a bottle of whisky from the local supermarket and took it back to the hospital. I woke up the next morning in a padded cell. I was stark naked with dried blood on my feet. I started shouting and hammering on the door. Two muscular male nurses came to the door, unlocked it and stood in front of me with their arms folded across their chests.

"Where the hell am I and where are my bloody clothes and what happened to my feet?" I asked.

"Don't you remember? You drank a bottle of whisky last night and went a bit mad. You smashed the bottle on the floor and walked over it, in your bare feet. That's why your feet are covered in blood, and you attacked three guys with a meat fork and that belt of yours. It took four male nurses to disarm and restrain you. You were like a wild animal."

My belt was a really dangerous weapon. It was over 4" wide and covered in studs from one end to the other. The huge heavy buckle had been ground and was quite capable of splitting a skull.

"Why am I stark bollock naked and where are my clothes?" I asked.

"You threw up all over the place, so we had to take them off you," the nurse replied. "You will get them back later, now stop your thumping on the door and get some sleep or we're gonna to stick a straight jacket on you!"

The hospital psychiatrist paid me a visit and gave his diagnosis. "We do not think for one minute that you are insane, although you have a very violent temper. We do not think there is anything more we can do for you, unless you are willing to talk to us and co-operate. We cannot tolerate your behaviour any longer. Unless you are willing to tell us why you are having these problems we cannot help you. You are going back to the ward and will be discharged and sent home later today."

'You're the one who's mad if you think I'm going back home, ' I thought. 'I've got other plans.'

I packed my things together and walked out of the hospital. I was picked up by the police and taken back, where I was locked in a padded cell until my social worker arrived. My social worker took me to a childrens home in Chelmsley Wood.

"This is the place you could have come to when you first left Quinta," the social worker said.

"I thought you said it was a hostel," I replied.

"I lied!" he said coldly.

"This will have to do for now, just until I can find somewhere else for you," he said callously.

"Does this mean I will get my flat now?" I asked.

"What flat? There never was a flat. Don't you understand yet? We knew all about your mothers letter and we knew you would go home. Blood's thicker than water," the social worker laughed.

"You bastard! You bloody set me up," I said angrily. I really felt betrayed.

In early 1978, my social worker called at the home again. "So where are we going today, my trusted friend?" I asked sarcastically.

"Have you ever heard the saying, 'You've been sent to Coventry?' Well that's where you're going. You're going into a hostel," the social worker replied.

I arrived at the hostel in Davenport Road, Coventry and soon reached the conclusion that this was a sort of 'Dumping ground' for persons who had been in care, those that Social Services had, or appeared to have, given up on.

I soon found myself a job in a DIY shop in Coventry on a youth training scheme but by now I had a serious drinking problem. I was drinking a bottle of whisky a day which I usually stole from shops.

I only stayed at this hostel for a few months before finding myself lodgings in a large prewar house. I continued working in the shop and Tony, the owner of the shop, had his mother and sister running two fruit and vegetable stalls on the nearby market. Each day I would get these stalls stocked up and ready for trading from about 7.30am until I started work in the shop from 9.00am. I was employed as a basic shop assistant. I made tea, served customers, cut timber and did anything that was required. I worked each day until about 6.00pm and did overtime if required. I liked the job and the people I was working for. At the weekends I would work on Tony's farm in Claverdon, near Coventry. Tony had cattle, horses, chickens and a few other animals, including three dogs and three cats. I still had an uncontrollable fear of cats and felt very uncomfortable with cats sneaking around. I loved working on the farm. I enjoyed being around most of the animals, some of whom had a habit of trying to walk into the farmhouse, including one of the horses and a cow.

I continued living in the lodgings for a while and was soon joined by two other residents from the hostel. One night I returned to my lodgings to find at least six of the residents from the hostel, in addition to the two who had moved in. They were all just roaming around the house as if they owned the place. I was very angry and half drunk at the time. I started arguing with them and had a hot cup of tea thrown in my face, then the fight broke out. I was beaten up fairly bad and thrown out of the house with my belongings.

The next day I went to work as usual, this time wearing a black eye, swollen face and a thick lip and carrying my suitcase. After work Tony and his wife June, asked me if I would like to come and live on the farm. Tony and June were nice people and had always been good to me, so I went to live on the farm. Tony had always called me by my nickname 'Budgie', but knew nothing of how I had come by the name. I still had the memory and the fear of cats. I would never deliberately hurt them, I just had a nervous reaction to them and jumped every time one came near to me. I told Tony that I was afraid of cats, but did not explain why or how bad the fear was. Tony couldn't understand how anyone could be afraid or nervous of a little pussy cat. At meal times I could be eating my food and the cats would roam around and I felt very uncomfortable. I tried to watch them but I could not watch them all at the same time. Sometimes one or more cats would jump up onto my chair and I would jump up, my plate of food going onto the floor. Tony soon lost his patience with my nervous reactions to his pets and wanted some answers.

"You're going to tell me why you're so afraid of cats," Tony said angrily. "I'm fed up of your food ending up on the floor every time a bloody cat comes near you.".

I told him about being locked in the shed, starving hungry, with seven starving wild cats and I told him about the nightmares I still had. I told Tony I would never deliberately hurt an animal but in my dreams I can still see the shed with blood splattered everywhere and dead animals lying on the floor. I still see the empty grave that I dug and I still see the lifeless bodies of the animals slumped in a dustbin. Tony was a big-built bloke but I could see the effect of horror in his face.

"My cats, like most cats, are not wild, they are not half starved, and you are not locked in total darkness with them. Cats do not normally fight to try to kill each other but cats do have a natural hunting nature. Like you, they were fighting to stay alive. Face your fear and you will overcome it," he said.

Tony was deeply distressed by what I had told him. He helped me to overcome my fear, the cats were not allowed into the house all together, so that I did not have to watch all three of them at once. Tony helped me a great deal and my recurrent nightmares become less frequent.

I worked long and hard, sometimes from 5.30am until midnight. I enjoyed every minute of it, until one day I had an accident. I had driven the tractor many times but on this occasion I ran up from behind the tractor and sort of leap-frogged onto the seat. As I did this, the loose cushion slid off the seat and I landed on some tools underneath. I fell to the ground and was unable to get up. I could not move. I had damaged the coccyx at the base of my spine. I had to spend months in bed, lying flat on my back on a door, which had been placed in my bed, at the farm. It felt as if I had been lying there for years. I was determined and kept trying to get up. At first I could not sit or stand and was in terrible pain. Tony's daughter, Maxine, become my nurse. She would bring my food and help me with anything I could not do myself, which was nearly everything. Maxine was a real help and had a habit of making me laugh. I liked to try and have a laugh with Maxine who was very grown up for her thirteen years of age, both in mind and body. The only problem was, every time I laughed it bloody hurt. I was very grateful to Maxine for all she was doing to help me and for brightening up my days with her cheerful ways. Each day I tried and eventually managed to stand up but still could not walk and when I tried to sit back down regretted standing in the first place. I had never been one to give up easily, I kept trying and after months of lying in bed I started to walk again. Walking was really very painful, but I was very determined and was not going to lie down and just rot.

Once back on my feet I returned to work almost immediately, despite the fact the coccyx had set in the wrong position. I still tried to work and Tony tried not to ask too much of me. I rarely complained about the pain and discomfort. When Tony could see I was having problems he would stop whatever he was doing and help me. Tony told me that he had always wanted a son. He had two daughters, whom he obviously cared for and loved very much and treated me as his son. He really was a good friend.

Soon after returning to work my social worker turned up in the shop. "Can you tell me where you are living these days?" he asked. "You seem to have forgot, you're still on a care order and are therefore supposed to keep me informed of your whereabouts," he explained, as if I didn't already know.

I told him where I was living and explained that I wanted to try to stay out of institutions and wanted to start to make a life of my own.

The social worker took me to another hostel in Willenhall and I hated it. There was a main building used for eating and watching television and several separate buildings for living in. These buildings were like deserted army barracks. There were separate rooms for each resident and each room was identical. Each room was about six feet by four feet in size and contained a bed, a chest of drawers and had a wardrobe built into the wall. These rooms were freezing cold, it was like living in a shed. At night rats would run about in the corridors and around the main buildings. I was very angry and bitter at having to pay rent for this. I had slept with rats before free of charge and here I was paying rent for their company.

I made a few friends while living in this hostel, who lived in a nearby council maisonette. I started visiting this maisonette regularly as this was a lot less depressing than my own accommodation. There were three guys living in this flat and I would go round the local pubs with them. We managed to get mixed up with about six or seven girls from the area, who turned out to be a whole heap of trouble but they were good fun.

I bought myself a good racing bike to travel to and from work and for general running around which gave me a sense of freedom. I locked up my bike to some railings one day while visiting the maisonette, but when I returned the bike had gone. I knew one of the guys from the maisonette had pinched it and I planned to get it back. They denied any knowledge of where the bike was or of who had taken it, but I just knew it was one of them. I didn't get angry or start making accusations but I had no doubts they had it somewhere.

My social worker came to see me at the hostel and brought my mother with him. My mother saw a cat, outside the main building, having a fight with a bloody big rat.

"This place is disgusting," my mother told the social worker, "I want my son out of here and I mean now!"

They decided I should return home. Needless to say, I was not over enthusiastic about living in this hostel but I was fairly happy living on my own away from home. I was still on a care order and had to do as my social worker said even if this was under pressure from my mother. I had no say in the matter, I was taken home.

After being at home for about a week I went back to get my bike. I knocked on the door of the maisonette and as soon as the door was opened I just walked inside. My bike was standing in the hallway. The guys could see I was mad and they knew I often carried throwing knives up my sleeves. While they were watching me, waiting for me to start trouble, I watched as a large piece of chipboard caught fire, in front of their open coal fire. By the time any of them had noticed the fire, it had taken hold. Billy picked up the board and as he turned quickly, his sleeve caught fire causing him to drop the board on the settee. Billy tried to put the flames out on his sleeve and I picked up my bike and walked out, as the settee was now on fire.

Within a few days, back home, I started a new job in a greengrocers shop on the main shopping centre in Chelmsley Wood. While working in this shop, I started getting friendly with one of the girls who worked there on a part time basis. I asked Tina out for a drink one night after work and we spent the night at her sisters flat, having sex in the living room, on her sisters settee.

The following day I went to work as usual and my mother came into the shop. "Where were you last night?" she asked nastily.

"I stayed at a friends house," I replied coldly.

"At some girls house, I suppose," she added.

"I don't sleep with men! Of course it was a girls house," I laughed.

My mother started shouting, "He's handling food and he's been sleeping with all these tramps in here. Just look at the dirty little sluts."

The customers started walking out and all the female staff had gone red with embarrassment and disgust. I went to the top of the stairs and shouted down to the gaffa. "We need some help up here. We've got a mad woman in the shop."

"Can I help you, madam?" the gaffa asked. My mother ignored him and continued shouting abusive remarks at the staff.

"Obviously not," he said. "Excuse me madam, I must ask you to leave my shop. You are disrupting my business. If you persist with this type of attitude, I will phone the police and have you removed."

That night I went home from work and explained why I had not returned on the previous night. I tried to keep things calm and spoke to my mother with respect and quietly. My mother started shouting her mouth off and came towards me with a kitchen-knife. This time I did not back away. As she raised the knife towards my face, I grabbed her wrist and twisted the knife from her hand. I glared coldly into her eyes and put the knife on the kitchen worktop. This time my mother was more afraid than I was. I turned and slowly started to walk away. I could feel the tension and knew she wanted to stick that knife in my back. I sensed her movement as she hesitated to pick up the knife.

With my back towards her, I stopped and stood very still, just waiting for her to make a move. "I wouldn't, if I were you," I dared, ready to defend...

I went upstairs and packed my bags. I went to live with Tina at her house in Kingshurst, Birmingham. Tina was divorced and had a two year old son, Kenny, named after his father. Tina was a few years older than me and far more sexually advanced. She taught me things I had read about in girlie magazines but had not experienced first hand. I considered her a good teacher. It was great fun learning sex education in this manner and I was always prepared to listen, learn, experiment and co-operate with this teacher. We both continued working in the shop. My mother came into the shop regularly to buy her vegetables and the manager watched her closely. She never said anything to me and didn't know the girl who often served her was the girl I was taking sex lessons from.

While working at this shop, I was trying very hard to find myself a different job. I didn't really like working at the greengrocers and didn't like the gaffa. The manager was a real irritation at times and often had the same job done four or five times for no apparent reason. I was just chief dogs body, to keep all the fruit and vegetable displays stocked up. It was my job to keep the shop clean and do any errands that needed to be done and I was a good, hard worker. I had often worked the fruit and vegetable stalls in Coventry and I knew what was what. I understood the trade that Tony had taught me. I enjoyed working for Tony, but this guy... The manager often tried to touch up his female staff, including my girlfriend and I didn't like it one little bit.

I tried talking to the gaffa, who had about as much sense as a bag of King Edward potatoes. "I know you're only messing and don't really mean anything by it, but do me a favour, don't keep touching Tina's arse," I said. "You wouldn't like it if someone kept touching your Missus arse."

The gaffa took no notice and continued sexually harassing the female staff. Shortly before Christmas the inevitable happened. I had just finished stacking 180 sacks of potatoes up a flight of stairs, when the gaffa told me I would have to stack them again as one of the bottom sacks had been stacked wrongly. This meant taking all 180 sacks back down the stairs and starting all over again. The gaffa tried to point out the fault that he had noticed, trying to make me out to be some sort of idiot. Stacking bags of potatoes was a job I could manage blindfolded. Without the blindfold, I could see nothing wrong with the stacks and saw no reason to restart the task.

"You've got a nasty habit of doing this sort of thing and I'm sick of it. Stack 'em yourself," I said.

The gaffa started to climb the stairs angrily towards me and I just stood waiting for him. As he reached about halfway up the stairs, I pushed the stack of potatoes and dozens of sacks started falling down the stairs. I left the gaffa buried on the stairs, amongst his beloved potatoes and walked out of the shop and went home to Tina. At the time, I thought it was rather funny, I had got my own back on the gaffa.

'He'll have to stack 'em himself now, ' I thought.

I told Tina all about it and she too thought it rather funny, until the reality set in. "I hate to tell you this Billy, but if you have no job, you can't live her. There's no way my wage alone would keep us both and my son. You're going to have to move out," she said.

I attempted to change her mind, explaining that I could soon find another job and that I cared for her and young Kenny, but my grovelling techniques were never very effective.

"I might be getting back with my ex', anyway," she said. "He's coming round on Sunday to pick Kenny up and I have agreed to have a talk with him."

I knew her ex husband. His brother had been at Quinta at the same time as me and I had met her ex husband through the brother. I didn't want any trouble from him or cause any upset for Tina, so I did as she asked. I packed my bags and left the house.

I was totally sickened by the days events and went to the pub. By chance, my father was in the pub already having a drink. I joined him for a few drinks and told him about what had happened. I had never been to the pub with my father before, I had often thought about asking him but somehow the time never seemed to be right.

After the nights drinking my father took me home. He looked at my mother, who was a little surprised to see the two of us enter the house, "I have told him the same as I'm telling you, he can stay for as long as he wants. The matter is not open for discussion, I have said he can stay."

"Oh, just one more thing, those knives in the drawer are for cutting food, not sticking up peoples noses, ok." My father didn't wait for any comment from my mother before turning his attentions back to me.

"Well, don't just stand there, go and unpack! Just one thing before you go, we do have every right to know where you are at night. Our worrying days are over. So if you go shagging some girl at her house at least have the decency to let us know you won't be back."

I agreed with my fathers request and looked at my mother, who was none too happy with me being brought home in this manner. "I'm sorry about all the trouble I've caused mom," I said. "I didn't mean to cause any trouble for anyone. I just liked Tina a lot and wanted to be with her. I know you don't agree with sex before marriage and I will be going as soon as I can find somewhere else to live."

I left home again in the early part of 1979 after staying at my parents house over Christmas. I found some new lodgings and started a new job in a restaurant in the City centre. I was employed as a comi-waiter, but also worked in the kitchens and in the takeaway. I worked seven days a week, often working for twelve or sixteen hours a day. I enjoyed the work, the wages were not very good but it didn't really matter that much as I never had to buy any food at all as I ate all the food I needed at work.

The restaurant was owned by a Greek and specialized in Greek food. The staff were of various nationalities. There were Turkish chefs and waiters, a Spanish manager and cleaner, an Italian waiter, an Indian chef, a Chinese cleaner, a South American cashier and two Jamaican cleaners. The restaurant owners wife was British and the managers wife was British, a Greek restaurant with multinational staff.

Throughout 1979 I drifted from place to place and had lived in at least four or five bedsits by the end of the year, not settling in any one place for more than a few months at a time. Towards the end of the year I moved into lodgings in Castle Bromwich, Birmingham, at the home of a young couple, Angela and Henry. Due to the type of work I was doing I often did not get back to my lodgings before 1.00am or 2.00am. At times when I returned from work Henry would be sitting in the living room while Angela would be crying in the bedroom. Henry often beat up his wife and Angela often came into me asking for help. I refused to interfere between husband and wife, especially considering they were usually all lovey-dovey the next day.

There were two young children in the house. They were not ill treated in any way but I often heard them crying at night, after being woken up by their parents arguing and fighting. I tried to comfort the children, who were too young to understand, and I often sat with them for as long as the trouble went on, for hours sometimes.

I tried to keep out of the way during their fights until one day I walked in the house and found Henry punching Angela's face in while she lay helpless on the kitchen floor. I had walked in right in the middle of this and felt that I had to do something. I dragged Henry off, kicked his legs from under him and held him down on the floor. Angela went into the living room, picked up a heavy brass bar and came back into the kitchen. She tried to take advantage of the situation and tried to bash her husbands skull in with the bar.

"Put the bloody thing down!" I yelled, "Or I'm gonna let him back up."

She wouldn't put it down, so I let Henry back up so that he could defend himself. She ran into the living room and he followed. She threw the bar at him, which missed and hit a full size wall mirror, which made an almighty crash as it smashed, showering the room with glass. I heard the crash but stayed with the children in the next room, trying to keep them out of harms way.

One night Henry had gone to the local pub, drinking with a few of his mates. I had finished work early and was resting on my bed when Angela entered my bedroom. I raised my head from my pillow to look at her while I listened to what she had to say.

"I want him out of here. Will you help me get him out?" she said, "I've packed his things all ready to go. I'm sick of him knocking me about."

"You can keep me out of it," I told her, "You have thrown him out before and took him back two days later. You're playing a game with him and he knows it."

"I mean it this time," Angela said, "I have really had enough. I want you to move in with me, and I don't mean as a lodger." I looked at her.

She started undoing the buttons on her blouse. "Make love to me," she invited.

"I'm flattered, but not today," I smiled. "You're married and this isn't the way to get things done. I've tried to help you before but you just start everything off again. I suggest you go back in the other room before he comes back and finds you in here."

Angela started taking his things out of the house, to a house in the next street. She had made several trips with bags of his clothes and other items and I had noticed her struggling.

'Bloody hell, not again, ' I thought and went to help.

"He's not coming back into this house and I mean it. You can sod off back to your room if you want, I can manage myself," Angela snapped.

"I bet within a week he's back," I told her. "Now where are we going with these?" I asked, as I picked up a few bags.

Henry later returned to the house to find it all locked up. "Angela, Angela..." He shouted through the letter box.

"You're not coming in. I've moved all your stuff to Kevins, so you better sod off. It's over and I mean over, you're not coming back in here, not now or ever," Angela said loudly.

Henry banged on the door in defiance, "Open this bloody door or I'll break it down," he yelled.

"Come away from the door," I suggested to Angela, "You don't need to say anymore, if he breaks the door he breaks it, you've told him. You don't need to wind him up anymore, just leave him now. He can't do anything from out there."

Henry banged the door for a while before getting fed up and tired and he went away. I sat in the living room, watching television.

'Maybe she means it this time, I thought. 'She's better off without him.'

A few days later, I returned from work earlier than usual and the house was peaceful. Angela was watching television so I went in and sat down. I had always been allowed to watch the television in the living room and usually only left the room when the arguing started.

"Do you want a cup of tea?" Angela asked, as she rose from her seat.

"Yes please, if you're making one," I replied.

"Have you had any more trouble off Henry?" I asked.

"No. I think he's got the message that I really don't want him back," she answered.

I started to relax. Angela came in with the cup of tea and placed it on the carpeted floor. She went over to her hamster cage and took the hamster out and sat down next to me. She had been sat in the chair at the other side of the room when I had return from work. Angela started playing with the hamster and put it on my lap. I just ignored it at first, until it started trying to crawl up my crutch. I picked up the fury little rodent and gave it back to Angela. She put it down the front of her T-shirt and it started crawling all over the place. Suddenly she gave out a scream.

"The sodding thing's bit me," she yelled. "Get him out. Get him out!"

"Get it out yourself," I laughed.

She removed the hamster from her shirt and put it down her jeans. I watched as the hamster crawled about her crutch.

"I bet you'll get him out of there, wont you?" she suggested in a provocative voice.

"No. He must be happy down there, it looks as if he's gond to sleep," I said. Angela was starting to feel rejected.

I rose from my seat and gave her a light kiss on the cheek, "I'm going to bed," I said. "I'll see you in the morning, and don't forget the hamster, he'll suffocate."

"You're a good bloke. See you in the morning," Angela called as I left the room.

I continued working long hours in the restaurant and for a while Angela sat up and waited for me to return. I was beginning to believe she was serious about me but I was very jubious about entering into a relationship with her. I just thought that Henry would be back sooner or later.

I returned from work and was preparing to take bath. Angela was in her bedroom. I tried not to disturb her and thought she was probably in there with Henry.

When I had finished in the bathroom Angela called out to me, "Billy, can you come in here a minute? My hairdryer won't work."

I knocked the door and walked in. She was standing in her black bra and pants. "Oops Sorry!" I said.

"Come in, it's all right," she said. I walked into the room, sat on the bed and rewired the plug on her hairdryer.

"Try that," I suggested.

She took hold of my hand and slowly placed it inside her pants, "Try this," she said.

'Why not?' I thought and was all ready to go for it when suddenly there was a lot of banging at the front door.

"Shit!"

"I think you had better go and answer it. I can't go like this," she said.

"It's got to be for you. You better get dressed while I go and see who it is," I said.

I went to the door, opened it and Henry came charging in, "Where is she? The thieving little bitch, she's cashed my fucking giro. I'm going to kill the bitch this time."

"All right Henry, sit down," I requested calmly. "She'll be through in a minute. Just calm down and keep your voice down. She's trying to get the kids to sleep."

"What do you want?" Angela said, as she entered the room.

"You bloody cashed my giro, you bitch. I want my money," Henry shouted.

I went into the kitchen to make myself a cup of tea and remained in their kitchen so they could argue in peace. After an hour arguing the couple got back together and I went back to my room and left them to sort things out. I was starting to have feelings towards Angela and the way she tormented me, I didn't think it was very wise to remain any longer. It was time to move on.

Chapter 5: First Love





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