HARD ROAD AHEAD
From the cobbled streets of Edinburgh’s Tollcross, where numerous families shared the outside toilet, and squashed five children into one bed. The five shilling bus fare to London, was a fortune that many could not afford to even think about. Id come out of the Army, when the cafes were still catering for the last of the Teddy Boys, and Chuck Berry Fats Domino and their likes were being played continuously from the juke box for sixpence a time. The feeling I had as a teenager, and I’m sure many others of my age would agree, we were living in somebody else’s time, and we couldn’t compete, all we could do was look on and watch, as the draped jacketed, skin tight trousered, winkle pickered ducked arsed greased haired Ted, strolled back and forward to the juke box, to put his hard earned cash into its mouth. It was time for change, but not in the city Edinburgh. Id already been to London during a leave from the Army, and it was still being rebuilt from the blitz, and the only educational qualification that Id managed to acquire during the many schools Id attended, was for winning a poetry competition. Not much use when it was large navvies that were needed, and none of my mates nor I fitted the bill. It was through a guy Id met at primary school, who suddenly appeared in Mama Morga’s cafe, and started hanging out with us that spurred us towards the A1 and South. He assured us with the air of someone who knows, that he knew a place where we could go in London, where friends of his lived, and that we would be looked after? After a cold night and with one lift from a lorry carrying Scottish water to the Newcastle brewery, we had been dumped out of the motor before we entered Berwick on Tweed. ” Sorry lads,” the driver explained, “Ill have to leave you here, the polis here are bastards,”? It was about two in the morning, and the streets of the small town were deserted, the three of us looked at each other as the lorry roared of into the distance and legged it, not stopping until we fell exhausted a mile up the hill over the bridge spanning the River Tweed. We’d made it we were in England, lying down on the long grass at the edge of the the road, I heard Charlie say,” It looks like a long road ahead of us,”? the two of us just managing to lift our heads, stared questioningly at my old school pal trying to make out he was sleeping. To tired to care, I closed my eyes and immediately fell to sleep. The next thing I knew someone was shaking the life out of me and shouting in my ear,”Ive got us a lift,? I heard Charlie complaining somewhere in the long grass about the noise wee Donald was making. “Which way,? I asked cautiously for Id been dreaming I was in my own bed, and if I wasn’t I was ready for it. “Ive got us a lift to London,” Donald answered smugly pointing towards a old Anglia parked twenty feet down the road, the look on his face showed he was hoping to score some points, to what seemed to be the beginning of a unforgettable journey. The driver a old guy in his fifties watched in awe as two scruffy teenagers rose unwillingly from the long grass, and began to dust themselves down. “I thought there were just two of you,”? the old guy at the wheel said to Donald, as we dumped ourselves reluctantly into the small interior.”I’m sure it will get us there,” I tried to assure him as the car struggled up the remainder of the hill, but inwardly I hoped it would break down, and we could all go home. My night outside in the English countryside must have knocked me out, for when I awoke from the deep sleep Id fallen into, we were somewhere outside Oxford. My two cohorts had become quite friendly with the driver, who turned out to be a Canadian banker, who at first was going to drop us of somewhere past Newcastle. As he wanted to have a look at the bank he was to visit on the Monday in Oxford. The conversation he was having with my two pals seemed to have changed his mind, and he decided to take us with him to scout out the vicinity to where the bank was, before heading on to London. ” I hope your not going to rob it,’ I joked as we drove past the building that was locked up for the weekend,’What,” I said getting a stern look from my mate Charlie for the accusation. The journey into London went almost without a hitch, apart from the driver taking us into a pub, where we stood in the bar like lost urchins while the old guy headed for the toilets. No money in our pockets to buy a drink, we just stood like statues hoping the bartender wouldn’t ask us what we wanted. The one thing that did bother me though, was that we had been in the car for about eight hours and none of the three of us followed our benefactor into the toilets. The big smoke was in darkness when we arrived, the dismal street lighting making the streets almost hostile, and foreboding. ” Not exactly paved with gold,” Charlie muttered as we followed Wee Donald through the deserted Borough of Chelsea, and into Earls Court. The tall guy wearing a dressing gown opened the door to the flat, he stared at Donald with a look that said,”I told you not to come back here again,” he then began to study myself and Charlie staring somewhat amused at his attire for so early in the evening. ” They are friends of mine,” Donald said meekly, probably suddenly remembering his last visit,”We have just arrived from Scotland”, he quickly added. A deep male voice from inside the premises asked who was at the door, “You will never guess,” the guy holding the door open answered, in what I considered to be a effeminate manner, which made me look with a new suspicion at my old pal from school?. Reminding me of the look the Canadian banker had given us when he was going into the toilets of the bar, as if he was expecting one of us to go with him?. “Its Donny, and he has brought two friends,” he called back tightening the dressing gown belt in a definite female way. “Then bring them in,” the baritone voice called back, ” I didn’t know Donny boy was Greek,”. Before I could catch what they were talking about, we were guided through a hallway by the guy, who if he had said walk this way, I would have thought we were in a pantomime, and would have imitated his feminine strut. Instead we just slunk wearily behind him two of us wondering what the fuck was going on, the other with his eyes on the floor not willing to share with us to what he had got us into.? We entered into the sitting room like three errant schoolboys, watched by the deep bass voiced male lounging with a leg hooked over the arm of a chair also dressed in his pajamas. “So the prodigal has returned”, he said raising himself slowly from his seated position, his six feet four frame had his head almost touching the ceiling, and the three of us tilting our heads skywards to look up at him. The giant whose name was Gerald suddenly broke into a loud laugh, the dark thick hair on his face showing he was a person who had to shave at least twice a day, the blueish black skin highlighting his even white teeth. He then guided Donald through to another room for what he called a confession, his fingers like Cumberland sausages and hands as wide as a labourer’s shovel resting on the wee mans shoulder.