She couldn’t quite reach the corners of the glass and was stretching on tiptoe across the dressing-table when Geoffrey put his arm round her shoulders. It wasn’t an accident; he was breathing too hard. She was about to shrug him away when she thought of Meredith.. Rehearsing with Geoffrey would make it easier when the time came for Meredith to claim her. Penetration, from she had gathered from library books, was inescapably painful unless one had played a lot of tennis or ridden stallions, and she hadn’t done either…She began to stroke Geoffrey’s harsh hair. It was a womanly gesture witnessed often enough on the screen at the cinema. She supposed it was maternal rather than sensual; it was what women did for babies, to make them feel secure and stop their heads from wobbling. Squirming, she left off cradling Geoffrey’s head and bought her hand down to separate her stomach from his. Something with the texture of an orange, peeled and sticky, bumped against her wrist. She couldn’t suppress crying out her distaste, any more than she could help envying Geoffrey his lack of inhibition. On occasions, when visiting the doctor for some minor ailment, she had even felt it immodest to stick out her tongue. She didn’t dare look down in case she glimpsed that object bobbing against her overall. It’s no use, she thought. I’ll have to practice on someone else. It would be fearful enough to be up against something as dreadful as that belonging to a beloved, let alone attached to a person one despised.
‘Monday night was bath night, because Monday was wash day. All the dirty washing went into Gran’s copper in the scullery; clouds of steam escaped every time she lifted the lid. The sodden clothes went through the mangle, then on to the lines in the back yard. In wet weather they had to be dried in the house, and that Robert Francis could not abide. He would wolf down his cold meat and bubble and squeak and escape to the flea-pit on the corner. He wasn’t keen on the pictures but where else? When the wash was done, the hot grey water was baled out of the copper and lugged up two flights of stairs, bucket by bucket. The bathroom was splendid, with double doors, a wide window bordered with stain glass, a bath with claw feet – but no plumbing. My grandfather liked the bathroom; he reared his canaries there…Caroline Emily brought me up as her own, though she was no longer young and there was still talk of a foundling hospital from time to time. Nobody saw much of the flighty one who had brought her trouble home. Aunt Carrie was good to me.’
The Life and Times of Molly Dodd
Oh, Ma! Don’t leave me at the poorhouse door;
It’s cold. I’m tired and me legs are sore.
I’ll be good. I promise. I’ll not cause you to fret.
Let’s go home right now, and our dinners I’ll get.
Stale bread and warm water like we always do,
And I’ll find a few carrots to make us a stew.
Oh, Misses! Don’t make me scrub the scullery floor;
Me knees are blue and me hands are raw.
I’ve worked this past month without one day of rest;
If it’s me soul you’re after you’ve had the best.
Me, I seem to get no joy out of life;
Despite me best efforts, it’s all toil and strife.
Oh, Mister! Don’t make me stand at the loom all day.
I work hard for you for so little pay.
The factory air is making me ill, and though
Me back’s breaking I work hard for you still.
There’s trouble brewing. There’s talk of a strike.
If it’s profit you want, you better start treating me right.
Oh, my dear! Don’t pester me to make love to thee;
I want you sure. But we got no money for three.
We said we’d wait for a bairn when we got wed;
In these hard times it’s best to plan ahead.
From hand to mouth we live each day, or else
We pawn and get on tick what we cannot pay.
Oh, daughter! It’s only the poorhouse. Don’t you fear.
It’s best this way. They’ll look after you here.
Your dad had a drink, and he beat me sore.
Out of work for months, and he couldn’t take it no more.
Where he is now? I just don’t know. Don’t fret,
I’ll come for you soon, luv. So... in you go.
I started school at the age of five. There was no pre-school or nursery school back then; you were just suddenly wrenched away from home and left alone in a room full of strangers. Mum promised she would be back later to pick me up - ‘When the big hand’s on the 12 and the little hand’s on the 3.’ For six hours a day, I sat watching the clock through a veil of tears, doing my best to ignore the unsympathetic, grey-haired woman who sternly insisted that I ‘go play in the sand pit’. The big yellow digger was the main attraction. Viciously fought over by several other children, I couldn’t lay my hands on it even if I wanted to. Tears and tantrums all day long. Class One - only Five more to endure. If I had any sense of temporal perspective I could have comforted myself with this knowledge, but at that age things seem like forever. For the first six months I was too traumatized to learn anything.
...Around this time I sold my motorbike and bought a three-wheeler Reliant Van. It was bright orange. I had already passed the motorbike test, and you were allowed to drive one of these on a motorbike license, which I always thought rather odd as it’s just like driving a proper car. Anyway, after a few hair-raising episodes I soon became a proficient driver; I just needed to remember not to take bends too fast or you could tip over (which I never did). It was great fun and a bit like being part of a club. Whenever you saw another one on the road, the driver would raise their hand to you in acknowledgement. At the time, there were a lot of these three-wheeler Reliants on the road; in fact, the local garage dealt in them specifically. They came in many different bright colours: orange, yellow, red, light blue - the forecourt of the garage was a proper picture to behold! For a while, I dated a fella who had one the same as mine, only it was brown. He was a bit of a hippie. He had long hair and a beard, and a soppy black dog. He knew about Bob Dylan. We went on a few dates to pubs by canals. He lived with his elderly mother. Unbeknown to her he was growing weed in a makeshift greenhouse in the back garden. I didn’t know about this until I visited his home. He proudly showed me his cultivated crop, and swore me to secrecy. I wasn’t impressed. I was more than a little apprehensive (i.e: apprehensive). I didn’t know about drugs. I didn’t want to know. I needed my wits about me, not off on some magical mystery tour. I didn’t tell anyone, but that was basically it as far as our relationship went. Coincidentally, I ran into this very same person just the other week. He’s married with a family now, and has had his own personal tragedies, which I won’t go into. The odd thing is he asked me if I’d written my book yet. After all this time that’s what he remembers me for! I said, ‘no not yet, I have to earn some bread man.’
To cut a long story short: