The beating my Dad gave me after I locked him in the toilet because he wouldn't let me go and steal cake from cricketers was the worst I'd ever experienced at that point in my life. It was not, however, going to hold on to that record for long.
My mother had a job at the local Co-op. This often meant working nights. My father also had a job that involved a lot of night shifts. Often, the two would clash. At times like these my parents would do the only thing they could do in that situation. They both went to work and left me in charge. Now, yes, I was far too young and they were terrible parents for doing it and yadayadayada but at the time it was a huge thrill. I didn't feel deprived or neglected or any of that good stuff; I felt grown up, trusted, and cocky.
One night, I had been left in charge; of myself basically because my sister and little bruv were both asleep. However, a coughing fit in her sleep by my sister woke my brother, who started crying, which woke my sister, who started to shout at him, and pretty soon, in an effort to calm them both down I had allowed them out of bed and was putting on a puppet show for them in the living room, using cuddly bears and plastic soldiers. As you do.
Now, I'm quite proud (maybe too proud) of my ability to spout improvised bullshit at the drop of a hat, but back then I was still just beginning to hone this most noble of arts and after an hour or so my puppet show was beginning to flag somewhat.
The well was running dry and I needed something else to keep them entertained. It was then that I spotted a little pile of change on the sideboard. Aha, I thought, this is it. I took 30p from the pile (10p each), wrapped my Sister and Brother in their dressing gowns and slippers and off we headed to the shop. The shop beneath the flat that is, we weren't off on a mile long trek or anything.
And so it came to pass that we all came home with 10p mix-ups each.
What luxury. You have to remember that this was in the days when 10p would get you 10 sweets. Penny chews were not yet trading under false pretenses. So we scoffed down our sweets, I sent the pair of them back to bed, which they resisted until their heads hit the pillows, at which point they were out like lights, and I returned to the living room to read a bit. It was here that my Mother found me when she came home. And then all Hell broke loose.
Actually, it didn't. She came home, I went to bed, we all got up in the morning and went to school, everything was hunky dory. Then we came home. And that's when all Hell broke loose. My mother had been to the shop during the day, gotten into a discussion with the owner and he had mentioned our having been in the night before. Busted!
We stole 30p. This I'm not denying. I'm not so old though that I grew up in a time when 30p was any massive amount of money. I honestly thought, when she confronted me about going to the shop, that the big no-no that she was upset about was the fact that we had gone out alone, however short a distance, in the middle of the night, in our pyjamas. Not so. This bothered her not a jot. But the money! Oh, she was very upset about the money.
My little sis and bro were not punished, and nor should they have been. It was my decision to do what we did. Not that it would have mattered anyway, the oldest is responsible, even when they're not. That's the rule. She didn't hit me often, my Mam, in those days (she made up for it later though), but when she did she hit hard. So hard that she didn't have to hit you many times; just 2 or 3 precise, clinical, cold blows that pretty much wiped you out. I didn't do PE the next day at school.
Why is this a worse beating than the one that my Dad gave me earlier? The coldness. His was a wild, angry affair, with lots of shouting and many blows. He was mad and I knew about it. My mother didn't shout, or even speak beyond the initial confrontation. She just hit me. Then she hit me again. Then she hit me again. Then she told me, very calmly, to go to bed. Which I did, doubled over from being winded, unable even to cry properly because I couldn't get the breath to sob.
In the years that followed that coldness went away from my mam. She became much more violent towards us kids, but it was violence like my Dads was. Loud and wild and uncontrolled. As bad as those times were, I was glad of them, in a way. When we got wild Mam, we didn't get cold Mam, and that was a blessing.
So there you have it. Another story from my early years. Cheery little tale wasn't it? It's no wonder I can't get anyone to read this bloody thing, with downers like this every week. Anyway, until next time, when The Big Woman I promised you will finally make her appearance.