Picture courtesy of Norman Rockwell. Picture link.


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Mick Coyle


We now go back to 1964.


The cold war was at its height between my sister and I, and Perestroika was not even in its infancy.

I awoke, dressed and made my way downstairs for breakfast, something was different this morning. My mother and father were in a very chirpy mood. In fact the last time I remember my father in such a good mood was the day after he had his piles snipped.

It seemed uncle Frank and Auntie Margaret were to pay a call this evening with a view to food, drink and nostalgic chit-chat. On these rare occasions mother always did something special and tonight was no exception. The menu was to be rabbit stew and pancakes with plenty of Henderson’s relish, then half a loaf of bread to dip in the gravy.

Even though rabbit stew was my favourite, I always ate this dish with apprehension, as my mind would always reflect upon the memories of Oscar, my pet rabbit of two years. Alas, hard times fell upon the family household and, unknown to me at the time, Oscar found himself the victim of my father and his proverbial stew pot.

Then after a fine meal, my sister went out of her way to disclose the origins of this meal, which had the intended affect of me throwing up all over the dinner table. After that scenario, I always made sure Fred my pet hedgehog was securely locked up.

When it came to feeding the family, my father had no scruples.  

After school, I made my way home to find my auntie and uncle had arrived. After the usual greetings and pretend fisticuffs with my uncle, I sat down for tea in anticipation of this feast.

   “Couldn’t get any rabbit,” said mother “so I got you a couple of nice pig’s trotters.”

Not exactly my idea of a feast, but they were my father’s favourites. I reached for the Henderson’s only to find Uncle Frank had had the last drop. This evening was proving to be a bit of a letdown.

   “We’re off out for a drink, so I want you two t’stop in t’night” said my father.

I was supposed to see my mates tonight, so that was another letdown. So off went my father and Uncle Frank with their spouses in tow, to participate in the ancient ritual of grog swilling, an activity my father and Frank excelled in.

However, fiscal circumstances dictated these rituals were few and far between.

We sat down and started to watch Z-cars on our old black-n-white tele. After about half an hour “Tap! Tap! Tap” came from the door. My sister answered. It was my mates calling.

   “He’s got t’stop in t’night, so clear off you lot”.

Then she slammed the door shut.

Ten minutes later “Tap! Tap! Tap” my sister answered again,

   “I thought I told you lot t’clear off,… Oh! Hello, come in”

In piled about a dozen of my sister’s mates. They all sat down wherever they found an empty space.

We all sat in silence, them giving me the deadeye and me returning this gesture.

They wanted girly talk but not with me about.


   “Why don’t you go t’bed” said my sister

   “I’m not tired, I’m going nowhere” I replied

Ten minutes of silence passed.

   “If you go t’bed, I’ll give you a tanner”

   “If I go t’bed you’ll give me ten bob”

   “Get lost; you’re not worth ten bob”

More minutes, more silence.

I could see her mates rummaging though their pockets counting coins.

   “We’ll give you half a crown,” said her mates.

   “No! It’s got to be ten bob”.

Truth is, I wouldn’t have gone for a quid, I had the upper hand, and was enjoying this situation. Then my sister produced a giant bottle of Tizer, and handed it to me,

   “Here! Have a drink”

Beware of sisters bearing gifts, were my thoughts.

   “Get Lost! You’ve probably gobbed in it”.

   “No I haven’t” she said, as she passed it to her mate, who then took a swig, then passed it back to me, saying,

   “I bet you can’t down it all in one”.

I was always up for a bet,

   “No problem” I said.

I started to guzzle this giant bottle in one. I did it without drawing a single breath. Then the gasses started to expand inside me, I gave a giant belch, but so as not to embarrass myself in front of the girls, I kept my mouth closed. Not a clever thing to do, as the gasses shot down my nose covering my sister and her mates with a mixture of Tizer, snot and bogies. Then my bladder called out.

   “Urgent need of attention!”

   “I’m going for a wee” I declared.

I made a speedy exit down the yard to the loo, leaving my sister wiping herself down.

I had just about finished when “Click!” my sister locked me in the loo, and so I had to spend the rest of the evening sat on the closet. It was mid January, so by the time my sister unlocked the door I was frozen to the bone.

As I walked back up the yard my father and Frank came staggering round the corner, caps back to front, coats hanging off and dragging a couple of crates of Guinness. It seemed the party was to continue. I helped them carry these crates of ale into the kitchen. As I entered my sister gave me a stern look and said,

   “Oh you’re back are you? Our dad said you weren’t to go out t’night. Dad, he’s been out with his mates all night”.

   “Oh, he has, has he?” slurred my father. “Well, you can just stop up t’night and wait on us lot.”

Great! I thought. I was to be the waiter and keep their glasses topped up.

I gave my sister a sarcastic smile, as invariably this was her job, but her tales had backfired on her.

Off she went to bed with the nark on.       


The evening was drawing to a close. Her metamorphosis into night had begun.

The earth was ready for sleep, but I wasn’t. I was full of it and now on my fourth glass of Guinness.

I was new to this alcohol lark, but after a further couple of glasses, I realised I’d had enough, as strange things started to happen.

I glanced at the goldfish who was sat on the edge of the bowl, she gave me a wink then started to whistle Danny Boy in Gaelic, which I thought was extremely strange as I didn’t realise the goldfish was of Irish origin.

Time for bed, I thought.

I said goodnight to everyone as I walked through the room, trying not to stagger, stammer or slur, a pointless gesture, as they were all oblivious to my presence. My mother and Margaret were deeply engrossed in the ancient art of gossip, whereas my father and Frank were solving the problems of the world in-between comparing old war wounds.

Now I had to try and master the stairs. After about twenty minutes of one-step up and two-steps down I found myself in the cellar, which once again I found very strange as we didn’t have a cellar, but I battled on and finally made my bed room. Into which I collapsed onto the bed.

After about half an hour I awoke with a start, something was not right.

I noticed the room was slowly moving in an anticlockwise direction, and then the bed started to move much faster in a clockwise direction.

I clung on for dear life as the room turned into a giant kaleidoscope, which suddenly came to an abrupt halt as I was thrown from my bed, I hit the floor and threw up all over.

I climbed back in bed then fell asleep. I awoke at five AM, to a dozen brass bands playing inside my head and the strong smell of vomit to my nostrils.

   “Oh no! mi mam’ll kill mi” I muttered to myself.

I had to try to tidy this lot up. I crept down stairs, as I heard my father snoring with the occasional flatulent outburst, to gather some cleaning materials and collect Rover. Together with my faithful hound, we started to clean this mess up. I must admit Rover was a boon.

I returned to bed and slept until eight o’clock, then reluctantly opened my eyes. The brass bands had all gone home, except one lone drummer doing a solo.

I tried to dress. I got one leg in my trousers, then fell over. I tried again, one leg in, fell over and banged my head on the proverbial guzunder, spilling its contents over the floor. I just lay where I fell, thinking there must be an easier way, as I noticed the reason for my mishaps. My sister had sewn my trouser leg up. 

The drummer now had a friend, and they were performing a duet.

Finally dressed and tidied up, I made my way downstairs and sat for breakfast. All was calm, all was quiet, except for mother shooing Rover out of the house.

   “That dogs got a bad dose of wind, this morning,” said my mother.

   “It must have been some’at he ate in’t night,” replied my sister, giving me the deadeye.   

How could she possibly know, I thought, returning the deadeye, and was just about to bite, then thought the better of it. After my antics in the night, best not upset the apple cart.

The drumming duo must have gone for breakfast, as all was tranquil in my mind. I gave my sister a pleasant smile, then turned my attention to my breakfast.

My mother presented me with a bowl of porridge, which I didn’t fancy, but it would calm my stomach. I pondered for a moment, then said

   “Mam, where’s Goldfish gone?”

She gave me a confused look, as she replied,

   “What Goldfish?”

   “Err! Never mind,” I said.

Then my sister dropped the bombshell,

   “Mam, our Michael got drunk last night and threw up all over the bedroom”.

I sank my head into my hands as the drumming duo returned, with a vengeance.

   “She’s lyin mam, a’v done nowt”.

   “You better chuffin not have”, said mother, as she made her way upstairs to check.

   “Tha’s got a big gob thee”.

My sister rose from the table, her wicked demeanour seemed to fade as she assumed a more angelic posture.

Then she extracted a packet of Beechnut mint chews from her pocket.

   “Our mam’s not feeling very well this morning. Why don’t we call it a truce for t’day?” she said in a concerned tone, as she offered me a chew.

This seemed out of character and so suspicious. Was she sincere? Was I being too wary? Should I decline this offer?

My greed got the better of me, so I snatched the packet from her hand, and before she had time to object I stuffed the whole packet into my mouth, wrapping paper and all.

Then I heard my mother returning.

Time I wasn’t here. I grabbed my coat and made for the door, and so to school.

Having just finished the chews, I noticed a slight rumbling from my stomach. I really should have eaten my porridge. That was another breakfast I had missed, thanks to my dear sister. Then I remembered yesterday’s bubble gum. There may be a bit of taste left in that, so I sank my fingers into my top pocket to extract my breakfast only to find it full of porridge.

   “God! How I hated my sister”.

I had porridge flavoured bubbly gum for breakfast.

I spent most of the day asleep at my desk, not a problem to the teacher, as while I was asleep I was not up to any mischief. Only to be woken periodically by the seismic tremors emanating from my bowels.

Then it happened, my bowels started to erupt and I let one go, it was a wet one and shot straight down my leg. I instantly jumped up and without asking permission from the teacher I made my way to the toilet block, walking like an old woman with rickets. I managed to make it to the loo when the second eruption occurred. It was like a flock of sparrows. This continued for about twenty minutes, as my body was imploding my bowels were exploding.

I heard the last bell go, so I tided myself up using my underpants, then threw them over the wall into the caretaker’s yard. As I made my way home I glanced back to notice the caretaker’s puppy dog chewing quite happily on my old pants. That puppy dog is not long of this earth, were my thoughts.

I arrived home for tea, to be presented with a fry up.

   “That a bit late lad, so thee tea’s a bit crozzled” said my mother with a frown.

Not exactly a good remedy for my condition, but not to make mother suspect something was amiss, as she had not mentioned my performance in the night, I tucked in. Having noticed one plate short, my father inquired,

   “You not hav’in any then lass?”

This was aimed at my mother.

   “No, a’ll give it a miss. After last night I’m a bit constipated, which reminds me, has anybody seen them laxatives I bought yesterday? The ones that look like beechnut mints”.

I instantly stared daggers at my sister who was grinning like a Cheshire cat. Not only had I had an overdose of alcohol but also a quadruple dose of laxatives. With a sister like mine, I’m surprised my sanity and mortality survived the day.

However, people have come to question the former.

I just managed to finish my fry up and was about to leave the table, when my mother said,

   “Hang on lad, you’ve got a pudding t’come, it’s your favourite.”

She then presented me with a large bowl of prunes. I spent another evening sat on the closet.

That night I made myself a vow, never to touch alcohol ever again. Well, certainly not till next time.


Copyright © 2005 Mick Coyle