Warwickshire, Wednesday 7th November 2018

Hi 04:11

Your brother rang me last night 04:19

This morning I’m writing you

what I told him 04:20

You know I always tried to be fair 04:20

Give you both the same 04:20

And sure you’d not answer if I rang 04:21

Was looking for the delete button

there but I can’t find it 04:26

They gave me a hammer for

my birthday 04:27

Only for use by grandpa it says

on the handle 04:27

There it’s on the side by the kettle 04:27

Keith next door is already up and out 04:28

Working at his boat over in the field 04:28

Two old men right beside each other

in the middle of nowhere 04:28

Anyway these messages will be

waiting when you wake 04:29

I’ll see the wee blue ticks when you’ve

read them so there’s no need to reply 04:30

I know you hate when I say wee 04:31

Belfast stain I can’t get rid of 04:31

He was upset 04:32

Upset’s not right 04:33

In bits more like 04:33

And that anger 04:33

In the beginning your mother and I

wondered would you share one

another’s pain 04:34

I mean feelings not just pain 04:35

Thought maybe you were born for

each other not just with each other 04:36

Maybe you’d look after each other

if we weren’t able 04:37

Sorry needed some coffee there 04:45

Can see my own life in the air 04:45

Jesus 04:45

That should have said breath 04:45

This thing corrects me when I don’t

need correcting 04:46

Blame the tools 04:46

You know his boy isn’t right 04:47

Have you at least bothered yourself

with that 04:47

Pulled your thumb from your arse 04:47

I’ll take the hammer to that thought 04:48

Bang 04:48

Bang bang bang 04:48

There it’s hit on the head 04:48

The boy is the boy but it’s awful hard

on him 04:49

Your brother I mean 04:49

For once things not going his way 04:49

I asked did he remember that time the

three of us went out on Lady Christina 04:49

Stupid question 04:49

Near thirty years ago now 04:49

November 04:50

Too late in the year 04:50

The pair of you rhyming all summer

you wanted to go sailing for a week 04:50

Boys’ Club and no Mum 04:50

I knew a week on the canal would be

far too long 04:50

You’d be bored witless 04:51

I was driving home late the Friday evening.

Home wasn’t great. Work wasn’t great.

Coming into Nottingham saw this big

massive chimney. Red brick and writing

up the side 04:52

Back and forth that way years

I’d not noticed it before 04:53

& Sons it said 04:53

Yes to hell with it I thought let’s Boys’

Club get away on Lady Christina 04:53

For the weekend just 04:53

Let’s see how we get on for a weekend 04:53

Straight in the door I told your mother 04:54

Raised you both from bed and packed

for the three of us. Remember you had

the same sports bags. All the different

zip compartments and luminous

orange edging 04:54

Puma was it 04:54

Those bags were the first perfectly

matching things we bought you 04:54

In the early days all your clothes

were got from charity shops 04:55

No chance of us buying the same

outfits and keeping you equal 04:55

That’s why I took the job with the

glassware sales 04:55

The money was so good 04:55

Despite it took me away from you

weeks at a time 04:56

That was the price 04:56

So by then we had plenty of money

but money wasn’t enough 04:57

Stopped at the mini-market outside the

marina I got soup and crisps 04:59

While my back was turned him and

you picked out a 24 pack 04:59

Budweiser 04:59

American crap I can’t stand 04:59

But two ten year olds lugging a big box

of beer from the fridge 04:59

That was a sight 05:00

Put me in mind of a pantomime horse 05:00

This is a present for you Dad 05:00

I’d been trying not to drink 05:00

You know things were pretty bad at home 05:01

Anyway I paid for the beer 05:01

By the time we got to Lady Christina

it was well past eleven 05:02

Pitch black 05:02

I’d been thinking we’d set off under

the stars the way I used to back home 05:02

Out on Strangford in the summers

with your grandfather 05:03

Scudding between the wee islands

like we were exploring outer space 05:03

A million miles from Belfast 05:03

That’s what I’d wanted for the two of you 05:03

Look boys Orion’s Belt 05:03

Boys there’s Pegasus 05:03

There’s Keith down at his garage 05:04

Looking over at my window 05:04

Gesticulating 05:04

Away on Keith 05:04

Away on 05:04

Are you awake 05:05

Are you 05:05

The ticks just went blue on all those

messages 05:05

I can see you’ve read them 05:05

I can see you’re there 05:05

Good 05:06

I’ll keep going 05:06

There wasn’t enough room in the fridge

for all the beer. Your brother lined the cans

along the floor. Told me to go sit up top

and I got my camping chair and even

though it was freezing I went and sat on

the roof the way he wanted. Could hear

crashing about under my feet. Time was

I’d have torn strips off anyone damaged

Lady Christina but I hadn’t the energy 05:08

Looked up and I couldn’t see a single star 05:09

How clear that sky was but no stars 05:09

Maybe that’s only in my head 05:10

So damn cold 05:11

I’d packed in a rush and forgot blankets

and jumpers 05:11

But like magic he hands me a beer 05:11

You hand me a cup of tea 05:11

There I am beer in my right hand tea in

my left 05:11

Sons at my feet 05:11

One of the moments of my life 05:12

Ha 05:12

And my life falling apart 05:12

Of course I’d no idea at the time 05:12

You think I always favoured him 05:14

That’s not the way it was 05:14

You were meant to be equal 05:14

Don’t worry Dad we’ll drive the barge

and work the locks 05:15

You need to relax 05:15

That was him 05:15

You need to relax 05:15

Except you need to relax was your

mother’s words 05:16

Her words in his mouth 05:16

Was her made me realise I’m an angry man 05:16

The two of you watching as I drank 05:17

Gulp of beer gulp of tea turnabout until

the lot was gone 05:17

I relaxed alright 05:17

Too late to set sail 05:17

The clatter of cans woke me in the morning.

Felt like someone had took a hammer to

my head. You untying the moorings. Him

trying to work out how to start the engine 05:19

Him wearing that bloody captain’s hat 05:19

That hat 05:20

Your mother bought it me for a joke 05:20

Gold anchors and all 05:20

I meant to give you both a turn with it 05:20

But your brother knows how to take

an opportunity 05:20

There’s nothing wrong with that son 05:21

Anyway I did what I could to let you think

you were sailing Lady Christina yourselves.

Once we’d navigated the marina that was

easy enough 05:22

Dad is this as fast as we can go 05:22

This as fast as we can go 05:22

Some of this I’m writing now I didn’t tell

him last night 05:23

Some of the detail 05:23

Never mind the stars there wasn’t a lot to

see in the day. All muddy fields and sky.

That’s the midlands. A nothing place. I’m

still shocked it’s where I’ve stayed 05:24

Not exactly Paris 05:24

Not Belfast either mind 05:24

But we thought it would be safe for you 05:24

Not yet eight o’clock and him saying Dad

have a beer. You saying Dad have a cup of

tea. Up came a plate of burnt toast. Up he

pops with a fresh beer 05:25

The ticks are grey 05:27

Come back 05:27

I’ll keep going 05:31

I’d a couple of swigs at the most 05:31

Hair of the dog is all 05:31

The pair of you sat watching but you didn’t

seem bored 05:33

The sky moving over us 05:33

Beautiful slow 05:33

The wee message by your picture says

online so I know you’re there 05:35

Go on read those last few 05:35

There’s nothing to be scared of 05:35

Jesus I felt the cold and if I felt it you two

must have been foundered. If we could

get to a place I’d find a shop and buy us

jumpers 05:36

We reached the first flight 05:36

You pair near dead to show me you

could work the locks 05:36

Stay there Dad stay there we’ll open

the locks 05:37

You need to relax 05:37

There was no way you could work them

on your own 05:40

It’s a man’s job 05:40

Even an old man like me 05:40

You need to know what you’re doing 05:40

At both ends of the lock are gates and

paddles. You’ve to raise the paddles to

empty the lock for going up. Then open

the gates and the barge enters the lock.

Close the gates. Open the paddles at

the opposite end to fill it. Open the gates

and you let the barge leave the lock.

Drop the paddles. Close the gates 05:43

I suppose it’s grand if you take it slow 05:44

Still don’t know why I left you to it 05:44

There were dead cigarettes floating in the

canal just off the back of Lady Christina 05:47

Pure white with the ends burnt black 05:47

I wouldn’t remember them cigarettes if I’d

been drunk 05:47

An empty packet too 05:47

Red Marlboro 05:49

I can feel the weight of the can in my

hand now 05:50

Near enough full 05:50

Blue ticks 05:51

You’re with me again 05:52

Jesus the sound 05:53

At first I thought it was a bird flown into

a barbed wire fence or some such 05:54

Made everything seem big around me 05:55

That makes no sense 05:55

Next thing it’s shouting for someone 05:56

Shouting for dad 05:56

For a second I’m wondering who’s that 05:56

I’d been asleep my whole life and just

woken up 05:56

Do you know what that feels like 05:56

Do you 05:56

You’ve not the slightest notion 05:56

Sleepwalking through your life 05:56

Wasting all was done for you 05:57

There’s another thought for the hammer 05:57

Bang 05:57

I thought you must have fallen in the lock 05:58

Knew it would be you not him 05:58

No splashing though 05:58

Then him 05:58

Dad Dad Dad 05:58

How slow it all went 06:02

Him with his arms around you hunched

over the gate 06:04

Screams coming right out of your bodies 06:04

Put my arms over you 06:04

Felt the scream in your shoulders 06:04

The teeth of the gate 06:04

Your wee fingers caught 06:04

But you know all this 06:05

Then we were through the muck of

the fields 06:07

Toward what I thought was a road 06:07

Falling through hedges 06:07

Muck and blood 06:07

Sliding and sinking 06:07

Christ didn’t it turn out to be a motorway 06:09

The roar 06:09

Everything too big too loud 06:09

Coaches and frozen food lorries 06:09

Rush of wind off the lorries 06:09

Two boys and a man caked in muck on the

hard shoulder 06:10

Held you tight to my side 06:10

Him trying to flag a car 06:10

Waving his arms yelling 06:10

Sorry 06:20

Finally that woman pulled over in her van 06:21

All I could say was thank you thank you over

and over 06:21

The three of us jammed in the passenger

seats 06:21

You shivering on my knee 06:21

To begin with I felt lucky it was her found us 06:23

She talked all sunshine like a children’s TV

presenter 06:23

Near enough a child herself 06:23

Asked was anyone else hurt 06:24

I said no thank you 06:24

There’s only us 06:24

Only us hurt 06:24

Everything I said came out wrong 06:24

And the more I talked the more I felt dirty

Belfast in my voice 06:25

You two with your smooth clean English

not saying a word 06:25

Her with the TV voice 06:26

Van Minister 06:27

That’s what he says it said on the front

of her van 06:27

Your brother 06:27

I’ve no memory of that 06:28

On the side all sayings from the Bible 06:29

Jesus Christ is alive others are dead 06:29

I thought it was just a white van 06:30

Didn’t she come with us into the children’s

a & e. The nurses took you away off into

a wee side room and him and I waiting

outside with her. All these plastic toys

about the floor and murals on the walls.

A pirate ship 06:33

So you don’t know this bit 06:34

She’s up at the front desk talking away

to the receptionist 06:35

Shaking her head 06:35

I can’t hear what she’s saying 06:35

I know she’s talking about me 06:35

I’m on my feet saying go on there’s no

need for you to be here with us 06:36

You’ve done enough 06:36

You’ve been too kind thank you please

go on your way 06:36

Keep thanking her 06:36

She won’t look at me 06:36

Thanking the nurses too 06:37

Everyone in that waiting area 06:37

Saying to the other families aren’t they

lucky to have such wonderful nurses 06:37

Wonderful women 06:37

Won’t look at me 06:37

Thank you 06:37

Thank you 06:37

Won’t look 06:37

And she won’t leave 06:37

Bitch won’t go 06:38

Your brother telling me stop 06:38

Be quiet Dad 06:38

Dad stop 06:38

Imagine that 06:38

Your own son telling you stop 06:38

Imagine 06:38

In front of everyone 06:38

Like I’m the bloody child 06:38

Then the others come in 06:39

Sir please calm down 06:39

Dad 06:39

Sir 06:39

Sir 06:39

Sir have you been drinking 06:39

A man in a shirt and tie and a security

man 06:40

Sir what are you doing with these boys 06:40

All sir this and sir that 06:40

Cards round their necks with their

faces on 06:40

Told them exactly what I was doing 06:40

Sir how do we know these are your sons 06:40

Sir can you prove these are your sons 06:40

Sir how much have you had to drink 06:41

He’s my dad your brother says 06:42

I’m getting him away for the weekend 06:42

He needs to relax 06:42

I’m busy thanking the whole place again 06:43

My voice filling the air 06:43

It doesn’t matter what I say no more 06:43

Security man forces me into a chair 06:44

Lays his hand on my shoulder 06:44

Damn near crushes my shoulder 06:44

The woman with her eyes on me 06:45

My fists clenched tight and shaking 06:45

I was on the edge alright 06:45

Then you come out of the wee room

with your fingers in bandages 06:46

Eyes straight to me 06:46

Like you’re wondering am I okay 06:47

Like you’re worried about me 06:47

Jesus all eyes on me 06:48

But yours 06:49

Yours were the eyes got me 06:50

Christ knows what I’d have done 06:50

Blue ticks 06:52

So you’re with me 06:52

I’ve half a mind to ring 06:53

Will you answer 06:54

I’ll ring 06:54

No 06:56

I’m not going to give up 06:57

Go on answer 06:59

Answer 07:00

What are you afraid of 07:00

Answer 07:00

Is that it 07:01

Fine 07:01

This isn’t exactly what I told him last night 07:03

I went wrong somewhere in the telling 07:03

Said it was him got us out of that mess 07:04

His talk and quick thinking 07:04

But he’s not the one 07:04

Said the woman drove us back 07:05

And finally she left 07:05

We walked the canal to Lady Christina 07:05

Back on board I was ready to turn for home 07:06

He was all no no no 07:06

Dad you give up too easy 07:06

We have to keep going 07:06

He put the captain’s hat on again 07:20

Sat you up top on the camping chair 07:20

Fingers ruined 07:20

God knows what else 07:20

Told me to work the locks when we got

to them 07:20

And I did as I was told 07:20

In a couple of hours we passed

the chimney I’d seen in the car 07:21

& Sons 07:21

Like a joke 07:21

A big finger saying up yours to me 07:22

What am I trying to say 07:25

He was after advice last night 07:28

Has it so hard with the boy 07:28

I mean what am I supposed to tell him 07:28

Me 07:28

That’s not it though 07:29

I wish that canal had been endless 07:32

And we could have kept going and going 07:32

That’s not it either 07:32

Look it’s me made you different 07:34

Me made you the weak one 07:34

Jesus I don’t mean weak 07:35

You know what I mean 07:35

That day broke you apart 07:35

That was down to me 07:35

What you could have been 07:36

But it’s you he should be ringing 07:37

You’re the one 07:37

Have you nothing to say 07:40

Nothing 07:42