Friday, March 14, 2008

Back on Track

Story contd

William made a complete recovery from his heart attack, went back to work and apart from all of us taking his health more seriously life went on as before. He did all the right things as far as diet and exercise were concerned and even did a little therapeutic baking. ‘Dad’s rock cakes’ were famous. William had always been a lark –

‘I’ll bid you goodnight.’ he would say after dinner, sounding just like his mother Dodie. In contrast I was the owl so it was no hardship for me to wait up until the growing boys got in at night.

One Saturday # 1 son got in quite late and obviously upset. He and his friends had been attacked by a gang of yobs and one of the boys had his glasses smashed. Sensibly they had reported it to the police. I regretted that our sedate little town was changing, to its detriment, with the times. Much later that night, when we were all asleep there was a thundering knock at the door. It was the Police and they wanted my son to go with them to identify the culprits. My son insisted I shouldn’t accompany him. The police said he should just slip on his dressing gown and I was mortified when I noticed that after the last spurt of growth the cuffs were now round his elbows. My son and his friends were treated kindly by the police – unlike the attackers.
At the station they were being guarded by a police dog and the bullies lost their cool. They were prosecuted for stealing drink from an off- licence, so my son and friends didn’t have to go to court.

I was often out alone at night. As the shop got busier there was more book work and I quite enjoyed going to the shop and working in peace and quiet. Every article we sold had to be entered up on the client’s card and in the busy times it was impossible to do this during the day. Once a year Mary and I had to go through each client’s card and with the aid of an adding machine add up the amounts owing to customers. This was demanded by Dave our accountant and was a mammoth task. We would set aside a Sunday, take a picnic lunch and be there all day - at the end of which we would creep exhausted into the nearest pub and thank heaven it was over for another year. Our lives would have been transformed by today’s computers.

I still spent a lot of time at the theatre club and joined in with some of the back stage staff giving the club a face lift. One night I got carried away painting the ceiling and it was after mid-night when I left. Driving up the hill out of town my car ran out of petrol. I ran to the nearest telephone booth (before mobile phones) and phoned William. The phone rang and rang and rang but all three slept the sleep of the dead and were always oblivious of anything that happened once they closed their eyes. I ran down to the railway station with the idea of picking up a taxi to take me to a petrol station - I needed the car to get into the shop the next day. Alas it was too late – all the taxis had gone home. The Police Station was close by so I asked the duty sergeant if he could give me some taxi numbers. He was horrid and said they weren’t a taxi service. I couldn’t believe it. I was used to being treated as a respected member of the community. Then I remembered I was still in paint- spattered old clothes, my hair – long and blonde - was all over the place and I had smudges on my face. Also it was very late. I managed to find a number in the malodorous telephone booth and got a taxi from my village to come and pick me up. The taxi driver told me to stand in the road by the car so he could spot me easily. Whilst I was waiting for him two cars stopped with lewd suggestions which made me feel even worse.

At last he turned up and I asked him to siphon some petrol into my tank (fortunately I had plenty of cash with me) whereupon he told me his taxi ran on diesel. Seeing my despair he said there was an all night petrol station in Sevenoaks, he would drive me there, I could buy some petrol and then he would bring me back to the car.

‘It’ll be the most expensive gallon of petrol you’ve ever bought love!’ he said cheerfully.

After a long drive we reached the petrol station where a couple of cars were being filled up. There was only one attendant – an elderly man – and when I asked if he could sell me some petrol in a container he refused. Apparently the week before he had been mugged and no way was he going to look for a can. That was it! I was exhausted from hours of painting the club ceiling, running up and down to station and telephones and I had been treated like a criminal and a whore. I started to cry and everybody looked embarrassed. Eventually one of the car owners who looked like one of my Dad’s pals came over.

‘I’ve got a plastic container in my car which I keep for emergencies. You can have it if you like.’

‘Oh thank you!’ I blubbed ‘You must let me pay for it.’

‘No I don’t want your money. You’re just like my daughter – she’s always running out.’

What a gentleman. I treasured that little plastic container for years.

Back we drove to my car and the taxi-driver kindly waited until I got started and I paid him an enormous amount of money. As I expected all was quiet when I finally got home – everyone was fast asleep. When I told friends about my experience they all, without exception, said I should have phoned them – they would have come to my rescue, but it was my mess and I felt I couldn’t phone someone in the wee small hours. There are quite a few morals arising from this story but the most important one I learned was to work on the top end of the petrol tank


R. Sherman said...

But consider it a demonstration of your self-reliance. Much better than sitting in a heap by the car waiting forlornly to be rescued.

Well done.


PI said...

Randall: you always say the right thing:)
BTW I am reading a book about autobiography by Lois Daniel who had a writing class at Longview College in Lee's Summit, Missouri. Her maiden name was Sherman. Any relation? Also I have just been given the book 'No country for Old men'for my birthday.

Nea said...

It's Pi Day today, 3/14. At my girls school they have had a special maths day. Happy Pi Day Pi.

We have a nasty habit of running out of petrol, but here it can be tens of miles to the nearest house and even further to the nearest petrol station, and it can be hours before another car comes past, so we always carry a spare can in the boot. The problem is to remember to keep the can filled.

Sam, Problemchildbride said...

Rand's right - you took control of the situation. I'm only sorry you were thwarted so much. What a nightmare. I can't get over how horrible the policeman was.

Hope you like the Cormac McCarthy book. I preferred The Road but I'm dying to see the film "No Country" - still haven't caught that yet.

PI said...

Sam: yes! As William would have said 'I hope your rabbits die!'

PI said...

Nea: and tomorrow is my real birthday but I've outgrown the excitement:) Just keep the tank topped up - I've learnt.

OldOldLady Of The Hills said...

It is a terrible thing when the lovely town you have felt so safe in begins to change. The Hooligans, and also, the attutides of people. I think it was shocking the way the Policeman treated you. That is just plain wrong!
And I believe you are correct Pat....Never let the Gas Tank go below Halfway...!

I remember when I was growing up we never locked the doors to the house during the day...We did lock them at night. And then, obe summer, someone stole into the house while we were ALL out in the yard, and stole a wallet out of someone's purse. That was the beginning of the end of Civility, I'm afraid. (It was the 1950's...)

PI said...

Naomi: perhaps I have been more prolific this week as we are away briefly for the week-end for my birthday. You and Hoss have to catch up:) with years I mean.

Guyana-Gyal said...

Ahhh, I read and read and read, caught up on stories, asides, was my treat after cleaning house today.

I'm quite surprised at the behaviour of the policeman, regardless of how paint-spattered you were.

I once asked a friend what 'yobs' means, she couldn't explain, but I know it has to do with teen boys and crime. Then I got a pile of Take a Break mags, they write about them a lot. It's really sad the way crime is going up everywhere.

PI said...

GG: In those days a rude police man was a rarity. Possibly he was of the school that believe anyone out at that time of night is up to no good. It certainly made me more cautious and now I don't think I woud go out lone at night - although I did until recently reading to the blind.
Another word for yob - in my lexicon - is lout. Just checked OED : lout , hooligan.

kenju said...

I am sorry that you had that experience, Pat. My dad taught me to never let the tank get below half-full, and so far, I've managed to do just that.

PI said...

Judy: now is the time of life when that REALLY makes sense.


I did that!! A lady was crying when I filled up in North London. Same kind of thing. I gave her my plastic tank thingy and gave her a lift to her car.

She asked for my addy and I gave it.

Got a Chrissy card ever since. Nice lady.

Why nobody would help her is the problem.

Glad someone helped you babe

PI said...

4d: I always knew you were the best kind of gentleman.

Eryl Shields said...

Good god that policeman has got me furious. If I had a time machine I'd use it to go and punch him.


er....yeah....right ;-)

PI said...

Eryl: thanks! Now I know who to call on when I have problems. Wham!


moon said...

What a terrible night! I for one, won't take the car out unless its over the quarter mark me prissy...the fun thing though, is our new vehicle, tells us exactly how many miles or kilometres we can go, with whats in the tank...I am less nervous now if it gets abit low .

PI said...

Moon: I think it is a good maxim to always fill up when it gets to halfway.

Kanani said...

Ah, another great story, Pat. I can just imagine you standing there with paint on you and your hair all a mess, crying for a petrol can!

PI said...

Kanani: an example of people going by appearance.