When I was 10 or 11 I used to go away for the weekend with my mate to his parents’ caravan. I was always happy to leave home. My mate’s dad would drive us to the caravan in his Ford Cortina. It was brown and shiny. My mate called it ‘metallic’.
My mate’s dad had some sort of building job. He worked from an office behind his garage that smelled damp and had rolled up plans and typewriters and envelopes and ashtrays everywhere.
My mate’s dad liked smoking. I never saw him without a fag. His fingers were brown. He could smoke and talk at the same time. Once I called round when he was in the bath and he came to the door wrapped in a towel with a fag hanging from his mouth.
My mate’s dad liked a drink. He would often have a glass of whiskey in his hand and would swirl the glass around. I liked the orangey-brown look of it. Sometimes my mate and I would drink his whiskey with lemonade in. He never noticed.
My mate’s dad always had a brown tweed jacket on. He kept his fags in the pocket. He smoked Peter Stuyvesant or Benson & Hedges. I loved the gold and brown boxes with their writing and paper. I loved the cigarettes inside. I loved the smell of smoke.
My mate’s dad had a thin brown moustache. He was a nice man. Even when he was angry you could tell he wasn’t. He was the only grown up who talked to us properly. He would ask us what we wanted instead of telling us what to do.
We didn’t see my mate’s mum much. She never came to the caravan with us. She sat in one of the downstairs rooms by the fire on her own. We played in the other room as we weren’t allowed to disturb her. My mate’s mum wore big glasses and long dresses and had her hair up in a ball on top of her head. I was quite scared of her. Sometimes she ate chocolates.
There was a picture of an angry Chinese lady with a blue face on the wall in my mate’s house. My mate told me it was rare and worth a lot of money. When I was younger I used to get confused and I thought it was a painting of my mate’s mum.
On the way to the caravan we would go to the petrol station. My mate’s dad would buy us bags of sweets for the journey. Halfway to the caravan we would stop and my mate’s dad would buy us chips.
My mate’s dad liked pop music, unlike other grown ups. In the car we listened to tapes of Bat Out Of Hell by Meat Loaf, Absolutely by Madness and the Stray Cats. I liked the faster Meat Loaf songs. I loved all of Madness. I liked the Stray Cats too; best of all the three singles, Stray Cat Strut, Rock This Town and Runaway Boys.
Meat Loaf was fat. Madness were funny. The Stray Cats looked cool. On the cover of their album they looked really annoyed, like you’d just interrupted them and you weren’t welcome. I would stare at them for ages.
When we got to the caravan my mate’s dad would go to the golf club for the weekend. We would play by ourselves and do what we wanted. We’d throw stones and start fires and climb on equipment at the power station. We could go to bed when we liked and we never had to wash or change our clothes.
When we were hungry or cold we would go to the golf club. The golf club was smoky and warm and noisy and full of happy grown ups who were always nice to us. My mate’s dad would be playing the fruit machine and drinking whiskey. He would pull the handle at the side and then lean against it and close his eyes as the reels went round. I loved the sound of all the money coming out when he won.
My mate’s dad would buy us coke and crisps and give us money to play Asteroids and Galaxians. I always lost. My mate’s dad would tell me not to worry. He’d give me money for the juke box. I’d put on Runaway Boys. As the record played I’d spin round and round until I was dizzy – faster, faster all the time.
Slip into the alley with the Runaway Boys.