tagRomanceA Real Man in My Life Ch. 02

A Real Man in My Life Ch. 02


Life was good; I had fun with my children, I was reasonably secure financially, enjoyed my job at the school, and I suddenly had a far more interesting relaxation technique to 'deal with stress'.

I had a reasonable social life based around lots of friends, many of which I'd got custody of after the break up -- which again I think says as much about Parker as it does about me and my friends. It was through one of those friends that I got to hear of an event that was going to play the next important role in my sexual awakening.

Social networking, love it or hate, does seem to play such a huge part in putting and keeping people in touch these days. I was 'friends' with a load of school mates and it was through one of them, Elaine one of my real BFF's, that I heard about the passing of one of them from those times.

Caroline was in my class through primary school, secondary school, even college and a proper Tom-boy, and tall and dark haired like me, and as she got older she grew all the right bits in the right places -- but it was Caroline, you couldn't be jealous or dislike her for it because she was so nice.

To make it worse she played all the contact sports to county level, a champion swimmer, a cross country runner and was if that wasn't enough a brilliant guitar player into the bargain.

On the rare occasions she wore a dress, heels and make-up (it was normally sports clothing) she was fucking gorgeous and it wasn't just for its rarity value, when she stopped being 'sporty plain Jane' she was naturally stunning.

Fortunately for us normally pretty girls she hardly ever did, she wasn't a Lesbian or anything she just couldn't be bothered with all that kind of thing. Boys were OK but only when you were beating them in a cross-country run, out-jumping them high or long, or leaving them half a lane behind you in the swimming pool. Lucky for most of the boys at our school she wasn't allowed to play them at football, basketball or hockey because she'd have wiped the fucking floor with them at that too.

She was all about sport, and I still remember the day she came to school with her lovely dark lustrous hair, a thousand times nicer and more natural looking than mine, cut into a short manageable bob while she swam for England in a European championship, and it didn't grow back to her supermodel best for at least a year.

Caroline left school, and should have become a model,no question. But no, she went to the same college as me and studied sports sciences and joined the Royal Navy as a physical training instructor, a well-paid job with lots of travel that was based solely around the love of her life - sport.

After a very successful naval career involving Commonwealth Games medals in the triathlon, not forgetting the ones she had for service to her country in Afghanistan, she left and being a trained Aikido instructor she joined the county police force. I was a recent social media 'friend' with her and we were both on our school Facebook page and I had joined in conversations with her about the old days.

To my great sadness I saw that there was now a memorial page to her. She had been diagnosed with liver cancer that was too far gone to be treatable. They made her comfortable and being the Caroline we all remembered, she set out to raise money for cancer research with the time and energy she had left. Tragically she lost her fight the day she appeared on local TV. One of the things she had wanted do was a get together of the Schools Theatre Company.

The company was made up of individuals and groups from each school to mark the Tri-centenary of our city. Each school had to provide a few acts and some musicians for the orchestra. But after a few rehearsals it soon became evident that as a team we were much greater than the sum of our parts.

Our mixed school was just packed with people that could sing and dance and play instruments, one of them being Caroline of course. I sang in the choir and danced whenever the opportunity arrived. The school held auditions and of course we all ended up doing something.

The local Catholic school sent their entire orchestra and singers, the other big secondary in the town (our natural enemy) did the same as us, the Grammar school couldn't release anyone 'because of exams' and the all-boys Trade School - the school Parker was at - provided some top notch musicians and a rock band. The rock band soon became known as 'The Boyz' and were fantastic fun and played everything asked of them with fire, lustre and what the adult leader called 'cheek'; and everyone loved them for it. With the addition of more guitars, different musical styles, keyboard players and the 'brass section' rather than the 'brass band', the company was born.

The company was wonderful and all done after school or at weekends, and it was Caroline's last wish we got back together one last time for her charity, but she never got to see it.

We were originally bought together for one gig, but continued for almost two years. After that first gig it had ceased to be 'a concert party' that the city fathers had first ordered and pretty soon it was a long stream of musical numbers of varying types. The concert for the city was good and we played some classics, some old stuff for our grandparents and parents, then classic popular music and we got lots of applause and praise.

We then did two further 'school performances' so our classmates and the many parents not invited to the Tri-Centenary could see the gig. It was at that point that Miss White, the lady from the City Education Service that ran the thing, said that for the school performances we could play what music WE wanted.

So we dropped the wartime favourites, we dropped the crooner songs and the community singing, we even dropped the national anthem. We spent one day rehearsing the songs we loved and we heard on the radio and our CD players and we were ready.

That was it; with the Guildhall capable of holding two and a half thousand people per night from all four secondary schools (grammar school kids not invited), they opened the doors and a legend was born. 'The Boyz' wearing their black stage gear in honour of their trademark school uniforms would start off with 'The boys are back in town' by Thin Lizzy and everyone stood and didn't sit down for the rest of the evening. They played Status Quo's 'Caroline' and the gorgeous guitar player from our school would slowly walk on stage playing the riff. Piece by piece the company appeared.

Being tall and dark with a better than average singing voice and an ear for harmonies (my Mum is a choral singer and I'd grown up with it) I had been put together with Elaine from my school and Diane from the Catholic school and we did an 'Andrews Sisters' thing for the City gig and with some khaki dresses sang 'Boogie woogie bugle boy' and we just clicked.

After rehearsal and brilliant direction from Miss White we knew what each of us would do with our part of the harmony and we just did it. The dance mistress suggested that if we could dance as well as we sang it would be brilliant. Diane took care of that and we had a few evenings at her house watching videos of backing singers at various concerts and shows and we were away. I'm amazed we never wore a hole in her Mum's rug in front of the fire. As the company progressed we all sang solo's as well, and we hit the stage (normally with cheers and wolf-whistles) arriving about four songs in and staying to the end, singing our solo's as they came up.

We made school concert history, but not always for the best reasons. For instance we had a young American boy, the Super Cool Stevie Mac, for the second year and he asked if we could do a Beach Boys song. So we played 'Surfin' USA' which had us all standing side on and shifting our hips like we were on surf boards and at the end of each bar we'd jump and land the other way around like we'd seen on a Beach Boys video. The audience did the same BUT were stood on their seats; after the second night we were banned from ever playing it again. We of course did whenever we could.

Then the brass would enter and we played Madness songs which had everyone in the aisles dancing, then we put on our cheap looky-likey Ray Bann sunglasses and became the Blues Brothers. Then it was Beatles songs, whatever was in the charts finishing with several long encore rock songs; 'Hey Jude' as the sing-along, then 'Baby drives me crazy' that everyone sang and saw every single one of us in a line with an instrument of some kind (whether we could play it or not) head banging through the last chorus and a single bow to see us off stage before our inevitable encores. It was wonderful, and we did it for eighteen months.

A new Facebook page was started 'the Concert for Caroline' and appeared on my page as a suggestion. I 'liked' it and clicked 'Friend request' writing what I'd done in the original company and who I remembered clicking them as suggestions; I of course included Elaine, Diane and a load of other people that had been involved and I wasn't sure would have seen it. Not Parker mind you; anyways he was too miserable to be on Facebook.

Social media is made for something like this, and pretty soon the web was buzzing and every few hours someone new was on the page chatting with old friends. I made contact with at least two dozen people in the space of two evenings, and I seemed forever checking the page on my mobile at work. One of the gang Mark, (guitar player from The Boyz) had gone into education and was now a teacher at my old school and had got agreement for the school hall, the original home of the company, to be used for rehearsals at weekends on the understanding we chipped in fifty pence each for the electricity.

True to company history he made it for a Saturday, inviting everyone to come along with their guitars, their drum kits, their strings, brass, keyboards, harmonicas, triangles, whatever they had to hand.

It just happened to be a weekend that the kids were with Parker, so I didn't have to discuss anything with them. I put on a pair of my curvy jeans, one of my new cropped tops I'd bought to go with the wonder bras, straightened my cleavage and headed downstairs. I put on just a touch of make-up and some lippy, pulled loose some hair around my heart shaped face, sprayed on some perfume and that was me. I looked good and turned my stereo up bluetoothing a whole mess of songs from my phone that we used to sing back in the day, that I'd gotten from the net or my CD collection.

In the car park I found loads of flipchart paper notices on fences and bike sheds I vaguely recognised, obviously created by pupils from the school directing us to park on the long remembered large playground once the car park was full. I followed them as I headed towards the next space, seeing half remembered faces shaking hands and hugging all over the place and in the next available space I saw that Diane and Elaine were stood in it embracing. I wound down my window and leant out, "Oii bitches, move out the way unless you want to be run over..."

They looked, they screamed, I screamed. I stalled the car getting out, but dashed across to them anyway and we hugged, and cried and hugged some more. Even though I'd met them individually over the years, this was the first time we'd been all three together in all that time. Arm in arm we walked in, smelling that smell of dust, books, gymnasiums and one thousand teenagers all growing up, as we sang our familiar la-la-la 'doh-re-me' warm up that we'd been taught by Miss White all those years ago.

Once inside it was more of the same. Diane's nick name had been 'Deedee' and within seconds of being back in the room, so it became again.

There was any number of people I recognised and we shook hands, hugged, discussed waistlines, hairlines, weddings, children, divorces and of course considering our reason for being here, funerals. There were a couple of people with cameras -- Mark was to explain later that part of the plan was to make a video and see if that could be sold.

Mark was instantly recognisable from his Facebook picture and he'd done a great job and laid out the hall pretty much as we used to back in the old days. The sound system and speakers were half the size of the stuff we used in the old days of course but the hall looked much smaller for some reason though. There was that few minutes were we all looked around from our comfort zones to everyone else's comfort zones.

Stood next to Mark was a huge man with a black bass guitar. His hair was short but styled which it hadn't been all those years ago.

"Who is thaaat?" drawled Elaine seeing this big guy hefting an amplifier in one hand.

I looked, he'd changed considerably, and for the better I might add. "Elaine Darling," I said remembering that he was always at our end of the stage and the banter we had and the eyes he used to make at us, "I do believe that is Graham, d'ya reckon he still has a crush on you?"

"Fuck off Nats," said Elaine, "He had a crush on you sweetie and you know it," she purred fluffing her blonde hair, "still, might be worth finding out."

"Shit, he has grown into a big strong boy hasn't he," said Deedee.

Indeed he had; Graham the bass player had come from the wrong end of the town right enough and had been recommend to the Trade School as a bright kid in poor circumstances.

The Trade School was boys only and had been since its foundation in 1799 and drew most of its pupils from the rough end of the city as had been intended by its founding fathers to 'take boys off of those mean streets' and make them into tradesmen rather than ending up in prison, the scaffold or the grave'. It wasn't overtly religious but their school uniform was black which harked back to the semi-monastic gown Trade School boys wore up until the start of World War 2 when the shortage of dark cloth for black-outs saw them wearing short blazers with a triangle of material at the collar to represent the hood.

The school blazer badge was a rather masonic looking collection of tools and the words 'Per laborem ad iustitiam'.

Most believed and stated that this meant 'Through work to righteousness' but a late sixties Classics master told a journo from the local paper that it actually read 'Through labour to righteousness', and all through the seventies and eighties local Tory politicians tried to have almost two hundred years of history erased, re-embroidered and reprinted.

Parker, who was one of Mrs Thatcher's most ardent fans, still agreed but said that most of the prepubescent pupils just giggled and with Tippex and a black felt tip coloured in the letters to read 'a bore - a tit I am'. This normally got the squeaky voiced comedian sent home with a note telling parents that the child would not be welcome at school until the badge read what it should. The Tippex came out again and repairs made until a new badge could be bought.

Once back, the offender would normally find themselves with the standard 500 lines of Latin to copy out for that particular offence.

"Hoc est ridiculam, suus ridiculam et est non ridiculam eam nunquam esse. Ego sum primus et ego oro dominus sit ultimum," which apparently read, "It isn't funny, it's never been funny and it will never be funny. I'm not the first but I pray lord I may be last."

The Trade School was the last in the town to still teach that language, and most Trade School boys could quote some, especially those lines which were used for all kinds of punishments for all kinds of misdemeanors.

The school had still drawn from the poorer parts of town as laid down in the original charter and there were quite a few tough looking individuals, but places there were highly sought after because much as it was a bit rough and tough, the Trade School was selective and far from just creating carpenters, bricklayers and plumbers out of starving boys, thanks to an inspirational headmaster in the 70's and 80's the proportion of old boys that went to Oxbridge or into the professions was more than double the next best state school, more so even than the Grammar.

You had to be selected by the school, or 'called' as tradition had it, through a strange process of their own peculiar bunch of 'talent scouts'; vicars, policemen, a few primary school teachers, even fewer social workers and 'old boys', or have an older brother there, and they still to this day turn out engineers, scientists, architects and teachers. It was possible to apply for a small percentage of spaces for the two classes a year - if you passed something like the old '11 plus' exam you could get through to an interview and then in, which was how Parker had made his way in to such an auspicious establishment. It's pretty much the same these days although girls joined their ranks a few years back.

Trade School boys were cut from two sorts with hardly anything in between. Dubbed 'L' or 'T' -- meaning 'like' or 'tyke', the L's tended to be nice, friendly and clever, while the T's would be the complete opposite and range from slightly untrustworthy to out and out thugs. Parker was a 'T' that claimed he was an 'L'.

At first glance the short crew cut and huge size gave the impression that Graham or 'Gray' as everyone called him was classic Trade School 'tyke' material. The terrible thing was this was far from the truth.

For a fourteen year old from the council estate he was huge, six foot four already with a skin head haircut, an impressive beard or moustache depending on the mood he was in with trousers always just too short, and with white shirts over-worn and over-washed to a light grey and at first look you thought he'd beat you up and rob you, but once you chatted to him and he smiled at you, that totally changed. You would think his speech would all be slang, four letter words and dropped H's but he was very well spoken, and was gentle, sensitive, sweet and kind to a fault.

Today his hair was cut stylishly short and he was clean shaven, and his blue 'Superman' T-shirt showed the definition of his wide shoulders, his tight six-pack and chest. His arms bulged.

I was impressed and so were Deedee and Elaine,

"Will you look at the size of Graham," breathed Elaine, "do you think that's all him?"

"Reckon he still does door work and debt collection?" threw in Deedee, "He can doorstep me any time he wants, I'm sure I'd find a way to repay hi..."

She was cut short by a loud but syncopated boom-bang-crash from the drums. The Boyz drummer for was Chris Wild, or 'Marty' as he was dubbed. There had been another drummer but we all found out to our joint sadness that Rob Peters who was the other (not the second -- the Boyz were democratic) drummer had been killed in an industrial accident some years back. His younger sister Maddie was among the string section and gave us the sad news of his passing but also the good news that she was married to Marty.

Marty had followed the other stream of Trade School boys and had trained to become a carpenter, but tiring of fitting flat packed kitchens and preparing shuttering on building sites he'd gone to evening classes ostensibly to learn furniture design and construction, but did so well and made such an impact locally that his work was highly individual and highly sought after; the Mayors Parlour in Guildhall has several of his pieces in it. Fitting because by tradition the Lord Mayor is automatically the Chairman of the Board of Governors for the Trade School, something even the Grammar doesn't have.

Marty had fared well and had a few grey hairs but looked as good as he ever did.

"Right guys," came a voice from the side of the hall and interrupting all of the chatter and Deedee's dirty thoughts and our giggles. It was Tom Crawford, or Major Tom as we called him back in the day.

Called to the Trade school because his father was an old boy, today they'd have called him a nerd, but he was a naturally gifted pianist and guitar player being a classic Trade School 'Like', having the organisational skills born of being the serious, studious, crew-cut wearing Army officer's son he had been. Nerd no longer though. He had long dark hair, a silver earing and T-shirt unbuttoned to show a crop of dark chest hair with fashionable glasses; another improvement. According to his FB profile he was now something in the defence industry, a world traveller and married with children.

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byAndrogynousother© 4 comments/ 15403 views/ 9 favorites

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