Thursday, 22 June 2017

How my Mum would tell them it’s late. Again. #DadDirt



You know you are a Great British Dad when...
...you work out the work.


I’m on the street in Theobalds Road, Holborn, London.

ME
I know this building really well.
I remember the dark blue chunky lettering over the entrance.
“DERWENT PUBLICATIONS”.
Except I know it better from the other side.



It’s 1982. We're parked in our white Cortina, outside the empty car park, like we’re planning a bank job. I’m with my sister, on the back seat in early 80s kids clothes.

MUM
Don’t forget. What do you say if someone asks you why it’s so late?

ME
We know.

MUM
Just say “you don’t know but my Mum’s very sorry”.

ME
We know.

MUM
But what do you say if they ask where the rest of it is?

ME
We know. No-one ever asks us.

MUM
Just in case they ask, “Mum said the next batch will be here tomorrow. She doesn’t know what time. No, you don’t need to say that last bit. (TO MY SISTER) You go with Neil.

The two of us waddle the A4 box of envelopes and long index card filing boxes across the empty car park.

ME
We do this every week.
Around 6 o’clock, because Mum did this job to get some extra money.

CUT TO: Mum, in my bedroom, expertly dancing her hands across the keys of an IBM electric golfball typewriter.

ME
She called it Home Typing.
Back then, when companies wanted to send you stuff, someone would have to type up the envelopes.
We never found out what went in them.

A name and address dugga duggas onto the envelope.

ME
She’d get these boxes of index cards with names and addresses, and copy type them.
Paid by the box.
Box after box after box.

The perforated green cards are in batches of twenty, bound by elastic bands, 1000 in a box.
Dugga. Dugga. Click. Click. Dugga.
I’m there now in my pants.

ME
I’d have a go when the boxes were left out. I think the postcodes and counties stuck in my head.

Inside the deserted building, my little sister and I strain the 1930’s staircase door on the fourth floor, and put the box down on a bare counter in the empty hallway that acts as a reception for the floor.

ME
They’re from my Mum.

The uniformed security guard doesn’t look up from his paper.
My sister and I skip down the empty staircase, four steps at a time.

MUM
Did anyone ask why are they late?

We’re back on the back seat, staring out of the window.

ME
No.

MUM
Good boy.

ME
Nobody ever asked.
Nobody was ever there.


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