Laughter

When it was cooked it was just pulled apart. No one bothered about carving or burning their fingers -- it was just a free for all. Don and Toshy, being the strongest in a scrap, got the legs and the other good bits. Poor old quiet Eddie got only a wing, even though he had been the only one brave enough to kill it.

I couldn’t eat any of it. Sitting watching them devour it, I thought there was a curse on it. I remember looking at my brothers and wondering what would become of them.

There were usually so many people in the house that the only privacy anyone could get was in the fields and derelict houses. The number of people in the house caused other problems, as well. The corporation would periodically send round a man to check whether too many people lived in one house. News that the man from the corporation – ‘the corpy man’ - was on his rounds would spread like wildfire through the district.

Don, Toshy, Eddie, my cousins Brian, Violet and Elsie, Uncle Jimmy, Auntie Elsie and I would rush into the back yard. We would scramble for a place to hide in the toilet, as many as possible of us packing into the tiny space. The rest of us would scatter round the alleys. Those in the toilet would be gasping for air because of the toilet and each other’s smells, squatting on the floor, standing on the seat or curled around the cistern, and all hanging on to the latch and the door to keep it closed. The man from the corporation seemed to stay immediately close by forever.

One day when he came, as usual we either hid in the toilet or made ourselves scarce in the alleys. Those in the toilet heard footsteps in the yard and immediately went quiet.

Then we heard my mam’s voice.

“There’s the toilet, you mightn’t be able to use it ‘cos the door always sticks,” she shouted.

We all hung on to the door, conscious that if he managed to open it we’d all come tumbling out on top of him. He pulled at the latch for what seemed an eternity, until finally he said: “Sod it, I’ll go next door.”

He was hardly gone when we all fell out, this time laughing hysterically.

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