I remember running to the Red Lion at teatime, skinny knock kneed limbs jumping oily puddles. Intent on my mission.
“Fetch your Da for supper lass.” Ma would flick her pinny at me to get me moving. I’d laugh and skip out of the way.
Da didn’t own a watch. He counted time in pint glass depths and the lengths of domino matches.
I would hear the hubbub three streets away. Then I’d glimpse the golden pools of light pouring from the pub’s windows.
In winter months I raced into those golden circles, drawn to their promised warmth, the roar of laughter and the smell of hops mixed with cheese and pickle sarnies.
Da was always hunched in the same spot by the fire. With Jacko snuggled at his feet. Da’s best friend in all the world he used to say ‘except for you lass.’
‘Yes and don’t forget the ponies.’ Mum would toss in her penny’s worth, all thin lipped and skewer eyed.
Wriggling through the sardine like crowd, a voice would invariably shout, “Oy Dan! Your girl’s here for you.”
Hot faced I’d push through the ashy smelling coats, navigating elbows and pint glasses.
I’d hear the click of the dominoes, then l would see Da’s huge hairy fists holding them. Finally I’d see his face, with its dark brows and serious frown. Framed by his cap.
“Hang on love.” He’d say. “This one’s a winner.”
“Ma’s waiting on yer, Da.” I’d jig around the table. Anxiety bubbling in my tummy.
Some glorious evenings Da would carry me home on his shoulders, laughing and swaying. The coins jingling in his pockets.
Other times, like a man of straw, Da would stumble through the alleys. I’d tag behind, picking up fallen bins and dropped dominoes.