Thursday 24 January 2013

                                                  Legends of Brocklehurst - Chapter 11

With the Rush tour over I soon returned to my usual life style of getting a few, quid and spending it as soon as possible. I have only scant memories of contact with Neil over the next couple years as there were some very important personal matters on the horizon. Of course there was still no internet, at least not for me, so all mail relied on our respective postal services.
In late 1988 two very important events occurred, one of which was to change my life for ever. First Jackie who I had been living for over eight years split up after months of drifting apart. The only real decision was who would move out of our small but well appointed flat. In the end I did the gentlemanly, thing and got another place. I let Jackie keep everything she wanted as I could replace them a lot easier than she could. Finding accommodation in Didsbury has always been a nightmare, but I found a small, dingy one bed room place about a hundred yards from my local pub, the Barleycorn.
Then just before Christmas I heard from my son’s mother. I knew about Mark, but had only seen him once. Margaret, his mum, had been engaged when we met, and when she became pregnant back in February 1972, had finished the affair, and married her boy friend. She had always maintained Mark was mine, and after seeing him briefly in 1978, I had no doubts. Mark, now sixteen, had got in trouble with the police, a family trait I guess. His mum wanted me to have a word to try, and help him. I had attempted to find him in Carlisle that Christmas with no luck. I couldn’t go to his home as no one knew I was his dad, and Margaret’s new live in partner had always hated me, plus I had no idea what Mark looked like. The only help I had, from his mum, was where he might be, and what he was wearing. On Friday 6th January 1989, I drove up to Carlisle, determined to finally meet up with him.

That short drive of 120 miles was to be most bizarre. I had a suit bag hanging in the back of the hire car, and as I reached the Lancaster turn off the M6, about half way home, I thought I was being followed. Though I was never a major league villain, over the years, I had worked with some very tasty guys, so the police would, now and again, spend a day tailing me to see what I was up to. This was usually done by one CID officer, who would be up to date with my habits, and my contacts, so I was fairly used to it. I just couldn’t believe that they would waste time doing this, when anyone who knew anything about me, must know where I was going. Friday afternoon, M6 north, suit bag in full view, could only mean I was going home to Carlisle for the weekend, plus the next day Carlisle United were playing Liverpool in the third round of the FA cup.

Where else would I be going ?

To make sure I did the usual anti surveillance moves which were a natural in those days when being followed on motorways. I increased speed to over 100 mph, slowed down again. The offending car kept the same distance behind me. I passed an articulated lorry at speed, then braked, and pulled in front of it, the car stayed behind the lorry Then I did the final check, drove into a service station, and straight out again without stopping. Once more I was followed at a distance of around two hundred yards. I knew the driver should be aware by now I had realized that he was tailing me, and I expected him to stop the surveillance. Basic tactics if the police think they have been spotted, but he stayed right behind me.
Totally bemused, as I was doing nothing illegal, I sped up the M6 to junction 43, the second Carlisle turn off, and without signalling exited at around 110 mph with the result my tail almost missed the exit. At the roundabout I slowed right down leaving the other driver no option but to close up. He had two choices, either sit behind me as I waited to turn left for Carlisle pretending to read a map, or draw level as if he was turning right away from Carlisle. This is what he did, hoping, no doubt, to make a complete circle of the roundabout, and get behind me again. I waited until he was out of sight, and followed him. As we both joined the A69 into Carlisle I was now was behind my pursuer. This is something that should obviously never be allowed to happen. I noted the registration number, over took him, went the wrong way down a one way street, and pulled up on the pavement outside the Crown and Mitre Hotel where I was staying for the weekend. This was the hotel the Beatles had been thrown out of may years earlier for wearing leather jackets. ( He was hardly likely to report me for motoring offences as I wasn’t supposed to know he was there.) Unbelievably the guy had remained right behind me.
I ran to a pay phone in the foyer, and rang the Carlisle police to report the strange happenings of the last hour, saying I was in fear for my life, and quoted the registration number . I was told to ring back in twenty minutes, and they would see if they could discover who the driver was. I went to my vehicle to get my luggage, and saw the other car parked across the road a few yards away, the driver standing on the pavement, talking to a Carlisle CID officer who I recognized. I grinned at them, and waved. When I rang the police station later, they told me they didn’t know who the driver was, but said it was a hire car from Manchester airport. I just laughed, and told them I knew exactly who he was, added he was fecking useless, and hung up.
A few weeks later I was arrested in Manchester over an inquiry about a stolen container load of coffee, I was amazed to get a pull over this as I knew there was no evidence to connect me to it. At the police station, Grey Moor Lane, Manchester, I was taken to an inspector’s office instead of the usual detention area. The inspector, after getting me a cup of tea, asked me about that trip to Carlisle. When he heard the full story, and how I how I had got behind the car that was following me, he said “Fecking idiot, he will never be allowed to do surveillance work again“ shook my hand and told me I was free to go !
The next day, the 7th January, Carlisle United lost their cup tie, but that evening I was hoping to meet Mark properly for the first time. I had been told, by his mum, he would be in Anabels, a rave club. I got there early, around 9-00 pm, looking completely out of place in a suit, and tie. I asked a couple of teenagers if he was about with negative replies, and stood by the bar awaiting developments. After a few minutes a young guy approached me, and said Mark would be in later. Somehow I knew he was already there, and had no doubt this was a move to show Mark just who was asking about him. Moments later a group of six or seven youths ambled over, and stood about ten yards away from me. I realized they were protecting Mark in case there was some trouble attached to him meeting me. It was reassuring to know his friends were willing to do this, and he was street wise enough to take precautions.

Then a youngster walked slowly across the dance floor in my direction. Even in those darkened conditions, I knew who he was, I was about to meet my son at last !

Although we had never met properly, I had on the odd occasion spoken to Mark on the phone when I rang his mum to check how he was doing. Something I did at least once a month. Mark knew I was an old friend of Margaret’s but obviously didn’t know I was his dad.

I explained I was the “ Peter “ who had spoken to him on the phone as we shook hands, and I could see him visibly relax. ( I learned later that he, and a couple of mates had ripped some watches off a guy, and they thought that was what I wanted to see him about ). I bought him a pint, and thought even if he only stayed a few minutes, at least we had finally made contact. However halfway through that first drink Mark suggested we sat down away from the music so we could talk more easily. When the club closed around two thirty am, and some ten rounds later, pints of lager for Mark, vodka, and tonic for me, we were still chatting away. There was a strong bond from the beginning, and as I left him to walk the short distance to my hotel, Mark ran after me to ask if we could meet again the next day. I don’t know if it was the thought of more free drinks, but whatever the reason I was only too happy to agree.

I was adopted, and until I met Mark I had never met a single blood relative. I had spent years feeling alone, even when in the company of friends, but not understanding why. For the first time in my life I really felt I was truly alive, felt like I belonged in this world, just an incredible feeling.

I returned to Manchester on the Monday morning having spent most of Sunday with Mark. He had made a tape of his favourite songs, and given it to me before I left. The first track was Paul Simon’s “ Call Me Al, “ a real favourite of mine The words seemed so appropriate, and I drove with a silly grin on my face all the way home.
The next few weeks I drove to Carlisle several times to see Mark, sometimes for only half an hour or so. One problem was already becoming obvious, we were getting on so well, and Mark was quickly becoming very fond of me. How could I justify a forty four year old man spending so much time with a teenager ? What was going on in Mark’s head ? Why did he think I was going to such lengths to see him, and why was he so keen to meet me ? His Mum told me Mark would stand outside his house waving even after my car was out of sight.
The next weekend I took the bull by the horns and told him exactly who I was even though I had promised his mum I wouldn’t. When I said I was his natural father, Mark just looked me straight in the eyes, and replied. “ You would never tell me a lie about something as important as that, “ then hugged me. It was an extremely emotional moment.

From there it seemed a natural progression to move back to Carlisle to really get to know Mark. I was single, and living in a horrible little flat, so it was no contest. Funny how things turn out, if Jackie, and I had still been together, it would have been very difficult to leave Manchester. I guess some things are just meant to be.

I have generally been lucky when renting a home. The first place I have really wanted, I normally got. This was to be no exception. Mark was still going to live with his mum, but I wanted him to have some say in my choice of home, as I was hoping he would spend a lot of time with me. We had looked at a couple of houses, but the third one we viewed was ideal. It was a semi- detached cottage just off a side road, which was off a main road, a few minutes drive from the edge of Carlisle where Mark’s home was. The road was a cul-de-sac, which led to a farm, where the landlord lived. It was so peaceful, and such beautiful countryside, so different to the hurly burly of a big city. I fell in love with it immediately, and within an hour had done the deal with the farmer. Cash always works as the best references in my experience. Whenever I move into a new property I always feel like I am home in a short time. This was no exception except it felt so right, so familiar, so quickly. I found out months later that the two cottages had been built using stone from the old Carlisle Prison when it was demolished in the mid 1920's. No wonder it felt right from the outset.

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