has seven hills. All the villages that make up the town start on a hill and fall down to the river.
He lets me order him a seventh pint and says,
“I walked up everyone o’ those buggers, lugging the coal-pickings like a ruddy labourer.
I were born on a Rag and Bone cart. Anyroad, Old Bobby O’Neil and his mares Max and Miller were dragging up Winter Lane. Me mam bawling in labour, and father shouts out front door for Bobby to stop.
Folk like that round here, do owt for thee.
Anyway, with mam in hospital up yond hill where workhouse were, Bobby told me father “You owe me one.”
Me glass is empty, lad. Pissing Doctor told me not to go on the ale, you know.”
“You’ll ‘ave me plugging it.”
I buy him his eighth and wonder what it’ll bring.
“They’ve knocked the Hayloft down for that bloody roundabout now at Townend. It’ll be the the end of this town. That great Western Relief Road leading to roundabout. Whose it relieving that’s what I’d like to know? It’s a new world now, kld. No room for living in the past, eh! Whoa. ‘Ave to go for a piss lad. Wait up before you get another round in. These Hayloft T-shirts are rare , you know.”
I buy him his ninth.
“Your mother lived down Winter Lane, didn’t she?” He asks. At last we were getting somewhere.
“Aye, did she?” I sound coy. I want to sound coy.
“A rare piece of skirt your mother. I’ve not offended you, have I ?”
He’s testing the waters seeing how far he can go. I shake my head but my fists are curling into balls and knuckles whitening.
I buy him his tenth.
” I went with your mother, you know.”
“She went with owt in trousers. How could I say no? Such a tight arse, such a tight skirt.”
This is deliberate. He knows what I’m after.
“She had a bairn, you know.”
This is it.
“Nowt to do with me. She’d leg over with dozen since me.”
The expected denial.
The bell for last orders.
I buy him his eleventh, with a whisky chaser. We leave and I force him to climb the steepness of Winter Lane towards the hospital.
The ambulance comes too late.