Today would be John Lennon’s 72nd birthday. A man who has left such an imprint on the world despite only walking upon it for only 40 years, something to rival the likes of Mozart and Beethoven!
Ok, while the Classical buffs are apoplectic with rage over those comparisons, I’ll get on with the point of this post: John’s death inspired me in a way to attempt a story based in the year 1980, the year of his death, and my birth. I tried to create a character that would have his own trials and tribulations yet eventually his life would intertwine with Lennon’s in a similar style to Tony Parsons. My ultimate aim was to get my character in New York on the night of 8th December 1980 and draw parallels with Lennon. The plan I drew out would see my man in the same hospital at the same time, possibly involving a near death experience, only to resolve happily.
So, here is Chapter One of my project, currently entitled, simply, 1980…
It had been a bad year in 1978. The next year was even worse for George Wilson. As the last few minutes ticked away into the history books, and the people around him talked, sang and danced towards the first year of a new decade, George took a swig from his can of beer, swilling it round his mouth before swallowing and looked round the living room. The cream walls covered in bad art, the chocolate coloured carpet, the now empty drinks cabinet in the corner, the furniture pushed against the wall to allow the fifteen or so people to dance to the music coming from two impressively sized speakers. George had been most impressed with the jukebox that took pride of place next to the television in the corner opposite the drinks cabinet.
George didn’t know anyone here, and to be honest, he didn’t even know why he had stayed long after Peter had left with his girlfriend. He was about to drain his can and leave when his thoughts were interrupted by a slightly podgy woman in blue jeans, black knee high boots and a bright pink blouse, unbuttoned so low that the bright white lace on her bra was clearly visible. George tried to look her in the eye as she sat next to him on the already crowded little sofa and spoke to him in a Liverpuddlian accent that made his toes curl.
“Do you know Chris?” She made herself comfortable on the sofa, causing the kissing couple on the end of the sofa to pull apart and cast disgruntled looks in their direction.
“Chris? Er, no not really. I came with Peter and his bird. Peter used to work with Chris,” George explained.
“Oh, right,” she said. “I’m Pat, his sister. Nice to meet you.” She offered George her hand. He took it and gently shook it, feeling the softness of her skin and the slightly too chunky jewellery.
“I’m George,” he half-smiled at her.
“Well, George, what are you hoping for in 1980?” She nuzzled up to him.
“I’m hoping for a good year for a change,” George told her matter-of-factly. He didn’t see the point in burdening her with his whole history. Any attempt to tell the story would have taken the discussion into mid-1981.
“Funny that, so am I! You won’t believe what a shitty year I’ve had,” Pat chuckled. George was praying she wasn’t going to elaborate, but she did. For what felt like hours but was actually only ten minutes, Pat told him all about her boyfriend that dumped her by letter, her dabbling in heroin, her motorbike accident and finally, what George never wanted to know, her resulting hysterectomy.
George excused himself to go to the bathroom before Pat could tell him any more horrifying stories. On his way, he passed countless couples snogging and indulging in heavy petting. George counted six exposed nipples and three glimpses of female knickers in the journey up the stairs and across the landing. He knocked on the door to check the bathroom was empty and waited a few minutes. He could hear the excitement building downstairs as people realized it was nearly midnight. Just as the bathroom door opened, he heard Pat trudging noisily up the stairs. George ducked in without a second glance and stopped short. The smell caught in his nostrils and almost made his eyes water. He turned and fled the bathroom, slamming the door behind him. He didn’t want to know who had caused that. He edged away from the bathroom and noticed Pat standing at the top of the stairs. She cast him a sultry look, licking her lips and rearranging her cleavage seductively. George took a deep breath and went to walk past her and down the stairs.
“Where you going, Georgie boy?” She laughed as George approached.
“Off downstairs. See in the new year,” he told her. She grabbed him by the waist and pulled him in close to her. George could feel her breasts pressing up against him. She started grinding her crotch into his. She leaned in to kiss his neck, and George got a great view down her chest. He noticed a pierced nipple and a little tattoo of a heart. Then he was hit full in the face by the smell of alcohol and tobacco smoke. He smiled politely and pulled away from her.
“Sorry Pat. I don’t think you’re my type, love,” he tried to let her down gently.
“You what?” She cackled. She ripped her blouse open, revealing her white lacy bra and ample cleavage. “This isn’t your type?” George shuffled uncomfortably. Thankfully there was plenty of noise so no one else was too aware of what was going on. He shrugged and turned round to go downstairs.
“Fuck you then, Georgie boy! If you’re not man enough to handle me, it’s your problem!” She bellowed after him.
He came into the living room just as the countdown started. The music was off, and the radio was blaring out. The room was filled with shouted counting from five down to one. As Big Ben began its famous chime, balloons filled the air, party poppers exploded covering the revelers with the paper streamers. George happily kissed and shook hands with everyone else. He even joined in when the party emptied into the street. Other parties joined them from surrounding houses, all mingling and wishing well. George was surprised to bump back into Peter and his girlfriend, Marie. They had only gone next door, to Marie’s mothers.
“Happy new year, Georgie mate!” Peter bear-hugged him. When released, George gave Marie a celebratory peck on the cheek. Before they could continue the conversation, they were mobbed by more well-wishers. Eventually, Peter was able to tell George that the accommodation problem was solved.
“Marie’s kind mum has said you can sleep on her sofa.” George was relieved as he had been facing the prospect of sleeping rough somewhere in Liverpool.
Marie made her excuses and went back into her mum’s house, leaving George and Peter sitting on the front garden wall talking about football, women and the future. So deep in conversation were they, that they didn’t notice the distressed semi-naked woman stagger past crying about being attacked by a pervert. Eventually, Peter and George decided enough was enough and retired to their respective beds. As Peter headed up the stairs, he gave George a pat on the back.
“It’s gonna be a good year for you mate. A good year,” he smiled. George smiled back at him and sidled into the front room where Marie’s mum had left some blankets and a pillow on the sofa. As George got undressed, he replayed the evening’s events in his mind, congratulating himself on refusing the emotional mess that was Pat. He folded his clothes and laid them in a pile on the floor. He climbed under the blankets in his Y-fronts and vest and struggled to get comfortable. As George was dozing off, he thought he heard a woman screaming in the street outside. He dismissed it as party noise and fell asleep.
George was woken up by the smell of frying bacon. He quickly got himself dressed and headed into the kitchen. Marie’s mum and dad were sat at the small wooden table talking and laughing. Peter was leaning against the sink drinking a coffee, Marie was in charge of the cooking. Marie’s dad stood up and introduced himself and his wife as Graham and Audrey. George shook his offered hand and thanked them both for their hospitality. Marie handed George a mug of coffee, and Audrey motioned him to take the empty chair at the table. George sat down and took a sip of his coffee. As usual, he swilled it around his mouth before swallowing. Marie put three plates of fried breakfast on the table in front of them. Graham looked enviously at the plates, but stood up and excused himself.
“He’s not allowed fried food anymore. Not since his heart attack,” Audrey explained. George nodded and gave a sympathetic smile. Then Audrey herself got up.
“So Audrey has agreed to give it up in support, haven’t you love?” Graham put in. Audrey looked longingly at the plate as well. With a sigh, she nodded and followed her husband into the lounge. As Marie and Peter took their place at the table, George heard the television come to life.
“Mum is very supportive of dad. She was in bits when he was ill,” Marie explained through a mouthful of bacon. George nodded. Peter was busy devouring his breakfast.
They had moved into the living room with Marie’s parents when there was a knock on the front door. Graham muttered something about privacy as he got up to answer the door. He left the living room door open, so they all heard the panicked conversation at the door. Graham dealt with visitor and returned to the living room. He was met with four pairs of eyes staring at him with curiosity.
“Chris next door. Can’t find his sister, or something. Said we’d keep an eye out.” He muttered as he sat down.
“That poor girl. She’s been through hell this past year,” Audrey said to nobody in particular.
“Is that Pat?” Marie asked her mum.
“Yes, nice girl. Got in with a bad lot, she did. Caused Chris all sorts of worry, she has.”
George looked around the room and saw plenty of sympathy for this Pat. He dared not fill them in on his encounter with her. He had an uncomfortable feeling of guilt in the pit of his stomach. She hadn’t been that bad after all, he told himself. Damaged yes, but all she’d wanted was a bit of intimacy with a stranger. Besides, she had very clean underwear.
Peter and Marie had to return to Shropshire that afternoon as Marie was due on duty in the evening. Peter was always boasting about his ‘own little Florence Nightingale’ and the fact that she was everybody’s favourite nurse on the ward. Only in his most unguarded moments did he actually admit that the long hours and anti-social shift patterns caused him grief. Peter and George said their goodbyes and once more thanked Graham and Audrey for their hospitality. They sat in Peter’s rusty Ford Cortina as Marie said a longer, more emotional goodbye to her parents. Marie climbed in the back and Peter revved the engine into life. They drove off down the street, passing a police car parked outside next door. George took a look out of the wing mirror and thought he saw a familiar figure wrapped in a blanket being led into Chris’ house by a stern looking policewoman.
The journey back to Shropshirewas subdued to say the least. Marie was stretched out on the back seat of the Cortina, dozing under the comfort of a blanket, George was still a bit tired himself, and Peter was fighting to stay awake at the wheel. The trip through the Mersey Tunnel was eerie to say the least, there was hardly another car on the road. Every time he passed through a road tunnel, George was always reminded of the scene in the Godfather, when Michael Corleone is on the way to the restaurant to kill Solazzo and the bent cop. That film had captured his imagination completely. The second part was not as good in his opinion – he had found it confusing at times when the two storylines came and went just as he was getting his head around it. But then George had always felt he should have been Italian. He liked tinned spaghetti and Juventus Football Club, not to mention Sophia Loren.
George was broken from his reverie by Peter turning the radio on. The static screeched through George’s head as Peter searched for something he discerned as listenable. On the back seat, Marie stirred from her dozing and stretched. In doing so, she inadvertently nudged the back of George’s seat.
“Sorry Georgie!” She said, genuinely apologetic.
“No worries. I didn’t really feel anything,” he lied. She’d caught him right in the middle of his back.
“Bloody radio. It’s all crap!” Peter’s cursing filled the air. “I’m gonna get a stereo with a tape player.”
Marie leant forward into the gap between the two front seats. She smiled and stroked Peter’s neck. He arched his neck so he could trap Marie’s hand between his head and shoulder. They giggled amongst themselves, so George took over the radio tuning, for something to do. He finally found a Beatles tune that was almost static free, and they all settled down to listen when the song ended and some foreign sounding bloke started talking gibberish. Peter’s cursing was joined by George’s.
As the Cortina rattled towards its destination, the weather slowly turned from sunny to grey. At one point, the windscreen was dusted with light flakes of snow, before turning to rain just as George got excited. He may have been in his thirties, but he still loved a good snow. It was getting darker and colder by the minute as Peter coaxed the car home – it was a well-loved car and was almost on its last legs. As George tried to tease some heat from the heaters to keep warm, Marie snuggled under the blanket and moaned.
“It’s about time you traded this heap of junk for something more reliable, Pete.”
“There’s nothing wrong with it,” Pete exclaimed defensively. Marie scoffed from beneath the blanket.
“It’s rusty, rickety and a drain on your wallet. It cost you a packet over the last few months.”
“It all adds to the character!” Pete said, feeling hurt.
“Whatever,” Marie chuckled.
Peter dropped George off at his house and took Marie off to work. The Cortina coughing smoke alarmingly as it retreated down the street. George chuckled to himself as he shut the door. He took a look around the now sparsely furnished lounge, victim of George’s need for money. He flopped down in the remaining chair and found himself fighting sleep.
And so ends the opening of the story. I would be interested to hear what you think of the story so far, and any suggestions would be given fair hearing too! Is this one worth persevering with readers?