The two chimneys belch smoke and the ICI building’s shrouded in smog as I try to start dad’s old Ford Anglia on the morning of the interview. The engine turns over several times before the spark fires; a cloud of exhaust from the back. The grimy terraces are still festooned with red, white and blue after the Jubilee celebrations and parties.
Mum’s getting ready for another day, tying her headscarf. ‘I wish you’d had a haircut; and allowed me to sew that badge on properly. It’s not straight is it?’ She shakes her head. ‘Put your headlights on then. Have you checked the oil?’...
Days merge into weeks and I receive nothing except a printed acknowledgement of my application forcing me to scan adverts for other work. ‘Need to earn some money somehow. Can’t leave you with all the bills, mum.’
And then the phone rings. I turn down Alan Freeman who’s running through the Top Twenty on the radio. Outside the sun’s broken through.
A female voice honeys down the receiver. ‘Can I speak to Mister Robert Hopebourne?’...
‘There’s a letter for you, Robert.’ Mum’s thumbing through a glossy magazine from the dentist’s surgery where she works and nods towards the table. ‘Looks formal.’
Home from a match I plonk down my kit bag, aware my heart’s now begun to beat harder to the rhythm of Stealer’s Wheel on the radio. ‘Love this song.’
“…clowns to the left of me, jokers to the right here I am…”