“INDICATE! INDICATE! Fuckin’ I swear Gav the drivers round ‘ere are gettin’ worse. Arf or ’em ant even got proper licences. Fuckin’ Indians an’ that. Taxi drivers fuckin’ ten or ’em sharing t’same fuckin’ licence. I swear down Gav.”
I wholeheartedly agreed with my uncle’s sentiment around bad drivers, but I couldn’t quite get on board with his racism. I never actually believed my uncle to be what you’d call ‘A Racist,’ I mean, he wasn’t a card-carrying member of any right-wing faction that I was aware of, and to be honest I don’t recall ever hearing him instigate or perpetuate a conversation aimed at conveying or preaching racist views, but it was always there just below the surface, bubbling away and ready to boil over whenever an incident arose which left him feeling miffed or ripped-off by the actions of a non-white-British citizen. I happened to know that a huge proportion of his trade came from local Indian or Pakistani taxi drivers, looking for cheap replacement car parts. A lot of the time it would be interior items: car seats, dashboard trim, old carpets – items that would frequently become soiled when 75% of your business comes from ferrying drunk people around late on a weekend.
“So what fuck’s ‘appened to your motor our Gav? You splattered it?” asked Frank, spraying his steering wheel with bits of chewed-up toast. I didn’t know anyone else who could drive, eat, chat, and smoke at the same time. Bits of fag ash fell into his lap as he spoke.
“Aye. Ran in t’back of a lass in a Volvo didn’t I. Fuckin’ police took me car away but I reckon I’ll be able to fix it back up. Mind if I use t’yard to do some work on it? Might need a few bits off t’other cars too, if we’ve got any Fiestas in? Coupla body panels an’ a front bumper. Not bothered about sprayin’ ’em up like.”
“No worries kid, knock yoursen out. Might wanna put a bigger bumper on though if you’re gunna make an ‘abit or crashin’ it, eh?” Frank chortled to himself, which then turned into a big wheezy laugh, which then turned into a coughing fit, causing his tatty old Nissan four-by-four to twitch and zig-zag it’s way through the barely-awake town of Mirfield. “Mebbe reinforce that fucker wi’ some iron girders, ‘specially if you’re gunna ‘it Volvos. Them fuckers are built like tanks Gav.”
“Aye, not a bad idea,” I said, feigning laughter as if to say ‘yeah good one Frank, if only’.
But actually, Frank had something there, and the more I thought about it, the more I struggled to find fault with the idea.
Frank you lovely, lovely genius, I thought to myself. I could hug you if you weren’t so fucking disgusting!
“You seen owt of Aaron, Gav? I was gunna try an’ get ‘im out for a pint one night. No ‘arm in tryin’ eh?”
I pulled Aaron’s keys out of my pocket. I’d slept right through yesterday, from lunchtime until six that morning.
“Aye, ‘e popped round yesterday to let me in. I’ve still got ‘is keys.” I dangled them in front of Frank’s face. “I’ll give ‘im a buzz later. Can ask ‘im for you if you like?”
“That’d be grand cheers Gav. I know I fucked up, all them years back wi’ Candice, but Aaron’s my kid int he. Dunno what I’d do wi’out either o’ you sweaty fuckers”. Frank smiled and punched me playfully on my arm. “You’re dad ‘ad o’ been proud. Even if you are a bloody woofter.”
He winked at me and gave me a big, wide, kind smile, showing off every one of his brown, crooked teeth. They looked surprisingly white on Frank though, against his grubby face – his wrinkles and lines were darkened and accentuated by the oil and dirt that had become embedded in them over his years working at the yard, giving them a well defined, almost chiselled look – completely at odds with his big, round, fat, balding head.
I smiled to myself and stared out of the window as we passed a playing field, empty except for a dog walker standing patiently, plastic bag in-hand, as he waited for his dog to finish its business. Onward we went through the hanging grey morning mist, past John Cotton’s pillow and duvet factory, past the local sewage plant, and finally on to Bailiff Bridge towards the yard.
Reinforce the car. Frank you fucking genius.
We swung into the muddy car park and came to a stop right next to the office door. I say office – it was a portable cabin, like a smaller version of the temporary classrooms we had at school. It had a little reception desk which Frank usually manned, behind which sat two office desks with computers and phones. These were used for cataloguing car parts, listing them on various websites, logging sales, and taking calls from customers looking for specific bits. We also took calls from people, often recovery services, looking to offload damaged vehicles for scrap. No cars were stripped on weekends, so we only needed skeleton staff to man the office, and to help customers with finding and removing any parts they needed.
“You’re on accounts today kid!” yelled Frank, pulling on his hi-vis jacket. “And there’s four or five orders to post out. We’ve got Jonno and Cunty Terry on yard support. Keep an eye on t’phones for us too, I’ve got a coupla cars comin’ in”.
“No worries Frank”.
“Oh and Gav – we should be a bit quieter this aft. Why don’t you try an’ get that shit-heap o’ yours brought t’yard? Send Cunty Terry if you need t’low-loader. As long as ‘e int too busy.”
“Cheers Frank I’ll get on t’blower an’ see where it is. Tea?”
“Aye. An’ make sure it’s proper Yorkshire Tea. Don’t use that fuckin’ poncy decaf shite wot Brian’s missus gave us. Milk’s in’t boot”.
I made four strong teas, since Terry and Jonno would be arriving soon, and posted up at my preferred desk in front of the window. I found something settling, almost poetic, about the view that stretched out ahead of me. A huge yard, scattered with big metal boxes brimming with gearboxes, car batteries, and alloy wheels, and surrounded by towers of stacked cars, hundreds of them, looming like trees in a forest. Beyond that, in the distance, were the rolling green hills of Yorkshire. It was like two polar opposites colliding in the same picture, twisted metal and beautiful countryside, all perfectly framed in the mucky office window. I turned on my computer and started flicking through the stack of sales receipts on my desk.
“Oi oi moustache! Fucked any mingers last night? I ‘ope you got at least three fingers up your bum. You prob’ly love it dirty you filthy twat. You look like a porn star wi’ that shit ‘aircut an’ that wanky tash. Do you put aerosol cans up your bum an’ that? OI JONNO – YOU RECKON GAV PUTS AEROSOL CANS UP IS BUM AN’ THAT? I reckon you stick Lynx cans up it too”.
“Mornin’ Terry. Mornin’ Jonno. Cup o’ tea there for you”.
“Cheers flaps. So you get your beans or what? Me an’ Jonno just went down t’Wilsons. Asked ‘is bird if she’d lick me balls but she were avin’ none of it. YOUR BIRD FRIDGID OR WHAT JONNO? WUNT EVEN LICK ME BALLS!”.
Jonno stuck his head around the door, a sleight figure, much younger and less boisterous than his best mate Terry. Both had become pretty much inseparable after meeting at the yard. They were like a double act, each of them compensating for the other’s flaws. Jonno was smart and polite, but troubled and generally stand-offish, whereas Terry was loud, brash, dim, and thought nothing of wading into an argument with his fists flailing. Terry was somewhat of a liability after a few drinks, and had missed many a Saturday morning shift due to spending a night in the cells. Frank didn’t mind though – these were his sort of people; flawed but hard-working. Salt-of-the-earth types.
“Morning Gav. Cheers for t’tea. I’m off to finish testin’ them alternators afore we open”.
“No worries Jonno”, I said to him, smiling. I liked Jonno, he was a decent lad.
“OD UP YOU HAIRY BELL!” Terry grabbed both teas and followed Jonno into the yard.
There was no clever back story to Terry’s nickname – it just occurred naturally, brought about by his daily actions and the things he said. It started as a bit of banter between the lads in the yard, but escalated to be the stuff of legend following the events on a cold, rainy February afternoon a few years earlier. Terry’s dad, Mr Berry (yes the evil bastards had called their only son Terry Berry) was a retired and respected school teacher and widower. His experiences with his not-too-bright son Terry had led him in more recent years to become involved with the education and support of troubled children, something he had a lot of time to focus on since retiring from teaching, and this had brought him much recognition and praise in the local community, which led in-turn to a close friendship with the Mayor of Dewsbury.
On the day in question, this blustery wet February day, Mr Berry was returning from a conference in Leeds, a debate around alternative teaching methods for children with learning difficulties. He had the Mayor in tow, keen to be seen publicly to take an interest in such matters, and the Mayor had brought his lady wife along. The three of them were returning from Leeds, driven by Mr Berry in his pride and joy – his regal-looking Rover 75, when the Mayor commented that they would be passing Terry’s place of work and he would love a chance to meet him for the first time, having heard such great things about his progress from weekend tea-boy, to full-time car-stripper, to indispensable parts-finding whizz. It seemed only fitting that a day of debate around the struggles of education and employment for challenged children should be concluded with such a visit, a shining example of someone who had found a fulfilling role in life despite the odds. Not one to argue with the Mayor, Mr Berry agreed and they pulled into the muddy car park.
Frank’s yard was in full swing on the day of the Mayor’s visit, and the three visitors squeezed themselves in to the tiny office, humid and smelly due to the five or six rain-soaked punters waiting to be served. The office was noisy with the sounds of bartering and laughing, all done with increased intensity so as to be heard above the drilling, hammering, and revving sounds coming in through the open windows. Not wanting to keep the Mayor and his lady wife waiting, Mr Berry made his presence known from the back of the queue.
“Excuse me! Excuse me! Is Terry about please?” Enquired Mr Berry, one finger waggling in the air as if asking to go to the loo.
Frank looked up from his computer, where he was tapping away trying to track down a replacement window winder handle for a Renault Espace. “Who?”
“TERRY”, shouted Mr Berry.
The yard office fell quiet. The drilling and hammering outside stopped. The rain stopped. An entire call centre somewhere in India, taking calls for a well established British bank, probably fell quiet. Mr Berry’s face turned bright red as he sensed the entire world looking wide-mouthed at him. The Mayor’s wife certainly was.
Frank bit his lip and swallowed, trying to suppress the laughter that was welling up inside him.
“I’ll call him now for you”, said Frank, picking up the phone. “Good afternoon Mayor”, he continued, spotting the livery collar which hung around the Mayor’s neck, and nodding with a smile towards him and his startled wife.
“Good afternoon”, retorted the Mayor from behind furrowed eyebrows, his face reflective of his internal dialogue (‘OMG Mr Berry said CUNTY in front of ME. I’m the fucking MAYOR OF DEWSBURY’).
“He’s not answering – I’ll pop and fetch him for you”, said Frank, quickly darting from behind the desk and through the door.
Frank made it around the corner and behind a huge yellow skip before collapsing in a heap of tears in front of his gathered staff, who were huddled together trying to light cigarettes in the rain, howling and wheezing as he released his painfully pent-up laughter upon his young grease-monkeys. Once Frank had managed to regain a sense of composure he attempted to recant the story to the three or four lads present, which included Terry.
“Terry! Oh Christ BWAAHAAAAA… Holy fuck Terry. It’s the Mayor, he’s in the office Terry, right, and some guy just asked for you right, but… BWAAA HAAAA HAAAAA!”
“Frank. Are you okay mate?” asked Jonno with genuine concern.
“Terry, I swear lad that old guy in there just kem in wi’ t’Mayor o’ Dewsbury and asked for… BWAAAAA HAAAAA… ‘e asked, dead loud in front o’ t’packed office, for fuckin’ CUNTY TERRY! BWAAAAAA HAAA HAAAAA!” Frank pulled out a greasy black cloth and started wiping the tears from his eyes.
“What old guy Frank?” Asked Terry. He crept like a ninja from behind the skip and took a quick stealthy peak through the office window, before returning to his peers and his somewhat incapacitated boss. “Shit. It’s me dad”.
The group erupted, falling over each other with merriment, and hugging like a young squadron in the trenches on VE day. On that cold, wet day the staff at Frank’s Motor Spares grew slightly closer, and the story of Mr Berry’s faux pas began its reign as the most oft-repeated pub story in the business’s history – usually told by Frank once the beers had been abandoned for whiskies, and never without a dry eye or a wheezing fit of phlegm and laughter.
I sipped at my tea, and considered how best to reinforce a car bumper.