Where to start. Where to start. Where to start.
Hmmm, the beginning, yes, but that was 59 plus years ago. Later then? But aren’t people a bit tired of hearing the story about how you were born in a coal bunker and raised by an eland? I mean, you weren’t were you? You were born in a bed, weren’t you? And you were raised by people, weren’t you? Okay, yes, I was. But the coal bunker story adds gravitas. And who doesn’t love a story about a human child being raised by a wild animal? No one, right? Yes and no.
Anyway, about me – well, I was born in a council house on a council house estate (which is where council houses tend to be) in south east Kent. Westgate-on-Sea, to be precise – 129 Linksfield Road, to be exact. A corner plot, which gave my mother delusions of grandeur – many of the other houses were terraces. And, not only a corner plot but from the windows on the side of the house we overlooked the private houses so we were, by location, posher than that lot down the other end of the street – despite the fact that some of their windows overlooked private houses too. But, as my mum always said: ‘The private houses we overlook are of a nicer class than the private houses that, that lot overlook down their end.’
I went to St Saviour’s infant school and on my first day – before setting off – I sat on a wasp which stung my left arse cheek causing it to swell to the size of an adult arse cheek – but firmer – like maybe as firm as a Sorbo rubber ball (remember them? They were seriously firm). I got there eventually but never, ever caught up. That wasp cost me a first degree at Oxford – I’m 105% I could have been a mathematician or maybe someone who knows how to spell things and stuff.
But no. I ended up working in a mental aftercare home working with mental aftercare people. I did that for a good while. Nine or so years. During that time I met my wife, a lovely young woman called Teresa. I wooed her with every single bit of woo I had. I really liked her and so I found a giant teddy bear and cut its head off. Impressed? Was she! I hollowed out the severed head and pulled it over my own head so that I looked like a living, breathing teddy bear. I tucked the ragged edges of its severed neck into the collar of my shirt. I wore a shirt and tie back then. And a tank top – knitted, of course, I wasn’t a complete moron. I knew the ladies loved a tank top, particularly when matched with a short sleeved shirt and a tie. Anyway, she was impressed although I can’t really say how impressed because I couldn’t see her. I also couldn’t see anything else and I bashed my shin on a kitchen unit. I’ve still got the scar to prove it.
Next up, in my quest to win her over, I asked her to dare me to eat a roast potato that had spent the last twenty minutes being washed in the industrial size dishwasher we had at work. She did dare me and I did eat it. This time I could see her face and although she looked a little bilious she also looked intrigued. I think. It might have been indigestion. Or disgust. Or contempt. But it doesn’t really matter because all of those emotions are linked together aren’t they? No. Not really.
Anyway, it was love…eventually.
To be continued…
One afternoon I was going about my business when Dot, a surly-kindly care assistant came into the little office where I hid, and told me that two of our residents were having a stand-up row in one of the corridors on the floor above. It was my job, as manager, to deal with such things and so off I went.
I can’t say I was nervous because I’d seen plenty of these spats in the years I’d been working in the homes, but you do go into a situation like that with a little care. It didn’t take me long to locate Anna (a big black lady in a nylon wig) and Maurice (a small Welshman with tobacco stained fingers and one good tooth). They were in a small corridor and from what I could see of it, Anna was set to pulverise Maurice. I stepped through the doorway and into the melee. I commanded them both to calm down, which they both ignored, but I managed to find out that Anna had caught Maurice hunched over a the toilet bowl picking at a stubborn who-knows-what with his fingernail.
‘Mr Tuffin,’ she yelled. ‘He pick, pick, pick, then lick his finger. He is filthy, Mr Tuffin.’
Maurice was having none of that.
‘She’s a liar, Mr Tuffin. She’s got it in for me, the mad bitch!’
To be honest I was pretty sure Anna was telling the truth. It wasn’t the first time I’d had to have words with Maurice about his unorthodox method of cleaning the toilet bowl. As the argument escalated I thought it wise to get myself between the two. I could see by both sets of eyes that someone was going to get a good thumping very shortly. Maurice’s eyes were bulging and there was a white residue in the corners of his mouth. I turned to face him and in so doing, presented my back to angry Anna. As I struggled to calm Maurice down I was completely unaware that behind me Anna was hatching an evil plan. The first I knew of it, indeed the first Maurice and I knew of it, was when Anna struck out over my shoulder hitting Maurice over one eye with the heel of her shoe and sending a fountain of blood all over the three of us. Instinct made me turn to prevent Anna from doing further damage but as I did so Maurice lunged at her, his hands clawing and raking at her face. I was crushed between the two as fists and arms and curses flew about me. Fortunately, both of them ran out of steam before I did and so I managed to separate them. This was to be the first of many battles between them.