It shoulda been okay. Tommy told me it’d be fine. “You worry too much Davey. You’re as bad as a whinging woman. What about this and what about that. It’ll be fine.”
Well, I ask you – “As bad as a whinging woman” and him supposed to be my mate. My best mate. Anyway what could I do then? I had to go along with it didn’t I?
It took weeks, every evening and most weekends. Except for the time Frances insisted I go down town to buy a wedding present for her cousin Charlotte – toaster – if you’re interested.
As I say apart from the toaster infraction it was every weekend. We did it at his house. He’s got more room now Mavis has gone back to her mother and taken the hamster.
They had two cars, one nice little Renault and the clapped out Ford. You can guess which one Mavis took can’t you. Bitch. I told him years ago. “You don’t want to be marryin’ a Dunthorpe, Tommy, none of ‘ems any good” but he wouldn’t listen he never did listen to me.
Well of course this is a case in point except I didn’t really know. Not the full extent.
So, as I say that old Ford was such a wreck Tommy weren’t bothered about it bein’ out on the drive and so we had the whole garage.
I don’t know where most of it come from, the stuff. It just appeared. Every time I went over there a bit more had joined the pile. Blue bits, red, green. “It’ll look like a box o’ Smarties, Tommy.” But he just grinned.
So anyway, in the end it were done and we got it all the same colour. It weren’t that bad I have to say. Yeller wouldn’t have been first choice but B & Q had a sale of it and by that time Tommy were bothered about how much he’d spent. Anyway yeller it were. We put black tape down both sides to kinda tone it down a bit.
When he got the papers he were that excited. I’ve not seen him that excited since the day we left school and Barry Henthorpe told him Freda Chalcross would meet him round the back o’ the Parkies hut and let him have a feel and more if he had some ciggies. He went runnin’ off with a big grin pasted across his daft ruddy face. I felt bad, I did. I knew they was havin’ him on and it were Sandra Smith waiting, all buck teeth ‘n braces an’ spots on her neck. It weren’t fair. He never has spoken to Barry Henthorpe again, not even when he joined up and got sent to Afghanistan. I tried to get him to come to the pub but he wouldn’t have it. Can’t say I blame him.
Anyway, as I say he were all excited and then I said to him, “’Ow are you gonna get it there.” He looked proper stumped for a bit. Anyway in the end we plumped for van hire. We went to that bloke over by the market. The one with the old bangers and we told him fair and square what we wanted it for and he were up for it alright. He even said he might come down and watch but of course in the event he never did.
He wanted me to go over there and stay with him the night before and Francis didn’t half kick up a fuss. “You’re supposed to be with me, Davey Backhouse, not spending all your time with that loser Tommy Rathbone. Well I suppose she had a point but I told her.
“It’s nearly over love. I can tell you now this is goin’ to be a one off. ‘Course I didn’t realise then how close to the truth I was, did I? Anyway I promised to take her to the Harvester on Sunday for lunch and she stuck out for her mum and dad coming as well so that just goes to prove I had taken it all seriously no matter what he might say.”
So I took my sleeping bag. Well, I’m not really a finicky person but I had this feelin’ that since he’d been on his own he’d let things slip a bit. There were dishes in his kitchen sink that had green bits growin’ on ‘em and the bins hadn’t been emptied to my knowledge for two weeks at least. Mind it didn’t matter normally as we was always in the garage.
Saturday night we had a coupla sherberts. Just a couple. The police tried to make out as we were drunk but it’s not true. I’ve seen Tommy still standing after sixteen pints and the only hint that he might be over the limit would be that his limp’d be more pronounced. Most of the time you don’t even know he has a pot leg. I don’t think I’m supposed to call it that nowadays ‘cos of course they’re made from metal and Titanium or some such, but anyway my Mum always used to say. “Oh ‘ere comes little Tommy, dot and carry one with that poor pot leg.” And it sticks that sort of thing doesn’t it. Dot and carry one is from a poem. Kipling I think it is, anyway somebody famous and dead. Naturally I don’t read poetry now, not since school but my mum told me about it. Anyway that’s beside the point.
Now, I know what everybody’s been saying. Everybody thinks it were a stupid idea from the start and he just got what was coming to him. Well, let’s get this clear, he isn’t daft – well yes sometimes he’s a bit daft but not this time. Oh okay, yes he was daft in what he did but what I’m saying is that he wasn’t coming at it from a standing start – huh standing start that’s one of them er – puns – yeah, puns. Anyway, Tommy did about a half a year apprenticeship. He left when he found out he were expected to go in every day. Too much commitment he said, anyway I think that was how come he could get it at all. I should think they are pretty hard to come by. He probably knows people. One thing for sure, he didn’t nick it. I know people have said so, but he wouldn’t. One thing about Tommy that I know for certain is he is not a tea leaf – well no more than normal you know.
So, he had his experience. A good six months at least. Plus he’s always had a knack, ever since he were a nipper. A lot of folks were amazed he could do it in the first place. “That’s just not possible.” They said well, obviously it was because – well, I seen it with my own eyes.
I didn’t know he’d been working on it during the day when I weren’t there. I didn’t know he’d only done bench testing. I’m not trying to wriggle out of my responsibility here. No. I am just sayin’ I didn’t know about that part of it. The main part. The part that caused the problem.
Well on the day. The Sunday. I went to pick up the van and Tommy said as he were doin’ fine tunin’ and then when I got back we’d slide it in the truck and that’d be us. Off to Silverstone.
I think it were Silverstone that gave him the idea in the first place. If it’d been Brands Hatch or even Oulton Park it never would have crossed his mind to put a formula one engine in a go cart. I mean it just wouldn’t.
So, you might know the rest but I suppose I’ll go through it.
I backed the van into the drive and yelled to him I was ready. I opened the back doors and then I heard it. Bugger me. It were like all the hordes of hell and then some. Then the clatter when them shelves fell off the wall with the vibrations. Paint tins all over the shop. The garage doors slid up and I turned round and he had this grin on his face. He hadn’t even put the helmet on. Well he were just driving it into the back o’ the van weren’t he.
Manic, that’s the word for that look in his eyes, manic. It were as if the noise had blown his brains away. I were standing in between him and the van and wavin’ my arms trying to get him to turn it off.
“Bloody ‘ell Tommy. What ‘ave yer done. Stop it yer maniac.” It were no good though. He said afterwards his leg locked but that were an excuse he used over and over whenever anything went tits up. “Me leg, it were me leg. Bloody thing locked.”
‘Appen it did, ‘appen it didn’t. All I know is I had to jump for me life. He came tearing out o’ that bloody garage like a bat out o’ ‘ell. Straight up them ramps, screaming like a Banshee by this time. Inta the back o’ that bloody van. Couldn’t stop, no bloody way. I reckon he were lucky to be honest. If the angle hadn’t been so steep he’d a gone through the cab but as it were he shot straight up out the wooden top. Like a rocket – just like a bloody rocket and no mistake. He skimmed the top o’ the cab, shot for’ard still screaming and yellin’ straight across the road and wallop. Right into the back o’ Mrs Grimethorp’s Garden Summer House – it’s a shed really but she’s al’as had ideas above her station. Anyway that were that. For a minute there were just quiet, the odd noise of bits o’ wood and glass settling and then the big limb o’ that old tree came down. Addin’ insult to injury that were but it missed him, thank God.
I didn’t dare look. I were sure he were dead. Well I just didn’t see how he could walk away. Anyway, there were a shiftin’ in among the pile o’ rubble and muck, then I hears him coughin’ and I runs over. I’d called the ambulance already by this point but then the bits o’ shed gets pushed aside and there he is, still strapped in to the bloody yeller monstrosity. Still grinning, though he had blood streaking down his face and he turns to me an’ he says. “I don’t know, Davey, perhaps it were a bit overpowered. What d’ya reckon.” And then he passed out.
Banner Image: By dave_7 from Lethbridge, Canada (1966 AC Cobra) [CC BY-SA 2.0 (http://creativecommons.org/licenses/by-sa/2.0)%5D, via Wikimedia Commons