Author's note: I apologise in advance to non-British readers who may not pick up on some of the colloquial language and cultural references. THK
My name is Glen McNamara, but ever since school people have called me 'Mac', which I have come to prefer. I was reasonably able at school, but no one in my family has ever been what you might call 'academic', so I never considered staying on after 16. Maybe like a lot of my male peers, as a kid I had two loves: cars and football. I played football in the school team up until I left, but I knew that I never had what it took to be anything more than an enthusiastic amateur, so apart from the occasional visit to see the Arsenal play, I gradually distanced myself from the game.
Cars, on the other hand, remained an interest and now provide me with paid employment. I was lucky enough to get an apprenticeship as a mechanic when I left school, and now, at 29, I am earning a good living at it. When I was 25, I decided that I needed a change of scenery, so I applied for and took a job in Western Australia. It's a great place for a young single guy, but for some reason I decided that it wasn't for me, so I've come back to my North London roots.
I was fortunate enough to be in the right place at the right time when I got back to the UK, and I got a job with the same car dealership that I had before going 'down under'. I should say at this point that one of my reasons for emigrating was the break-up of a relationship. I had known Jenny, on and off, for several years before we got into a serious relationship, and we had even talked about taking the next step; but maybe that was a step too far, and we decided that maybe we weren't the soul-mates that we once thought we were. There was no fighting or tears: we just smiled and walked away with some nice memories! We even still exchange Christmas cards, and if it wasn't for the 9,000 miles distance, I probably would have gone to her wedding...
Anyway, as I said, I was now back home and after considering my options, I was living in a rented house, with a six-month lease, on one of those new estates that have sprung up everywhere. The house actually belongs to an old mate of mine who has one of those jobs that take him out of the country for long periods and the house is just his stop-over place to stay when he's between contracts. He has even suggested that, if I settled, he would consider selling it to me. Although it is nominally a three bedroom house, it, and others on the estate, are intended as starter homes for young couples, and they build them small to cram as many as they can onto a site. However, it is more than enough for me and it also has the added advantage of having an attached garage; which my previous flat didn't have, and I was renting a lock-up some way from it.
It's now been a couple of weeks since I moved into the house and I was outside working on my pride and joy on Sunday, when I became aware that I wasn't alone. Looking up from what I was doing, I saw a young lad in an Arsenal replica shirt watching me. My sister has a boy of eight who looks about the same size, so I was guessing that this lad was that age also. When I looked his way he smiled, so I smiled back.
" ... What sort of car's that?"
"It's a Ford Capri ... they stopped making them in 1986: that must be a long time before you were born. They used to be quite common at one time; but you rarely see them anymore. This is one from that year. D'you like cars, then?" He nodded.
" ... Mmm ... but I don't know much about them. Mum's got a Polo."
" ... What about your dad?"
" ... He doesn't live with us any more..." I tried to read his facial expression, but he didn't seem to have any strong emotions on the subject.
" ... Let me get something for you to stand on, then you can see what I'm doing. Do you have a name ... I'm Mac..." I walked into the garage where I found what I had in mind.
" ... Richard; but Mum calls me 'Ricky'!"
My Capri is the 2.8i model, with the V6 engine ... if they made them today they would probably be more economical to run, but like the house, it suited me. Raised a couple of feet off the ground, Ricky was able to see into the engine compartment: it was a bit crowded in there, but I explained what everything was and what I was trying to do; and while he may not have understood, he seemed genuinely interested.
" ... I hope you're not making a nuisance of yourself, Love!" the woman's voice said. Ricky and I both looked up. I assumed the speaker was young Ricky's mother. We looked at each other and smiled.
" ... He's no bother!" I replied, "My name's Mac, by the way ... excuse me not shaking hands..."
" ... Lorraine ... Gilmore. Nice to meet you, Mac ... we're neighbours. I didn't know the house had been sold: we hardly ever saw the other gentleman who lived here."
"Nice to meet you, too, Lorraine! Well, technically, it's still George's house ... I'm just renting it while he's away ... but with an option to buy..."
" ... It's a Ford Capri, Mum... 1986!"
"Yes, I thought it was. Your grandad had one of these, but an earlier one; but that was before I was even born. He used to have pictures of all his cars: I think they were all Ford's."
" ... He sounds like a man after my own heart!" I added, "Well, I think I'm just about done here, Young Man ... but if you see me out here again, come and say hello. I'm a Gunners fan, too."
" ... Er ... I don't know if your wife's expecting you, Mac, but I was just going to make Ricky some lunch ... perhaps you and she would like to pop in for a cuppa."
"I'd like that, Lorraine ... and there's only me, I'm afraid! Give me a little while to clean up, then I'll be in. Number 42, did you say?"
" ... Yes ... whenever your ready."
It took me a few minutes to put everything away, then I cleaned the worst of the gunge off my hands with cleaner. I always wear latex cloves at work, now; but I knew that this wasn't going to be a really messy job, so I didn't bother. Then, after finishing washing with soap and water, I made my way next door.
At this time let me say that, although people have told me that I'm quite good looking, I'm not one of those guys that always has to have female company: I like women and they seem to like me, but I've never been one to chase after them. Like I said, Jenny was my last, serious girlfriend, but our relationship started out as friendship and then gradually became something more. However, when I first saw Ricky's mother, I did think she was a very attractive woman, and I suppose like other men, my mind started to wonder about her. And I confess that I've never been very good at 'reading' women, but I thought I saw something in the look she gave me ... but I could be wrong! Young Ricky opened the front door:
"Mum said, would you like to wait in the sitting room, Mac?"
The way that they always seem to design and build rows of semi-detached houses, next door's living room was of course the mirror-image of mine: the obvious difference being that it looked much cosier than mine ... and more like a home. I sat on the sofa and Ricky sat next to me. After a few minutes, Lorraine came in carrying a tray, which she put down on the low table.
"I put milk in it, but help yourself to sugar, Mac. I also took the liberty of making you a sandwich ... ham and tomato..."
" ... Thank you ... that's very nice of you, Lorraine!"
Ricky and I both sat munching on our sandwiches, while Lorraine just sipped her tea. It's always a little bit awkward being with people you don't know very well, when you're eating ... especially knowing where to look. Lorraine was sitting in an armchair opposite me, and I was conscious of not checking her out with my eyes; so we just sat there, kind of looking at each other's faces ... and a very nice face it was, too! Goodness knows what Ricky was thinking! And then when I'd finished eating, I wondered what we could talk about. If Ricky wasn't there, I might have asked Lorraine about her husband; but that didn't seem quite right somehow, so...
" ... Have you and Ricky lived here long, Lorraine?"
"It's been about six years, now: Ricky was just a toddler. Stuart ... that's Ricky's dad ... got a job here, so we moved from Camberwell. Well, apart from leaving my Mum, it was a good move for us ... or so I thought at the time! However, I'm not putting Stuart down, but I think we got married too young, and although he tried, I don't think he ever really embraced the lifestyle. If you'd have been here then you would have no doubt heard some of our arguments. Anyway, we decided to part. Ricky still gets birthday cards from his dad, who's gone back South, across the river, and he still pays me child support. I have to work and money's a bit tight, but I like it here and Ricky likes his school, so we're making the best of it."
"If you don't mind me saying so, Lorraine, you're an attractive woman: have you thought about getting married again?" She looked kind of coy, and I'm sure I detected a blush.
"To be honest, Mac, I've thought about it, obviously, but I'm wary ... both for me and Ricky. Not having family close by, I have to work around his school hours and we mostly stay home at weekends and evenings. School holidays are the hardest, but there are a few people I've got friendly with, who he goes to while I'm at work, and I take all my holidays in a block during the summer. He's a good lad and he never complains..."
"So how old are you now, Ricky ... about 8?"
" ... Mmm ... nearly ... in three weeks time."
"So how come you're an Arsenal fan ... I am, but I was born not far from here and most of my mates were, and some of my family."
.... There is more of this story ...