Babysitting Peter

March 4, 2012

I’m fond of the TV when I’m not out jet setting and hobnobbing with celebrities, and I am quite fond of the next generation (and no, not in that way! Wash your mind out with carbolic soap!!)

None more so than that admirably northern commedia del arte guru, Mr Peter Kay. If you’re not familiar with commedia del arte, do what I just did and google it. You may find it doesn’t mean what I want it to mean, but I digress..

It was the Christmas holidays after my first term at college down south, and after a few months of soft southerners (arf, arf), I was in need of a rest.

My mum had moved to Farnworth, a small town outside Bolton, while I was away, and had settled in quickly. She seems to me now to have done it to get over my dad. at least, none of his stuff that she had kept in the wardrobe had come with her. Mind you, quite a lot of my stuff had gone too, so maybe she had muddled them up.

Any road (see how I slipped in a 70s Northernism there?), she had made some new friends very quickly, and on my first Saturday, around lunchtime (something she called lasagne quiche), she sprung a surprise on me.

‘Son, would you do me a little favour tonight? I know you’re not going out tonight, and I’ve been asked down to the Mandrake for Effie’s birthday party, and I had promised Mrs Kay I’d babysit for her lad, he’s only six months and ever so sweet, but I really want to meet up with some new folk, and I’ve cooked your favourite, and luvvie, will you do me a favour and look after the lad for me, it’s only a few hours and…there’s a few bob in it for you…’

The words tumbled out almost on top of each other, as they always did when she was excited, although it had been a long time since I’d heard her excited. I realised then that the last time was when she thought my dad was coming home (he didn’t, of course, and she went into a years-long slump after that) , and I suddenly realised that there must be a man coming to the Mandrake. It was a big wrench (imagine a great big spanner in my works) but I thought for a few moments and then agreed. That’s about how long someone like me takes to let someone else change their lives, but that’s another story.

So I got to Mrs Kay’s house about half-past seven. She was waiting for me, and managed to convey to me in the few seconds before she jumped in the waiting minicab that there were sandwiches on the table and Peter had been asleep for half an hour and would probably need cuddling if he woke up and she would be back about 12 and would two pounds be all right?

I nodded and went inside. The sandwiches were indeed on the table and seemed to be ham and marmite, so I wolfed them down, went into the lounge and switched on the telly. I flicked through the three channels. Usual stuff…Bay City Rollers, IRA bombs, game shows…what we were used to in those days. After a few minutes, I had dozed off, and was woken by a squeal. Groggily, I came to my senses, and realised it must be Peter.

I stumbled upstairs, following the sounds. Peter was sitting in his crib, bawling his eyes out.  When he saw me, he reached up. I heard his mother’s words, telling me to piuck him up and cuddle him, but a voice in me said ‘I’m a student, not his dad.’ He wailed some more and shuffled on his bottom toward me. something gave way in me and I picked him up, His chubby little arms reached round my neck and squeezed hard. “not so hard, little lad’, I said to him, or to no one. He let go for a second, then squeezed again, and I let go of him, letting him tumble back into the crib. Before he hit the crib, he was asleep again, and that was the last I saw of him.

Apart from various late night TV programmes, of course.


One Response to “Babysitting Peter”

  1. Toni Harper Says:

    ‘Six characters in search of an author’ – well thank you Alan – for reminding me of Commedia del Arte (Italian branch) !!

    As for Peter Kay…isn’t he on the road to somewhere??

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