Henry didn’t move. He sat there with his fingers twitching and blood coming from his head. He couldn’t take in what May was saying.
“You bloody men,” she said, “with your big swinging fists. We’ve been learning things, me and Irene. Did you know that men have to invent things so they can think they’re grown up? Rituals Henry, rituals. But not us, Henry. We’ve got periods!”
May shouted the word at him.
“And having babies, and yous have nothing! Did you know that? All over the world men invent things. They cut their faces and their willies and God knows what else to draw blood.”
Henry half-lifted a hand against the spit from her mouth.
“If men had periods,” May took a quick breath, “all the oul fellas would be running around the place with bloody sheets – my son is a man, my son is a man – but yous have nothing.”
Henry tried to sit up straight, to get his head right. May was smiling fiercely at him. She swung up the pan again and he flinched. “Now I’m going round to Irene’s,” she said, “for a cup of tea, or a drink if she has any for I think I need it.
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This is a wonderful book, beautifully written. I have a feeling I’ll be posting more than one excerpt. Here, he is talking about going to dances long ago. The sixties – he’s the same vintage as myself!
“Crowds streaming out of the pubs, some walking or on bicycles; hard chaws in their fathers’ cars leaning out windows with cigarettes, like they were in a film, combing oiled hair into Elvis quiffs and whistling at the girls click-clacking by in short dresses.
On the stage the spangle-suited band, brass flashing, guitars twanging beneath revolving globes that scattered shards of light over the dancers.
Wallflowers looked out with shy, uncertain eyes.
How long had they spent in front of the mirror getting ready and here they sat unwanted, with thumping hearts, yet hopeful they might be chosen, having to look unconcerned when they were not.
I understood them, afraid of being rejected, as I was shoved towards them in a herd of Brut aftershave and Guinness.”
What his mother told him about meeting his father, and about his birth.
“It was our fate to meet like that because of the rain and the matches and the Metropole and the doorway, and if it hadn’t happened like that you might not be here now. Isn’t that a strange thing to think? The way we all come into the world.
You gave the fight not to come, but out you landed in the end. And you didn’t like it one bit. The red puss on you, and the baldy head, not a lick of hair; upside down and a slap on the arse to set you roaring. O the bawls of you! The whole country kept wide awake. Three o’clock in the morning in the Rotunda Hospital there beside the Gate Theatre. Lying on my shoulder, eyes shut tight, sleeping like a kitten. O, but a cranky lump if you didn’t get a sup of the breast.”
Isn’t that marvelous? The red puss on you, and the baldy head. Love it!