Handstands In The Dark: A True Story of Growing Up and Survival (46 page)

BOOK: Handstands In The Dark: A True Story of Growing Up and Survival
10.09Mb size Format: txt, pdf, ePub

Toad Hall smelled of dope, burnt sausages and a hint of dog piss; there had been clothes strewn all over the banisters when we came up to our room. I sighed at the thought of clearing up after them all yet again. I opened our bedroom door and heard Sean laughing on the stairs as he leapt up them two at a time. But, when he stepped into the room, his face was ashen.

‘What’s going on?’ I snapped at him. ‘Are they leaving?’

‘They want to keep the Weavers,’ Sean blurted out. ‘They won’t let us buy it or give us back oor money and they want us to stay and work for them. They have all fucking decided to go against my da’s wishes.’

Neither of us spoke. Ashley looked at us. I could feel Sean’s anger and a terrible disappointment hang in the silent air. Everything we had worked for was screwed. He sat on the bed and lifted Ashley and Whisky onto his knee. I was totally shocked, wanting to blast out at least 73 arguments against their decision, but held back as I knew he had already done this. He was faced by all six of his brothers turning on him.

‘Did Uncle Paul agree with them?’ Ashley asked. She loved Paul.

‘He never spoke, Ashley, he sat there like a sheep.’

I felt so sorry for Sean in that moment. He had lost his dad. Now he had lost his business, his home and the life he had struggled to keep for 14 years – all of it had just fallen away from him. Now he knew inside that he had truly lost any family he ever had.

‘Janey, I can’t do it, I can’t work for them. Neither can you.’ He looked at Ashley and said, ‘Do you want to leave, baby? Mummy and I will move and get a new home?’

‘Can we take the cat?’ Ashley asked.

Sean nodded.

My brain raced.
What would we do without the pub?
My home was above that pub, my money, my plans, our plans … Sean just stared blankly into my face. I knew he wanted to just leave. Go. We both stood up, started laughing and grabbed black bin liners. We began to stuff into them Ashley’s clothes, underwear, toys. You name it, we stuffed it in. I felt like a wee child again. It was truly terrifying what we were about to do, but the relief was amazing. We no longer had a home, we had nowhere to go and the New Year was just days away, but we really didn’t care. Ashley was trying to quickly pack all her school books and stuff into a big green holdall.

Young George came upstairs and stood in the doorway watching us frantically pack.

‘Where are you going? Is that my black bag, ya bastard?’

Sean stopped stuffing teddy bears into a bag, dug into his pocket and pulled out two pound coins.

‘That should pay for the bag. We’re leaving.’

Young George stood there, trying to think of something to say, but failed. Then he ran downstairs to deliver the latest bulletin to the family gathering. It was late afternoon, the winter sun streamed through the big bay windows, Ashley kissed her grandaddy’s picture goodbye, picked up Whisky the cat and made her way down the stairway with us, past her uncles gathered at the doorway. She kept her head up, saying nothing until she reached her beloved Uncle Paul.

‘You’re a sheep, Uncle Paul,’ she said to him, while trying to control the big ginger cat squirming in her arms.

Paul had the grace to look at his feet.

Sean and I struggled out with the bags.

‘Where are you goanna live?’ Stephen spoke up. ‘What the fuck do you think you’re doing? You need to stay to run the pub.’

At that moment, I realised they had just thrust this situation on Sean without actually thinking it through. None of them knew the alarm code, the suppliers, the stock, the banking details, the staff’s names … and now they would have to pay the remaining 150 grand to the builder from their own pockets. They must have thought we would stay on at any cost. Our money was in that building; our home was there; our life was there; why would we refuse their offer? They never expected us to say
. My heart was thudding in my chest. This was it. We would never get our money back. Our flat. Nothing.

I turned as we were about to close the door and said, ‘You must have had Plan B, surely? You really thought we were to work for the rest of our lives in that pub for you lot? You can just get fucked!’

‘You’re just a fucking barmaid!’ Young George shouted. ‘Just remember that. You’re Janey Currie! You’re just a fucking barmaid!’

‘Not any more, George,’ I replied as I slammed the door.

We were free. Sean did not even look back. As we drove all the way out of the East End of Glasgow into the West End, he pressed the tape player and little Ashley sang along with her favourite Eagles track, ‘Hotel California’.

That night we moved into our new, rented accommodation, gathered our thoughts and spent our first night in a strange house in the West End, both quietly trying to answer all Ashley’s questions but too scared to tell her we just didn’t know what was going to happen next.


years later, when Ashley was 13, I found an old cassette tape in a box we were going through. The two of us sat in our flat and I spoke to her about how my Mammy had died because she was too stupid to get away from a violent man. I put the worn black cassette into my new silver Sony tape deck and pressed play. Ashley heard the woman who was her grandmother laugh throatily and giggle at me giving her a lecture. In the background, Kate Bush was singing ‘The Man With The Child In His Eyes’.

‘Och, Janey,’ my Mammy told me. ‘He’s no’ that bad. Peter isnae that bad. C’mon, I mean he’s had his problems, we’ve had wur fights, but I’m as bad as him.’

‘You’re going to end up fucking deed!’ I shouted back at her. ‘You’re going to end up fucking deed lying in your fucking coffin, because you’re going to let him fucking kill ye!’

‘Don’t swear,’ she told me. ‘Don’t get upset.’

‘You’re going to end up fucking deed, Mammy …’

‘No I won’t. Peter’s no’ a bad man.’

‘Ann and I are going to have tae explain to your grandweans that you are deed an’ the reason they never got tae see you was because you let a man kill you. That’s what I’m going to have tae say in years to come –
I’m sorry you never saw my Mammy, but she let a man kill her

Mammy burst out laughing: ‘I cannae imagine you being a mother! … You don’t seem like the mothering type tae me … I don’t think ye’ll be a mother. You’re good wi’
but I cannae imagine it but, don’t you worry, I’ll be there the day you have a wean.’

‘She sounds like you, Mum,’ Ashley told me. ‘And you sound really cheeky to your mummy. I think you tried your best.’

I cried that day. Three generations of women held together by grief and magnetic technology.

That night, I had my dreams. I hate running that much in my sleep. I hate it when I wake myself up screaming. I can hear myself scream in the morning and it scares me. I wake up shouting and screaming. When I am awake, I am in control but, asleep, the fear takes over. I am small again and try to hide under the stairs. The big man hunts for me. He slams doors open. He rants and stomps throughout my house. I sit in a wet nightdress, trying to make my legs small and folding my body into a wee corner. I keep my eyes shut as I hear his footsteps getting closer. He is calling out my name.

‘Janey! … Janey! …’

My fingernails dig into the palms of my hands. I hear the blood rushing through my ears. I feel my heart pounding with fear. I feel a draught as he opens the cupboard door. The man with a demon’s face is slicing into my flesh with an open razor. I see the blood and feel the pain. My big sister Ann pinches me on the knee.

‘Janey turn the right way up, eh?’

‘Not yet.’


lucky to have a father who has never stopped believing in me. I have to thank my family for giving me the space and grace to write about their very personal lives.

This book would not have been possible without constant encouragement from the following people: My two best friends Monica Brown and Findlay McLeod – their love and listening skills will stay with me always; Mike Loder (top New Zealand comic), who insisted that I write the stories of my life and kept my spirits buoyed in the hard times; John Fleming, who saw me perform comedy, thought I would make a writer, then introduced me to Ebury and constantly encouraged me to write this book – he made me explore the language and enjoy the process.

I would like to thank Jake Lingwood, Deputy Publisher, Emma Harrow in Publicity and all the good people at Ebury for their constant hard work and support. I would also like to mention Campbell Deane in Glasgow for being an exceptional lawyer.

I have many wee children in my life who constantly make me smile and remind me of happier times: Shaun Smith, Abigail McPherson, Katelin, Connar and Corinne Mills, and Gabrielle Spooner.

In the process of writing this book, I had many sleepless nights. One man chased away the nightmares: Thank you to my husband.

This ebook is copyright material and must not be copied, reproduced, transferred, distributed, leased, licensed or publicly performed or used in any way except as specifically permitted in writing by the publishers, as allowed under the terms and conditions under which it was purchased or as strictly permitted by applicable copyright law. Any unauthorised distribution or use of this text may be a direct infringement of the author’s and publisher’s rights and those responsible may be liable in law accordingly.

Version 1.0

Epub ISBN 9781448117543


This edition first published in 2006
First published in 2005 by Ebury Press

9 10

Copyright © 2005 Janey Godley

Janey Godley has asserted her moral right to be identified as the author of this work in accordance with the Copyright, Designs and Patents Act 1988.

All rights reserved. No part of this publication may be reproduced, stored in a retrieval system, or transmitted in any form or by any means, electronic, mechanical, photocopying or otherwise, without the prior permission of the copyright owner.

The Random House Group Limited Reg. No. 954009

Addresses for companies within The Random House Group can be found at


A CIP catalogue record for this book is available from the British Library


BOOK: Handstands In The Dark: A True Story of Growing Up and Survival
10.09Mb size Format: txt, pdf, ePub

Other books

Bookweirder by Paul Glennon
Adopting Jenny by Liz Botts
Deadly Seduction by Wensley Clarkson
Death of Kings by Philip Gooden
Anything but Vanilla... by Liz Fielding