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No Room at the Inn

“I had to take your father to hospital last night, I was so worried. They said he should stay in until he sees a consultant. When I went back to see him this morning he was sat up in bed like King Farouk on his Holiday. According to him there was nothing wrong, he didn’t know why they were keeping him in there. But you know what you're fathers like, he was high spirits winding everyone up as usual. He can’t behave see”. Pearl

I can still see it now, almost thirty years later. Come and have look at what I’ve got, he says while dragging us from the pivotal moment where Indiana Jones raises the ‘Staff of Ra’ up towards the sun. Outside, there, in front of us were two large bags filled with lead pipes, or at least that’s what I thought, until I clapped eyes on what might have been the biggest tent sheet I had ever seen, strewn across the lawn. “This is it boys”, Prince told us. This was going to be our first camping trip, in fact it was going to be our first holiday, anywhere. But we first had to build it and try it out.

Not one much for holidays, Prince had alluded to one once or twice before now, but we lived without such expectation. A holiday, to the kids in our street was the prospect of sunshine and school-less stretch of freedom. It mattered not if this was accompanied by sand, sea or even event, and for Prince I expect it was much the same. Like us children who made do with the river and wood, he made do with a pint and fag, wherever he was.

“A young nurse came onto the ward this morning, she can’t have been more than fourteen I’m sure. She was there to take our blood pressure, which I was used to by now so I just put my arm out ready. Normally, if my blood pressure hits a score of 84 that’s quite high, I went up to 89 one day. But this morning, this nurse forgot to put the thing on my finger and just walked off see, so when she came back I asked what my pressure was. 94, she said.

Fuck, I bounced out of bed and I started screaming. This youngster, she just shot out of the door like a fucking rocket. The boy in the bed opposite was looking daft at me, “you alright?” He asked. With that the nurse comes rushing back in with the Sister, who was trying to calm her down. “What’s wrong?” she was asking “what’s wrong? Him” the young nurse said, “there’s something wrong with him, he’s had hurt”. I could see the Sisters face change, “Who… him?” She said while trying not to laugh, “Don’t you know who that is? That’s John that is. Don’t listen to him. And don’t take his blood pressure again. Leave him to us, you never know what that one is going to do next”. The two nurses behind just turned back and walked out, they knew. Oh it’s him, he’s a fucking lunatic”. Prince

Unlike many of us, sold to the illusion of adventure, travelling the world in search of fulfilment, Prince has never set foot beyond British soil, glad of a simplicity of which he and my mother revel in complacency. But here in such contentment, for Prince at least, fires will be started and the devil will be waiting providing the kindle for his idle hands.

“I say Twp (stupid) things all the time, and what’s funny is that everyone believes me. The nurse was telling me the other day that there had been a Getta on the Towi. The Towi is the longest river in Wales. It is actually the longest. Now if you know a little bit of history you can get away with saying a lot of nonsense.

So I told her I had swam the length of the Towi a few years back. “What?” she said, “You swam the length of the Towi, but that’s about Twenty-five miles long”. Oh is it, I told her, oh maybe it was the width then, I said laughing. That’s more like it she said, with one eyebrow raised, as if to say you silly bugger. I haven’t even swum in the Towi. I nearly drowned in the fucker though”. Prince

Little to say the tent we were once promised, cream and brown and twelve-man in size, was erected but was never pitched, nor was it slept in, at least not by us. But that’s not to say we didn’t have our fun with it first. This was a hotel of luxury before the rain demanded its return to its giant bags. But as we eventually learned to forgive my father for having bared us such a tormentous gesture, we too learned that there was something in his ways. If it is adventure we seek then in our venture we’ll find just that. One needs not travel far to find what’s dear when all that’s cherished is held so close. Sometimes it doesn’t matter where you are or what you're doing, anywhere and anything can be a holiday, but sometimes too it’s shit or bust, and sometimes there is simply no room at the inn.

“John who’s in his eighties, in the bed opposite me, wants a lift to Ammanford, see. He definitely wants to go, you know. So, when I saw the Warden coming in I shouted across to John and said, John this boy is off to Ammanford if you want a lift. Up he goes. “Are you boy, hang on I’ll be with you now” he said. The warden looked at me as if to say, you bastard. He had to walk him all the way up the corridor then see. And then all the way, back again. By the time he was back he had no idea he had been mind, he’d forgotten all about Ammanford. He couldn’t get a break the poor fucker, but at least he was getting out and about. I’d catch the warden with that all day, in the end he was calling me all sorts”. Prince


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