Tenpin bowling (2)

More on my description of my brief stint at the Locarno bowling alley, which did its usual thing and went off at several tangents. Mind you, I like tangents. Allowing my brain to drift off down an unexpected corridor of thought is the only way that I find out what really interests me. And in fact the trigger image for yesterday didn’t turn up in the blog-post at all. The trigger was the way some songs are remembered only for their lyrical hooks, the way that the rest of the words are consigned to a kind of oblivion.

While I was scraping the chewing-gum from the snack-bar floor (it had peculiarly adhesive qualities, and even now I dread to think in what way it attached itself to the inner tubing of anyone unwise enough to swallow the stuff), and learning the finer points of tea-making, one of the women with whom I was working concentrated on pushing a decrepit hoover over the carpet tiles. As she moved, in a series of spasms, she sang. But she only sang one thing, and she sang it lustily at the start of each push of her machine. It was this: ‘You always hurt the one you love’. You are probably familiar with the song. It has other words. You may know them. But they have long since vanished into the recesses of my own head, because all I ever hear, should the song pop up from the ether, is the sound of that hoover, and the note-perfect opening from the Locarno forty years ago.

The Locarno had a room which was not open to ordinary tenpin bowlers – it was for club members only. It sold alcohol, and it had a fruit machine with a very large jackpot (I may be wrong, but I think it might have been as much as fifty quid, a genuinely hefty prize in those days). The woman who sang the opening line, and the opening line only, began at one end of the alley, and motored slowly but surely towards this room. You need to remember that she was working, like me, for sixteen shillings a shift. In due course, each morning, she concluded her trawl of the floor by turning into the club-room and cleaning it. And then she went to the fruit machine.

Every morning, she attempted to get that jackpot, with a small shoal of sixpences brought for the purpose. By my reckoning, she pumped about fifty sixpences (that’s £1.5s.0d, or £1.25) into its inviting slot. I was there for about a month or more, and I never saw her draw more than a few sixpences out of the machine. In other words, she was paying nine more shillings than she earned each day to the fruit machine. It was a sad thing to see.

I didn’t last long myself, because, for the only time in my life, I got the sack. I did something very criminal. I left some Windolene on a mirror (I was no more thorough at cleaning then than I am now, but I do my best, you know, I do try).

I often wonder what became of her. And I realise, as I always do when scouting round my brain, that there is a short story here, waiting to be written. I would give it a go, were it not that it might seem to render as farce the sad, daily chore she undertook.

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