Bailey Newsletter 2 – A Boy Named Bill (and Them Roper Girls)

Mayflower 2022
Dear Friend and Reader,
First of all, thank you for subscribing to receive this second in a quarterly series of newsletters, in which I hope you will continue to keep us company.

It is now around six months since we launched the website Birthday greetings now appear in the Dave Daze feature, so if you think I do not have your birthday and would like to see it (or that of someone dear to you) featured, do let me know by responding to this email. While you are writing, do let me know what sort of thing you would like to see in these newsletters. My general idea is to comment on my writing, past and to come, and Joe may also chip in from time to time about his art.

My new novel Them Roper Girls is now with the publishers Silverwood Books and we are aiming for a summer publication date – summer may seem a long time coming, but that is still quite ambitious and will take a lot of work on cover design and other things that never occur to you (or me at any rate) when writing the blessed things. A family tree too for them pretty Roper girls, which might please those of you who rightly thought there were too many names too quickly introduced in my last book Seventeen.

In my previous newsletter you met Angela and Karen, two of the four Roper sisters born in the 1950s in disadvantaged circumstances. Their lives over the next 60 years include difficult issues such as abortion, mental illness and suicide, but there are also many moments of celebration and humour in the girls' squabbles and attitudes to each other.

Before I repeat the soundbites from Ange and Kar, let’s hear also from Janet and Lucy:

Janet: She left no unfinished business in Washtown. She had promised Jason that on her sixteenth birthday, 29 July, she would finally let him go all the way … She now chafed to be done with this once comfortably distant commitment – the more so since she had no worries about getting pregnant.

Lucy: I think Jan was away at a Guides’ camp when I got run over. That would account for me being out in the street with Ange. We were messing about as we walked along, not fighting exactly – she was that much older and could still be scary – but maybe play-fighting you could call it.

Angela: Whatever rumours you may have heard, all I can tell is I never knew Dad say my third sister Karen … wasn’t his. Mum had a wicked tongue so if she did say that sometimes that was Grace all over, you couldn’t tell if she was just trying to get a rise out of him.

Karen: Don’t think I’ll be rambling on like Ange … I wouldn’t want you to have to rely on her version, talk about unreliable memoirs. She never stopped moaning from then to now about how she had to be a mother to all of us, never had a proper childhood of her own.

By my next newsletter I hope to have the full novel available to share with you. I will keep you updated on progress by my usual monthly social media and website posts. To conclude this edition is a rather more upbeat version – love rather than hate or fear – of the country Cash rip-off I shared in March. Anyone wants to play and sing along I shall be delighted to hear a proper musical version sent to my email for possible publication on the website, as Joe has been promising me to produce for some time.  He’s busy at present preparing for an exhibition of his art in August, so that may have to wait.

All the best, David.
Well I never did know my dad and mom
So I guess I’ll just call ‘em May and Tom
A GI Joe and a pretty little English girl.
He left her when I was minus zero
So you can’t call him my boyhood hero
Even if that weren’t exact how it did unfurl.

Just one step away from the workhouse herself,
I can see why May couldn’t be left on the shelf,
She only did just what she had to do.
I can’t say if they were really kin,
Uncle John Aunt June who took me in,
But they was both good people, decent through and through.

Now I grew up smart but I grew up mean,
Bully as a boy and worse as a teen,
Fight men fuck girls was all I had in mind.
But I really knew that it was all a bluff
Deep down I was never good enough
Else why would everyone leave me behind.

Then I got my luckiest break in life
In a bar of course where I met my wife,
My wife to be at least as she was then.
They warned me off cos she had a kid,
But the smartest thing that I ever did,
Was to marry that girl and her little Ben.

So happy when she said that she’d be mine,
But no idea of how to walk that line,
She sure deserved a better man than me.
Even when our little Jack came along,
I still had trouble telling right from wrong
There’s none so blind as them that will not see.

She opened up my eyes all right
When I came home one stormy night,
She was standing there waiting right behind that door.
She said “Boy you better shape up fast
Else this night’ll likely be your last,
You can turn and run right back to your Russian hoor.”

Yeah, that’s what she told me.

Now she raked her heels right down my shin
That was just so I’d bring down my chin
She stuck on the nut to mash my lips real bad.
I raised my hands but I would never hit her,
And she was screaming “You chicken shit you’re
A no good husband but an even worser dad.”

“Why don’t you piss off like your old man did?
I’ve done it before I can raise your kid
Without one single speck of help from you.”
I thought she was laughing but soon saw not,
Her face was a mess of tears and snot,
I never had less idea of what to do.

Still I grabbed her tight and behind her head
I whispered and scooted Jack back to bed,
Praying he’d think it was just some awful dream.
To her I didn’t say much at all,
I wasn’t proud but I wouldn’t crawl
Nor string myself up like I might from the nearest beam.

So I made her a vow by the wind and rain
That she’d never have to bust my snout again,
If she’d take me in out of that filthy weather.
Now I still don’t claim to be the best of men,
As she only reminds me a time or ten,
But at least I know we’ll both grow old together.

And I hope we’ll go together to the Lord above,
Where at last I can show her a better love
Eternity won’t be long enough for me and her.
When at last I’ve kissed my mother’s face,
I might even holler down to the other place

“Hey Tom – let me say thank you, Sir.”
DGB, May 2022
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