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Torfaen Tales

Lucky Dip

It was a game I played as a child on my way to school. If I got to the end of the High Street before a bus came by this was my guarantee that the day would go well. I had dipped deep into my imagination for something that would bring me good luck, therefore I called the game my Lucky Dip.

Of course the Lucky Dip had its consequences. If a bus passed me before I reached the safe haven of the left turn into Limes Avenue the rest of the day therefore had to be filled with doom and gloom. But what if the omens were good and I had a bad day anyway? But no matter what happened through my day, I was convinced that succeeding at Lucky Dip was a sort of insurance that would somehow see me through whatever the fates had to throw at me.

It got to be something of a habit as I got older, and I widened the parameters as my imagination grew. If I managed to finish my chores before Blue Peter ended Dad would come home straight from work instead of going to the pub. Any logical human being would have known that my childish game had no bearing on my father’s predisposition for drink. But I lived in a fantasy world. It was a better place than the one where my father came home drunk and beat seven bells out of anyone who dared cross his path.

One evening as I walked down the flagstone pavement I chanted “Yes, No,” under my breath as I stepped on the flagstones. If the answer was Yes as I reached our gate then Dad would not have made good his threat to leave us. He’d been ranting and flinging things about the kitchen that morning so I’d gone without breakfast and spent an anxious day hardly able to focus on my school work.

But the flagstones foretold No, he would be gone. And they were right. Mother was there, but a bit more distant and quiet than usual. I didn’t see my father again for many years, but that’s another story.

Somehow we got through it, Mother, me and little George who was only five at the time. Mother took any overtime she could get at the supermarket, and we went to Auntie Pauline straight from school until whatever time Mother called to collect us. I waited for Auntie Pauline’s kettle to boil: if it did so before the News started Mother would bring fish and chips for our tea - my favourite.

Once I was fourteen I was legally old enough to keep an eye on George when Mother wasn’t at home. But I also liked having Sophie and Brenda around after school. We’d play CDs and mess about with our hair and make up. George was a bit of a nuisance, and I got into trouble one evening when he went missing. But my toast popped up in the toaster before Eastenders started, therefore I knew George was safe and would come home when he was ready. I didn’t want to look foolish explaining my theory to Mother, who was on the ‘phone to the Police. George showed up the minute she put the ‘phone down. The Lucky Dip hadn’t let me down. But Mum still walloped the pair of us until our bottoms throbbed.

Then I got a massive crush on Dwayne Adams. I knew if I got to the end of my street before I saw a red car (a red car that was moving, any already parked in the street didn’t count) then Dwayne would ask me out to the cinema on Saturday. But when I got to the end of my street (no red cars!) I saw Dwayne Adams at the bus stop, and he was kissing Melanie Calvert. My heart was broken. I ran off in the opposite direction, was late for school, and got a detention.

Before the year was out I was madly in love with Peter Brown. And he with me, at least that’s what he told me when things were getting rather hot and steamy in the back of his mate’s car. My friend Brenda went to the chemist’s to buy me a pregnancy test, and I knew that if I managed to eat a whole packet of biscuits before she returned then the test would read negative.

I had eaten all the biscuits in plenty of time. The test must have been faulty. My belly grew rounder, but it wasn’t just my fondness for biscuits that was to blame. A few months later I gave birth to Amber. Of course I had to leave school, so that put paid to my GCSEs. And Peter Brown didn’t want to know. He went off to join the Army, and managed to get himself killed in Iraq.

You’d think by this time I would have got some sort of an inkling that the Lucky Dip wasn’t all it was cracked up to be. But no, that made me all the more determined. Somehow me and the Lucky Dip would win through, and I’d make a success of my life.

I got a job in the supermarket where Mum worked when Amber was six months old. Mum and I somehow managed to mind the baby between us, and George, bless him, even helped out from time to time. He was quite fond of his little niece, said being an Uncle made him feel very grown up.

I didn’t feel right in the head after I had the baby. I had trouble concentrating. Still, I knew that if I had enough tins of tomatoes to fill the shelf before the end of my shift then everything would be all right.

They found me sitting on the floor. I don’t remember much after the ambulance came. I don’t really know how long I’ve been in the hospital.

As I sit here looking out of the window I’m keeping an eye out for white vans. If I manage to see three more before the nurse comes round again then I know Mum will be along to visit me tonight. And she’ll bring me some more biscuits.

By Karenne Griffin

Last Modified on: 05-11-2015

Forthcoming Events

For Freedom and Empire Exhibition

17/04/2018 - 24/06/2018
This exhibition explores the responses within the slate quarrying communities to the First World War recruitment campaign preceding conscription.

Generation Games Exhibition

27/04/2018 - 28/10/2018
This exhibition is a history of home computer games consoles throughout the ages

Roger Cecil - Art

02/06/2018 - 21/07/2018
Roger Cecil - this exhibition will show his extraordinarily beautiful paintings alongside jewellery and 3d work which has never been exhibited.


20 - 23/06/2018
Bringing Charles Dickens' beloved novel to life, Lionel Bart's Oliver! takes audiences on a wild adventure through Victorian England.
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