Some people would be forgiven for thinking that living and growing up in the seventies, on a rundown council estate shoved out of the way on the far side of town, to be their worst nightmare.
Despite the outer appearance of the graffiti sprayed walls, washing clad balconies, flaky, red painted doors and the general humdrum comings and goings of persons with nothing much else to do, there was something rather comforting about the underlying community spirit of the Chalksbury estate which had a habit of presenting itself whenever necessary.
Jealousy of the materialistic wealth of the ‘snobs up town’ occasionally reared its ugly head, but there was no ‘keeping up with the Jones’s’ by anyone on the estate. Nobody had any funds to spare for fancy furnishings, the latest décor, or a gleaming new car.
Everyone seemed to be in similar circumstance, and as long as there was enough money left at the end of the week for the luxury of a fish and chip supper, a few Ciggies and a couple of drinks, most residents were more or less satisfied with their lot.
Lily Duncan was one of the first inhabitants to arrive and counted herself lucky. Having been ‘asked to leave’ by her father and finding herself homeless, she had been allocated a small two bedroom terrace, amidst the rows of identical purpose built houses, most of which were now in a state of disrepair.
It was reasonably warm and comfortable, and thanks to her weekly benefit allowance, with a bit of ‘juggling’ here and there, was just about affordable. Once her daughter Marcia had arrived, she was eternally grateful for the space and accessibility. Had she come to the estate a few years later she would have been housed in a cramped high-rise flat, in one of the two tower blocks erected behind a piece of waste ground, to meet, as the council officials described, ‘popular demand’. Lack of money and space had nothing to do with it of course.
Shortly after, the disused ground, after much campaigning, had been developed into a park. With its brightly painted swings, roundabout and slide, shiny oak varnished benches, newly planted trees, flowers and grass there was a sense of pride introduced to the area. The addition of a glorious fountain, topped with a statue of some politician that no one had heard of, enhanced it even more.
The council employed a part time gardener, who did his best, cut the grass, tended the beds and planted flowers. These days the majority of his time was spent cleaning out the fountain and picking up the remains of the previous night’s festivities.
The once smart benches were now sun faded broken slats, used as a welcoming book, the name of every visitor delicately carved, along with various uncomplimentary comments displayed in a language outsiders would not understand. Although the park had its many downfalls it was still extremely popular with most of the natives. Children played, teenagers fought, and adults did whatever they felt like doing at the time.
Marcia was no exception and from her earliest years, frequented the park on many occasions. Being situated very near her house, it was the only place she was ‘allowed’ to go. Not that her mother seemed that bothered, it just got her out of the way.
As she grew older, (but no wiser), Marcia spent less time swinging up into the clouds, and increasingly spent more hours sat on the old bench, watching the world go by.
She was not the brightest button in the box and was not really aware of the extent of the decay in the park, or around the estate for that matter and despite the decline in the standard of social behavior, it was still a place she felt quite ‘safe’.
Although the relationship with her mother could have been better, she was content in the little house, living alongside Lily in a somewhat parallel existence; they managed somehow, in their slightly idiotic ways, to survive. Thus they bumbled along with their simple lives, until one day, a certain unexpected event changed the future forever…..
Marcia Duncan took a deep breath and with great effort pushed herself up from her seated position. The springs complained as she thumped back down again. It usually took a couple of goes and after repeating the process she managed to stand somewhat upright. Turning clumsily, she flipped over the pink candlewick bedspread to resemble some sort of order and hobbled across the bare wooden floors to the full-length mirror screwed to the old wardrobe in the corner of the room.
As she stared at herself and rubbed her hand gently across her swelled belly, she wondered, like thousands of other girls in her predicament, how the hell she ended up like this. She still didn't believe that there was this 'thing' inside her. She didn't believe it because she still didn't fully understand how it got there.
Her mother, Lily, was the person who eventually noticed that Marcia was not her ‘abnormal’ self. She did not normally bother with her and was usually away with the fairies in her own hazy world of cigarettes and gin. You could, however, manage some sort of sensible conversation with her on a Friday morning when the benefit cheque arrived. She would prise the curlers out of her hair, take off her flowered apron, put on her old threadbare coat, don the same old woolly hat (whatever the time of year) and trot off cheerfully to the post office, then the off licence.
Not that Marcia was complaining, Lily did clean up sometimes and Marcia did her best to contribute but was reluctant to use the cleaning fluid under the sink. The last time she poured it down the toilet it exploded. Her mother was not best pleased to spend her gin money on superglue. It did work for a while, then young Tom who lived down the road, got her a second hand one from the tip.
Recalling the day with horror, Lily, in an unusually sober state had gone into a rage, called her fat and dragged her to Doctor Gimby's surgery. She had no idea what was happening.
"It's the marshmallows mum!" she howled. "It's the marshmallows! They make me sick. I'll stop eating them, I promise!"
"Marshmallows my arse!" her mother shrieked. "I may be a bit on the dim side our Marcia, but you've got a bun in the oven, no mistakin'."
Marcia had no idea about buns in ovens. She didn't like buns. The currants looked like rabbit droppings and anyway she couldn't cook. How could she have possibly put a bun in the oven?
"Hello Marcia" Doctor Gimby winked.
Doctor Gimby did a lot of winking, mainly behind the shed at the bottom of his garden. Where, if he stood on three bricks he could peep through a hole in the wall at Shirley who wasn't averse to doing a bit of winking herself.
"Our Marcia's up the stick Doc" her mother wailed.
Up the stick, thought Marcia, Stick? What stick? Who’s stick?
"Are you sure it's not marshmallows Mrs Duncan? There seems to be a bit of a craze on them at the moment.”
"No it's not the marshmallows, least I don't think so, you'd better look". Lily Duncan had a vain hope that it might, after all, be marshmallows.
Doctor Gimby proceeded with great delight to examine Marcia. "Open your legs a bit wider and relax. I couldn't even get my little pinkie in there let alone my hand!”
“Good God!” Marcia's colour drained and then she passed out.
When she came round Doctor Gimby was holding her hand. "It's not marshmallows is it?" she said.
"Goodness me no, you’re pregnant, about seven months" he smiled.
"Don't worry, everything is normal, it's a big baby and it'll probably be a caesarean.
Would you like to go to antenatal?’
Marcia was just about to explain they didn’t have any relatives when Lily loudly interrupted.
"A caesarean eh?" her mother grabbed Marcia’s arm and whisked her out of the surgery. "So, you've been with an I-tie. You an' me better 'av a good talk!" she glared.
It was when she got home that Marcia got her first biology lesson - well if you could call it that.
"Some bugger's been and stuck his willy in you Marcia and now you're up the duff!”
Gazing at herself, Marcia thought she wasn't that unattractive. Her nose looked much better since Molly had lent her the contraption thing that gets rid of the hairs. And the lady in the shoe shop had said it was quite normal to have one foot bigger than the other, but she hadn't really come across that many people with one size three and the other size eight.
Marcia was used to this affliction and walked in a strange crab-like manner most of the time. She had got the hang of these years ago, but now and again, if she got carried
away and took too many steps with the size three, she could end up facing in any direction. She giggled as she remembered the last episode. That had landed her in BIG trouble because she fell in Mr Biggle’s garden and decapitated his plastic gnome.
Thoughts returned to the problem in hand. Mother was constantly demanding an explanation of when, who, where and why. She couldn't honestly answer her, because she either couldn't remember or didn't really know.
She decided she would find Molly.
Although Molly was a little older than her, she was her only friend. Marcia got to know her properly after her early exit from secondary education, then all there was to do was hang around the park. Molly frequently seemed to be there, and they chatted often, until they became close. They made an odd couple and Marcia certainly didn’t know why Molly bothered with her, but they had struck up an astonishing relationship.
She could not remember her at school, but then Marcia didn’t meet many kids. She was almost always in a separate class with a few younger children. Molly said it didn’t matter, they were friends now, and she hardly ever went anyway.
Marcia wished she was like Molly. Molly knew everything. She was really clever and had even managed to get a job in the local bakery sifting the flour for weevils. She would know all about buns in ovens, sticks and caesarean people.
Molly was REALLY pretty. Her curly black hair flowed past her broad shoulders.
She was tall - REALLY tall! Marcia thought at least six foot. She was REALLY slim, with narrow hips that swayed from side to side when she walked. But the thing Marcia really envied was her breasts. They were so perfectly shaped that you'd think they'd come out of a jelly mould. Marcia had asked several times if it was the bra she wore or if they were really like that. Molly always said " a bi' of both".
Marcia thought her own breasts were more like upside-down conference pears and even worse now, like coconuts, although not quite so hairy.
Molly was brilliant. She looked older than her years and sometimes she managed to get into the local disco. Marcia looked nothing like eighteen, so Molly used to cause a scene by dropping her money, or tripping over so Marcia could slip in behind the doorman. They used to sit in the corner sipping beer and laughing at all the dancers showing off. Marcia never danced. She did try once, but fell over almost immediately, squashing Beatrice Southerland’s new handbag.
Perhaps, Marcia wondered, if it was at the disco she met a caesarean. She couldn't remember, but surely Molly would.
Negotiating the stairs was something she had begun to hate. She couldn't see the size three and the size eight wouldn't fit straight on the step. She'd never get down without her mother hearing her.
Lily heard her thumps. "Watch out! Where you off too? Goin' to see your I-tie I bet. You tell 'im from me, I'll be after 'is butt. Tell 'im if 'e doesn't face up to his responsibilities there’ll be trouble. Marcia? MARCIA!!!"
Marcia grabbed her anorak and went as quickly as he could, out the door. There she tried to fasten it, only managing to break the zip. Never mind, she thought, it only had one sleeve anyway.
She walked (of sorts) down the lane towards the block of flats where Molly lived with her father. There were just the two of them, as it was with most families in the area; children and parents seemed to be dotted all over the place. Molly never talked about her mother, though she knew she did have a brother somewhere.
Marcia met him very briefly only once, just after they had become friends, he was on his way out and brushed past her as she waited in the flat for Molly to return. The next time she was there, Molly said there had been some sort of upset with her father and he had left for good. Neither of them had ever mentioned anything about it since.
It was not surprising really, she didn’t particularly like Molly's father. He was a very small man with hair almost as long as Molly's. He stayed in bed all day, smoking roll ups which looked like long white sausages with hairy bits coming out. He always talked in a funny voice, like he had a cold and called Marcia 'Kiddo'
She eventually got through the door by turning sideways and inching forward a bit every time she breathed in. The lift was out of order again. "Oh sod it!" I'll have to go up those dam stairs".
As her breathing became laboured, pausing before the first floor, Marcia took a break and sat on the fifth step. She looked around at the scribbling on the wall and wondered why it was used as a phone directory, and why everyone was called G-a-y-n-or.
After half an hour she reached Molly's flat and rang the doorbell. It chimed out "Blowin' in the Wind" and Molly opened the door.
"Hello Marcia, long time no see. Mother let you out at last then. I've been meaning to see you since I heard, but you know, things get in the way. Good God you’re huge!"
"Hello Molly, Can I speak to you? I don't understand all this". One side of her mouth drooped even lower and then her whole face crumpled, tears came at last and spilled down her face, parting the hairs on her lips like an explorer hacking his way through the jungle.
Molly pulled Marcia inside and they both went into the bedroom to talk. Marcia stopped crying, mopped her face, neck, shoulders, knees, feet and looked around the bedroom.
‘Molly's done this out REALLY nice,’ she thought. There was a big comfy bed with lots of silky cushions and a headboard in the shape of a heart. On the dressing table there was a lamp in the shape of a banana. She wondered what it looked like when it was switched on. In the corner was a figure of a lady, like the ones she saw in shop windows, except for some reason it didn’t have a head, and only one leg. There was a long pink scarf made of feathers draped all around it. Marcia liked the light on the ceiling. It was on a spring and you could pull it down to shine wherever you liked.
They both sat on the bed and Molly said the only way they were going to find out when, what, why and who, was to think back to where she went, who she met and when it could have happened. Marcia felt a bit sick when Molly explained what a caesarean really was, and she felt even sicker when Molly continued to describe, in great detail (and with some delight in that explanation Marcia thought) what has to be done to end up with a 'bun in the oven'. In fact, after all her talk, Marcia thought that her mother's explanation summed it up a treat.
They made a list of all the places they used to go, the list was not very long. Pizza house, Chong’s chips, the park, the disco hall.
"Now think back Marcia, let's start with the Pizza house"…………….
Marcia's mind cast back to the times they visited the restaurant, there was only once when anything had happened out the ordinary. The events were only too vivid in her mind.
Molly called for Marcia. She looked stunning as usual, a bit overly made up, with bright red lipstick and blue eye shadow. Marcia pulled on the skirt that Molly had lent her. It was a bit short and very tight and not really very flattering. But Molly knew all about clothes and things, so if that was the thing to wear, then that’s what she would wear.
She was amazed that some of the things she borrowed did actually fit, but Molly had only replied that they were really stretchy, and in any case she had lots of different sizes in her collection.
Marcia couldn’t really think why, she shouldn’t be worried about putting on weight, she was perfect.
She looked at the boob tube, wondering which way it went on.
“Pull it over your head, it doesn’t matter which way, it’s all the same. Go on, it’ll look fab!”
Marcia didn’t really like the boob tube, her boobs looked even odder, she was sure one of them had disappeared under her arm pit… and it kept falling down, so Molly had strapped her breasts to it using double sided sticky tape.
“I’ll take eyeshadow and stuff and we’ll do it once we get out. D’you want a bit of lippy?”
“No, better not.” Marcia heard someone calling her mother lippy once, so she decided, definitely not!
To get past Lily, Marcia put her long green skirt over the shorter, tighter version and pulled on her anorak to hide her top.
Lily Duncan took the last drag of her woodbine and stubbed it out with her foot on the doorstep. "Have a good time girls! Don't forget, in by ten."
Being given a time of ten did not bother Marcia, Lily would be out for the count by then and have no idea what time they returned.
Around the corner, Marcia pulled off her skirt, and stuffed it in the carrier bag she'd put in her handbag. She hid it under a bush to pick up later. Marcia sat on a wall while Molly swiftly applied some eye shadow and a bit of ‘lippy’. Marcia laughed so much when she explained it was lipstick; she nearly fell backwards into Mr Biggle’s garden again. It got all smudged and clogged in the hairs on her lips, so Molly had to wipe it off with a tissue and start again.
Eventually, having made Marcia look as best as she ever could, Molly yanked her up and both girls cheerfully made their way down town to ‘Pizza house’.
"Table for two beautiful ladies" Marco bowed and indicated a free table in the corner of the room. Marcia liked Marco; he always smiled and never called her Kiddo.
Marcia always let Molly order; if it was left up to her they would have cheese and tomato, as she did not understand hardly any of the words on the menu. That particular day, she ordered pizza with salami, olives, cheese and mushrooms. Marcia was interested to see what salami was, it sounded like some sort of Italian skirt, but then they wouldn't cook skirts would they? They drank two halves of lager and waited for the pizza to come.
Marcia remembered a nice looking man, coming towards her table. Perhaps it was him? She thought.
He hadn't really got that close and anyway, he must have mistaken them for someone else because he had said, 'hello Gaynor,’ to Molly.
The Pizza house was quite busy, so they had to wait a while. Marcia and Molly talked 'girl talk'. Molly asked Marcia if she liked her clothes, did they suit her and was her skirt a bit short?
"Of course not" sighed Marcia "You always have good taste in clothes - and you don't have a monster of a mother breathing down your neck telling you can’t wear this and can't wear that!"
As they waited, Marcia became increasingly aware of a pain in her chest, she wished the pizza would hurry up and come - maybe it was indigestion. As her face became paler, Molly enquired if she was okay. Not intending to be seen to be the least embarrassed, Marcia lied and said she was fine.
Marcia was NOT fine. The pain intensified and felt like her breasts were being pulled down by her nipples, to her waist. It was AGONY!
"Excuse me, I must go to the loo", she walked apelike, back arched, stomach concertinaed into an inch, to the toilet and collapsed on the floor.
Desperately trying to pull out the boob-tube and look at her chest, the source of the problem became only too obvious. The glue on the tape was so sticky, and the tube had started to slip down - it took Marcia's nipples with it and left the rest of the breast where it was. In fact, Marcia nipples were now at least six inches long.
Immediate and fast action was necessary. Marcia grabbed the bottom of the tube and pulled it over her head. One nipple popped off with the sound of an exploding champagne cork. Her breast sprang up and down at the speed of light and with a final 'ping' came to its proper resting place.
Unfortunately, the other nipple stayed put. Her breast was upside-down over her shoulder and the nipple still attached to the tube somewhere in the region of her ear - thus, with the boob tube balanced on her head, breast stretched up, she ran screaming into the restaurant.
Tino De-natio lovingly added the final touches to his speciality dish and gave it to Marco. "Table five Marco!"
Marco held the serving dish at shoulders height and whistled at he stepped through the kitchen door. "Disho fit for beautiful people cominga up!"
What met his eyes could never be described in a million words. Rushing towards him was some sort of mad deformed monster - which wasn't going to stop!
The vibrations from the resulting collision did not exactly show up on the Richter scale,
but in the small hovel of a flat above the restaurant, Vera Parslow lay back on the pillow and realised, that after twenty years of uneventful marriage, the earth had finally moved.