‘Harvey! Get yer nose outta that book and go out t’ play. Kid’ve your age outta be getting fresh air and playin’ with yer mates.’
Harvey wanted to sigh and roll his eyes but his Dad had a short fuse so not a good idea to argue. He went out, through the paved yard, passing the stinking dustbin, and through the dangling gate. It was tempting to slam the gate, wrench it off its hinge and let rip his frustration but that was Dad’s way, not his.
Dad worked in the quarry. He drove a huge truck filled with stone from the quarry face to another area where he tipped it onto a pile. It was boring, repetitive and manly. The all male domain meant filthy jokes, much laughing, nudging and winking. On payday he went down the pub where he drank deep and long returning in fighting mood, taking it out on Mum or Harvey.
The walk to the park took just a few minutes. It was the only green place in a forgotten estate of derelict houses and boarded shops. Harvey loved the grass with its bold dandelions and delicate clover flowers. He lay on his back, enjoying the fresh damp smell. It made him feel alive, just warm enough to relax under the watery sun.
One day he would show his dad that there was more to life than digging in a quarry and drinking. He was going to work hard at school and be something better, a writer, an artist, a designer, an architect, anything except working in the quarry.
Working hard at school meant all aspects, including sport. When his reports came home his mother gloried in the academic ‘As’ but Dad wanted to know how he fared in football. As time went on his mother attended a parent’s evening and was told her son should go to university and he needed to apply soon. She came home thrilled and frightened. How could she tell her husband without him exploding and forbidding it? She could hear him in her head,
‘No son of mine is goin’ to no mamby pamby ooniversity. I’ll be the laughing stock. They’ll think we’re tryin’ to be better ‘en ’em.”’
How much would it cost? The teacher had said something about a scholarship. She ached with anxiety and fear for her son.
Harvey was walking in a cloud of delight. He’s done it; he’d got his ticket out of the slums and into a bright future, but there was still Dad to confront. He would talk to Mum and see if they could come up with a strategy that would be acceptable.
‘So what do you want to do, you know, after Uni?’ asked Mum. ‘What are you going to study?’
‘I’d really like to take all the sciences and aim to be a doctor, Mum. My teachers have suggested it and I really like the idea.’ Mum’s eyes filled and overflowed. Harvey found her a tissue and they hugged.
‘What can we tell Dad? What shall I do if he gets angry and starts raving about his street cred’?’
‘I’m more worried about the cost. Do you think you should apply for that scholarship? Dad would accept it better if it was not going to cost him anything. He’s so looking forward to you leaving school and joining him at the quarry.’
‘I’ve already done that Mum and I’ve had a letter inviting me to go and sit the exam next week. I didn’t want to tell you until I’d passed it but I’ve got to travel to Oxford and that’ll mean staying overnight. Clarky’s going as well and he says his dad’ll take us down and we can get a bus back the next day. That would be cheaper and we’ll only have to pay for a B and B, and meals.’ Mum thought for a moment and then beamed. “Right. I’ve decided what we should do. I’ve got some savings that you can have for the trip to Oxford but you’ll have to play your part after that. You don’t start college until October so you’ve several months to work and earn. Don’t tell your Dad anything and apply for that job at the quarry. The money’s good and you’ll get the job on the back of being yer Dad’s son. What do you think?’
Harvey kissed him Mum. ‘Brilliant,’ he said.