Legs Through The Ceiling
Many years have passed since the big freeze of 1963. It seems a lifetime away; another place, another world. A world so different from one we enjoy nowadays, and take so much for granted. Life is now far easier than it was during the nineteen-sixties.
They called it the swinging sixties; I have no idea how that term came about, and why they came to that conclusion. Despite the many changes that were happening in the world, most people lived the same, miserably boring lives they had up until then experienced.
Despite their boring existence, people truly believed the nineteen sixties was a period of great change; a period like none other before it. That, however, was a fundamental mistake. There were no computers, then, no internet or satellite TV to inform and entertain. There was TV; grainy, black and white pictures on pitifully small screens. Yes, there were newspapers, but they were just that, newspapers featuring yesterday’s news. It was a dark time, made even darker in so far as people were oblivious to the deficiencies in their lives. Because people believed – really believed – they were living in a time of social and material advancement, a Utopia of sorts, it was impossible for them to counter the fact that they might be wrong.
Now, more than forty years later, I ask you, did anything worthwhile come out of the nineteen sixties? No, I don’t mean mini cars or music or any such other nonsensical items, I mean SOMETHING REALLY WORTHWHILE!
“That got you, didn’t it? There wasn’t anything, was there? All the major, useful, worthwhile changes in our lives have come during the last few years, many years after that supposedly enlightened time.
The nineteen sixties was a superficial, drug-induced time of delusion, not a time of meaningful change. One has only to scratch beneath the surface, to see the same hypocritical, racist, discriminatory and, above all, BORING life that it was. The minds of the people in power, the people who really mattered, who could have brought about the change that everyone thought was upon them, were closed, blinkered to the possibilities this time offered. Closed minds closed hearts. Despite it being proclaimed – and so loudly – a time of love, it was a time devoid of love. It was a time of hate, a time of war (cold or otherwise), a time when standing up for what you believed in was not an option – unless you wanted to face the unpleasant consequences for your actions.
I can hear you all saying, ‘Oh, but people did stand up to be counted, then, to try and change things.’ But if you think about it, if you really think about it, you will see, realise it was the herd mentality that was driving them on. They only spoke up when surrounded by likeminded people. Unlike Gandhi, they fell silent whenever they were alone. It was, as I have already told you, a time of delusion, the nineteen sixties…
This brings me neatly on to my story:
Because of the severity of the prolonged cold spell the country had endured, the water pipes in our attic froze solid, so also did the water tank. Determined to sort it out, to rectify the situation, dad borrowed a blowlamp from his brother-in-law, Eric. “I’ll defrost those frozen pipes, so I will!” he told us. Making his way up the stepladder, dad set foot in the attic, hell-bent on warning things up…
In those days, houses had little or no insulation to keep out the cold. No, when winter arrived IT WAS COLD, AND THAT WAS THAT. I can still remember lying in my bed, at night, listening to the panes of glass in our steel framed windows, crack, crack, cracking, because of the frost. God, it was cold!
“Are you alright, dear?” mum said, calling to dad in the attic.
“Jim!” she called out again. “I said, are you alright?”
“Hello?” dad answered, in the strange, peculiar way he oftentimes preferred.
“I said, are you okay?”
“Yes, I’m fine,” he told her. “It’s a bit dark up here, though…”
“Have you got the torch?”
“No, I forgot it.”
“Shall I pass it up to you?”
No; I’ll come down and get it,” he gruffly replied.
Mum said nothing.
“What was that?” mum asked.
“Dad, are you alright?”
Incoherent mumbles from above.
Cutting mum off mum, dad began shouting and swearing. “You MADE me do that, so you did!” he growled.
“What did I make you do?” mum replied.
Dad did not answer her.
A few minutes later dad began to move about in the attic once again. Then we heard a louder thud than before, followed by more angry mutterings and cussing from above.
Making our way upstairs, onto the landing, my brother and I whispered to mum, “Did he bang his head?” we asked.
“Shush, he might hear you,” she warned, as she gazed uncertainly into the inky darkness above her.
A blast of icy cold air suddenly shot down from the attic. “Dad, where are you?” she said worriedly.
“You boys go play in your room,” she said to us.
“But it’s cold in there,” we answered.
“Go to your room!” she ordered. “I won’t take no for an answer!”
We did. We did as mum told us, we went to our room. We never played, though. With dad lost somewhere above us, play was far from our minds. Suddenly, we heard a crash and a smash. “MUM!” we shrieked.
“What is it?” she asked. “Don’t you know I am busy helping your dad?”
“MUM, THERE ARE LEGS IN HERE!”
“DAD’S LEGS ARE DANGLING THROUGH A HOLE IN THE CEILING!” we frantically told her.