The Rocky Road Back to Kilburn (1:3)

The time was never quite right for Mary to move permanently to Ireland. In London, she had a steady job, and London put the job market around Limerick to shame. In the early days, son Paul had to make do with sporadic visits from his father – maybe Christmas, maybe a birthday – but even these dried to a trickle when Steve later took up with Coleen.

Steve’s great gift to the world was his ability to spin a yarn, and Paul’s key memory of daddy was Steve’s endless tales rooted in Irish history. But they were just tales, right? They bore no resemblance whatever to the *real* history that he started picking up as he got older. Right?

Paul had an unremarkable childhood; he did what had to be done but was not exceptional. He sat his GCSEs at sixteen and did well enough to continue at school. A-levels, though, were a different prospect altogether, and Paul struggled with the higher level of self-motivation that was required.

Mary was fiercely proud of her son – not a bad achievement when she had effectively brought Paul up, single handed. But even she could see the wheels coming off as Paul got older and mixed with “undesirables”. How she missed that father figure now that she needed one. Things grew into a crescendo of booze and street gangs, and Paul eventually gave up on school altogether. It was 1995, Paul was a few months shy of his eighteenth birthday, he had a handful of qualifications, and Paul needed to find a job.

There was plenty of “work”, available from his street-gang buddies, and it didn’t pay badly. For a few months, Paul was living the life of Riley, taking advantage of Mary. He would often equivocate with her, being less than truthful about who he’d been with, or what he’d been up to. Things came to a head, though, after he was arrested, and ended up at Magistrates Court. Despite the Conditional Discharge, the slap on the wrist for a first offence, Mary had had enough – if he didn’t pull his socks up, he would be out on his ear. Paul could see his life getting further out of control and, aged eighteen, he got his first proper job – a Christmas assignment at the Post Office. Paul did very well, he was sharp, well-liked, a hard worker, and made friends easily. He put a lot down to his Irish side, and his Blarney. Come February, Paul was offered a permanent job there.

In fact, Paul was good at the job – too good – and he progressed well, becoming a manager there. Aged 19, he had met Beth, and aged 21 – in 1999 – they had got married, setting up home in a shoebox of a house, on a new development not far from St Albans. Mary had her misgivings – they were both incredibly young – but wished the couple well. In the fullness of time, Paul outgrew the Post Office and happened upon an opening at RightWay, a human rights charity role which promised far more varied work than the Post Office. The work was less of a “sure thing”, but Paul was young, and was confident in his ability. Whatever lay in store, he could wing it.

The new job went well, Paul was able to contribute immediately, when he was thrown into the deep end, the fallout from the war in Iraq. Work often made up for a less-than-perfect life at home. Thinking that a baby would shore up the relationship, a son, Jake, duly arrived in 2008. But he was merely a stay of execution, and Paul and Beth separated in 2011, and finally divorced in 2014. Paul moved out of one rabbit hutch into another and started renting a bedsit close to his childhood home in Kilburn. For all he was absent, Paul did his best to be around for his son.


for Fandango’s One Word Challenge (FOWC), equivocate.