I shouted in delight at the figure ambling into the site entrance. I had just spent a previous 4 weeks working in Bangor, Wales, on what was then an Abbey National refurbishment. With Bob for the first couple of weeks, then finishing the last couple on my own. And finally following Bob down to this job in Birmingham.
Its not that I minded working on my own, but working on my own, away from home with nobody to bounce off can become monotonously boring. And I was a little stir crazy by the time I followed Bob down to the job in Birmingham. So when Deano walked through the gates it was like balm on a tortured soul.
I’d first worked with Dean some 12 months previously in his home town, Doncaster up in Yorkshire. Dean was one of only two local lads to work on the job, re-fitting a night club in the center of town. At first I must admit I hardly spoke to him, more my natural reticence to new faces, and the fact that I was so busy on other things. Really, we hardly exchanged a word and I just watched him from a distance trying to decide if I liked him or not.
Dean had a razor sharp wit and could be cutting with it. Utterly dry with his observations. But he also had a sense of pure self mockery and tales he would come out with would often include a lot of self ridicule.
I was working on a raised dance floor at one point and became aware of Deano, who had wandered over, standing like he did, a slight slump in all his movements, half lidded eyes and lazy smile. He always looked laid back and lethargic even, like he chose not to have the energy for anything urgent. I’d never really spoken to him before so carried on concentrating on the work in front of me.
I was routering out sections on the treads of the steps, to fit some lights into the nosings. A router you understand is a sturdy body, in this case about the size of a blender, with a handle either side to grip, a trigger on one handle which when activated, began turning the cutter blade on the underside of the machine. You would lower the machine to the piece of work, pull the trigger and draw the router towards you letting the cutter do its job.
But you had to be careful.
So as Deans presence permeated on my concentration I turned to find him stood watching me, smoking his cigarette, with his head cocked in a contemplative way and the half smile ever present.
“Aye. I had a go on one of those things once.”
“Did you mate?” I asked wondering where he was heading with it.
“Yep. On a dance floor too actually. Had to bluff it a bit. I’d never used one before.”
“Hadn’t you mate? How did you find it? Does a nice job with a sharp cutter doesn’t it?”
“Well, so I’d heard, which is why I bought it. But as I set it down the fucking thing dragged me face down across the floor and machined a big groove in it. But aye, it was sharp as fuck alright..”
And had me laughing and I don’t think I stopped in all the time I worked with him.
We became good friends on that job and I was sad to move onto another when it finally came to an end. I didn’t see him for a while as he had work at home and no need to work away. So it was with a great deal of pleasure that he came strolling onto the job in Birmingham. He had lost some weight too and looked leaner and healthier.
“Deanoo! Looking good pal! How are you? Sight for sore eyes mate! Where you staying??”
“Not sure mate. ‘Av only just arrived. Where the lads digging?”
“Never mind that. You’re staying with me. Room in Bobs caravan.”
I was living on the work site on this job, in Bob the agents old, decrepit 2 bed caravan. I’ve mention Bob briefly in Fred West The Capet Layer. You couldn’t swing a cat in it. It was two seats-come-beds at one end, a sink opposite the door at the other, with room for a cupboard, and in between the door and the immediate bed, a unit and worktop with space for the microwave. Which Dean duly provided. Hello beans and ready meals! Bob had bought himself a new flashy caravan, double the size of his old one. He had abandoned me as a rent payer to his freezing old caravan, and moved all of 12 foot away into his new, warm, boudoir. With shower.
It had been growing steadily colder during the night, and Bobs old caravan leaked heat in such a way that I would have been warmer with the door open. I had even taken to going to bed with more and more clothes on, till it got to the point I was going to bed fully clothed, with my coat on during one particularly bad night. I went to sleep praying to God that I’d wake up in the morning. It was that cold. And when I did wake up, (ThankyouGod) the whole of the inside of the caravan myself included, was covered in frost..
So when Dean said,
“That’s smashing pal. Where can I put my stuff?”
I resisted the urge to say “On top of you when you go to sleep if you want to wake up.” He’d find out soon enough.
“Just chuck it in we’ll sort it later. Blimey! You’ve lost some weight lad!”
“Wellll, bit of a story. Not had much appetite to be honest.”
And he began to fill me in.
He’d finally decided to work away after a recently splitting with his long term girlfriend. He had discovered that she was having an affair with someone at work, a lad 10 years Deans junior. She worked in a local super store as a manager, and this young lad worked on the floor. Dean, obviously wounded had gone to the store, creating a huge scene and confronted the young lad. The lad obviously embarrassed, had denied all involvement and had been left screaming for someone to call the police, when Dean in his rage had grabbed the lad, and proceeded to drag him by the throat around the store like a rag doll. With various people hanging onto him trying to get him to release the half-throttled boy.
“As it turned out,” continued dean, “It was the wrong lad. And I half battered him before the police arrived and dragged me off to the cells for the night.”
Not to be deterred from his revenge, Dean then took to hiding in the car park behind the bushes by his ex’s car. Unable to see her from the bushes, he was relying on the sound of two doors opening and closing to confirm she had a passenger in the car with her. Sure enough he heard her approaching the car and a door open then close. Then a second door open and close.
“That’s was it! I knew I had the fucker! As the lights came on, I ran round the bushes as she reversed out and threw my self on the car shouting, “Gerrout you fucker! You’ve had it now!!!”
Only there was nobody in the car with her.
What she had done was get to the car and open the passenger door and throw her bag in. Shut the door, walk round then open the drivers door and get in. In the time it took to start the engine and reverse out, Ghengis Khan had run round the bushes and thrown himself prone like a limpet, on the bonnet roaring.
“And fuck me if she didn’t take off out of the car park with me on the bonnet hanging onto the windscreen wipers for dear life. I’m not kidding mate, she was screaming at me through the window and speeding up! I daren’t let go!”
“Jesus Deano!” I said already laughing. “How did you get off??”
“Not easily I tell you that for nowt! I’m hanging on to the windscreen wipers, so she turn the fuckin things on! Next thing I know, I’m flipping backwards-and-forwards across the bonnet, hanging on for dear life!! She must have realized I wasn’t letting go so she did the only thing she could!”
“Christ, what was that mate?”
“She slammed the anchors on!! From 40 mph to a standing stop! I landed 20 yards further on in the middle of Doncaster high street with one of the wipers in me hand, and half me pants hanging off me arse!”
“And did you catch up with this lad??”
“Jesus! Fuck no! After the police turned up and locked me up again, and charged me with criminal damage – wtf was I ‘sposed to hang onto? – I decided to call it a day. So here I am. Away from it all getting my life in order.
So we were back together again for the next 4 months. At the end of that time I had to finish working away and go back home as my wife was due with my daughter Holly. It was a good time. One wind up after another. Dean managed to set me up by watching my washing routine.
There was no shower block yet on site and I had taken to setting up in an old mop cupboard on the far side of the job. We were converting an old Sainsbury’s home base into a bingo hall. So you have an idea of the scale of the building. I would go over, lay paper over the filthy floor, set up a site fluorescent light and lay out my clean clothes ready to put on as soon as I was dry. Because speed was imperative as the only water available was cold. Cold water. In November. But 3 days was as long as I could stand with out a full body wash, then I’d crack and have to get soaped down. So I’d strip off, down to my birthday suit, start the tap running, take a breath then throw water over me till I was wet enough to get a lather with the soap. Then as quick as possible, lather up then wash it all off again, get dry and dressed and to say it was invigorating, would be an understatement.
Only this time, and this is who I believe was responsible, Dean had had the pipe fitter cut the feed to the mop room. So I set up lights, laid paper, stripped off, ran the tap and threw water all over myself. Turned the tap off while I lathered up, then, shivering, turned it on to wash the soap off again. Only to watch the final amount of water that remained in the pipes, trickle out..then stop.
While I stood, bollocko, squinting through soap, not quite believing this was happening till the penny dropped.
“Oh. Oh you fucking fucker! Wait till I….just wait! DEANOOOO!! You Yorkshire bastard!”
I managed to put some pants on and grabbed what I could and struggled off to the toilet block, some 300 yards distant, tripping over my laces the whole way. Where I had to strip off again, in the freezing air, and wash the remaining soap off.
I paid him back finally when he came back from a night out absolutely rat-legged drunk.
He had taken to partying in a big way, in an effort to get over his ex-girlfriend. He was out a fair few nights and working his way through a succession of girlfriends. This night he staggered in, his normal “I’m at ease in this world” face, half-lidded eyes now quarter lidded, favoring one more than the other in an effort to see straight.
I immediately saw a chance.
“Ok Deano? Good night?”
“Yeahyeah. S’mashin. S’good. bed. Sleep. Need close eyes.”
“Yeah ok mate. Get yourself lay down then.”
And he did just that. Didn’t bother getting undressed. Flat on his back snoring gently in no time.
I couldn’t resist it. I waited, I really did. Then when I was happy he was well away, I took my setting-out, indelible ink black felt-tip pen and drew the best curling mustache, goatee beard and glasses that I could. All the time I was sniggering and trying to suppress giggles by sticking my knuckles in my mouth as I drew.
And when I was done and sat admiring my handy-work, I had to turn the light off for fear I’d wake him up for laughing. And Instead, lay in the dark with my hands over my mouth trying to be quiet.
It took an age to go to sleep.
In the morning I took one look and had to get out. I rushed getting dressed and clattered out the door, throwing a ,
“Come on Deano! Time to get up son!!”
Then fairly ran to the site brew cabin where the other lads were arriving and starting a brew.
I told them briefly what I’d done and when Dean finally surfaced for his coffee, he was met by a wall of laughter as he came through the door.
“What? What is it?” He was asking looking himself up and down.
“What? Am I missing something? Is there something on my chin? What’s that bird done to me??” He said looking down cross-eyed and patting his face.
I must admit here, Dean was that good-natured, he must have known, but was just happy to let me have my moment.
I chalked it up to 1-1 anyway. Twat.
See, this was Dean. Laid back. If it made others laugh even at his own expense, he just didn’t mind. I think he enjoyed people laughing as much as laughing himself.
Finally I had to go home and so ended a great 4 months. Unusual for me because I hated being away from home. I didn’t see him for a while until he phoned me towards the end of that job.
“Deano!! How are you mate?”
“Yeah, fine Mike. Hows the baby?”
“Brilliant Dean. Not sleeping well but we’ll get past that.” (Yeah. 4 years later..) “How are you? How’s our caravan??”
“Aw mate! It Gone. Absolutely knackered!”
“What? You mean the cold got too much?”
“No! I mean Its Knackered! In pieces!!”
“Well, you know I was seeing that girl? The Copper?”
“Yeah? Got serious did it?”
“Serious? I’ll say serious! She only finished with her boyfriend to go out with me didn’t she! I never even knew until I went home for my week-end off and came back the following Monday. I drove into the car-park and whats the first thing I see??”
“My microwave. Smashed to pieces!”
“No mate! And that was the least of it! I turned to where my caravan was parked up and it was gone!”
“Gone?! Someone nicked it??”
“No mate! Someone had rolled it – and I don’t mean by the wheels – I mean rolled it over and over. It was smashed to fuck!”
It turned out, that this girl he had been dating had a boyfriend whom she promptly dumped to start seeing Dean. Only this ex-boyfriend was that bit more persistent where Dean had seen sense. He had waited for the site to empty for the week-end then climbed over and rolled Deano’s caravan over and over in the car park, shedding the interior as it went. Until it was literally smashed to bits and pieces.
“So I’ve moved in with Bob.” he finished.
Of course. I laughed. More, probably, than I did with the felt-tip.
Unfortunately I lost touch with Dean as family life took precedent. The last time I saw him was at my dad’s funeral and I’ll never forget the effort he made to get there.
Because, that was just Deano.
Finally, I hadn’t see Dean for a couple of years until my mum went on holiday.
My mum met a Yorkshire lad on holiday in Greece and like she does, she asked him 500 questions and got round to asking him where he was from. It turned out he was from Doncaster. And you need to understand my mum to realize she’ll talk to anyone. I mean, ANYONE. She’s has a natural talent of putting people at ease, and she will be gossiping away about something, that some total stranger will suddenly realize they have in common with her. She’s the only person I know who can go anywhere and know someone. So, like she does, when she found out he was from Doncaster, the very first question she asked was,
“You don’t know Dean (we’ll call him Smith) do you”
Bear in mind Docaster has a population of 60,000 and counting.
And do you know what this lad said?
I can see you know how this pans out.
“Blimey! I do as a-matter-of fact!”
And that’s how I managed to briefly get back in touch with him.
Until I moved house. Lost my damn contacts book and lost any contact I had with my good friend Deano.
But I’ve never forgotten the times I spent with him where I can honestly say I laughed every day.
Where ever you are mate, I hope it’s all gravy.