Good Clean Fun: Extracts

from Uncle Brian

Nine year-old Joe describes the tangled web of his family’s relationships and, in particular, his affection for his mother’s boyfriend, Uncle Brian.

Uncle Brian isn’t my proper uncle but I call him it because he’s married to Mum.  Dad is married to Jayne but I don’t call her Aunt.  Jayne spells her name with a ‘y’.  Mum used to laugh at her, but she can’t now she’s married to Uncle Brian because his dad’s got a tattoo.  My name’s Joseph but most people call me Joe.  Mum calls me Joey, which Dad hates because he thinks I’ll never grow into a man.  Uncle Brian calls me Jay, which is the capital letter of Joseph but, when he writes it down, he adds ‘ay’ to make it a word.  ‘A jay is my favourite bird,’ he says, ‘just like you’re my favourite boy.’ 

Here, I’m only called Joe in letters.  The Warden and staff call me Pargeter like they’re talking to Dad.  The other boys call me Yid, which is a bad word for being Jewish.  I’m not Jewish – I’m not anything though Granny taught me the Lord’s Prayer – but, on the first day I was sent here, three of the Intermediates followed me into the toilet and pulled down my pants.  ‘Look, he’s a Yid,’ one of them said, ‘he’s had the top chopped off.’

‘It’s more hygienic,’ I said, ‘my dad’s a dentist.’

‘You’ll be all right then,’ another one said and punched me in the mouth.

The only people here who ask what I want to be called are the doctors.  ‘Jay,’ I tell them.  But, when they ask me why, I don’t say.

They’re always asking something.  I used to want to be eighteen so I could stay up all night, but now I want to so I won’t have to answer any more questions.   When you’re eighteen, you can say ‘I’d like to speak to my solicitor’.  When you’re eighteen, you can say ‘I reserve the right to stay silent,’ like they do on TV.  When you’re nine, you don’t have any choice.  My grandpa Pargeter used to give me 50p every time I got ten out of ten in one of his tests.  If I got 50p every time I answered all the questions in here, I’d be rich as the Queen.  ‘Did your Dad ever hit your Mum?’ they ask in voices that sound like smiles.  ‘No,’ I say, and I know they think I’m lying.  But it’s true.  They just used to shout – sometimes until it was midnight.  ‘You bitch,’ he’d say.  ‘You bastard,’ she’d say.   But I’m not going to tell tales.

Mum stopped loving Dad when I was four.  She told Aunty Janet she sent him packing, but that was a lie because he just piled his clothes straight on the back seat of the car – which is another thing that’s allowed when you’re eighteen.  Mum said she did it for us – that’s me and Rose.  Rose is my sister:  she’s four years older, but she says, since girls grow up quicker than boys, it’s more like eight.  Mum said she did it to protect us because, if you live next to waste, you end up becoming contaminated.  Rose said that was a lie too and she did it for herself so that she wouldn’t have to share Dad with ‘that woman’.  Mum never calls Jayne ‘Jayne’.  Sometimes she calls her ‘the slag’, although I was the only one brave enough to call it her to her face.  Dad gave me three smacks and drove us home early.  At first Mum was cross but, when she found out what happened, she kissed me and called me her ‘knight in shining armour’.  I wish I’d been wearing armour on my legs.  She said, if Dad smacked me again, I must tell her straightaway so she could report him to the police.  I think she was sad when he never did.

Ever since Dad went to live with Jayne, he’s only allowed into our hall – even though half the house belongs to him – and Jayne isn’t allowed onto the doorstep.  Mum won’t speak to Jayne.  The one time when she saw her in a shop, she turned away like she was a witch and marched us straight out.  Rose cried and said that it was embarrassing.  But there’s not much chance it’ll happen again because Mum can’t afford to take us to the sort of places where Dad takes Jayne.  ‘They’re living it up on our money,’ she says when her friends come round and tell her where they’ve seen them.  The thing that upsets Mum most is that Jayne gave up her job as Dad’s hygienist so she could spend the day painting her toenails, when Mum has to go out to work in Aunty Janet’s wine bar.  Which is strange because Dad tells us over and over that Mum is bleeding him dry.  He gives her money every week.  ‘Like pocket money?’ I asked her.  And she screamed like she’d stood on a nail.  ‘I can see you’re your father’s son all right!’  But you’d think she would have seen that before.


from  Good Clean Fun

Harris Littlewood, a popular TV comedian, finds his nightclub act spiralling out of control.

Shall I give you a twirl…?  Thank you.  You wouldn’t know it but I used to be quite a mover.  I still am when I’m in the wrong place at the wrong time and his wife walks in….  No, but seriously, who has the right to throw stones?  We’re all the same under the skin.   That even goes for you sir, yes, you in the third row with the mange….  Goodness, but you take your time to warm up.  If this is what it’s like on the top of the bill, I wouldn’t want to try it at the bottom….  No, stop it!  I said at the bottom.  At, at!  Riffraff!   Never mind.  Now here’s one for the ladies.  What are the three words you dread most when you’re making love?  ‘Darling, I’m home…!’ You have to laugh.  No, but seriously, some of my best friends are ladies.  My mother was one for a start.  Well, at least she tried, which is more than I can say for you lot here tonight.  Talk about common!  My mother was a local landmark.  Though that might have been the red light she used to stand under.  I wouldn’t exactly call her cheap, but she dived for pennies in the wishing-well.  She was saving up for an Austin Seven.  She’d put sixpence in a jar every time she went to the little girls’ room.  With her bladder, she should have had enough for a Rolls Royce…. There are no refunds so you might as well make the most of it….  She’s in a home now, my mother.  It’s best for everyone.  She didn’t know whether she was coming or going.  And, frankly, it was hell on the carpet.  I wouldn’t have cared but I’d just had the cat spayed.  Don’t get me wrong.  I’m all for Mother Nature in her place.  But, if one of us was going to be chased by a lot of tomcats, it was me….  Tell me, madam, does your husband know you’ve had a face-lift or does he think your ears blush naturally…?  It’s all very well for you lot.  I wish I could sit there with you and laugh at myself.  I wish I could laugh at myself full stop….  But you don’t want to listen to my problems.  Laugh and the world laughs with you:  cry and you ruin your make-up….  As I was saying before I so rudely interrupted – keep up! – my health:  I’m in worse shape than Madonna’s mattress.  Believe it or not, I’m wearing a truss.   Yes, all right.  I know there are those who claim that it’s padding to protect me from the gay men and lesbians who object to my material, but that’s nonsense.  In any case, some of them are my biggest fans.  They can poke fun at themselves as well as the next man – or woman.  Mustn’t forget the woman.  Not in these days of equal opportunities.  And I’m an equal opportunities comedian.  I’ll do anything:  christenings, bar-mitzvahs, fatwas….  Of course they can take a joke.  What’s life if you don’t have a sense of humour?  But you have to be so careful these days, not to tread on anyone’s toes.  Soon the only acts left will be mimes.  You daren’t breathe a word about the blacks or the Irish….  Is it better to be gay or black?  Black:  you don’t have to tell your mother.  Have you heard the one about the Irish lesbian?  She liked to sleep with men….  A good joke’s universal. Laughter’s what binds us together.  I get letters from all sorts – riffraff  to royalty – thanking me for bringing a spot of joy into their lives.  Yes, a spot of joy:  that’s what we all need.  And, if I can’t have it, why should any of you…!   No, it’s nothing to worry about, madam, I have these funny turns.  I said to my doctor, ‘Doctor, I keep coming over a little queer.’  ‘You’re in the wrong place,’ he said to me, ‘the laundry’s next door.’   It’s all right, sir, you’re allowed to laugh.  Your social worker won’t catch you.  She came last night.  That’s why the seat’s still wet….  Just spread a little happiness as you go by….   The other week, I was at the tailors having my inside leg measured by ever such a nice young man.  You know the sort:  trousers so tight, you can’t only tell his politics but his religion….  Riffraff!  He made me this pair specially – out of Sylvester Stallone’s shirt-sleeves.  Have you seen the muscles on that man?   I tell you, he can point his bazooka my way any day of the week.  Why aren’t there more like him around, eh girls?  Still, there’s no accounting for tastes, as the lesbian said to the fishmonger.  Oh it’s a funny old world.  You have to laugh… though it seems you don’t.  Never mind, I’ve played to worse.  Remember me?  Harris Littlewood:  ‘It’s the way I wear them’.   Of course, the politically correct brigade – the tofu-eating killjoys (do you know what tofu is, madam?  It’s Japanese for bullshit),  the sort who think it’s smart to have crockery that doesn’t match – would like to ban me from the stage.  I get letters from them too, denouncing me as a traitor to the cause.  What cause?  I’m not political.  I’ve made it my business to appeal to the widest possible audience.  Not that I seem to be having much success here tonight.  I feel about as welcome as a barmaid at a mosque.  What’s the matter with you all?  It’s not Remembrance Sunday….  Have you heard the one about the two gay Scotsmen?  Ben Dover and Phil MacAvity….  A little louder, sir, please.  Yes, you sir, the gentleman who laughed.  I could use the support….  There’s no malice in my act.  Just good clean fun.

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