I hated my sister, I cannot remember a time when I didn't. She is five years older than me and I hated her for it.
She had everything, the looks – she is beautiful, the boys – always good looking, a wonderful job – in advertising. It made me sick, I was the mouse, the plain one, the stay-at-home, the left-on-the-shelf.
I was the one who gave her the name the bitch. She must have been a bitch to have so many boyfriends. Everyone calls her the bitch, but I don't think she knows where the name came from.
She went to college before I became a teenager, I haven't seen much of her since, I still hated her, but then something happened.
I took the day off work, something that I had done too often, a friend of mine had organised a trip to the canal basin, a ride in a narrow boat and a chance to meet boys in a pub in the evening.
He was standing there, being quiet, he probably worked somewhere close by, he was part of the place and I wanted him. This quiet looking guy was our guide for the next half hour.
He told us all about the canal basin, the narrow boats, the warehouses, the coal and the timber and the grain, the boatyard, the wharf and the crane. “The basin is the end of the canal where the boats unloaded their wares.”
We crossed over a footbridge to the other side. “I live up there above the workshop.” he said. “It's a converted warehouse.”
“And that brings us to the end of our walkabout, John is waiting in his narrow boat to take you for a cruise on the canal to Tonkins Lock and back. I'm sure you will enjoy that.”
“And when you are back I would like to point out the three very good pubs here, they all have good food. The Narrow Boat is traditional and very upmarket, the Rudderless Pig is very trendy, but the Winding Hole is my favourite, I sometimes work behind the bar.”
“Thank you for listening to me, I hope you have fun on the boat tour and in one or more of our pubs and goodbye.”
I had to tell him. “You are nice enough to eat. Why don't I take you to the Winding Hole for something to eat and drink?”
“Oh, yes, I mean no, I mean... I've got two more foot tours to do before I'm free. Why don't you take the boat trip and join me later on my last tour, please.”
He said please. I don't remember much about the boat trip, I did enjoy a second foot tour of the basin and the Winding Hole was fun. My friends all went to the Rudderless Pig. “No, don't go there, you won't find any locals there, even the bar staff are foreign students.” I had him to myself.
He was just what I wanted. He didn't look like the boys my sister had, no, quiet and just right for me. We went to his place, it was full of bits of car and oily pieces of engine, but I didn't care. I got what I wanted and it was him.
We saw a lot of each other in the next few weeks, I called him Motorman and he called me Fluffy Tail. Bad news, I lost my job, my own silly fault, I owed rent on my apartment and I was broke.
“No problem, come and live with me. I'll pick you up in ten minutes.” I put the few things I own into a large suitcase and stood on the pavement. His car roared to a halt and he jumped out, I was a bit afraid, but he drove safely.
I was a bit afraid, but living with him was fine. The bits of car soon disappeared, the woman in me came out and showed him how to keep the apartment tidy and clean, I even taught him how to cook a few things.
Life was fine, we went to the pub, but not every night, I talked to his friends, all males, but not about cars or sport, we watched TV, but...
I got a new job, but right on the other side of town, we did not see so much of one another, we had rows, he was very busy mending engines, bad times.
“Hello, I'm going to see Mum for the weekend. How would you like to come too. I'll pick you up in ten minutes.” After all these years my sister wants to take me for a ride. “Er, yes!” I put the few things I own into a large suitcase and stood on the pavement.
It was good to be with Mum. it was good to be with my sister. This was a big surprise, she really was not the bitch I thought she was. We went for long walks across the fields, lots to talk about, Mum was so happy to have her two daughters with her.
I told my sister about him, about my troubles with him, at great length. “I think I must leave him, but I still love him.” I must have trusted her, my sister was never the person I thought she was. Did I have that wrong!
“You have not asked me for my opinion – this is good – only you or rather you and him can work it out.” She told me about her boy troubles – she had never found her Mr Wright.
I had lost a boy and gained a sister.