Michael and Frankie McDonald were my cousins, still are, I suppose. They were the children of my mum’s sister Mary and her husband Frank, someone else who went to sea.
I remember Frank as a thin man with a wry smile who smoked a pipe and was partial to whisky. I don’t really know Aunty Mary’s drinking habits. She didn’t smoke a pipe but had a boisterous laugh and served us salad teas. I remember mounds of lettuce and salad cream, cricket in the garden of 61 Grandison Road, and sometimes excursions to Walton Hall Avenue Park…where we also played cricket.
We never argued. Just did what our parents told us. ‘Play cricket, boys.’ I hated cricket. Thoroughly pointless game. But I loved going over to Grandison Road. I remember blue skies and an Aunty that always smiled.
A brief respite from cricket. From left to right, Michael,his aunty Roma, Frankie...I'm the chubby one with the watchful eyes, probably eating a cheese sandwich. It might have been banana.I tried to like banana sandwiches but with little success. To the left is my mum.
As we grew older I saw my cousins less often, but one thing I’ll never forget. On my twenty first birthday, I was presented with a huge brass key as big as a small dog. It was a coming of age present from Michael and Frankie. I’ve yet to find the door it will open, perhaps the entrance to a Babylonian palace…now that would have been nice as a twenty-first present…only I’ve grown attached to the key.
Later, Michael married and transformed a beautiful innocent into Anne McDonald. They settled in Church Avenue opposite the church where Aunty Irene had experienced her Christmas Epiphany, opened a successful pet shop, and had three children. My cousin had grown up and made it look so easy.
Their house is that little brown shadow in the background between the two other houses. I believe it is now boarded up.
Sometimes, on Saturday nights, we would drink cider and beer, tell dirty jokes and solve most of the outstanding issues of the day. At the back of my mind I wondered whether I would one day own a house, open a successful pet-shop and have three children. Eight years previous I’d played in a tree house on the railway embankment opposite. At least I’d known where I was then…not drinking beer, worrying about the future, and where that future takes us.
The tree-house has gone. Not even boarded up. Dismal sigh
Michael’s children inherited their father’s wheeler-dealer skills. The eldest, another Michael along with Kevin, the youngest, went into catering, ran a restaurant in Liverpool’s Albert Dock complex (sadly I never got round to bumming a free meal there) and now work on oil rigs in Norway and Egypt. Paul went into banking, lives in Australia and has embarked on a second and successful career in photography.
We have just grown older.