The Master of the House

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This story concerns a man approaching his thirtieth birthday whose mother, a very ordinary fifty-five-year-old housewife, becomes available to him, sexually.

The story is set in the nineteen-seventies in the northeast of England. For reasons of clarity I have made no attempt to reproduce the very distinctive regional accent and dialect; I’m not sure how I would achieve it with any degree of realism within the limitations of the English alphabet.

I hope you enjoy the tale and welcome feedback through voting or comments.


A Geordie is someone who is born on or near the River Tyne in northeast England; this includes the city of Newcastle and a handful of towns such as Gateshead, Wallsend, Jarrow and South Shields. I read once that the term “Geordie” was coined during the Jacobite rebellion to refer to the inhabitants of Newcastle-upon-Tyne who predominantly favoured the Hanoverian King, George II.

But this story isn’t set in 1745, it takes place in 1974. And it’s not a history lesson, although I think it’s worth me setting off by giving a bit of background about myself and my family. For starters I’m a proper Geordie, born and raised in Gateshead, sprawled over the south bank of the Tyne and facing Newcastle across the river. My dad was a sales rep for an engineering company and he was quite good at it, being full of bullshit. This meant my sister and I were brought up in a three-bedroom nineteen-thirties semi-detached house instead of a back-to-back terrace. And it meant my mum (“me mam” in Geordie-speak) didn’t have to go out to work. Of course she was working when she met my dad; she was the office admin assistant in the engineering company my dad worked for.

Dad being dad charmed the pants off her, literally, and got her in the family way. She was only twenty. I think, reading between the lines, that he was reluctant to do the right thing. Years later I heard that his company told him that if he didn’t marry her they’d fire him. You could do that in those days. So my older sister, Lucy, was born in nineteen-thirty-nine and the next year dad was conscripted into the army.

He was always a bit cagey about the war years, but he must have come home at some stage because I was born in early ‘forty-five when mum was twenty-six. Post-war Britain wasn’t a golden age; there was rationing until the mid-fifties and a lot of poverty, especially in the north of England. But we did ok. Dad’s job was safe enough as long as he kept selling, which he did, and I look back on my childhood and adolescence with affection. Mum didn’t go out to work but she was always busy: cleaning the house, cooking, going down to the shops every day for the perishables — we didn’t have a refrigerator until after I’d left home.

I guess I should try to describe her as she’s the focus of this story, so here goes: Joan Agatha Mackenzie, nee Wright, was fifty-five-years-old in 1974 and was tall for her generation, about five feet eight. She was slim when she met dad, and she stayed that way through the war years when food was short. But after the war, when she was no longer working, she put on a few pounds. Nothing like today’s excesses but a bit of padding on her hips and a slight bulge over the waistband of her sensible skirts and a bit of a double chin. She’s never been desperately pretty but she’s ok: a long, rather anxious-looking face with full lips and a retrousse nose that’s probably her best feature. Her hair’s dark brown and shoulder-length and has quite a bit of grey in it now. Her eyes are dark blue and there are pouches beneath them that a plastic surgeon would sort out in a trice. But that’s a million miles from who mum is. She’s quiet and calm and a bit mousy and… meek. Yes, meek I suppose. Subservient. She certainly never stood up to dad when he bullied her, which he did quite a lot. And she didn’t seem to have any other life than dad and the house and kids. She had few friends, no close ones, and her parents were killed in the war. She had a brother but he’d emigrated to Australia in the ‘fifties — a ten-pound Pom. Which all sounds a bit sadder than it really was. I always thought mum was content with her lot; she never complained. She never said much about herself at all, come to think of it. It was with me, later on, that she opened up.

I’m David, by the way, at least to my parents. Dave to my mates and “Mac” to the guys at work. I’m five-ten, average build, average looks, average everything, really. Facially I suppose I look a bit more like mum than dad, same long face and turned-up nose. “Work” is the Swan-Hunter shipyard at Wallsend. I’ve been there since leaving school, where I did ok, although I left at sixteen. Lucy’s the bright one. She went to University in Durham and then went down to London and became a lawyer. I went into the shipyard because I didn’t want to go down the pits, and I did a full trade apprenticeship.

In 1974, just before my thirtieth birthday, I was a senior test engineer in the dockside test organisation and I was very happy with my lot. The pay bahis şirketleri was good, there was loads of overtime and I was proud to be a part of a yard that had built liners like the Mauretania and the Carpathia and aircraft carriers for the Royal Navy and hundreds of other vessels. I also had a good bunch of mates, plenty of cash for booze and cigarettes, a Ford Cortina Mk3 that was only three years old and had go-faster stripes down the sides and a one-bed flat in Whitley Bay. I didn’t own the flat; I should have bought my own place but I’m lazy and I was having a good time and didn’t want to be tied down. That applied to girlfriends too. I rarely had one for more than two or three months. Pauline lasted the longest, nearly a year. She ditched me a few weeks before this story starts because I got pissed with the lads one Saturday afternoon and went to the football instead of taking her dancing. Which sort of brings me to the start of this story, eventually. And thank you for your patience, I hope you’ll think it was worth it.

It was a cloudy, cool Sunday in early July. Most Sundays, if there was nothing better to do, I drove over to mum and dad’s for Sunday lunch, although we called it dinner in those days. With no current girlfriend there tended to be nothing much to do on Sundays lately. The shipyard was going through a quiet patch and most of my mates were married and had a family and their wives kicked off if they went down the pub on their day off and came back three hours later and fell asleep in front of the telly.

I pulled up on the road in front of their house and the first thing I noticed was that dad’s car was missing, which was odd because he was always in on Sundays. That’s when he mowed the lawns and tended the flower beds and sat in his garden shed reading the Sunday paper. I let myself in and shut the front door behind me and it wasn’t right. There was silence: no radio from the kitchen, no clattering of dishes or smells of cooking and no television noise from the living room.

‘Anybody in?’ I called out, feeling a bit stupid.

‘In here, David.’ Mum’s voice was faint although she was only twenty feet or so away. I went through into the living room, at the back of the house. It doubled as a dining room, with a table against the back wall and double doors that looked out over the garden. Mum was sitting on the chintzy three-seater settee that faced the television, her hands in her lap. She looked at me as though I was a stranger before giving me a faint smile.

‘Mum, what’s up?’ I asked, sitting down next to her.

She took so long to reply that I was about to ask again. ‘Your dad’s left,’ she said finally in a sort of hoarse whisper.

‘Left?’ I repeated.

‘He’s left me,’ she said, quietly, and a tear rolled down her cheek unchecked and I put my arm around her and hugged her to me.

‘When? What happened?’ I asked, my mind in a whirl. And haltingly, with much wiping of eyes and nose blowing, she told me.

For the past couple of years my father had revived a childhood interest in model railways and had joined a local club. I was vaguely aware of this but as dad had made no move to build his own model railway at home, it didn’t really impinge on me. I wasn’t interested in trains anyway so I never asked to go to his club and he never invited me. I sometimes wonder what he’d have said if I had asked, because it transpired that the railway club was a front for him to pursue an illicit relationship with a younger and quite comely widow whom he’d got to know after a chance meeting in a client’s offices. As well as being younger and prettier than mum, the widow was, apparently, pretty well off too. So much so that my dad was able to leave his job and go and live with her in her well-appointed detached villa on the outskirts of Durham.

This was the gist of what he’d told mum on Saturday afternoon, just before he’d packed a couple of suitcases and departed. He’d padded it out with a load of self-justifying bollocks about how he was unhappy in the marriage and needed to make a change in his life before it was too late. It was all about him, as it had always been.

After the catharsis of this narrative mum seemed to lose whatever residual energy she’d had. She slumped against me in a half-faint so I laid her down on the settee, took her slippers off and smoothed her tweed skirt over her woollen tights. Then I fetched a blanket from the airing cupboard and laid it over her.

‘What have you eaten today?’ I asked.

‘Nothing,’ she whispered. ‘I couldn’t.’

‘Right,’ I said, ‘you lie there and get some sleep. I’m cooking Sunday dinner.’ She smiled faintly and closed her eyes and, as I stood and watched, her breathing became more regular and she slept.

I went into the kitchen and looked around. I’d never cooked a Sunday dinner in my life and I had little or no idea what to do; my cuisine was based on fish and chips and Chinese or Indian take-away food, interspersed with supermarket ready meals and baked-beans-on-toast. But hey, it couldn’t bahis firmaları be that difficult could it? I wasn’t confident but I was determined. For maybe the first time in her life mum needed my help and I wasn’t about to let her down. The knowledge gave me a surprising boost; it felt good to have someone relying on me for a change. Made me feel like a real adult.

It’s probably best to gloss over the next couple of hours. I checked on mum periodically but she was deeply asleep, so I pressed on. The end result was edible, but that’s about all you could say for it. Mum woke up as I was laying the table so I made her a cup of tea and we had our belated, and rather nasty, Sunday lunch about four o’clock.

Mum hardly ate anything. The mashed potatoes and gravy were probably the high spot and she had a bit of that and drank her tea and that seemed to perk her up a bit. After I’d done the dishes I asked if there was anything else I could do and she said she was going to have a bath and I should go and enjoy the rest of my day off. I was reluctant to leave her but she was firm.

‘I’ll come round tomorrow, after work,’ I promised, and I hugged her and pecked her on the cheek and felt her soft breasts squash against my chest.

When I got to mum’s house early on the Monday evening she seemed in slightly better spirits, although there were black rings around her eyes and her face seemed more lined and her hair greyer than it had twenty-four hours ago. On the dining room table was a pile of paperwork.

I tried to cheer her up by telling her about something that had happened at work that afternoon, but she was distracted and kept looking at the papers on the table.

‘Are you ok?’ I asked, which was a pretty crass question, in the circumstances.

‘I don’t know how I’m going to afford to live,’ she said, quietly. ‘Your dad’s left his job and what he’s offered me as maintenance won’t cover the household bills, let alone the mortgage. There’s still two years to go on that.’ I hadn’t realised that my parents still had a mortgage on their house.

‘What about his works pension?’

‘He can’t claim that until he’s sixty-five. That’s eight years away.’

Mum and I sat down and she took me through the household expenses on a weekly and monthly basis and it was clear that she was right. There was nowhere near enough money coming in to cover the outgoings and there was a very real risk that the lender would repossess the house and mum would be homeless. That, I told myself, was not going to happen.

‘I need to speak to Lucy,’ I said, standing up. ‘We need to help.’

Mum smiled, wanly. ‘That’s what your dad said: “Get the kids to help out. We paid enough out on them over the years”. I haven’t told Lucy yet,’ she added.

‘I’ll call her now.’ It was a measure of mum’s despair that she didn’t try to stop me.

Lucy is six years older than me, enough of a gap that we hadn’t connected much as kids. Plus she always had her head in a book. But we got on ok and when she answered my call, as I stood in the hallway at mum’s, she sounded pleased enough to hear from me. That changed quite quickly. I explained that dad had left mum in the lurch and that she and I needed to step up to the plate and help out. It wasn’t the most subtle approach; I should have guessed Lucy wouldn’t want me to be dictating terms; she was a lawyer and good at talking. Arguing. After half an hour she’d explained that as she no longer worked, and her two children were at private school, money was tight, despite what I might think from appearances. Therefore financial assistance wasn’t going to be easy. I was a bit pissed off by now and suggested that as her children were at a boarding school, she could have mum come to live with her in London. That went down like a lead balloon and after promising to keep her updated I rang off and went into the living room. Mum looked up at me with a hint of a smile.

‘Lucy not interested then?’ She knew her daughter too well.

Mum and I talked long into the evening. The facts were clear: she couldn’t afford the house on her own so she needed help. Lucy had declined so it was up to me. I couldn’t afford to maintain my flat and pay her mortgage and bills so we needed to consolidate our living spaces. It made no sense for mum to come and stay in my one-bed flat so I would relinquish that and move in with her. Mum argued about this for a while, she felt awful about imposing upon my freedom, but the logic was unassailable.

I gave notice on my flat the following day, with some regret. It was a hundred yards from the beach and the noise of seagulls woke me up in the morning with their promise of the sea and adventure. Over the next four weeks I moved my stuff into mum’s house and started sleeping in my old bedroom, with its single bed and chest of drawers. Fortunately the Thunderbirds wallpaper had long since been replaced. It could have been a lot worse. Ok it was a pain not being able to take girls back to my place. I suppose I could have done, but what girl wanted to kaçak bahis siteleri go home with a bloke after a night out and meet his mum? On the plus side I was actually a bit closer to work and the house was bigger and nicer than my flat.

Then there were the domestic arrangements: Mum did all the cooking and cleaning and washing and I just did the gardens, like dad had done. And despite the fact that it was her house, mum deferred to me in almost everything. It was as if she’d replaced a husband with a grown-up son. Oddly, I enjoyed the responsibility. The knowledge that without me, mum wouldn’t have survived gave me a warm feeling. I didn’t take advantage and start ordering her around or anything; I certainly never bullied her like dad had done and, as a result, we became very close, spending time together watching television or going out into the country at weekends in my car. I really felt like I’d grown up at last.

A month after moving in it was my thirtieth birthday and mum asked me what I would like. I’d been pondering about this for a few weeks and had decided that what I really wanted for my birthday was to treat my mother. She’d had a shit time; not just recently but for years, as I was just beginning to discover. There was a side to my father that I’d suspected but never seen: the bullying, the ridicule, the sneering at everything she did. He hadn’t wanted to marry her, she confirmed, and he’d spent their marriage reminding her of the fact. I was very angry and the one time he showed up in a van to collect his stuff I nearly thumped him. I stopped him taking a lot of the things he wanted and he didn’t protest. He couldn’t even meet my eye.

But I digress. Anyway, mum had told me, on one of our walks, that she’d never been to a posh restaurant. Well, neither had I, actually, unless you counted the Star of Bengal or the Hong Kong Moon in Whitley Bay. So I told her that I wanted to take her out to a really nice restaurant in Newcastle. She objected that that wasn’t a treat for me and I said it was and she blushed and cooed and said she hadn’t got anything nice to wear, which was true, so I frogmarched her to Marks and Spencer in Gateshead where we settled on a mid-length, dark-grey cocktail dress and some high-heeled shoes.

The restaurant I’d chosen was Italian, Antonio’s, off Westgate Road. I’d done a bit of research and concluded that, while it was still costly by my standards, it wasn’t crazy expensive. And my birthday was on a Wednesday that year so it should be quiet.

The table was booked for seven, it was the latest I could get mum to agree to. She had some unnatural fear of being out after midnight, no doubt inspired by the Brothers Grimm. At five o’clock, just as I was getting home from work, she disappeared upstairs leaving me to open my birthday cards, a card from my father being conspicuous by its absence. At six o’clock I called up the stairs to ask if she was nearly ready and fifteen minutes later she appeared, tottering slightly on her unfamiliar high heels.

The grey woollen cocktail dress was a good fit; it showed her generous breasts and hips off, although unfortunately it also showed her small pot belly. It was short enough that you could admire her lower legs, which were encased in black tights and were one of her best features, with nice calves and slim ankles. She’d put her hair up in a coil and had gone to town on her make up, with face powder, blusher on her cheeks, eye shadow and eye liner and a cherry red lipstick. She usually didn’t wear much make up; this evening she’d maybe overdone it slightly but I stood up and told her she looked amazing and she gave me a big smile and when she did that she really did look good. Not amazing, but pretty and… well, sort of wholesome and mum-like if you know what I mean.

I could tell straightaway that she was nervous and I thought this was probably because we were going to a nice restaurant and she was worried she’d let me down and use the wrong knife and fork or something. ‘We’ve got fifteen minutes before the taxi gets here,’ I said. ‘Would you like a drink?’ She wasn’t a big drinker but she said yes and I made us both a stiff gin and tonic which we’d just finished when the taxi hooted from the road.

Antonio’s was lovely. Expensive but lovely. The eponymous owner met us at the door and mum said it was my birthday and I said I’d brought my mum out for a treat and he positively beamed at us; the Italians are a very family orientated people. He called a waiter over and said something to him in Italian and we were shown to a nice little table in the window and for the whole evening we got five-star service. It was amazing. The food was great too. My exposure to Italian cuisine pretty much started and finished with spaghetti bolognaise so my fillet steak was a revelation.

Best of all, mum enjoyed herself immensely. As soon as she realised she wasn’t on trial she relaxed, aided by the Chianti, and smiled at the waiter and beamed at me and we talked about holidays and books and films on television as we ploughed our way through the antipasto, the main course and dessert. She wasn’t tipsy or anything, as we gave the staff our heartfelt thanks and headed for the taxi rank, but her colour was high and she was talking a lot more than usual.

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