Lord Justice Tenabrief , who presided over the Nipper trial, was of a mind for clemency. He was of a similar age to my father, and was of almost the same religious conviction. He well understood the strain of having lived through two world wars, and would clearly have felt more at home sending down young Teddy Boys who had hardly even known the last one, and whose behaviour was clearly born of rank degeneracy, rather than the misguided moral principles of the Nipper’s criminality.
If it wasn’t for his behaviour in court, he might have got away with some sort of probation. But Father used the public trial as a platform to express his views loudly, vigorously, and often.
“I was personally instructed by The Lord God Almighty to give corrective punishment to the wicked, the debauched and the flatitious” he cried, ignoring Tenabrief’s “Silence in Court”
“These are the end days, and my actions were designed to administer a warning to the misguided souls I pinched, to enable them to see the error of their ways, that they might be spared to survive the coming Armageddon, and see the Kingdom to come.”
Sitting in the back of the courtroom, I rubbed my legs, which I still imagined to be tingling from the nippings he gave me as a child. I could see the passion in his eye. I could see the conviction of a man who really believed that he was doing The Lord’s work, out of some sort of love for sheep that had gone astray. I almost understood him, I almost felt daughterly affection. But I didn’t. He was a ruddy lunatic wasn’t he?
That was what Tenabrief thought any road. He was committed to an asylum. St Dymphna’s hospital for the criminally bewildered. He died there in early 1960 and spent his final years heavily medicated, weaving baskets so badly that they would neither be use nor ornament, and occasionally having a day out to see the world through the windows of a yellow bus.
This meant that Mother and My little sister April May had the house to themselves. April was a young woman now. A pretty girl in her early 20s. She was working in the offices at a typewriter factory, and doing a good job of looking after her mother through the difficulties of the arrest and trial of father and life beyond it.
With father out of the way, they could spend the money that the had always insisted they save. April and Mum got the house looking much more modern and bright. Out went the old Victorian furniture chintz curtains, and dark, heavy rugs. In came clean pale blues and greens, smoother less fussy furniture with walnut veneer, and bright, modern carpets with vinyl filling the space between them and the skirting boards rather than plain dusty wooden floor.
They even had the kitchen done with Formica surfaces and brought the first television into the house (something that father had always forbade).
The house was fresh, bright and wonderful. Perhaps my farther would have said that April mother, would never have entered the Kingdom to Come, but they were finally enjoying their place on Earth.
Auntie Doris’s pop hit of 1958: “You Need Hands” by Max Bygraves. It was a lovely sentiment, and a nice song, which I used to enjoy singing along to. But I couldn’t help thinking of how people who didn’t have any hands felt when they heard it. Them that had had them blown off in the war, or in some terrible firework related accident or something. When they heard that song they would have felt terrible, and wanted to turn the radio off at once. But they might have not been able to do it very easily.