When The Pie Was Opened
The following short pieces are extracted from
WHEN THE PIE WAS OPENED
Terence Pettigrew's unpublished satire of the 1950s
Skilfully orchestrated or not, the post-War mea culpa
mentality rampaged through the adult population like
a forest fire. Stale gratitude wafted through our
sitting-room like the aroma of terradactyl eggs. My
parents became obsessed with gratitude. Forgetting
our 'pleases' and 'thank-yous' in our house was a crime
comparable to gassing the population of Manchester.
"You've got everything to be thankful for" my mother
would shrill at us from the washboard. Sure, Momma.
One-third of a powdered egg every four days. A grey
banana every fortnight. Smog coating our lungs like
the interior of an exhaust pipe. If this is everything,
God, please don't make me a human being the next time.
Make it easy on yourself. Give me a tail to wag and
a poodle to jump on, and I'll be in heaven.
My father who had never experienced poverty in the
graphic sense embellished our family history until
he made us all sound like Fagin's apprentices.
By far his happiest days were the ones which he sailed
through without spending anything. He went to
extraordinary lengths to prevent money leaving the
house. When our modest requirements were brought to
his attention, he would extract a half-crown from
his waistcoat pocket and repeat the story about how
his entire needs for 1926 had been financed by an
Our family motto, handed down through the generations,
was 'what decent folk can't afford they oughtn't to
bloody well have'. Consequently, ours was the last house
in the street to have any kind of electrical appliance.
When I begged my father if we could, please, have a
television set installed for the Coronation of Queen
Elizabeth II, he went through his pockets and said "No".
I watched that historic event in acute discomfort in
a neighbour's house, squashed in with two other families
whom I hadn't met before, and a man in a wheelchair who
didn't appear to belong to anybody. Every thirty minutes
or so, a cheerful madwoman would breeze in, carrying
trayfuls of tea and biscuits, as if we had surfaced in
the middle of a Kardomah.
I had the additional burden of Catholic parents who left
me with the impression that God was a cantankerous old
bag of wind who gave boys the facility to have frequent
erections, and then got upset when they had them.
Contrary to current thinking, I found it reassuring to
grow up knowing nothing about sex. One nervous boy at my
school, who thought sex just an elaborate bowel movement,
wept despairingly when he realised that it meant putting
a highly valued and much studied part of himself inside
a girl. One day he vowed that he would prefer to cut it
off than submit it to such an indignity, and was alarmed
to find several classmates eager to perform the surgery.
Cycling club members came in two categories--the keen and
the always-unready. The keen ones arrived at the starting
point prepared for the worst, their saddle-bags crammed
with survival kits, weatherproofs, first-aid wallets,
compasses, pen-knives, water bottles, puncture repair
outfits and spare valves.
The always-unready couldn't tell a point on the compass
from a hole in the road, and they always collapsed in
gasping heaps ten minutes after setting off. They pedalled
around on black, upright pre-War monstrosities which
weighed a ton, and they wore everyday clothes with their
trousers tucked unattractively into their socks because
they hadn't bothered to find out that the cycle clip had
Teenage romance invariably meant having to ingratiate
myself with a second set of parents, ie, hers, and since
I had the utmost difficult getting along with my own,
I approached this hurdle with deep pessimism. I attempted
everything I could think of, apart from showering the
family with cheques, to be accepted by her parents.
I think her father would have been more welcoming to
a suicide bomber.
Extracted From 'When The Pie Was Opened'
|Posted: February 14, 2005 , Modified: February 14, 2005|