Home > The Lies We Hide

The Lies We Hide
Author: S.E. Lynes







Blackpool Pleasure Beach, 1968



They’ve only been there five minutes when Ted grabs her hand.

‘Carol, look,’ he says, tilting his head. ‘The rockets! Come on!’

In front of them is the giant spider of Maxim’s Flying Machine. Blackpool is famous for it. That and the bright pink rock that sticks your teeth together. Oh, and the illuminations, of course.

Carol shakes her head. ‘No, Ted,’ she says, pulling against him as he drags her towards the ride.

‘Aw, come on! You can’t come all this way and not go on Maxim’s.’ He’s still pulling her forward; her stiletto soles slip on the grimy ground.

‘You know I can’t be doing with heights,’ she says. ‘You go on. Go on, go.’

He looks at her a moment before snatching a quick kiss. ‘All right then,’ he says, already backing away. ‘Wait here for me.’

He lets go of her hand and she watches him, the cocksure way he walks, pulling his comb from the back pocket of his suit trousers, teasing the slick duck’s arse to perfection, returning the comb with one deft hand.

She loses him then, in the crowd. Meanwhile, the torpedo-shaped cars fill with thrill-seekers. They’re excited to be out on a Friday night, flush with a week’s pay, armed with pastel clouds of candyfloss and filthy innuendos. Lads joke and flirt. Girls laugh and smooth out their miniskirts. Fleeting orange sparks of last-minute cigarettes flash to the ground.

Minutes later, there’s Ted: last on, hooking one drainpiped leg into his capsule, grinning and mugging at her like a lunatic. From this distance, his bootlace tie is lost against his pale pink shirt, his black velvet lapels invisible against the milk-chocolate brown of his jacket.

No sooner is he in his seat than the rockets begin to chug, lurching along to the first slow, discordant notes of the organ. Smells of petrol, cigarettes and sugar syrup settle on Carol’s new cream mohair cardie. The rockets climb; as Ted’s capsule lifts, he half stands, wobbling, his body at a terrifying angle. The great metal spider extends its legs; the rockets climb higher. Ted is flying towards her now, coming up to eye level.

‘Carol Green!’ he shouts at the top of his voice as he glides past. ‘Will you marry me?’

And then he’s gone, the back end of his capsule circling away.

Her mouth is open in shock. She can hear Ted laughing madly, hidden inside his pod. He reappears then, further away. He’s sitting down, thank heavens, but he’s still larking about. His rocket floats lower, there on the other side of the ride; a couple of bumps and it begins to climb once more, heading back around to where Carol stands rooted to the wet tarmac.

He begins again to stand. Oh for pity’s sake. Bloody idiot.

‘Ted!’ she cries out to him. ‘Sit down, will you? You’ll get yourself killed.’

Embarrassed, she stares at her feet, covers her forehead with her hand. But here he comes again, higher and higher, over her head.

‘Carol Gree-een!’ Only the round base of the rocket above her. Only his voice. ‘Will you marry me? Oi! Carol! Can you hear me?’

Never mind me, she thinks. The whole fairground can hear you.

In the puddle by her feet, the crescent moon shines up at her: a white arc in a reflected navy sky – faceless, like the grin of the Cheshire Cat. The rockets revolve, faster now. Up and down, round and round on the ends of the spindly spider legs. The music reaches full speed: a heady, spinning waltz. She can’t hear Ted anymore and it looks like he’s sat down properly now, thank goodness. Oh, but he’s still waving his arms about, still carrying on. He’s always mucking about, is Ted. Always creating. But he’s never shouted down at her like that before, never asked her that.

He was only joking, though.

Obviously he was.

She’s not stupid.

Once he gets off, he’ll not ask her again.

Not to her face.

Will he?

As if to get her attention, the funfair flashes its lights – rudely, she thinks. It might have been pouring down since dawn, they seem to say, but the rain’s stopped now, it’s getting dark and we’ll not be put out, so stop your brooding, Carol Green. This is a funfair. You’re supposed to have fun.

A hiss and a heavy, industrial clunk. The rockets slow, descend, stop. The laughing riders clamber out: squeals, shrieks, names lost on the sticky air. The turnstile gives out greasy squeaks as, one by one, the new crowd pushes through while the old is spewed, chattering, through the exit.

‘Oi.’ Ted appears in front of her, blows at his black quiff, smooths one side with the flat of his hand. ‘Didn’t you hear me?’

She nods at the puddle between them. ‘Mind your shoes. Suede never comes right if you get it wet.’

He steps over in one stride and grabs her by the shoulders. His fingers are thick. He’s hurting her a bit, but she doesn’t say anything. In the blinking coloured lights, his dark eyes shine with something like mischief. She can smell Old Spice, whisky and cigarettes – things she’s been told to avoid.

‘Carol? Didn’t you hear me, what I was shouting?’ He hitches up a trouser leg, gets down on one knee.

‘Ted! Your good suit!’ Around them, people stall, stare, nudge each other’s elbows, oh heavens above.

‘Carol …’

‘I did hear you,’ she whispers. Her hand comes to rest on the swell of her belly, a bump it’s getting harder to hide. ‘But you don’t have to, you know, just because …’

‘Don’t be daft. I’d’ve asked you anyway.’ In his black eyes, the white sliver of moon – tiny and still grinning in a smaller, darker sky. He is so handsome. She can only bring herself to look at him for a couple of seconds at a time. Any longer and she begins to feel like her make-up needs fixing or her hair has gone wrong or something.

Ted doesn’t flinch. He never flinches. ‘Come on, Carol Green. You’d be a fool not to marry me.’









Merseyside, 2019



That’s how it starts, for me, the story of my mother. In Blackpool, that midsummer’s night, with Ted Watson, a man I ceased to call father a long time ago. All that followed would never have occurred without his flamboyant proposal in that damp, defiant funfair. So yes, it starts there, but of course there is a before. There is always a before. My mother was pregnant, her parents had thrown her out, she was living, as she called it, in sin. Marriage was the only way out of shame, as far as she was concerned, and if I can remember every detail of that scene, if I can see those flying rockets and smell the oil and the candyfloss, it is only because, in sentimental mood, she would tell me that particular story over and over. For her, it still had a romance to it, even after everything he did to her.

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