I've just come back from a couple of days visiting a friend in Wales. She trains horses with a traveller in a trailer. Giving me a lift to the train, he told me a little of his life story - a constellation of pain and resilience with so much depth, I hope he won't mind me sharing.
He smiled when he spoke about his daughter.
"She’s mint, actually. She’s absolutely mint.
The thing is, she always adored me, ever since she was a baby. She wouldn't even go to sleep until I got home, though I’d be out working ‘till one in the morning sometimes.
I haven’t seen my daughter for two years now. I’ve got court orders saying I should see her, but her mum doesn’t want me in her life. She wants to be single mum with a tragic story living on the dole. So she tells terrible tales about me – she told these gypsies that I’d kicked her teeth in and left her in a pool of blood. She got them in such a state that they wanted to come find me and sort me out.
Luckily for me, they knew somebody that knows me – not only knows me but has drunk with me, been in trouble alongside me. So I got a phone call from this guy and he says “Are you a different person to who you used to be?" He knows I’m not a violent person. I never have been.
The good thing that came of it is that now, these gypsies are keeping an eye on my daughter for me. I know that if there’s any trouble, they’ll let me know.
I was so well-behaved in court and represented myself as my own solicitor. I got commended by two separate judges for my good behaviour. All I did for that was I imagined my father were sitting behind me.
I didn’t drop a single vowel, then, because you can’t. Not when he’s around.
When I was growing up you were allowed to beat your children. You were even allowed to beat your wife. That’s what he did. You weren’t supposed to take it too far – but he did that, too.
Violence was all he’d ever known. His mother died when he was twelve. One day my grandad grabbed him by the scruff of the neck, literally, and marched him down to the army station and signed him up. My dad didn’t want to go into the army, but he didn’t have a choice.
My mum? All she ever wanted was a girl. Instead, she had three boys in space of two years, and she was all by herself. She had hard times dragging all three of us boys through airports. Life was hard for her. We were moving every six months to a different country. I was born in Northern Ireland but I can't remember it. Back in the 1970s that was a real war zone, so what were they doing sending her there? It was good that we left.
Fourth time she got pregnant, it was a girl. But, she lost the baby. When she lost it, she didn’t just lose the baby, she lost everything. That was the end of that.
She's a good mum. She cooked well for us. We never wanted for anything, but there was no love. She never had any love for us. Even now, if somebody comes to hug me – just a friendly hug – I find that difficult. My love’s my own. I didn’t get that from anybody else."
"I remember one time we moved…" [laughs] "She made one mistake. She told us to go to school but the house she chose was a mile three quarters away and we had to walk. Between home and school, there was a forest…”
We'd arrived at the train station now and he trailed off with an owlish look.
Next time I visit he said he’ll teach me to ride.