Tuesday, 18 December 2018

Stories to warm the cockles of your heart, Colin's quiz

Now here's a thought.'
 Colin  cut a  neat square from his steak, speared it with his fork and held it up to admire it before popping it in his mouth. A blissful expression came over his face.

'Oh That's better, just what I needed.  A Vegetarian Christmas isn't for me.'

Adam grinned at him.
 'Go on Dad, you were tucking into that Nut roast , I saw you having second helpings. Anyway what were you going to say?'

'I was thinking about the Ozone layer and Climate change and if it's true that cows cause a lot of the problem, because if that's the case maybe we should be eating more of them. These vegetarians might be barking up the wrong tree.'

Adam took a sip of his beer and sat back in his chair. He always loved listening to his dad, he always had something to say, a proper opinion on everything. He wasn't always conventional and got himself into arguments with his often quite outrageous views but he was guaranteed to liven up any conversation.

'I've organized a great quiz for the party this evening. Really tough questions.'

Colin  loved preparing quizzes and had been organizing the quizzes for the local pub ever since Adam was a boy.  They would often go together and Adam would watch in awe as his dad reeled off the questions with the confidence  of an Oxford don.

Colin pulled out a piece of paper from his pocket.

'Look at this Adam, you know how I used to love going to bingo with your mum. It seems you're not allowed to say two fat ladies anymore. You have to say two alternatively shaped people..'

Adam spluttered into his beer,

'You're having me on dad. What about 'legs eleven' seventy seven'? That's probably two daring. Should be alright with all the ducks though.'

Colin threw his head back and laughed. Adam looked at him, his heart bursting with love.

'Well dad, thanks for coming to us for Christmas. It means a lot to Holly and me. Mum said she might come by for the party. Is that alright with you?'.

Colin broke off a piece of bread and wiped his plate clean. He picked up his beer and raised his glass to Adam..

' If it's what you want son, I'll be on my best behaviour. Maybe I can throw in some questions that she might like.'

They ordered their coffees and sat in companionable silence.  Adam saw his next door neighbour at the bar and called him over.

'Hi Fergie this is my dad, he's staying with us for Christmas.'

Fergie put out his hand.

'Nice to meet you. I'm organizing a special New Year pub quiz. I had no idea it would be so difficult to compile questions for everybody. Would you like to put your names down.'?'

'Yeah sure,' Adam smiled.' Put down Colin and Adam, we'll enter as a team. My dad's great at preparing pub quizzes if you want any help.'

'I might just take you up on the offer , thanks.'

Fergus patted Colin on the shoulder and  went back to the bar.

While Adam went to pay the bill Colin pulled out his quiz sheet to go over his questions for the party.
 He had always had a thirst for knowledge and prided himself on being kept up- to- date with current affairs, music, art, cinema, sport, General Knowledge, World affairs. He saw it as a personal challenge. Colin had left school with no qualifications at all.

Looking back, he could see that all his energy had gone into coping with his home life. First his mother had died, he couldn't even remember her. Then his father had re-married when Colin was six.  His step-mother was cold and strict and when his brother Ian was born the contrast between her attitudes to the two boys was painfully evident. Colin felt like a character in a Dickens novel.

Colin's father pretended not to notice. He was just grateful to have a hot meal in the evening. Colin was soon in with the wrong crowd at school, the ones that were considered difficult and the wilder he got the more cruel his step mother became. His little brother adored him though and he was the only bright spot in a bleak existence.

When Colin met Elaine he asked her to marry him after one month. He was working for the Gas board, laying down pipes and had enough money to put a deposit on a house. Elaine came from a troubled family, one of her brothers had been in prison and her father had a heavy hand. Elaine and her mother often had bruises on their arms. Colin  and  Elaine had clung to each other like two shipwrecked castaways.

When Adam was born they had lavished love and affection on him determined he would never suffer like they had.  Adam was an easy-going affable child right from the start, popular at school and with a love of theatre. He had made a career building stage sets and working with the big tour companies.

Adam came back to the table with their coats.

'I think we'd better be getting back dad, Holly needs me to help with the drinks.'

'Thanks Adam that was a real treat. You're a good son, the best. Your mum and I have always been proud of you.'

Adam held out Colin's coat.

'You were always great parents too . Aww aren't we just a soppy pair. Come on.'

The car was covered in ice and they sat with the heater on waiting for the windows to clear.

'You know dad, I've learned a lot from Holly. Her dad Joe ran off when she was eight. Her mum was heartbroken but she never said a bad word about him to Holly. She said that if you love your children then you love their mum or dad. She told Holly a few years ago that she realized that she had neglected Joe and had practically pushed him into the other woman's arms. She had always preferred sitting at home watching television and it was her who  told him to take her friend Julie to the cinema or the pub. There's always two sides to every story.'

'I don't think I've got anything to blame myself for. I've always tried so hard to provide for you and your mum. It's not my fault I lost my job, it's all these cuts.'

'Yes dad and you did us proud. What I'm trying to say is that love and forgiveness are all that matters. We all make mistakes, we all get things wrong, but we all need love and forgiveness.'

There was a silence. Adam was about to say that maybe his dad had let himself go a bit, not getting up till the afternoon, not shaving and walking around in his underwear, then he decided it might be too hurtful and anyway thanks to Holly his dad looked a lot smarter these days.

Adam turned to his dad. Holly had cut his dad's hair and trimmed his beard specially for Christmas. She had told him that she needed the practise for the theatre where she worked as a make-up artist. She had bought him some new aftershave and a blue jumper that she said matched his eyes. He looked quite handsome and distinguished with his greying hair and the jumper hid his slight paunch.

'I know the last few years have been tough for you dad, losing your job and then mum having the affair, and then moving into a bedsit now the house is being sold, but look at all the good things. Your brother adores you and so do I and so does Holly. Everyone in your local pub brightens up when you walk in, you're warm - hearted and caring and funny.'

'Hey stop it, you'll have me in tears, a grown man like me. Anyway isn't it me that should being saying those things to you?'

Colin had been an amateur boxer in his twenties and had had the bone removed from his nose. He pulled out a tissue and dabbed at his eyes.

'Thanks son, let's get to the party, who's gonna be there anyway?'

'There will be Holly's mum with her new partner, a Polish plumber called Malek, Holly's dad with his third wife Sheila and her son Tommy from her first husband, then Holly's brother Mikey and his girlfriend Ana from Romania, then two friends of Ana that have come over for the holidays. They're all bringing something that's traditional from their country, should be fun.'

Colin smiled at his son,

 'You know, I'm beginning to feel excited, can't remember when I last felt like this.'

As they parked in front of the house, Adam felt a warm glow at the thought of Holly waiting for him inside. They had been living together for almost a year and this was their first Christmas. He had been designing stage sets at the theatre where she worked. By the time he had finished they were inseparable.

 He could see the lights on the tree and the glow of the fire, Christmas music was playing and he made a wish that life could always be like this for them. He opened the car door for his father. Trying to keep his voice steady and neutral he whispered in his father's ear.

'By the way dad, Mum told me that it's over between her and that doctor. He's gone back to Australia. He asked her to go with him but she didn't want to go.'

Colin stopped abruptly. Adam could hear his sharp intake of breath. He felt a surge of hope. If only his dad could just bring himself to forgive and let his mum know how much he loved her still.

The party was a huge success. Holly and  Adam looked round at all their guests. They  were all  so relaxed and happy.  Everyone had been chatting and laughing and joining in all the games as though they had been  friends for years. The Romanian Christmas cake had all been eaten and the recipe passed round. Holly stood up and handed everyone a piece of paper and a pencil.

'Now we're going to have Colin's special Christmas quiz.'

Colin cleared his throat.

'This has been an eventful year for most of us, but then all years are I suppose. Sometimes major events occur, weddings, divorces, moving house, changing jobs, moving to another country and they all are a challenge. Sometimes nothing much seems to happen but we all know how much effort is involved in just keeping the status quo.'

Malek yawned and Ana giggled. Elaine gave them a stern look. She put her hand on Colin's arm and when she spoke her voice was full of care.

'Go on Colin that's a lovely speech.''

Adam handed him a glass of wine,

'Yeah da, but on with the questions  we're all longing to hear what you've got up your sleeve.'

Colin took a sip of the wine.

'Ok pencils ready everyone.

number one, 'What is the capital of Romania'
number two' 'What is the  name of the river that runs through Warsaw.''

number three' Who won X Factor?'
number four' 'Who won the World cup in Russia?
number five  'What is the name of the last Romanian king?'

Adam felt tears come to his eyes and went to the kitchen to make some tea.
His father had such a kind heart. He knew this wasn't the quiz that had been prepared. His dad always delighted on stumping everyone, but today he must have instinctively felt there was a need for some light relief.

Adam went back in to see everyone furiously scribbling away, so happy to know all the answers. Colin was looking at Elaine.

'And here is the last question, for someone special, What was the name of Bryan Adams' 1993 hit?'

Elaine giggled, jumped up and clapped her hands. She grabbed a candy umbrella from the tree and held it like a microphone.

'Please forgive me - she sang, then, looking straight at Colin she continued - I can't stop loving you'.

She threw her arms around  Colin. Everyone clapped. Holly put on the Cd that Colin had given her. Ana and her friends joined in with the chorus. They said Bryan Adams was their favourite singer.

After they had all counted their scores and decided that really there was no clear winner and they could start watching the Christmas DVD that Holly had ready, Adam took Colin aside.

'You can keep your quiz for the next evening at the pub dad. You've worked wonders. Mum looks about twenty, look at  her. She really does love you. Make sure you don't mess it up this time. It won't always be easy. You'll still hurt and feel resentful sometimes but remember, love and forgiveness.'


I hope you like this story and maybe it will make you want to prepare your own quiz for your family and friends.
Here are the answers to Colin's quiz.

1.    Bucharest
2     Vistula

4     France
5      King Michael


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