As a small boy I was forced by my mother’s partner, Bert, to watch him shooting blackbirds at the end of the garden, after he’d put bread down to entice them to the ground. I remember holding the Webley air pistol, which was black and heavy, and difficult for me to aim with.
Bert would set himself up to shoot at the open bedroom window of the ground floor maisonette overlooking the back garden. I recall seeing the dead birds close up with bloody red craters in their breasts where the pellets had entered.
He also used to hang up a bull’s eye from the washing line just out of reach of my pet mongrel, Blackie. The dog would jump up to try to get the eye, with straggles of flesh hanging from it, but never succeeded. This provided Bert with some amusement, in between shooting birds.
He worked at the Avro aircraft factory in Woodford, Cheshire, and he and his workmates would share a car for the six miles or so to their jobs from our council estate. One morning Blackie decided to chase after the car – all the way to Woodford. His paws were so sore that he had to rest for the whole of the working day on the car’s back seat. I always suspected that Bert knew Blackie was following them – he obviously saw the dog when they arrived at the factory – but decided not to stop to take him on board. Why spoil a sadist’s fun?