Always you – Part 2

The second and final part of this short piece…

Part 1 is here

The cold metal frame of the trolley digs into my hands as we wander past the bust station, the street lights flickering into life in the growing gloom.

“It’s Just around the corner here” Tom says pointing as he shuffles along beside me, directing me down a long street of identical red brick houses that sit squat over the road like dark haired fisherman on a river bank.

Again he tells me how grateful he is and I reply and tell him that it is no problem at all.  

“Have you lived around here long?” I ask avoiding the puddles trying to keep my good work shoes dry.

“Oh yes” he says, a sense of pride in his voice.  “Been here since they went up new in the seventies.”  He straightens his flat cap and then pauses for a moment as if remembering before I jog him from his thoughts.

“This way?” I ask, shifting the weight of the trolley from one hand to the other.  I can feel the splashes of water soaking through the bottoms of my trousers. 

“Yes, yes straight on, not far now” he says pulling his coat tight around him as the rain continues to fall.  “Quite a thing it was back then you know” he continues.  “To buy our own home, took every penny we had saved up plus some we borrowed from the family.  But it was worth it in the end.”

“I’m sure it was” I reply and he leads me across the road and down a smaller side street.  Cars line one side, the water swirling and swerving around their tyres sweeping litter along.  Weeds strain through crevices in the path, and as we pass the houses the cracked paint, cluttered yards and stained net curtains tell of better times now past.

He tells me how he’s seen everything change so much over the years, and I’m reminded of my own grandparents who I see less than I should. 

“Just over there” he says and nods to a house with a neatly tended front garden and freshly creosote stained fence that stands out from the others.  The Gate squeaks as he holds it open for me and he looks almost embarrassed.

“Better get some oil on that” he says and pulls it closed behind me.

The gravel path, dark from the rain,  leads to the front door and Tom fumbles for his keys as I let him pass.  Eventually he pushes the door wide open and encourages me to head inside.

“It’s straight ahead to the kitchen” he says as I step into a small entry hall.  I’m uncertain if I should take off my shoes but head down the short hall anyway, desperate to put the trolley down. 

“Anywhere in there is fine ” he shouts taking off his coat and hanging it on a peg behind the door.  I place the trolley down gently on the light colored linoleum.

“Would you like a cup of tea?” He asks.  I check my watch.  Not sure if will even be worth going to the pub by the time I get home now.  Even so I decline politely but Tom insists and takes an old battered kettle from the stove and fills it.  “Please, take a seat” he says waving towards a small wooden table and chairs against a wall.  A biscuit barrel in the middle of the table in the shape of a bear grins at me as I sit down.  He seems grateful for the company and I find it hard to refuse.

Slipping off my coat I hang it over the back of the chair and It begins to drip onto the lino.  I start to apologise but he laughs, a glint in his eyes.  “Oh don’t worry” he says, “now if my Kathy was still here that would be another matter.  She liked things just right she did.  Very particular.”

His words are a mix of pride and sadness, and it seems to me a fair assumption that she has died.  Looking at Tom I guess he must be somewhere in his eighties at least.

“How long since you lost her?” I ask looking about. The kitchen is simple and compact with clear work surfaces and plain white cupboards.  A single plate and glass are drying next to the sink and a small vase of tulips sits on the window ledge which looks out onto the garden.  

“Oh nearly eight years now.” He looks out of the window as he drops three tea bags into a pot on a tray with two white china cups.  “One for each of us and one for the pot” he says smiling.  Steam begins to drift lazily from the kettle spout.  “You’d have liked her.” He fetches a half pint of milk from the fridge, “Everyone around here did.  Not a person she wouldn’t help if she could.”

For a while he says nothing more, concentrating on the tea.  He pours the boiling water into the pot and gives it a stir before bringing it over to the table and setting it down.    

“Do you take sugar?” he asks.

I shake my head even though I normally take two.  I don’t want him to have to do anything else.  He moves so slowly as if distracted, yet each action is so purposeful.  I wonder if this is the pattern of his days. A quiet private existence filled with the routines developed over a lifetime which are now all that is left.  

Waiting for the tea to brew he remembers that he has not yet asked my name and apologises. 

“Oh you have the same name as my father” he says when I tell him and his hand shakes as he pours the tea, the china cup clinking as he lifts it from the tray and offers it.  I accept with a thank you and add milk.  Just a little.

“So do you have any children?” I ask.  I don’t like the idea of him being alone all of the time, dragging that trolley to town once a week and then straight back home.

“No, it never happened for us.  it was just the two of us.  We would have liked a family but I guess it just wasn’t to be.”

I take a sip and add a little more milk.  

“Looks like the rain’s stopping” he says and asks if I want a biscuit, reaching for the grinning bear.

“No I’m fine thank you” I reply as he takes a KitKat from the jar and slowly opens it.

“Kathy loved a KitKat, always used to hide them from me.  I knew her hiding places mind, just pretended I didn’t.”

A distant single chime of a church bell tells me it’s half past six.  I check my watch to confirm.   I could actually probably still make it if I set off now, I might be a few minutes late but nothing major.  

“Do you need to get going?” Tom asks taking a bite of his KitKat. “It’s okay if you do, I am just so grateful for your help.  Not sure what I would have done if you hadn’t stopped to help me.”

I check my watch again and then pull my shirt cuff over it and reach for the biscuits.

“Maybe I will have one after all” I say lifting the lid on the bear barrel. “And then I’ll help you put that shopping away shall I.”

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Always you – Part 1

At this point I remember why I wanted to work in an office.  I’ve never been any good with my hands, unless you count typing, which most people don’t.

It was raining the day I met old Tom, my light summer coat proving completely inadequate against the violent deluge that fell from the dark November sky.

“Did you not check the forecast?” Joanne asked me as I stood huddled in the office doorway as she locked up.  I started to answer but the question was more an admonishment that an actual interest in my ability to plan for meteorological eventualities.  She didn’t wait to find out though and scurried under the shop awning of the bakery next door and lit up a cigarette.

“Those things will kill you” I told her trying to be funny.  Her withering glance told me I had been anything but.

“See you tomorrow then.” I shouted. 

She nodded and waved as she took a long drag on the cigarette, the embers lighting up the sharp features of her mostly unremarkable face.   

Waving back I turned as the rain cut through the pall of silver smoke and pulling my coat around me as best as I could headed off to catch the bus.

The number 45 runs just a few minutes from my place and If I hurry I’m thinking I might catch the Five-twenty which means I will be home before six and at the pub by seven.

Not wanting to get my good work shoes too wet I avoid the puddles as best as I can and trying to stay under cover I head past rows of unremarkable shops all closing for the night.  Lights blink out and shutters rumble closed as people, seemingly as grey as the sky above, head home after another day not wholly different to the day before and likely quite similar to tomorrow.

The place has certainly seen better times I think to myself, and that’s when I saw him.  

He had the posture that only age can bring, hunched over an old blue shopping cart and the rain cascadied onto his flat cap and spilled down his long brown coat.  

“You alright mate?” I ask him checking my watch.  I’d normally not bother asking but somethign about him said he needed help.  And if everythign is okay there’s still time to get the five-twenty.    

He looks up slowly, his face long and gaunt with thin lips and deep set dark eyes.

“Bloody wheel’s come off” he says pointing a long bony finger at the right side of the trolley, which I can now see is sitting quite lopsided.  “Typical when I’ve just bought my week’s shop.”  He shakes his head and fumbles with the wheel.

I tell him I’ll take a look if he wants and he nods appreciatively. “My eyes aren’t great, thanks” he says.

At this point I remember why I wanted to work in an office.  I’ve never been any good with my hands, unless you count typing, which most people don’t. That said even with my limited knowledge I do know though that it looks knackered and tell him so.

“Oh that’s no good” he says shaking his head and he asks me if I think he needs a new one.

“What do I know” I think to myself and check my watch.  If I don’t leave now It’ll be gone eight before I get to the pub.

I nod and scratch my chin as if I’m suddenly a shopping trolley mechanic.  “Do you need a hand with it?  Are you going far?”

“Oh yes please” he says, his face brightening.  “Are you sure?”

I shake my head and tell him it’s not a problem really and he smiles.  “Not too far” he says, “it will only take ten minutes.”

 

For my Children – 1 – My earliest memory

One day they may stumble upon these.

I was born in Hull on the east coast of England in November of 1971.  My mother was one of eight and my father one of three.  I was the first grandchild born into what would eventually be a family that numbered somewhere between sixty and seventy, though it is often hard to recall all the names and connections witha family so vast.

The fishing trade was still the heart of Hull and very much at the heart of my mothers side of the family.  My mum’s father was a trawlerman as were a number of my older uncles, with my other aunts and uncles only 7 or 8 years older than me.  My earliest memories seem to be dominated by that side of the family for some reason and I cannot really recall my fathers side at all or even our own smaller family of just mum, dad and me.

My mother tells me how my grandad and uncle would return from months away at sea and turn out their pockets and invite me to help myself to whatever money they had – which was often a lot.  Casting my mind back I can vaguely remember my uncle taking me to the toy store and telling me that I could have whatever I wanted, and I headed home with a blue scooter which had the most fantastic tassles which hung from the handles.

I also remember Queen.  No, not the queen but the band.  Even now so many of their songs trigger memories or shadows of memories that take me somewhere almost now lost to me.

Memories of coming downstairs at my granparents house and the smell of stale beer and cigarettes are also still quite vivid after more than forty years too.  Curiously I can even still see the ash tray on a stand in the middle of the floor with the push top opening mechanism that I was often told to leave alone.

Even before then though I remember being in a pram outside a house on the other side of the street looking back across to where my mum’s parents lived on the Greatfield council estate in east Hull.  It is quite clear to me still and I described it to my mother, pointing out the actual house when we visited forty years later.  She insists surely I could not be rememberin gthat because I was probably only three at the most, but I remain quite certain that I remember it quite clearly even now…

 

On the street where I once lived.

I’ve been all around the world and today I stood back where it all started.

I have lived in many places, both  north and south of the equator but in the beginning there was Hull.  I left when I was 9 but there is something about the place that resonates with me still and despite the many roads that took me away from the place there is still part of me that thinks of it as home.  Perhaps it is because it fills my very earliest memories and names and places that I should have forgotten remain with me still.  Maybe it is because the accents and turns of phrase hold for me a comfort and familiarity which I cannot describe but that make me feel part of something in many ways long forgotten.

Whatever it is I always enjoy the occasions when I get to go back.  Today was one of those days when I got to met up with family on my Mum’s side to celebrate my cousin’s son’s 21st.  My mum is one of 8 and at last count there were at least 48 of us on that side of the family so there are always reunions to be had even if we don’t always remember each others names.

Whilst the day itself was great it was the detour on the way home that I enjoyed most.  I decided to go and take a look at the house I grew up in as I had heard that the estate is now mostly derelict and scheduled for demolition.  Sadly it is and the photo below shows the house now.  It is only the left hand side of it.

20180804_1954318171608033681047039.jpg20180804_1952585165320356328519786.jpg

So many great memories came flooding back and as sad as it is times change and things move on and whilst it was a quite wonderful place in the late seventies it’s days are now sadly numbered. I remembered old Stan from across the street who we would taunt with songs of ‘Stan stan the mucky old man washed his face in a frying pan.’  God kids are bastards.  Stood outside I could still hear the sounds of kids laughing on a late summer evening and playing ‘Kerby’ as cars passed us by.  With a smile I remembered painting the electricity box with oil paints and my dad being so angry and I could still see snow falling through the amber lights in winter.  I also remember where I was when I was told that a friend of ours had died that day.

Such a mix of emotions and memories but it was not all sad though, and in fact it turned out to be a pretty amazing trip when we saw what had been done to a number of the properties in the area.  Keep in mind that there are probably a few hundred of these places being demolished and though the memories and lives that have been lived will remain eventually there will be nothing left of themso to see what some amazing graffiti artists did to lift the place was just fantastic.

I think the photos say it all.

20180804_1959303792926638229442464.jpg20180804_2001375197799097367754705.jpg20180804_200003963608108281618475.jpg20180804_1958153662536761887064610.jpg20180804_1957191217087325326873013.jpg20180804_200005870546656856942867.jpg20180804_19583716442603295877735.jpg20180804_2001046359726498697232818.jpg20180804_1958554332302408797393144.jpg20180804_2000561762689587319625053.jpg20180804_2001344393434806543177060.jpg20180804_2000344183739091499343988.jpg20180804_2001255191878595651459223.jpg20180804_1959006754990330104350727.jpg20180804_2000322019436751643415438.jpg

 

The homes will be gone in 6 months and will be replaced with new builds and the hope was that there would be less chance of people vandalising them if they were decorated.  The more things change the more they stay the same I guess as eventually new families will move in and the cycle starts again.

 

A letter to my family – Daily Prompt

On Sundays I think I will on occasion re blog an early most which post of you will never have read.

For my darling wife and my beloved children.

I write this to you in a moment of clarity, which these days are sadly so very few.  They tell me I do not recognise you any more and that your names are lost to me, my mind fragile and my memories faded.  I write this with haste as I know not when the clarity will slip through my fingers.

Today, of all days, I remember you.  I remember it all.  A lifetime of memories too many to repeat and my heart swells with joy at the life I have lived.  The face of my beloved wife on our wedding day, holding each of you in my arms and the laughter – such laughter – of a life well lived and so widely shared.

Each and every Christmas is as clear in my mind as the day I lived it first, I recall each first day at school, each scraped knee, each lost tooth and every candle blown out on each and every cake.  I remember those special moments that I shared with each of you that I cherish while I can and that overwhelm me so suddenly that I am given to tears of joy. 

To my beautiful children, the pride I felt as you grew and blossomed and built lives of your own fills me now as it did every day watching you.  To my wife, my love, my friend , my everything you were my inspiration and my light and I would gladly give every day I have left for just one more walk with you arm in arm.

Do not remember me as I am but rather as I was, and I ask that you mourn not the loss but rather savour each moment we have lived and loved and laughed.

They tell me that you may be here later, it is my Birthday after all, though alas I fear by then I will be lost to you again.  If that is so then I would have you know that I will love each of you always, and in my heart I remember you.

Dad

https://dailypost.wordpress.com/prompts/savor/

A generous portion of life – #Writephoto Challenge

For a while he lay there looking up at the light.  “It really is quite pretty” he thought, “I should get one like that for the hall at home.”

I’m cheating a tad on this and using it for 2 prompts.  I had the idea from Michelle’s writing prompt which I have decided to use to write about robots and such,  but it never really worked until I saw Sue’s photo prompt.
———————————————

The first thought that went through Terence’s mind as he opened his eyes was “What a lovely light,  it almost feels like I’m underwater.”  This thought was soon followed by a second which considered why the devil he might be lying on the floor and a third one hot on the heels of the second which pondered where exactly he might be.

He attempted to move but nothing happened.  His eyes seemed to be working just fine but beyond that nothing else did what it was meant to. Not one thing.

“Well this is just no good” he said to himself, “this simply will not do at all.”

He strained again but still nothing.

For a while he lay there looking up at the light.  “It really is quite pretty” he thought, “I should get one like that for the hall at home.”

In an instant something about the word home triggered an explosion of memories and emotions inside of him.  He was suddenly overwhelmed by a lifetime of experiences flashing before his eyes, and it all started with her.  She was present in almost every thought and every memory.  She seemed to have been there from the very beginning but for some reason he could not recall her name.  He could feel her touch and he could hear her voice , and she was all at once a stranger and so very familiar.

There were children too, and grand children.  Birthdays, holidays, Christmas and so so much love and laughter.  There was a little house by the sea, and a dog that always barked when the gate creaked.  Memory after memory washed over him as he lay there looking at the ceiling, and as they flashed by she became older, yet no less beautiful.

In between the laughter there were tears, and the cold darkness of solitude and yet always the laughter and the love would return and each time he would see her smiling face.  A great sadness overcame him as he saw her laid to rest, her coffin laid into the ground on a cold grey day.  Terence lay quite still and enjoyed the intensity of each moment until, at last, he remembered how he got here, where he was and why he was looking at the ceiling.

And then there was nothing.

The Engineer crouched over Terence and ran a scanner across his forehead.  He spoke into a small receiver embedded in his grey coverall collar.

“Base 9, this is Henderson, I have found the synth and can confirm that shut down has completed.”

“And what is his Status?” came a response.

Henderson double checked the dial.  “I can confirm that the unit has reached end of life cycle and his memories have successfully downloaded to central.”

“Good work Henderson” came the response, “We will format the content and pass it onto the family, seems the owner’s kids were pretty fond of the unit and have asked for the memories.”

“Copy that.”

 


Something else perhaps?

Illusionary Dreams: Writing prompt 13/9/2017

The end of times

I tried to say goodbye.

 

 

 

 

.