Monday, 14 February 2011

Just a little bit of history repeating.....

It was one of those damp days in early September, in the years when autumn was still Autumn. Granite grey skies, grey short woollen trousers, grey soot covering orange-coloured buses, and the overwhelming feeling that I'd very much like to be at home.
Not in Fine-Fare, amongst the empty shelves & barren aisles.
Not in the Gas-Showroom with mum.
Not fitting in Freeman Hardy & Willis, my feet ahead of me, measured in a hardwood, L-shaped guillotine, and awaiting the pinch of a plastic sandal.

Aldershot. Union St. Friday. 4-13pm.

I recount today's Saints' Day mass given by my favourite of the Fathers.
A sing-song affair, held in the dining hall, cum-assembly hall, cum-sports hall, cum-nissen hut (Canadian Infantry c.1944).
The anxiety of children, tempered with the musty smell of hot cardboard and wafer, brought back oh-so-recent memories of Tonibell's ice cream van, in the summer we just lost.
Shoeless. Burnt. And bellyfull of holiday.

But mum isn't listening.
She's in a queue.
A normal sized queue for these times, but just another queue all the same.
Today we're in the Post Office. On Monday it's Midland Bank.
At her turn she cashes-in giros and Supplementary Benefit, while I strangle a black biro on a chain.
My thoughts are with skateboard trucks and tomorrow's 10-30 kick-off, and the queue we'll all make for orange quarters at half-time.
The bins in the bank are all tissues and ink, paper and rind.
But the ones in the flats, on the way home tonight are wasp-drunk and hot, overflowing with rot, the prevailing wind billowing a funk of shit and neglect.

Mum needs tuppence for the telephone, and the GPO man, behind the scratched perspex, seems reluctant to convert her two pennies.
He says it's the rules, and his job isn't worth it.
Not these days. No siree madam.
I know mum will have problems getting change from a pound-note, now that she's paid for the gas, and my Panda-Pop and sandals.
And it pains me to watch her rifle through a purse full of milk teeth and Green Shield stamps.
I dig my sherbert-stained fingers into the shallow corners of my pockets and salvage the remainder from my walk-to-school, sweetshop, shilling excess.
A tuppence!
For my mum.
A bright bronze, new and shiny one, with gobbledygook Latin and last year's Jubilee year, proudly crowning Our Lady the Queen.
I'm a hero in knee-high socks.
Mum smiles, and drags me quickly to MacFisheries, to get dad some whiting for his tea.
A fact I announce rather loudly from below, in the booze-breath telephone box, as we call him ahead of our arrival.

A train to Ash-Vale, some squaddies and a Victor comic; and a short walk past an Ind Coope pub, typically shut, but poised, and ready for the weekend.
Hurrying along a road, that only six weeks before had ladybirds and flying ants, drooping and drowning in the thick bubbly pools of tar; black wrinkled strips that held the concrete together, for Tonibell's van and brown Ford Capris with pointless vinyl roofs, to patrol.
And at the end of the road, there's my dad.
Upright and sombre, in his grey bank-clerk tie. Dealing with queues, way past five, way past closing. And hungry for his Friday fish, at home, with us and a Mackeson.

And I capture this moment.
Before the lights in our street fail again.
And before the bins outside the flats smell any worse.
Before our street is filled with bin-bags, and punks and skins waving banners and boards.
Before candles, batteries and blizzards.
And black & white TV pictures of locked graveyards, in our living-room, when power sources are eventually restored.
And I will keep this moment close and personal, for another day, aware that those damp and grey autumn afternoons are never too far away.