As a heatwave grips the UK, the author reminisces on a childhood by the sea, and wonders how he has now managed to become landlocked.
It’s Kandinsky weather: see the boy on the capstan
His telescope shrieking as it dashes against boulders
He never went much for rivers…
He was a cause for concern. Where trouble lurked, you would find him shuffling around the edges, dabbling in a bit of this, a bit of that. He could get you anything you wanted, bottle-tops, pogo-sticks, baking-soda. A multitude of events hidden in the lining of his faux-fur jacket.
‘Why don’t you wear a pin-striped suit like all the other?’ I once asked.
‘Different class, son, different class,’ he replied.
He would let you pay in instalments. Once a week, after payday, if you were lucky to have a job. Deep down, he was a good sort. Same as the rest of us, trying to scrape enough to take into tomorrow. Your debt would be added to your tab. Most people down our street had tabs which would be carried over onto his headstone.
lips like cherry blossom
with a beachcomber smile
her weather-worn hands
scratched and scraped
through seaweed and shingle
for a few cobbles of coal
when her back could bend no more
the Solway Firth sang her home
a morning’s graft exchanged
for an hour in the warmth
Grandad taught him how to make a coal fire. He would wait to hear the outside coal bunker being rattled, then grab his blanket and run downstairs, taking pole position on the sofa overlooking the fireplace. Something hypnotic floated in a cold morning air. A soft hush from ash, shovelled from under the stool-grate and placed on yesterday’s headlines. Miner’s hands turned and twisted; paper turned into perfect firelighters. Precision and experience constructed beds of coal and kindling. A strike of a match, the thud of a damper. Golden glows filled the room. He laid back and breathed in the magic.