Monday, 19 September 2011

The Visit

“We are entering the spider’s web”
My mother muttered
A world of Eynon’s pies, cockles and Welsh cakes

Of strange place names and words
Where a fuss is a palaver
And the cry for a mess that you see is ych-y- fi

The threads hummed as we neared our destination
Not everyone has a telephone you see
Marble doorsteps gleamed, knee imprints fading

Gran drew me close with outstretched arms
Her “lovely boy” , aunts smothering me with wet kisses
Unknown cousins gawping awkwardly

The open door swung endlessly to and fro
Relatives and friends made to come and go
Best China soon exhausted

In the parlour, with furniture shrouded in covers
Each item perfectly placed
For high days and holidays

Grandad took me by my hand, a frail man
And showed me the Anderson shelter which he had built for eight
With railways sleepers, earth and his own sweat

The Guildhall clock stood, lonely sentinel
Unintentional aiming point for German bombers
Keeping time

The runner beans were doing well this year
Spindly threads on weathered canes
Wartime thrift always leaves its mark

He shared a secret, his bayonette from the First World War
Though he never spoke of what he saw
But it is all my father now possesses which was his

Clothes sloshed in a rusting bucket
The mangle stood like an instrument of torture
Through which every item was wrung

A warm stove pulsed heat, assuaging my embarrassment
As she plunged me in the tin bath
Cooling water topped up from a boiled kettle

The buttons on my father’s Air Force Officer uniform gleamed
My brother and I sat awkwardly
As we reported to all who asked, our age.

“I hope that you have your vest under that”, it’s turned cold
Cautioned my Gran to my Dad
And our eyes met.

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