Image by Werner Stuerenburg
There was this lorry that was always parked about seven o’clock down the end of Oldhouse Road. And we walked mostly in the winter, my Father and I. Because it was always dark, that’s how I know. He’d only get home about seven o’clock and it was always dark when we’d walk the block up the top of South Road, where we lived, snaking back down Oldhouse Road and past the lorry where I’d hold my breath and try to get around the corner before dying from suffocation. I’d be holding my Father’s hand, that’s why I couldn’t run. I’d have to walk because I’d be holding my Father’s hand and he never ran. It was a fish lorry and it stank of rotting fish. It was a Bedford flatbed lorry, I know that now, but back then we called it the Poo-poo Truck. Hold your breath, here’s the Poo-poo Truck! It was always dark, we must’ve only ever walked in the winter when it’s dark about seven o’clock. I’d get home scared with pains in my lungs and my Father telling the house it was good to get out and about now and again.
When I told her about the Poo-poo Truck she disputed my pronunciation of Oldhouse Road. Old House. She said I meant Awldouse, running two words together to make something new and we half-joked about who should know more about how a street name is pronounced, someone who lived nearby or a primary school teacher. She loves the garden. She loves going to the garden centre and choosing plants and talking to the staff about perennials and hardy annuals. And she loves books about history.
She doesn’t like me calling them history books. It’s interesting, whenever I say Are you gonna pick up all these history books on the landing, she says They’re books about history, not history books. She can talk for up to half an hour explaining why they’re books about history. I ask in the kitchen. There’s a clock in the kitchen, that’s how I know. I must only ask her after seven o’clock coz she only gets in at seven. I watch the clock over her shoulder, careful so she doesn’t see.
And now she’s the age she is and I put a lot of effort into her party. It’s taking me longer than I expected to get over the effort I put in because I’m also the age I am. But it seems the effort of the celebration wasn’t enough, or rather from the effort a realisation emerged. Now she holds herself up like a statue and talks of her love of Ancient Egypt. If we don’t get the bathroom done we might have the money, she says. She can talk for more than half an hour about the Sphinx. Two things run together to make something new.
They were no good those winter walks, he realised things on them and left. Those winter walks, holding his hand, and my breath.
More Visual Verse stories by Simon Webster here