As a young teen, a pet gave me ma second experience of death. Liftin his head from the cold dark stone hearth. A bluin and swollen tongue sticking out of the left side of his jaw. I recall memories of him even now when disinfection hits my nostrils. My honorary auntie Elsie disposed of his body in a blue bin liner. Why it wasnie black ma kids brain couldnie work out. With yellow marigolds she did a right thorough job cleaning his last resting place. Maybe not aware that those smells did not clean ma memory, but to this day they bring back the warmth of the fire in ma cheeks as I lay behind Patch, chest risin an fallin with his last haltin, raspin breaths an a wag of a not so excitable tail. My first thought when she left the house was he would join the goldfish graveyard in our back garden. As big for the fishies as was Glen’s garden was for his veggies.
My Scottish uncle was a proud man, but nor in a way that in some families they give you the back of their hand. My memories of him fade like the photos in those old 60s albums with the crinkly paper. Protected behind frosted sheets, losin some of their brightness, losing some of their sparkle.
“Never take too long over decisions,” he would often say. “but if you do, hold tight to em”. “Not too tight as you may regret goin back to em”.
Glen had hands as rough as well worn leather and pit marked from the long shifts he did at the coalface. But he never used that well-known phrase, “back to the grindstone”. Never complained about goin down that deep hole in the ground that put him in his shallow, early grave way before my teens really kicked in.
After his longer and longer days down deep in the belly of the earth chipping away at the black stuff for other peoples fuel. Hardened to hard work, he would go to one of the few pubs in our hamlet of a village with his erstwhile companion Patch, for a few swifties that amongst stories with the lads became one for the road, one for the Mrs, and one for when you get home. On their way back up the hill Patch would be his four legged shadow, staggering as much as he. Tipsy from the tipple he had drunk from the dog bowl in the boozer the Arkwright Arms.
“After all you can not miss a friend out or leave one behind. even if he is a bit wobbly on the pins”, Glen would explain of their dance home to his nosy neighbours and their boozing bond with the boys from the black stuff.
©2015 – Stewart Tunnicliff 2015 – digital manipulated image of Sparky Hübicliff as Patch
Read on with No 3 Comes in Threes…