The Tell-Tale Sign of His Jaw


My Dad was a very quiet man
Who rarely lost his rag,
He worked in a gun-making factory,
All he asked was to smoke his fag
Or to read the ‘Sports Argus’
Or listen to the wireless,
He didn’t ask for much in life
Just enough money to provide for us.
Each Friday evening he’d come home
And present Mom with his pay,
She’d take out what she’d need to shop
Then pass pocket money his way.
My Dad was a staunch ‘Labour’ man, Mom a devoted ‘Tory’,
She and her family were ‘a united front’,
I could often hear their war games.
As I snuggled down in my bed at night,
Secretly proud of Dad’s solo fight,
As he argued what he thought was right
Long, long into the night!
Though I knew nothing of their talk
Because he fought alone,
I was always on his side
And his arguments I’d condone.
We visited Grannies each weekend
Gathering round the gramophone
And sang our favourite songs of the day –
But Dad always seemed so alone.
From my hiding place under the table I saw
(As I peeped from under the table cloth)
The tell-tale sign of Dad grinding his jaw
(Something I’d seen many, many times before)
And I willed him and willed him to stop!
Was he intimidated by their united front?
Why wasn’t he comfortable in their home?
Or did he feel inferior because he didn’t fight on the front,
Was that why he felt so alone?
I wish I’d asked him at the time,
It’s only in hindsight we see
That our parents are just ordinary folk,
With their own insecurity.
My Dad has been dead now for many a long year
(Since nineteen eighty four)
Why is it only now that I question
The tell-tale sign of his jaw?



The Lady in the Gainsborough Hat


(A memory recalled by my father)

A lady came to our house
When I were but a lad.
She used to drive an horse an’ cart
And she wore a Gainsborough hat.
In her hand she carried
The most enormous sword,
That she used to slaughter animals with –
Though she never spoke a word.
Each time she drove in through our gate
My heart was filled with fear –
‘Cause I knew those lambs and piglets
(That I had got to rear)
Were going to be butchered!
I know Dad had to sell
Their meat to make a living –
But I dreaded their death knell!


Today is Different


(My first memory)

Today is different, I feel it!
Is it excitement or is it fear?
Slowly, I walk alongside my mother’s bicycle.
She chats – I feel her apprehension.
We finally reach our destination
(A red brick house, quite small)
I go inside, holding her hand tightly –
Or is she tightly holding mine, fearful to let go?
I am taken into a room – a lady smiles!
My hand is passed across to hers.
I don’t want to go but I know that I must
And I watch as mother disappears into the distance.
Now others appear, all reluctant as I, all passed across and confused.
We do not speak – but we know fear binds us.
We sit down, with big, round, staring eyes.
We bite out top lips to inhibit our cries.
‘I will not cry. I will not look a fool!’
‘Welcome’, she says, ‘to your first day at school!’


Winter Memories


(A memory from school days)

Hard like granite, hard as lead,
Shimmering ice, reflecting blue – sky and sun.
Cold – like Edmund Hillary – like Everest.
Make a slide – keep sliding – polish till its glass.
Hard like granite, hard as lead
The Skater’s Waltz fills my head!
Red faced children scream – delight or fear?
Slip and slide!
Bottoms wet from falling down, arms outstretched for balance,
Here we come!
Hard like granite, hard as lead.

Yesterday was fun! What’s wrong?
Parents shake their heads.
‘Singing the Blues’ – pass on the news –
Claire is dead! Banged her head!
At school assembly children cry – I try – but why?
It all feels wrong!
Hard like granite, hard as lead!


Knock the Door and Run Away


In our road there lived a man, grumpy as could be,
He and his wife had no kids and lived a life of luxury.
Their house was always newly painted and their lawn was neatly mowed.
And when we played out in the street we must have made them groan!
One sunny day, I remember with shame, he came a’ knocking at our door,
As soon as I saw him standing there I knew what he’d come for!
Now transported back in time to all those years ago
I blush, as I recall the game that had caused his woe.
‘Go on! I dare you knock his door and run away.’
Why I felt I had to do it I don’t know to this day!
But being the youngest of our group I had to show that I was brave –
Though I didn’t feel quite as bold when Mother called my name!
Out from my hiding place, I did my walk of shame,
In order to say ‘I’m sorry and I won’t do it again!’
So if you are ever tempted to do something that is wrong
Just remember my experience and perhaps you will be strong!