They knew about watches and bicycles
and polishing shoes, about drawing a fire
with a sheet of newspaper.
Good at framing pictures
with passe-partout and worming cats
and opening up drains with a lever,
expert at tuning the wireless,
and pulling the TV aerial out
when there was lightning,
knew all about wasps’ nests and beeswax
and how to deal with head-lice
and the best place to bury a hamster.
King Dick at catching spiders
in an upside down glass, button-
hooking a doll’s arms.
Lighting rockets in milk bottles?
No problem. Could tell you what the voices
were singing in the telegraph wires.
They knew about the patients
at the de la Pole Hospital,
why they could never go home
but they did not know what to say
when the boy who said you were beautiful
no longer wanted to know.
South Bank and Eston Rotary Club, 1951
I don’t spot him at first, just Rhett Butler
at the front, next to a chap with big ears
and a down-the-rabbit-hole watch chain,
and some dude with a handlebar moustache,
but he’s there from the neck up in the last row
between Mr Bean and Bart Simpson. My dad.
How long since I knew him, this young man
in specs, black hair thinning, that domed head.
How proud he is to have made it to this ballroom.
He even kept the menu. Oh dad, did you bring me
the mint or one of those Fraises Romanoff?
I must have been keeping myself awake, listening
for the scrape of your handlebars on the wall,
the familiar tic-tic of your dynamo.
Dads and South Bank and Eston Rotary Club, 1951 were first published in A Guided Tour of the Ice House (Smith/Doorstop).
See also DIY by Carole Bromley