Sunday, April 29, 2012

This Artistic Life by Barry Hines (Pomona Books 2009)

One day, when we were playing in the sand outside the prefabs, we became aware of the large numbers of miners walking up Tinker Lane from the pit. Usually, there was a lot of laughter and banter when they were coming home from work, but this time they were unusually quiet and serious, and the only sound was the clatter of their clogs on the roadway. Instinctively, we knew something was wrong.

"What's happened?" I shouted.

"Doug Westerman's been killed!" one of the miners replied.

The name meant nothing to me or to any of my pals, so after watching the silent procession for a minute or two, we resumed messing about in the sand.

Later, when I went home for tea, my mother was sitting in the armchair by the fire, sobbing into her hands. My dad, still wearing his pit clothes and unwashed, had his arm round her shoulders, trying to comfort her.

"What's the matter?" I asked.

"Your grandad's been killed," she sobbed.

I stared at her. Then the penny dropped and I realised that Doug Westerman, the dead miner, was my grandfather. I hadn't made the connection because I didn't know his name. I only knew him as grandad.

After the death of her father, I was always aware of my mother's uneasy glances at the clock when my dad was late home from work.

"Go and see if your dad's coming," she would say, and I would go outside and look down the lane towards the pit, praying that he was, so that I didn't have to go back inside and disappoint her.
(from 'Tinker Lane')

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