The Cycle

Tuesdays I saw him. He picked me up from school, his baggy blue dungarees wash faded and work stained from the garage and worn powdered blue at the knees.  The scent of diesel from them as I hugged his thigh. On sunny Tuesdays we sauntered neglectful of time along the canal path. When there was no else about he’d throw stones across the width of the canal. Once he hit a woman on a bike at the other side. We never told anyone.

The bibbed pocket at the front of his dungarees held his cigarettes and a silver Colibri lighter. When he smoked, half the tip seemed to slide through his lips, the smoke would be lost then it would float back out around the bottom of his nostrils. He also kept his spectacles, one of the arms was stuck with Elastoplast and there on Tuesdays Blackjacks.

It was a ritual, Tuesday. We never went into his house first we went into the back garden. My school bag and his lunch box were left on the door step.

We stopped at the pear tree, the muscles on his arms, his fore-arms steeled, as he lifted me high to grab those ready for picking before we headed to the greenhouse.

The standpipe in the greenhouse was too tight for me, he’d lean to help. The smell of his cigarettes and beer mixed with the aroma of tomatoes hung in here. Watering cans sat in the corner. The large galvanised one dwarfed the shiny brass one which had my name painted in white upon it.

After the plants in and out of the greenhouse had been watered we’d walk in silence round the vegetable plot. Sometimes he’d hold my hand , the veins on the back of his raised, or we’d  pull a bit of dead growth or newly sprouted weeds from here or there.  When the garden tasks were finished we’d get our things from the doorstep and go into the kitchen.

I usually had eight blackjacks, four for a penny, old money. He’d remove them  with everything else  from the pocket of his dungaree bib before slipping the shoulder straps allowing him to  take of his shirt.  He left his white singlet vest on and a had wash in the kitchen sink. On the top of his right shoulder there was a tattoo. Not a cross, but a crucifix, Christ was upon it. He was a noisy washer. Each handful of water hitting his face was accompanied by shooshing from his mouth, a sound like one may make coming in from the wind and rain. Finished,dried ,he’d go and change. He mostly wore a maroon woollen waistcoat fawn at the edges that my mother had knitted. I would eat my Blackjacks while he was doing all this.

My thoughts were interrupted by a small voice and a tug on my sleeve.

“ Grandad its empty“

I took the little old  brass watering can he offered me and replenished and returned it to him.

“Thank you Grandad. Grandad why do the veins on the back of your hands stick out ?

Don Russell                             30/01/2019