Something very familiar tickles at my nose – it makes me lean too close to the man in front on the bus. Smelling Shield Soap wafting back to me, I smile looking out the window, remembering the marbled green and white block ever present on your sink, along with love-worn and too-pressed towels.
Its brings you back to me all at once…
Perched on your warm mahogany arm, getting carried into the salty blue sea. Benidorm, Tenerife, Gran Canaria – somewhere sunny; Mum and Dad will know. Too little to go in by myself, too impatient to just watch Steven. You were always there; my constant watcher and waffle feeder in the warm sun.
Teaching me to swim every summer, again and again. Ever-patient and making sure I could dive ‘properly’, living like a mermaid for 2 weeks, until I was like a freckly prune. All lessons soon forgotten in two weeks back at school, fading as fast as my swimsuit-shaped tan.
Stitches in my head needed from running too fast to get to your house, from the steep knobbly concrete front steps, chasing Steven to get there first. Six butterflies, they were called, I think. Funny, as they are my favourite thing. The insect, not the scar that was left, something than never tans and ever-present on my forehead that tans too much.
Soup, always soup, the smell filling the air with its lentil fog. Apple pie, rhubarb cake, Victoria sponge, warm and ready, Be-Ro nowhere to be seen. Not that anyone would mention this as these delights are filled with love rather than air, excellent as door stops or an afternoon nap aid. Rice pudding, fighting everyone for my fair share of the skin, sometimes the satisfied victor. Food given away to any waif or stray that wanders into your kitchen interrupting the persistent whistling of some broken tune.
Best hugs and always a kiss on the lips, always chaste but always met with a peaceful smile. Just for me your ‘Blossom’, or as I grew I learned that all nice girls are ‘Blossom’ and the boys are ‘Son.’ Makes everyone feel special and no one ever guesses that their name has slipped your mind. This is a tactic I plan to use when my hair starts to get grey or maybe even sooner. Flattery is always your best policy, every one of Steven’s girls being the prettiest, much prettier than the last no less, another Blossom brought into your fold, smiles beaming from their faces.
Frank Sinatra, Mario Lanza, ‘none of that Rap crap’ and especially never Dean Martin. On a little too loud, but who cares, all the neighbours are going deaf too. Two years to learn the CD player is not the devil. Bringing back memories in your misty grey eyes. A new bout of whistling ensues – and the occasional song.
Shrinking, the day I got taller and you disappeared looking for your Navy card to prove you were 6ft once! Where did all these vastly tall boys in the family come from? The postman? This met with a skelp on the arse and a bout of muttering. A skelp on my cheek, for my cheek. This from a hand that was like a shovel; no wrist just arm and hand. Kind of like Popeye, well that’s what you looked like in the navy.
Cumbrian drawl, giving you the best cursing voice on the planet. ‘Asshole’ a favourite, said with venom many a time in the car, usually to someone daring to exceed 33mph. My Dad said it took you 7 times to pass your test – no surprise there – he has many a childhood story of you and your car disasters. Little Silver Fiesta in which we eventually shared, with its dog chewed gear knob, that was rough on my palm and ever present walking stick, Sinatra in the tape deck, more whistling. Bright blue badge in the window for the best space to park.
Becks in the fridge, blended whisky in the glass. A splash of water, Ballantine’s – you wouldn’t thank them for a malt. Twenty-five years in the whisky boiler house making your response to, do you want a drink? With a quick look at your watch, ‘quarter past three Blossom‘. No hearing aid, you didn’t need one apparently. Swollen knees and even thicker glasses: always there. They would sit atop of the latest pile of well-thumbed adopted books, you were about to consume that week. And, of course, the gospel according to the Daily Mail. Another amusing tirade about the bloody government.
Holiday. Me and you, on our way to France. First time for you, because you hate the bloody French apparently – news to me! Something to do with the war! You looking like a extra from Oceans 11 – the original movie of course, not the remake. A very dapper date, love the retro shades, although these will actually be antiques. Cool new wheels to take you in, although not too pleased about the wheelchair, but you like beating the queues and the royal treatment.
Ryanair’s G&Ts. Extra ‘free’ tonic for us as the stewardess is now a Blossom too; I don’t know how you do it you old charmer. You watch from the corner of the pool still correcting my swimming – it’s a bit late now, but I keep that to myself.
Out of Africa: I played you the theme music and you fell in love with the memorable melodies. Now it’s a bittersweet tune for me, because it was how I said goodbye to you.
Jimmy, Murphy, Bill, but my Papa. You are never far away from me, but too far for my liking.
© Paula Johnston 2013