By Chris Clark
“Fred, your tea’s nearly ready.”
Even before I retired, I would always potter about down there, amongst the coffee jars stuffed with never-know-when-you-might-them-bits-n-bobs. Orphaned screws and rusty nails; redundant flat pack fittings and patchwork plant pots that sat patiently waiting for new tenants. Jack and Sally’s bikes are hung up, the tyres flat; the last gasp of air long since left home. A wooden saw perches above the wonky door – Maggie had it made for me for when I retired.
“You may as well move in down there,” she said as she handed it to me. The words “Fred’s Shed” had been carved into it.
“Fred, your tea is on the table and getting cold!”
I had my shed; Maggie had her knitting. I’d never known anyone knit so much. Even my mother with five backs to clothe never knit as much as Maggie. Constantly, click click bloody click, Emmerdale, Coronation St, Eastenders, they all came and went but the clicking never stopped.
Betty’s daughter’s friend’s sister’s brother’s cousin has just had a baby, and up start the knitting needles. Before you could say knit one, pearl one, another proud parent would be pushing a pair of Maggie’s booties around town.
“Fred, will you come in from that BLOODY shed?”
She tried to teach me one Sunday afternoon, I don’t know why, I think I must have had a few too many down the Legion.
“Loop this here.”
“Slide this round here.”
“Take that needle over this one.”
“And don’t forget to count your stitches.”
It was too much for my factory fingers to remember. Same with the time she persuaded to go salsa dancing. I couldn’t show my face down the Legion for weeks. Even now, when I ask for my rum they say, “Are you sure it’s not a rum-ba you’re after, Fred?”
“Fred, it’s John West and chips, come on, it’s getting cold, love.”
I could never resist that half-pleading voice, it made her sound so vulnerable, made me want to wrap her in my arms and keep her safe. Saturday tea was always tinned salmon and crinkle cut chips.
Jack and Sally had left to sit down with their own Jack and Sallys a long time ago, yet Maggie always kept four place mats set out. The place mats from our first family holiday to Blackpool, identical sepia-tinged scenes of Blackpool Tower.
Sitting down to the John West and chips, it was the Tower my plate masked that punctured my stomach. It had been three years to the day since Maggie’s clicking needles had been laid to rest. Three years since my family of four, that became two for tea, had now become a meal for one.
Chris Clark has never had any of his writing published before and still dreams of saving the winning penalty for Man Utd in the F.A Cup final. He’s never had a Blue Peter Badge or a drawing exhibited in Tony Harts Gallery. He loves Clarks desert boots, Vespa Scooters, wheat-beer, brick red coloured cups of tea, and his wife’s Sunday Dinners.