Saturday, 24 August 2019

Past Imperfect, Present Tense

by David Gower

white wine Spritzer

Faces in the dog eared album brought back memories of childhood. It had seemed a big and heavy book in her childhood. Now it seemed to have shrunk. She realised the book had not changed but she was now a grown woman. As an only child she was clearing Dad’s effects from the sheltered flat. Strange how his valued but simple possessions were now just things. They had in a sense died with him. The album alone seemed to have meaning and history within the covers.

Black and white images of people long dead and places far away. Square photographs and wavy edged postcard sized pictures told of travels around the globe to places which would once have been coloured pink in her school atlas as part of the British empire. Pink was not in evidence so much now in any atlas. That world was no more.

As the pages turned the architecture in the snapshots evidenced their locations. Arid desert somewhere in the Middle East, busy scenes in African ports, elephants in India and Buddhist temples in Hong Kong. A pictorial record of a life in a post war world.

Some of the pictures had been taken by her father. Others showed him with his friends as they enjoyed shore leave. Young men, smiling and waving at the lens, frozen in a moment of time.

Her daydreams were interrupted at the sound of the post falling onto the hall floor. The post these days only ever had adverts and bills. No one ever seemed to write proper letters any more.

How had her Mum managed to bring up her child with Dad at sea so long? How had they maintained a life which held them apart for several months every year and then brought them together only to part again? 

No time to fret about the past. It was almost as her birthday card had said – Wine O’Clock – time to meet her girlfriends and enjoy some bubbly and cake. 

“Happy birthday Rosie, many happy returns of the day.” Rosie’s best mate Alison smiled as she gave her a gift wrapped parcel. Sheila and Rona produced their gifts. The wine flowed and the only evidence of cake was crumbs and dirty plates. 

Giggling and relaxed the women started to talk about television. Why would people expose their private lives to the viewing public? That sort of thing was so awful nevertheless they admitted their fascination and compulsive viewing. 

The day after Rosie’s birthday she was back at Dad’s flat. Clearing things just seemed to take forever and his mail remained unopened on a side table. He was never one for opening post when it arrived. Time to wade through that later over a cup of tea. How lovely it would be to get home and get clean after all this clearing.

The doorbell chimed. She opened the door to find three women standing in the rain. Rosie’s immediate thoughts were that they were collecting for charity or wanted to convert her to their beliefs. They were about her age but markedly different in appearance. 

The tallest one, olive skinned and dark haired, asked “Excuse me, is Mr Ron Andrews at home?”

“I am sorry to say that he died a few days ago. I am his daughter. Who are you?”

The women looked at each other. After a moment the tall woman spoke for the other two. 

“We think we are your sisters. Can we come in? We wrote to say we were coming.”

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