Monday 24 February 2020

Cromwell Road

by Lena Green

vanilla ice-cream with a chocolate flake 

‘I love to look out at the sea', she said watching the traffic on the Cromwell Road. ‘Why, it’s so refreshing – breath in Molly dear – taste the saltiness of the air.’

‘But Grandma, we're in London. There’s no sea here.’

‘Silly girl,’ Grandma gently rebuked. ‘You tell me there’s no sea here – just look at the seagulls. Seagulls everywhere! … and look, there’s the pier. Come on, let’s walk down to it.’

With a gentle smile Molly complied. And so, arm in arm, Grandma leading the way with the tap-tap of her stick, they walked past the shops, crossing at the lights to avoid the traffic, chatting inconsequentially.

Until … ‘Look, Milly dear.  The pier, we’ve reached it. Let’s go and get an ice-cream from that handsome Italian man at the kiosk at the end.’

Again, Milly made no protest, rather she pulled her grandmother closer and said nothing, for nothing was all that was needed.

But then, ‘Oh! Milly dear! The wind. It’s always so blowy here on the pier. Help me with my hat or I shall be completely blown away.’

Respectfully Milly attended to her hat, fitting it more snugly around her ears, until Grandma satisfied, they walked on. One step at a time – bowing against the illusory wind.

But then Grandma suddenly stopped.

‘Milly dear! He’s gone! The ice-cream man. He's been here for years and now he’s gone!’

‘Don’t worry Grandma. I know a place where we can get an ice-cream. And with that she gently turned her grandmother back round to the direction from whence they had just come.

‘It’s all changed,’ mumbled Grandma. ‘It’s all changed. I don’t understand it … he’s been here for years... and now …

Milly let her talk. The occasional, ‘yes’ or ‘I know’ seemed to suffice, until back in the High Street they arrived at a café. 

Milly found a table, outside, in the sunshine. Grandma sat, took off her hat, straightened her hair, rummaged for a hankie while Milly bought two ice-creams: vanilla, both with a chocolate flake.

Contented Grandma ate. While her girlish tongue made swirls and chased the never-ending drips so she said nothing. And Milly, relishing Grandma’s tranquil moment, savoured her’s too.

Then, ‘I love it here on the pier,’ said Grandma. ‘Don’t you too Milly?’

‘Oh, I do Grandma,’ said Milly, her voice almost lost by the roar of the traffic as it made its perpetual way, oblivious to all, along the Cromwell Road, to who knows where.

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