I asked of Godfrey once, as arm in arm we set out on a walk, I am curious , did you and your Ma ever just sit and talk? He thought the thought over, then under, then nodded and then let the thought come slowly back round. He replied, “only once when I was 8, had to see the Optometrist in Aberystwyth Town.
I squinted at the chalkboard in my classroom, Mrs Kromplak worried I could not see what she wrote, what I could not see was past the large Mulgrew in front of me, risked a beeting if he knew, so I ran home and gave Ma teacher’s note. The city was far, it was the year Ma learned to drive “Garply” our old car. There was only one seat, where driving Ma sat, and a wooden apple crate, I perched on that. Ma was not cheerful, but at least left her angry purse behind as we warmed up the car and set out at dawn. I wore my good kilt and had my comforting horse- sweater on.
From her friendly purse Ma dug out a lint covered clove Life-Saver for me, and for herself a toffee. She muttered her usual, loving shut-up Godfrey. I counted cows and castles all the way to Aberystwyth, and the Optometrist. Twas like a castle where the eye Doctor was, but not scary like the dentist or the quack. I was thoughroly inspected, given eye drops, “they told Ma, in 6 months bring him back” I was ready for a swat, but to my shock I got taken gently by the hand for a stroll down the High Street, to the big Woolworth’s Store.
It smelled of toast, and rubber boots shiny and new, she lifted me high on a stool, and handed me a sticky menu. Ma said, “I used to work here before I met your dad, you have his slate blue eyes, healthy and clear, I am glad”. It was the longest conversation we ever had… I ate chicken salad “Butties” that came through a hole in the wall where the counter lady leaned in to shout. The more she yelled in the hole, lovely looking food came flying out. No beets came out the wall, so I decided to work back there, must be the most fun job of all. Coffee and tea urns gargled out steam, and I had a cold drink from a fountain machine- “Honeydew , it was odd not sharing with Alice and two straws, so I savored the frosty glass and happily finished off Ma’s. Ma gave me a coin, said don’t get lost, find a treat for Beatrice and Alice, mind now the cost. I found perfume for Beatrice, “My Sin”, for Alice a frame she could put a pop stars photo in. What was left got us all a Jawbreaker Ball, (Alice put a picture of beets in the frame and bolted it to my bedroom wall) Ma’s purse was grumpy on our way out of the city, but another Life-Saver was dug out for me, count cows and castles till it’s gone and be quiet while I drive please, Godfrey.
He did not posses a photo of his dad, to compare those slate blue eyes that they had. In Beatrice’s puce house can be found to this day, an ancient bottle of “My Sin” she has never had the heart to throw away. “I counted cows and castles, I was 8 years old, kneeling on an apple crate on those winding Welsh roads” Looking out ahead, counting all the cows and castles I saw, on the road from Aberystwyth just me and my Ma.