Author Topic: My Godmother's Shack.  (Read 868 times)


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My Godmother's Shack.
« on: October 28, 2019, 12:26:49 AM »
My Godmother's Shack

My Godmother lived in a shack,
out in The New Forest.
To a child it was a magical place,
taking 'lived in' to a whole new level.

Originally a wooden seaside chalet,
bought just after the war
when housing was in short supply.
Dismantled, and relocated,
reassembled with an extra room added.

Only a few miles away there were boxes,
originally used for shipping bomber parts,
reworked into homes.
The wartime slogan  'waste not - want not',
was a necessity, not a trendy mantra.

Hidden behind a hedge,
the tussocked ground
pockmarked with rabbit burrows,
a miniature copy of nearby Southampton
with its residual bomb craters.

There was an abandoned car in the garden
which always fascinated me.
An AC Cobra, the name meant nothing.
I sometimes sat on the weathered seat
and dreamed a child's dreams.

I asked about it once and she laughed.
"A man asked if he could leave it there,
because the engine blew up.
Before he could get the parts he went mad.
They locked him up, and no-one ever came back for it."

Cooking on bottled gas,
boiling her kettle on a paraffin Primus,
door always unlocked.
As sparse as the life she lived,
no spare fat and damned near feral.

Her estranged husband lived in a shed,
an even more ramshackle structure,
hidden away in blackberry bushes
at the bottom of her garden.

Much despised he worked nearby,
but came 'home' for dinner each evening.
A white haired 'mad prophet' type figure.
Physically capable but 'walking wounded'.

She usually treated him with silence
but hissed and spat like a feral cat,
brandishing her kitchen knife
- which was never far from hand -
if he got too close.

I never doubted she'd stab him
if he pushed his luck.
More importantly, neither did he.
On 'jumpy' days she wore the knife,
tucked through her belt.
It never worried me.  I wasn't a target

I sometimes wondered if she missed his earlier self,
the smart young man in uniform she married.
I've seen the photograph.
Or if he ever wondered what had gone wrong,
how the peace he'd fought for slipped away.

They must have been close at least once,
to produce their daughter,
born in the mid fifties.
But by the time I noticed these things
the battle lines were clearly drawn

He sometimes growled and bristled at me,
male territorial stuff,
but whatever he'd left behind in the Pacific
never emerged enough to feel like a threat.
My dad had warned me he was 'war-damaged'.
So I stepped politely, but not fearfully.

I must say I never heard him swear.
He used 'red-eyed' as a substitute,
such as when their cat, a huge beast,
stole food from his fork if he ate too slowly,
or paused to talk.  But never from his plate.

That cat understood the unspoken rules,
the tenuous strands, the unspoken boundaries,
binding the family together.
When things were tense it slunk out to hunt rabbits,
because they no longer needed to feed it.

To a fifteen year old lad it was a labyrinth,
but one I never feared to enter.
A tattered wonderland, filled with interest,
and half spoken secrets.

Some I understand better now.