Leaving




























With tail-gate lifted and door slammed shut, the removal lorry lurched out of the courtyard and up the steep track to the narrow main road. I stood hidden for a moment, watching. The day before I’d said goodbye to the sheltering places: half submerged barns, haylofts, trees and dens. It was the end for West Glenshinnoch, an old farm my parents had rented since before I was born. The ROF wouldn’t sell it and even if they had my mother couldn’t afford to repair the damp east-facing gable that made wall-paper fall down within days of being put up and upstairs unbearably cold.

The hen house was still and silent. The lawns hadn’t been cut and already the gardens looked neglected. Going back into the house I wandered in and out of each room trying to imagine and remember it as it had been. Rayburn, dresser and table in the kitchen; sofa, open fire, TV and dining table in the living room; white faux leather sofa in the sitting room and grandfather clock in the hall. The splashy coloured carpets had gone and my foot-steps echoed on cold brown linoleum. Upstairs in the bedroom I shared with Helen the sun made patterns where the beds had been.


Downstairs the pantry was cold and smelt of my father’s stuff but the tools, camera and film developing equipment, science papers and 78 rpm records had gone.

Beside the front door was Dad’s bedroom, since his death four years ago an icy damp ‘study’ with a dansette record player and the remainder of his things: books, oil paints and easel, and manuscript paper.


I was three and a half. The grandfather clock ticked then clicked the hour. Click, Click, Click. I'd been told not to but got up and crept out on to the landing and felt my way through the cold darkness to the top of the staircase. Down each step I went clinging to the bannister with both hands. The fourth step creaked. Five, six, seven....fourteen, fifteen, sixteen, last one. Avoiding the gaze of the grandfather clock, I walked blinking against the dark along the corridor to my father's room. The door handle was round and hard to grasp. It wouldn’t turn. Try again. Again. Again. It turned. He stirred, reached down, lifted me up and tucked me in beside him. ‘You’re freezing little Tish...’ Cigarette and a Zippo lighter -- lovely tobacco and petrol smells. A boy called Peter and his collie dog, Rover, ('please... one more story'). And soon, sleep.


During the day, with the twins old enough for school and my mother at work, Dad and I were alone and happy. I ran errands through the large house for distalgesic tablets, wheelchair, cigarettes and sometimes helped wash his huge but crippled legs and feet in a basin. Each morning supervised by Bess the old white boxer dog I made him a cup of instant coffee then carried it shakily on its saucer through from the kitchen. 'Is it alright this time?' Dad would make us a 'boil in the bag' lunch which neither of us could chew, play me Louis Armstrong records, answer my endless questions and one day from his wheelchair taught me to ride a bike.


I could hear them shouting for me, looked round Dad’s room one more time then pulling and turning the handle, closed the door.

‘Oh don’t start crying, for goodness sake. You're so emotional! We’ve been waiting for you. We didn’t want the lorry to get there before us.’


My mother drove. The twins and I turned and watched Glenshinnoch disappeared.




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