On the wall, the old clock ticks. Tick tock, tick tock.
I’m carried back to another house, another time.
The latch lifts on the two part cottage door and my grandfather comes in with his
usual greeting, “God save all here”.
His son, my uncle Paddy, follows him in with a big grin on his face, proof of a good
days fishing. I run to the boathouse and open the wooden fish box, peel back the
damp coal sack and gaze at the silvery salmon that lie in state there. Back in the
kitchen, yellow oil skins are taken off and hung in an outside lean to. Thigh length
wellie boots are dragged off to expose hand knitted, heavy, woollen sea boot socks.
Sea dampened clothes are hung on a rail in the alcove, over the range so that they will
be dry in the morning. The days fishing is discussed over the steaming tea.
My grandfather grasps the warm mug in both callused hands and speaks to his wife,
who still works over the cooker. “Johnny Scurry had a good day. He got six on the
stripping of the mud. We were behind him and we got four. Jim Ferguson was behind
us and he only got one. The wind blew up and made it hard to keep the boat up to the
Uncle Paddy sits at the large wooden table with his legs outstretched and the chair
tilted back. Blowing on the hot tea he speaks. His voice exhibiting the faint
American twang picked up when he drove a taxi in New York for three years.
“The wind is backing off tomorrow and swinging more westerly. If we wait at the
point after the first of ebb we should be first drift”.
The grandfather smiles and says,
“There’s no point in trying to catch tomorrow the fish that were caught today”.
My grandfather was one of the oldest fishermen on the river and one of the wiliest.
The other fishermen tried to outthink him, but he could usually come up with some
new idea to catch fish, gleaned from generations of fishermen in his family.
Tick tock, tick tock. The large heavy crock of fish and vegetables are placed on the
table with the pot of “golden wonders”. The steaming spuds all splitting open oozing
their powdery treasure through the fissures. We mumble “Grace” to appease my
grandmother and hungrily set about the dinner.
After dinner another large pot of tea is wet and a deck of cards are produced. All the
family loved playing cards, especially 30’s. A stack of shiny pennies are produced
and shared out as uncle Paddy deals the cards , a cigarette in the corner of his mouth
spiralling eddies of smoke into the gloom of the high ceiling. We play single handed,
each trying to win our own tricks. When a good trick is made, shouts of excitement
fill the air accompanied by the slapping of hands down on the table. My grandmother
calls and shouts to equal the men folk as she loves the game of cards and is a better
player than any of us.
Tick tock, tick tock. I was dragged back from my memories, to the present by the
shrill ringing of the telephone. As I left the room to answer it, I glanced at the old
clock wondering if that “tick tock, tick tock”, would evoke such sweet memories in
my grandchildren’s minds, sometime in the distant future.