I live in Dublin, Ireland. Sometimes. Most times I live in my head, quite unaware of my surroundings – if you know what I mean… If you succeed in tracking Sean Walsh, please let me know, ok? I've been searching for him for years…
When she took off I gave her a month,
‘month at the outside…
She’ll be back, nothing surer.
Head hanging, glad to be home, safe shelter.
Oh yeah, London’ll cure her cough…
Oh, Jenny, Jenny!..
What are you at, a tall a tall, daughter mine?..
I didn’t give you a hope – how could I?..
Sure I knew the time would come
when you’d want to fly the nest. Sure I did.
But I wanted so much you to have
something going for you –
so you wouldn’t be going to nothing…
Learning the hard way…
skimping on this, going without that,
maybe borrowing, on pay day, your fare to work.
Answering one small ad after another after an –
hoping against hope for an interview,
a chance, yet another chance,
to bluff, lie, talk your way
into a no-hope job,
get a foot on the first rung of a ladder
But the weeks passed. And the seasons…
She hung in there, held out, roughing it.
No way would she give in. Pride?.. But of course.
And a strong resolve to stand and give challenge.
But kept in touch – the occasional letter,
the rare phone call.
‘Came the day I booked a flight,
packed an overnight bag,
made a phone call, then to Heathrow,
and on to London Central…
I wanted to see my daughter, that’s the why!
Jenny! Jenny, over here!
Dad! Oh, it’s great to see you, Dad!
Now… let me look at you… Hmmm…
What, Dad, what?..
Well… For one thing, you’re too thin in the face
and too much on the hips…
You’ve been eating all the wrong food, I know, I can tell –
For another… I can’t take my eyes off you!
Oh, Dad, that is so-oooo! –
Jenny, Jenny Alana!..
We walked and talked –
bumping, laughing, nodding, skirting, glancing,
taking each other’s measure –
until we came to a restaurant off a main street
that looked just the job…
How do you like your spaghetti, kiddo? Al dente?..
To be honest, she was far more interested
in the homemade ice cream smothered
in chocolate sauce!
Over coffee she fished a camera
from a God Almighty hold-all –
and a passing waiter duly obliged.
Just you and me, Dadsers!..
And when she excused herself to go to the loo,
I knew she was having a quick drag.
But not in front of her old man.
Not yet. Not quite yet…
‘Came the time to finish, settle, tip,
exit into the crisp night air,
the emptying streets… the Underground.
I to my hotel, she to her burrow in outer suburbia.
‘Have to leg it, Dad!
Down and down again… cavernous… dim lights…
echoing footsteps… eerie, outer-space noises…
We waited, platforming with the other,
Will you be all right, Dad? You know where to change?
Write, won’t you? You have no idea how much it means to –
I stepped into an empty carriage,
turned, and our eyes met:
Oh, but I do, I do… I’ll ring you, Jenny. Soon as I –
No! The doors edged shut and it was moving,
gathering sudden speed.
Jenny static, riveted,
eyes brimming, limp hand lifted –
Then she was gone… I was gone.
The doors opened again at the next station.
In a way, they had closed for good.
And so much gone unsaid.
So much beyond and below the chatter,
chit chat, small talk…
A hundred – oh, a thousand – things
left unspoken, unshared…
I to her, she to me.
Still only a child in ways, wee girl, my Jenny.
I, I left something of myself on that platform.
Behind, on that platform. And even if I wanted it back?
But I wouldn’t – wouldn’t ever want it back.
God go with you, Jenny… I can’t…
Yes. Yes, that’s the way of it… No holding on.
Let her be… chart her own course… into deep water.
‘Had it framed. The print she sent me.
‘Not a great ‘photo, not much of a camera, but still…
Here, on the mantlepiece… by the clock.
When I light the fire of a winter’s evening,
switch on the occasional lights,
it seems to catch the glow…
Jenny. Jenny Alana and me…
arm in arm in El Corvo –
A wee gem lifted from the final chapter of
Notes on the Past Imperfect.
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