MR. SHOPLAND (INSURANCE MAN)
Mr. Shopland (insurance man)
visited once a month in specs and a trilby,
scuffed ledger to hand,
chipper, breezily discussing the weather,
fair or foul,
his bike propped beside him
a Hercules with Miller dynamo.
Stood in our porch to collect insurance.
This ritual grew with me as a child;
the peremptory knock,
an inward gush of air,
red tiled porch as welcome,
my mother making small talk,
me making notes as small boys do.
On his bike a wooden box,
spare elastic bands,
a simple clasp,
cash always carried then.
Underneath his cycle clips
sturdy legs, he was not to be messed with.
but during active service he had proved himself
a force to be reckoned with,
and blood was raised on the attempt.
When my father passed away
we saw the insurance agreement
in his deed box since the thirties:
one penny per week in perpetuity.
It was sad to have to submit it then
with its copperplate scrolled heading
stiffened with age,
proclaiming a lifetime opportunity.