TOMMY BILLS

TOMMY BILLS

I was Fifteen years old and starting my first job. The day itself a blur

Notable for my first instruction, given with relaxed assurance from a giant of a man

Six Foot Six, size 15’s, I’d never seen a man so tall and

Me a schoolboy by comparison. 

‘Pass me those tools,’ he said. Tommy Bills was his name                                           

Built like the proverbial brick out-house, shovels for hands, an encyclopaedic brain

And a notebook that contained workings out for every job that came his way

Enabling him to turn a sheet of metal into a feat of engineering

With names like ‘Lobster Back,’ and ‘Square to Round’. ‘One offs’, as they say.

Cast from Methodist stock, the shock of the new held no fears for him

He had negotiated survival of two world wars with his maker;

His stance now like that of a tree having withstood many a tremor;

Deep rooted in solid ground.

Hard work had formed him, strengthened him; left its indelible mark

Now times seemed in stark contrast with his nature; was mirrored in his manner

Old fashioned versus new fashion.

Well past retirement age, an exception to the rule, his old flat cap worn while he worked

Changed for a new one when clocking out

‘The wife would kill me if I caught the bus like that’, he’d shout.

The tell-tale aroma of Lily of the Valley escaping from his pressed square handkerchief

Giving clue to domestic contentment

Other-worldly contradiction with the oily smell of industry and

Harsh interaction with this factory world.

He sent me for things that didn’t exist, a rite of passage as old as the hills

Left-handed screwdrivers; ‘sky’ hooks and such

I had no idea what it all meant.

The incongruity of life made manifest in an eight hour day

I wanted to be like Tommy Bills, and in time, once learned

Pass on my skills.

◄ PERMISSION TO SPEAK

THE NEW RELIGION [1969] ►

Comments

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raypool

Fri 19th Apr 2019 21:39

Classic truthful writing about a breed of men that finally gave up the ghost under Margaret Thatcher. There is a kind of knot of macho thinking inherent to the character, with a down to earth vitality coming through. "Bubble for spirit levels" was another request for the uninitiated. Just great all round Trevor.

Ray

jennifer Malden

Fri 19th Apr 2019 20:24

Liked this, especially the lily of the valley equalling domestic contentment! She didn't want him on the bus in his awful old cap either, so you must be right. Nice!

Jennifer

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