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.