The International Writers Magazine: 1905
Blotted me Copy Book
so cold, and dark, the darkness competing with the cold to penetrate
to my very bones. My hands are numb and cannot feel the buttons
on my boots as I fumble to dress myself. Hurry! Hurry! I panic
as I tumble down the attic stairs, trying in vain to make no noise
as I fall.
I run through the
welcome warmth of the vast kitchen, trying to breathe in the aromas
of delights I will never have in my belly, into the damp chill of the
scullery, my domain.
"Youre late!" snaps Betty, the under-parlour maid. I
know shes got it in for me. I duck my head out of her reach, but
she hasnt taken a swipe at me this time.
Quickly I gather up my tools in the holdall, light a candle, and stagger
back up the stairs to the main entrance hall. I stand a moment and can
feel the silence of the house, still in darkness, just the ticking of
the grandfather clock standing against the far wall.
I take a moments breather and then start on the days work
of cleaning the fireplaces, and lighting the fires ready for when the
Master and Mistress come down. As I work, I have a warm feeling in my
chest of anticipation of what the day may bring. Today is special, my
once a week half day; I have to finish all my work by 3 oclock,
and then be back by 6 oclock to scrub the floors below stairs
again before going to bed.
At last its time to go. I take off my cap and rough apron, don
my black bonnet and cape, and soon am walking down the path that leads
to the village. As I pass the church on the left, I can hear the sound
of pigs squealing from the back yard of the Post Office Mr. Faithful
must be slaughtering again fresh pork for sale tomorrow!
I walk on down West Street until I reach our home, a low thatched cottage
with tiny dormer windows. Through the side gate and down the garden
path, ignoring the kitchen door, I go straight to the workshop.
As I enter my father looks up from his work, a leather shoe in one hand,
a hammer in the other. The smell of leather and glue fills the air,
a lovely, homely smell. His eyes light up when he sees me, but I can
see behind the light a troubled shadow. We exchange greetings; I kiss
him fondly on the cheek.
"Whats the matter?" I ask.
"Ive blotted me copy book with the squire." he replies.
"He came in here with a pair of boots needing mending and wanted
em done by Sunday afternoon. Well, you know I never work on the
Sabbath day, so I put his nose out of joint by telling him no, they
wont be ready til Monday. Well, he had no choice, being as his
regular cobbler is in London and would take twice as long to get em
there and back. Then, when he comes to collect them I told him the cost
was half a crown. "He baulks at that saying he can get them done
in London for 2 shillings! Well, says I, take em
to London then!
He went off in a foul mood at that; then today I gets this letter from
the land agent, telling me that me tenancy is terminated, with seven
days notice! After 300 years of my family living here, I cant
I can hardly believe it either, and spend time talking round in circles,
trying to work out with father what we can do about it. How can a Christian
soul put out a man who has lived and worked all his life here, giving
service to the community, and all the while being crippled after an
accident, when he was just a small boy working in the Estate wood mill.
Two hours later, I begin the walk back to the House, my heart heavy.
Theres nothing to be done, I know. Father will have to move out
and theres nowhere to go. All our family are dead but me. Father
tells me that hes relieved that at least I have a roof over my
head in the big House, and that hell be all right whatever happens.
I know what that may be the only thing left for him to do
take himself off to the Workhouse in town. There at least hell
have food and shelter, and with his skills as a cobbler, he should be
able to survive.
Will I ever see him again?
© Christine Churcher November 1905 (2005)
Christine is a graduate of the Creative Arts programme at the University
Day at School
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