Wednesday, 9 January 2013

Death's Dustbin

There was a slate engraved with the words Elm Dean. With the advent of the Dutch elm disease, the plate was removed. Otherwise, the place looked much the same. The same old house waiting at the end of a sweeping gravelled drive.

The tradesman's path runs to the left between the kitchens and laundry. A dustbin stands at the corner. Plastic now, replacing the galvanised bin that had a lid that clanged. One morning Grandad and I walked down this path. There was a smell of boiling cabbage and fresh linen. A dead cat lay on the path. Grandad scooped it up and dumped it in the bin. The lid clanged down on the last of its nine lives.

If you took the right path, you passed the grand façade of the house that smiled down on tiered rose beds and a manicured lawn rich with daisies. There was a pond replete with golden fish and burgundy lily pads. It was here that I once met Rupert, the Headmaster's son, smilingly scattering grass seeds. Gardener's grandson, Headmaster's son. The class divide hadn't entered our thoughts yet.

Looking through the French windows you could see chintzy furniture and bookshelves filled with fat books bound in leather. There was a piano and a globe. A painting of a green steam train puffing smoke as it cut through a valley. Cut-glass decanters containing ruby and amber liquid. I only went in there once when a workman fell from his ladder. We laid him out on the settee, his eyes closed and his mouth hanging open like a dead man. No lights on, nobody home.

As far as I can remember, Grandad didn't put him in the dustbin.


  1. That scent of boiled cabbage is the true reek of an early evening in Blighty.



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