was older than home. It was where Dad felt
at home. Its cupboards were full of puzzles
with missing pieces. It was for ever, for six weeks
one summer, when Dad played
Mum, and Mum visited at weekends. The rest
of the time Dad’s ancient aunties like Dorothy
were nearer. Tea was eggs and beans, and beans
and eggs and blackberries picked on canal walks
blighted by slugs and dark gaps between
stepping-stones. The nearby market was hung
with rabbits until Mum came on a Saturday
when it sold toys and records.
Above Wood End, Stoodley Pike
perched on a hill like an early god
surrounded by sheep and sheep-
shit. Its obelisk daggered the air above Dad
as he walked towards it, bowed by the enormity
of the rucksack like three kids on his shoulders.
Sometimes our heads were knocked together.
In the evenings we wrote diaries for Dad to look
back on when he was stuck at work, and we were quiet
during the news. Susan Maxwell was always on telly
- her lost face flickered in a far-off corner of Wood End -
a girl from up the road, about my age, but dead.