Leaving Highwood
That last morning, it was business as usual,
except he was coaxed from monkish dressing gown
into smart day clothes by 8 am.
Down in the Formica kitchen, walls a photomontage
of family life glamorous as Tatler pages,
they drank tea from Wedgewood cups,
cold shouldering toast,
he tackling the Times crossword
she and daughters batting chit chat around.
Ten o’ clock applying lipstick,
Come on old girl to herself like a stern friend,
knowing full well another winter without central heating,
creeping damp from collapsed bedroom ceiling
would see them both off.
Cue for the car to pull round to front door,
looking straight ahead as if walking a tightrope
he passed through a diamond-paned room,
where wall to wall bookcases housed his 80 years reading.
She followed, straightening a cushion, adjusting a curtain.
Daughters seeing them off were complicit
in the doublethink that parents were not leaving for good
only going away for a few days to give Mummy a break.
So whilst he occupied with sorting spectacles, Sudoku, sweets,
she turned to wave with vivid smile,
but remarking the wisteria beginning to colour
on this family home of 60 years
felt her skin tear as the car pulled hearse slow
down the narrow lane.
In the hall, the sisters keened for their childhood,
then encouraging each other with it’s for the best,
marshalled black bags and packing cases
binned tired soft furnishings, broken bric-a-brac…
wincing nevertheless at the prick of each item’s memory,
but their bulk of furniture, her china, his books
were itemised and packed with curatorial care;
later transported to one daughter’s ‘grounds’,
where grandkids and her best chum prepared
welcome basket of gossip and invitations
in a cottage with central heating and climbing roses…
that was transformed into Highwood Lodge reloaded.

Fiona Sinclair

If you have any comments on this poem, Fiona Sinclair would be pleased to hear from you.