At Auntie Bessie’s

This is long. You don’t have to read it.

The old man in the rocking chair
was a piece of history
made in Queen Victoria’s reign.
He was looked after at Auntie Bessie’s
in the fifties and smelt of birdseed,
perhaps because the budgie cage
was on a stand next to him.
It was a dutiful outing of an hour’s bus-ride
to her terraced house on drab Sundays,
a two-up two-down
just up the road from the River Dee.
There was no bathroom
and no inside toilet.
The outside toilet
was at the end of the yard,
in all weathers.
It was wincing cold in winter,
the pipes swelled with lead quenelles.
Neatly cut rectangles of the Chester Chronicle
hung from a handy hook.
The old man must have been in his eighties
and dozed in a waist coat and crumpled suit
with stains, his wedding suit, perhaps.
I never saw him awake or heard him speak.
I was his only grandson,
for all he knew destined for greatness,
perhaps, but I’m sure he didn’t.
I can’t imagine
how he managed with the toilet
and the tin bath in front of the fire,
if he ever had a bath,
or where he slept in a house already full
with my aunt, uncle and three cousins.
His parents had worked with horses
and died of anthrax, a late Victorian death.
My great-great grandparents
brought him up from the age of six,
otherwise he might have
gone to a bestial orphanage
or a crippling workhouse
and I might not have
been here, so I owe them,
and so do my descendants,
and maybe the whole of mankind.


© Nemo 2023
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It doesn’t feel long at all, I was fascinated at this insight of a time now past. In today’s world your grandad would be sitting alone most of the time in an unrecognised room, so was a lucky man to still have his home and family caring for him.
I loved the ‘wincing cold’. Sue.


This reminds me of the Victorian Terraced house my Grandmother’s aunt lived it which I visited with her when I was a boy. The decor didn’t look like it had change since the day it was new around 1880 ish I guess.

I like the concept of being made be hundreds of ancestors.

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