Wake me up before you go go!
For my Dad
Frankie says relax and my dad says get in the van, to an 8yr old fuzzy me who dreamt of Shakespearian fairies.
The rumble of the engine pushes the sun out of the cloud, then my dad wrestles with a wheel that navigates this ship around crescents and new roads.
It sails with me standing in the back skating on my dad’s singing and my refusal to sit down.
Me in an electric blue beret the colour of a fashion crime, holds onto my captains chair for the dear thrill of it all.
The overweight transit stops to pick the daily map , the sun and packet of wine gums.
I plump for scampi and lemon niknaks, avoiding the space raiders and quarterbacks.
At half six in the morning, citrus flavouring tingles on my tongue and fizzes like popping candy in my tummy.
With each pit stop, the boat is heaving with gaggles of women, ready to plunge into a new day.
Cul-de-sac s and grey buildings with fake picket fences disappear into a sea of fields, crashing into waves of mustard and wheat.
Cars pass by on a thin ribbon road, fleeing the red rust of the dawn, bursting out of blue everything, like I imagine my little ponies would when they clang their plastic hooves, running into the next adventure and pasture.
With more daylight there is less people on their way to work, just muddy plains and tufts of beet.
I wait for the women to leave the hull, whilst I rub my fluorescent yellow leg warmers together in excitement.
My dad, the captain pops open a seat to reveal today’s weapons. Not cannon balls like a pirate galleon but slim and weathered staffs with a metal head that smiles.
Each lady grabs their chosen instrument, some argue with grins that someone has their favourite.
All playful talk ends as my dad becomes the star of the show, cracking a joke too sarcastic for my little brain to understand, but I capture it nonetheless. One day I will unleash it on a unsuspecting teacher in P.E.
Stepping out the beret is tossed aside and heat hits my skins like the lights on top of the pops.
Before I can run into the field , shouting so the birds flee and the women laugh.
My captain gives me a broken hoe, where the handle is short.
I grasp it to me, then run anyway to the far acre, away from the regimented lines of women, who are Cindy dolls and action men, ready to strip weeds from the land’s sugar. They need to do half a mile by lunch, need to set the sugar beets free.
Instead I jump over ditches, avoiding eels who might be out to get me. Sliding my legs into murky water, enjoying the yellow turning black and crusty.
Then I am startled as two of the gang catch me, catching them having a pee, knickers down,bums out in the air, tattered toilet tissue in hand.
Embarrassed laughter cuts through the distant hum of the nearby town. Our captain calls time for lunch and I unlock an old ice cream tub to find jewels of tight triangle sandwiches of dairy lea and imaginatively called ‘sandwich spread’.
I rush the bread down so I can taste the fluffy teacake with white foam that clings for dear life to my upper lip.
After a speedy respite, the tilling begins once more, not long to go now. In the afternoon I would become more intrepid than Hong Kong Fuey, more detective than Bergerac.
I would sink my hands into dry top soil, both at once, scooping up wet dark, using baby bumped fingers like sieves.
Not searching for gold, but the fresh colour of Opaque bottles with magic messages from beyond.
Words like OXO would be traced by my finger tips, I’d collect it in my skirt more coy than Indiana Jones.
I would be satisfied by torn pieces of china, painted with flowers from Spring that had already bloomed.
My hands as black as the ace of spades, could not stop searching, not even when my puffball pockets were full to breaking seams, tumbling crockery down polka dots.
With the weight of time in my clothes, I slumped on the grassy edge, noticing that the workers were more money by the hour.
They were the quickest ploughers, so finite were their skills that the burnished plants were protected and clean once more.
I waited for the women to fill the plank seats, I scrambled in, sweat, dirt and pottery.
I fall asleep on Mrs Hudson’s shoulder the best giggling pillow I ever had.
Then home , the van just missing the purple tree in the close, I plunge into the children from across the street.
All ginger, looking the same and going up in years. I had not liked this crew since they called me names every time I left my door.
I resurrect for a moment when I did in my stood up to the gap toothed bully boy, I chased him round the skipping rope with a coal shovel, threatening to bash in his face.
I was not going to let him call me fatty any more and on that day with the battering ram in my clutch, he regretted he had ever opened his crooked mouth.
They sniggered on chopper bikes at my messy attire, then shouted that they had gone bowling, that they had ice cream for tea.
I did not answer, I just thought of flat landscapes, full of treasure and a greedy sky which whispered to me.
I turned from them and back to my captain, asking that tomorrow and everyday he would take me with him?
Promising to not forget me, he said he would always wake me before we had to go.
I clung onto this oath and these halcyon days ever since.
Never swapping mucky hard won memories for what everyone else thinks are precious shiny things.
By Keely Mills
Copyright September 2012