Jake, Sunday Mass, bacon, and cabbage


Part 2

– “a builder? repair man? maybe a teacher?!!” “Wrong on all three” he said. “What I wanted to be was — a steeplejack! That business would get me up high, away from people – in whom I had no interest much. Nor had they any in me. And it would allow me to see for miles. I soon got plenty of work, as I had ‘trained up’ in the right trades, and had a good head for heights. London was full of old factory chimneys that needed bringing down carefully, or else repairing, after the Blitz. A lot of others had to have lightning conductors fitted. No bother to me, there.

“One day I was up top of a high factory chimney, when I spotted a little nest in a crevice in the bricks. A few small chicks glared at me with their black eyes! Falcons!! Only a few left in the Country after being hunted almost to extinction. And my good luck to happen on a tiny clutch! I reached a hand towards them, but they ‘clacked’ and screeched at me, so I held off. Just then there was a scream from a returning mother bird, who thus warned me to mind my own human business, and leave her brood be. She had a dead pigeon in her talons; and I got a close look at how fast she plucked its feathers off. In no time at all, she was ripping strips of meat off and feeding them to her little gang, who seemed to now be ignoring me completely. But mum kept a savage eye on me, with no fear in her at all. Often afterwards, she seemed to seek out high places where I would be working, and would build a nest near me. A strange kind of attitude from a very un-sociable breed. But every Spring, she’d show up where I’d be, up high. Maybe she watched me leave the house of a morn – falcons can spot a small bird at two miles away – so keeping an eye on me would have been a doddle for her. I knew when she would be showing up – as she would give a scream that would frighten a banshee! She obviously knew I would scare away scald crows from her chicks while she was hunting. A strange ‘friendship’, Neddie boy. Maybe I’ll tell you more some day. Not fond of words, me.”

I heard him out. Believed every word.

For another two or three years, I kept to my routine. I’d follow the circuit, around six farms, keeping myself in order. In early Autumn, I often felt I was being observed when near Cate’s house. But I didn’t meet Jake again. Not to speak to, like. Once, of a warm morn, I spotted him watching my moves. He just gave me a grin, and made a sawing gesture with his hands, like cutting bacon.

“I told old Kate Collins – {80 when I was about 10} about meeting him. “Ah” she said “Jake. A good lad. Did you know that oul rip Cate codded him out of that ‘place’? Got her daddy to sign a will when he was cracked with the drink one night. Jake could have taken law over it, but he just cleared off, couldn’t be bothered. Sure, he was always a gentleman!”

Jake was all of that…

Ned E



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