CREATIVE John Harrison

NWR Issue 111


The van was late. My elder brother Tim was coming up with the removals men from Falmouth to Cardiff. My parents, in their mid- eighties, had been driven up the day before by my younger brother, Oliver, Cardiff-based like me. Now we waited for their furniture. They had winnowed it down from a houseful to enough to furnish a new two-bedroomed flat just below Ely Bridge. Their Cornish house had been shouldered into a hill, the front buried below the road: a hobbit hole. The back garden ran down to the stream that danced a sparkling mile to feed Swanpool, a lake dammed behind a storm beach.

From plans and models, they had selected a new flat, mostly by price. Because of my mother’s condition, my father insisted it should have no balcony. This left them a view across the car park to the premium price block of riverside flats, which they could have afforded to buy. Instead, money went into the bank.

They had seemed to take in their stride what would be the last vol- untary move of their lives. The previous time they had moved was to Falmouth over forty years before. The next move, away from this flat, would be to one of two euphemisms: an old people’s home or a funeral home.

Oliver’s wife Steph had bought carpets, curtains and light shades so the rooms were not shells. There was a new kettle, and their first dishwasher and microwave. Dad had taken over the cooking after the second time Mum had put the electric kettle on the gas hob. The plastic on the stubby legs caught fire and set off the smoke alarm. Dad had his back to us all, arms an expectant V on the window sill. Mum was stand- ing in the centre of the room, not quite facing anything in particular. ‘It is a long drive,‘ she declared, not looking at her watch. We took turns to ask isolated questions, which she answered inconsequentially.

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John Harrison is a travel writer. His latest book is 1519: A Journey to the End of Time, published by Parthian. He is on the longlist for the 2016 New Welsh Writing Awards.


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