New Writing – Fisherman’s Friend // Andy Naylor
It was seeing Harry Gambol that did it.
Here was a man who had carried his best mate for two miles in the jungle of Burma, getting shot at, bitten and near enough decapitated for his troubles – but never breathed a word about it.
A solid, dependable man who’d rip the shirt off his back for anyone who asked him. Family came first for Harry, trouble was he didn’t come first for them. When his wife died neither his son or daughter fancied decamping back here to shoulder the burden of Harry’s ailing health, so they did the next best thing and left him with a team of highly trained carers. I’m sure they do their jobs well enough and Harry is always grinning, trouble is Harry would grin these days if you hit him with a cricket bat. Not too much going on there anymore.
It still made me flinch though to see this once proud man being led around Tesco like a baby by some idiot with a nose ring. Nothing against the ring, it’s her nose she can do what she wants with it. The idiot on the end of the ring though, jabbering away on her hands free kit, was it too much hassle for a young person to hold a phone these days?
So yeah it was partly seeing old Harry but mostly because I miss you so much some mornings it’s all I can do not to collapse and sob into the bedroom carpet.
Everything’s the same since you went, I still wash your nightie twice a week and keep it folded on your pillow. Even Julie tried to gently suggest I take your clothes to a charity shop, I gently suggested she left and I haven’t seen her since. I know what you’d say, that I was being a raging bull. I’d swap anything for you to come back now and tell me that, your mouth giving nothing away but your eyes smiling. I could never stay mad about anything when I was close to you.
It irritated our friends sometimes that we were still like that. Too touchy feely they said.
“How are you still touchy feely after 30 years?” Carol used to say. “I haven’t got the passion left to hit my Jim.”
Would kids have changed all that? Maybe. We’ll never know now. I know how much you wanted them and I wanted you to be happy . If I’m honest though I think as we got even closer we decided it wasn’t to be for us. Me and you versus the world, sod everyone else.
It’s funny now when I’m sat there of an evening flicking through the TV, all those dolly birds and orange men twirling each other around, I can’t believe I used to watch it with you. You always liked my shoulders when we used to go out dancing. Said I was your strapping man. I thought you were the most beautiful thing that had ever existed. I still do. She used to joke about that Carol as well, call us a couple of randy buggers.
She used to say “ If I ever touched Jim at night he’d know the house was on fire.”
That never changed for you and me. Alright it wasn’t anywhere near as often and sometimes it didn’t last as long as it took to make the cup of tea afterwards but it still meant so much. Thirty years and I still couldn’t believe how lucky I was to kiss you, to touch you and to hold you and feel your heart racing and to know that it was me who’d made you feel like that.
That film came on the other night, Cocoon. Do you remember? About the pensioners who found those alien cocoons in the swimming pool and got the energy of twenty five year olds again. At the end the one couple had to decide if they should go up to space and live forever or take the time they had left with their Grandson. I thought it was a bit silly but you got a bit upset, said that we’d never have that decision to make. You would have been a brilliant Mum, I’m not so sure about me.
Anyway that’s why I’m getting off a train in North Wales. I’ve come back to Snowdon. They all thought we were bat shit when we said that’s what we were going to do to celebrate your 60th birthday.
“Climb a mountain?!” said Carol” I get puffed out changing the bin bag.”
We did though didn’t we. Took us eight hours and we were so cold when we got down we both ate about four Fisherman’s Friends whilst we waited for the pub fire to put some life back into our hands. We were so knackered neither of us realised we’d left the tent flaps open and we woke up with that St. Bernard pissing all over the rucksack!
So I’ve come back here because I miss you and I’m sick of missing you and I want to get on the spaceship now. I know you’d tell me not to be stupid and to go home but for the first time ever I’m not going to listen to you. I’m going to climb as high as I can and then I’m going to put the tent up and go to sleep and then I’m coming to see you. Carol can water the plants, she thinks I’m back on Monday.
I’m tired of waiting now, I’ll see you soon. I’ve got some Fisherman’s friends.