Boiler Man

He comes every year to do a check-up on our boiler. The rental agent sends him. He always comes with an apprentice in tow. Some young lad, fresh faced, a little diffident but biddable. This one had a shock of dark hair, almost a topknot, a tonsure of hair. He was warmer than before. He used to suffer from back pain, perhaps that’s what made him sharp. He asked him about his parents. His Dad’s OK but his Mum has had to go into a home. She kept wandering about. One time he had to go and search for her at midnight. Yeh, said the lad, you found her on the towpath. Yeh, said the Boiler Man, she was in her nightie. What yer, doing Mum? I asked. And she called me a ‘fucking townie’. It’s sad, so sad, but Dad wasn’t coping, see. I ache for him but I’m also conscious that I need to get on and sense myself hurrying them. You can’t rush it, he says to me afterwards, it’s Aber talk.

I don’t feel so good today. I wrote the first draft. It needs work but it is nearly there. I am relieved, the fear got too much.

The wind is wild. Poor loves with all that flooding. My heart goes out to you all. All of you in hardship. I stand in your shoes. I would. If I could.

He passes on a lovely review of MF’s poetry. It is a joy. I catch his enthusiasm. How lucky I was to be taught by him. What did she say? ‘His gifts are quiet’. He said I’d make a good journalist. He liked that, and often quotes it. Do I? Am I? The pieces of From Our Home Correspondent that I heard yesterday were so good, particularly about the school in Brum. She wrote with real compassion and humanity. You see sometimes they do good, good work.

By Ellen Bell

Artist and writer currently living in Aberystwyth.