The Smell of Being Free


My family home reeked of whisky and Senior Service

Full Strength, its finger of ash flipped on a carpet

bought with the tenner stashed in Dad’s back pocket.

You need to be ready with the cash. Fresh ground coffee.

Chips twice-dunked in mottled beef dripping, crisp

on the outside, soft in the middle. Lemon meringue pie

in a packet with a globule of citrus oil. Gin and tonic

we learned to serve on ice and liberal with the spirits.

Picnics with a flask of Giulianotti’s vanilla slurped

as summer rain pattered our brown ex-army tent

pitched by a burn to chill the beers. Foosty visits

to grannies relieved by a play-fight with weaponised

Mails and Sunday Posts. These always veered towards

Lord of the Flies. Odour of neighbours’ scowls at our balls

lobbed over hedges, weeds in flowerbeds, most of all

at our car. Pay no attention. It’s their natural expression.

My parents drove fast, thought getting old looked dull,

so declined. Died at home. A sickroom smell combined

with the festering pelt of old dog hogging the coal fire.


Anne Hay