Uncle Jim

I remember you,
Uncle Jim,
With your shifty
‘Tasch and slicked
Back shoulder length
Hair, kept pristine
Since 1972 (or maybe ’73?).
Man and boy you
Worked the trains
At Preston station,
Just like your dad,
(And his dad before him).
The Intercity belchers
Filling your lungs with
Diesel, puff-puffing
As you puff-puffed
On your biftas
(Rolled your own –
Cheaper that way).
The (not so) famous
Landmark – the level
Crossing on the A6
At Bamber Bridge –
Was often where we’d
Meet: me in my school
Blazer and tie, you in
Your raincoat, both on
The top deck of the
256 bus to Chorley.
The wink, the nod,
The mumbled “‘oright?”,
The “how’s your mum?”
(Not really interested,
Just being polite).
A man of few words you
Enjoyed the simple pleasures:
Up at the crack to work
The trains, then home to
Your mum for your tea,
Before having 1 or 2
(Or maybe 3) at the local
Pub a short stagger from
Your front door.
Your dedication to this
Pattern was as impressive
As it was tragic, and when
Your mum was dying
And you didn’t lift a finger
To help her in her own
Wretchedness, you showed
A steely determination to
Hold fast to your decades-
Long routine and not be
Knocked off your stride
By mere inconvenience.
But no one expected you
To come home that fateful
Night, the trains all buffered
And in their sidings, and sit
In your stained, Plumbs
Stretch-covered armchair
And die of a broken heart.
It was less than a year since
Your mum had been laid
To rest, and all her estate
Divided between you and
The hallowed firstborn
(And a copper or two for
“The other two”, disowned),
And how it seemed so ironic
That the girlfriend your mum
Couldn’t stand inherited the
Lot: lock, stock and two-up-
Two-down barrel, as you
Sat their, roly at the ready,
As what was left of your
Heart packed in.