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U3A Writing: The Well: 9 Jack

Jack, now working long hours, notices a girl and she notices him.

Paddy Webb continues the story- in verse of her greast-grandfather.

It was hard work, long hours
Seven days a week, then at night
Keeping my word to Ma, sweeping up,
Putting down fresh sawdust, washing pots.
Often I did not need my bed, falling asleep
Among the dishes by the dying fire.
An aching back and blistered hands
Seemed to fill my life,
but on Friday night I held thirteen shillings in my hand,
More wealth than I had ever had.

It seemed all London's goods cam through our yard;
fruit from the Fens,
Fish from the sea, coal for fires,
Grain and tea,
Luggage from the docks;
cattle, long legged frightened horses,
clattering down the ramps,
crates of chickens, calves tied up in sacks,
packages and parcels.

At mid-day we had time to eat.
I remembered how my Pa would cut
A corner from the loaf, make a thumb piece
To protect food from his dirty hands;
Bread, an onion, cheese if times were good
And I had the same, with a bottle of cold tea.

Some men would steal, despite the risks,
But we were allowed some things.
Often I had an apple, fallen between the lines,
and if a crate of tea split and leaked
we would gather the dust
From the wagon floor, precious like gold.

I saw some fearful accidents, shunters mostly,
Running beside the tracks with a long pole,
Dodging in to uncouple the moving trucks.
Once a man was trapped when a new carter Backed up too soon with a restless horse.

There were always rats,
especially when grain came in from the docks.
There was a man had a little dog, called Lass,
black and white, with a stumpy tail,
one ear up one down,
Who spent the day lying on a bit of sacking
In a corner, waiting to be called.
The men would place bets when the truck was opened, wagering how many she'd kill.
The Master was a hard man,
but he would bring titbits from his lunch for Lass,
whose little body would wriggle and squirm with delight.

Then I had other things on my mind;
I saw a girl, fair haired, blue eyed,
With a tiny waist.
Saw her again on Sunday
Laughing with a crowd of girls. Watched.
Took to waiting on the corner near where she worked,
Knew from the way she looked she'd noticed me.


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