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A Shout From The Attic: Return To Zin - 11

"Mrs Pollecoff was a small woman, probably in her early seventies, and disabled from a tragic accident in which a donkey jumped out of a field onto the bonnet of their car, killing Mr Pollecoff outright. The height of the floor in the Moggie, as the Minors are affectionately known, was just right for her getting in and out, although it was a struggle for her to get past the folded down front passenger seat even when it was set as far forward as it would go,'' writes Ronnie Bray, continuing his fascinating life story.

Mrs Pollecoff was not hard to work for, and was not very demanding. I washed and polished her black Moggie every morning before she was ready to go shopping or visiting. She lived at the Green Park Hotel, which was a kosher Jewish hotel
overlooking the sea at the east cliff top, and very expensive, even for her room that looked backwards into the leafy avenue
and car park.

I don’t know if there is a connection, but my wage was seven pounds a week, and her room cost eighty-five pounds a night, in The time came for her to visit family, and we headed northwards to Leeds. The trip took seven and a half hours, no motorways then, including a lengthy stop somewhere in Leicestershire to wait out a rainstorm with which the wipers could not cope.

She had grandchildren and great-grandchildren in Leeds, and she accompanied them to several social events. I was given
lodgings with a nice Jewish family, and the master of the house took me to Chapeltown synagogue on the Jewish Sabbath.

From Leeds, we drove to Bangor, Wales. On the journey, Mrs Pollecoff issued what was really a warning, the gravity of which
did not register in my young mind.

At times, there are unseen tides in our lives, which, if we do not have a firm grasp of the helm, or if we are not the masters of our destiny, sweep us, nolens volens, into deep and dangerous waters for which we are unprepared., and are either dashed to pieces on the rocks of uncaring circumstance, or thrown up in an untidy heap onto some unfriendly beach. The natives are never friendly.

The storm wave might have come when Mrs Pollecoff’s eldest son, who lived in Bangor and ran the impressive and extensive
Emporium in the High Street, objected to my cleaning out the drains of his house with the brass spray he used to spray his
prize roses, or could have taken exception when I chastised him for not using the ash tray in his Austin A40, dumping it
straight on the carpet. Or perhaps it was an accumulation of such small matters.

He had a sweet Welsh lady as housekeeper and cook, who had been in his employment for many years. She understood his rigid ways, and warned me to steer clear of him. But it is difficult to steer clear of someone who comes and finds you.

Mrs Pollecoff had me drive her to Pwllheli to see her younger son, Jack, who was then mayor of the town. She went and bought a huge turkey to give to his family. The creature was still alive. We drove a little way and then went into the back of someone’s shop where a ritual Jewish slaughterer was waiting with his knives.

I held the bird, the shochet, made a quick, deep stroke across its throat with his razo-sharp blade. The blood ran free onto some soil brought indoors for the purpose, and the turkey fell limp. An ancient mitzvah had been honoured, a bird had been sacrificed, and I felt like a ratsach.

I had lodgings at the bottom of Bangor town. My landlady, knowing of my circumstances said that Esmé and the baby could come and stay for a few days. Brian McCracken, and interesting friend of Esmé’s, drove her to Bangor. As she walked through the garden gate, I held out my arms to take Andy. Esmé said, “I knew it! I knew he would take her before he got to me!”

I did not think that she was serious at the time. She said it in a light hearted, but exasperated way that betrayed a hidden
annoyance. Later, I came to understand that Esmé had to be first in everything.

Soon after Esmé and Brian returned to Bournemouth, things took a turn for the worse with Mr Pollecoff. I heard it rumoured that he was looking for another chauffeur. Some employees came out from the store when I was parked at the back and asked where my lodgings were. My paranoia kicked in and I wouldn’t tell them, fearing the worst.

But in the end it made no difference. Pollecoff’s housekeeper-cook knew what was happening and spoke to me very kindly. She called me “Bray bach,” an affectionate term used when addressing a or wishing to convey tenderness. 'Bach' means little in Welsh.

One day, with no warning except the smoke signals that had curled up above the wooded hills for a day or so, I wasperemptorily handed my wages, my insurance cards, and told that my employment was over.


The rest of this part of my history is still foggy to me. I took my suitcase to the railway station in Bangor and bought a
ticket for Huddersfield. As I walked onto the station, the train was pulling out. I ran alongside it until I found an open window. In desperation I threw my case into the window and followed it by diving headlong through it.

My fellow passengers looked startled. I uncrumpled myself, retrieved my case, put it on the luggage rack, sat down, smiled at the open mouths, and said, “Made it!” Their responses were typical of well-brought up people who had been thrust, or vice versa, into the presence of someone who could be a dangerous!

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