Aromas link arms: tanned leather with fish glue, wood shavings with sawdust: turpentine with oil paints. Immediately memory takes me back to my Uncle Fred’s shed, with its open sliding door emitting exciting smells that drew me in as though I had a rope tied to a ring in my nose like a prize bull being lead round a show ring.His littered work benches, along with metal lasts and vices of varying sizes, held mysterious boxes, tins, jars, bottles and canisters, from which he would extract some item he needed for the next stage of whichever project he was working on.
He had at some time made a square-topped wooden stool, which he used to let me perch on, as a child, so keeping me at a safe distance from his lathe, or sharp knives, while still letting me part-share in his creative processes.
His large hands with their thick, square topped fingers, could work with the utmost delicacy as they shaped the new leather sole to the well-worn footwear of friends or family for whom he played cobbler. I would watch every stage avidly, and marvel at the final polishing of the edges on his noisy, whirring machine.
One push of the starter button, and the lathe grumbled into life. As he used the various discs of the sander, polisher or brush, the pitch of the motor sang its own switch-back song, loud enough to drown out any childish questions I might ask.
Nunc, as I called him, almost always had a cigarette between his lips, which waggled up and down as he talked and sent wreaths of smoke swirling around his head. It made him screw his eyes up, and the action folded the skin of his face into wrinkles.
Now I think about it, I don’t remember him inhaling, as most hardened smokers do. He seemed to use the cigarette more as an adult dummy, a comforting presence between his lips while his hands were busy. Perhaps at heart, he remained nothing but a big kid, playing in his own particular play house. But I am eternally grateful that he used to let me in on some of his games, too…
I was reminded of Nunc today because of this photo on the right by Rob Hanson, to whom I say 'Thanks for the memory!""
And on the left, is my Uncle Fred, dressed for company!
Now, I think I shall I shall put this in as a late entry for Sepia Saturday.