After holidaying three years running at White-Lake, Mother decided it offered more congenial surroundings than sooty Colton in which to bring up a family so she put it to Father that we really ought to move there for good.
We took the place of one of the street’s oldest residents who had just died.
When I first entered Number Eight Tees-Grove Road the house smelled of must, felt grubby and was still full of death.
“We’re all going to die,” I announced, “we’re moving into a house of death.”
“Shut up,” said Mother.
“It’s true, I can feel it.”
“Don’t be silly. It just needs a good clean out that’s all. Old people don’t notice dirt the same.”
“That old woman, she died in this house, she died in the kitchen, right here. We’re all going to die…” I yelled in the kitchen and ran into the back room.
“We’re all going to die,” I yelled into the back room and ran into the front room.
“We’re all going to die,” I yelled into the front room and ran upstairs yelling…
“Will you shut up!” shouted Mother.
I found a small dusty packet of crisps in one of the bedrooms and produced it as evidence of the plot destined to wipe us all out.
“Maybe, she ate these mouldy crisps and died,” I ventured.
“If you’re hungry we’ll get a meat pie from one of the shops around the corner,” said Mother.
“But can we trust the meat pies from the corner shop? One of those meat pies could well have been the last thing she ate.”
“Do you want a smack?” asked Mother…
…From a very early age then, Mother had insisted that I should live within easy nostrils reach of two very important smells.
…The smell of a job lot of biscuits baking in ovens the size of a large living room, wafting over the sizzling tracks of the railroad on a summer breeze and finally infusing the kitchen of your home can have a transformative effect on the senses.
So can the smell of death.
In this respect, White-Lake Meat Corporation Abattoir probably has as much to answer for as the Icon Biscuit Factory. Standing as they did on either side of the main road which could take you anywhere on the Mere-Low Coast, their grounds straddled by a bridge which helped the railway track take you anywhere in the country, it would be easy to read more into the situation than was advisable.
It was impossible to miss the Icon Biscuit Factory; it carried a red sign about a street wide and half-a-house tall, supported by slats on the roof of its tallest building, alongside the silver and black mushroom lidded metal chimney which spilled those delicious odours. Set back from the road, over and above the advertising bollards which flanked the railroad embankment it was the first thing visible from either bus or car as you swung around the corner at the top of the hill on the road out of town.
There it was, time and again, angling towards you, its large red capital ‘I’ standing proud and erect as you picked up speed down the hill, pulling away like an aeroplane banking as you turned under the bridge, shooting by overhead, finally swallowed by the bridge and the sudden shift in noise echoing off the white-tiled walls of the fly over support…
The White-Lake Meat Corporation Abattoir did not have a sign on the plain brick building which framed the cows or sheep behind the barbed wire fence at the side of the road. You never looked left on the road out of town and you would never think to. A line of trees obscured your view and you would have to twist your neck suddenly to catch anything more than a passing glimpse.
Coming the other way the whole scene seldom amounted to anything that could draw comment. Mother was always keen to point out the cows and the sheep which we passed on the train in their ones and two’s but here whole herds could flash past without summoning a glance or raising a glimmer of interest.
The managers of both establishments must have been more than well aware of each others existence. They must have struck a deal because in all of the eighteen years in which I lived with the knowledge of their presence tickling my nostrils, not once did the smell of animals blood mingle with the smell of baking biscuits.