‘You’re not having another day off. You’re coming with me and mother and the girls to feed the ducks at The People’s Park’.
The People’s Park always brings to mind communist China, but I remind myself that it is, in fact, in non-communist Ballymena.
‘How exactly, does a fifty mile round trip to help your father collect some mackerel constitute a ‘day off’?’
‘I’m sure that you both enjoyed your boys’ day out.’
I admitted (to myself) that I had enjoyed elements of it. I like driving Crawford’s bouncy jeep. It takes me back to the sensation of driving my first car – an original mini ‘city’. (I passed my driving test while working for Central Manchester Health Authority and drove a disused mini-van with free petrol from the ambulance station).
Crawford is also very good company and I sensed that he needed a day out. A full house, blending the infirm and the very young, was inclined to make Augusta a little ‘directive’. Earlier in the week, Crawford had entered the breakfast room in song – as he did every morning. Augusta pointed at a chair and commanded ‘Sit’.
‘She talks to me like I’m a bloody terrier,’ observed my father-in-law.
Good fresh mackerel are things to be shared between friends in Northern Ireland and they also make for a good excuse for a 50 mile round trip to reminisce a little. Denver was delighted to see Crawford. I drank coffee while they finished off each other’s jokes and discussed the parlous form of the rugby club’s current first team.
‘I was on the verge,’ said Denver, ’of buying a bottle of Johnnie Walker Black to keep in for your visits.’
‘What stopped you?’ enquired Crawford.
‘Well they only had a big litre and a half bottle.’
‘Am I not worth that?’
‘It wasn’t a question of expense Crawford – I wasn’t sure you’d live long enough to finish it.’