To Begin at the Beginning ...
It is Spring, moonless night in the small town, starless and bible-black, the cobblestreets silent and the hunched, courters'-and- rabbits' wood limping invisible down to the sloeblack, slow, black, crowblack, fishingboat-bobbing sea. The houses are blind as moles (though moles see fine to-night in the snouting, velvet dingles) or blind as Captain Cat there in the muffled middle by the pump and the town clock, the shops in mourning, the Welfare Hall in widows' weeds. And all the people of the lulled and dumbfound town are sleeping now.
Hush, the babies are sleeping, the farmers, the fishers, the tradesmen and pensioners, cobbler, schoolteacher, postman and publican, the undertaker and the fancy woman, drunkard, dressmaker, preacher, policeman, the webfoot cocklewomen and the tidy wives. Young girls lie bedded soft or glide in their dreams, with rings and trousseaux, bridesmaided by glow-worms down the aisles of the organplaying wood. The boys are dreaming wicked or of the bucking ranches of the night and the jollyrogered sea. And the anthracite statues of the horses sleep in the fields, and the cows in the byres, and the dogs in the wet-nosed yards; and the cats nap in the slant corners or lope sly, streaking and needling, on the one cloud of the roofs.
Under Milk Wood by Dylan Thomas.
I do love that piece. For me it holds deep memories, meaning and lessons learnt of my early yrs living in our council flat in Broadgreen with a wide assortment of neighbours. Many professional people too as most people then didn’t own a house. But as an only child on Christmas Day ‘Under Milk Wood’ was all a little ambivalent as at only 10 yrs old I’d only really heard of its title by Dylan Thomas which had just been published. But there was the book all wrapped up and intended as a present from my father to my mother for Christmas. The problem was I was totally self absorbed at 4am on that particular Christmas morning. After very little sleep I awoke with great excitement to a lumpy half leg of stocking sat on the end of my bed immediately recognising the colour of the big sock as one of my Dad’s. Of course I knew about Santa! … and tucked in and ate all the chocolate money and consumed the liquorice smokers set and counted out the sparkling marbles and glanced through the little ‘Observers book of Mammals’. Leaving the nuts and tangerines I decided to creep into the lounge and saw it was still dark outside but auto guided to the pile of presents left on the settee ‘all for me’… Good old Uncle Bill who always had good ideas sent a wooden construction set to build a magazine stand, Uncle Dennis and Aunty Joyce not so thoughtful, sent a huge Lone Ranger gun with 100 rounds of caps…for an impending shootout....I'm doing so well.. And several books too including ‘Shadow the Sheep Dog’ and ‘The Coral Island’..
And there at the bottom of the pile.. Arhh !...Fantastic …the present I had hoped for was a no. 5a Meccano set from Mum and Dad to add and build up my smaller sets. It was second hand and the box a little scuffed but it didn’t matter. Dad didnt earn a lot and mother was a full time housewife. During those early hours In my imaginary crane building ‘Boy on the Box’ world were laid out the dozens of little new parts I needed all over the carpet.…And with the thought that just behind us was the Meccano Factory on the Binns Road holding all the parts necessary one day to build that crane of dreams just like the clever ‘Boy on the Box’ who must have had at least a no.10 set!
But on that particular Christmas morning It didnt ocurr that other people got presents too. For there on the dining table was another pile of 2 presents and presuming they were meant for me as well, proceeded to open them without reading the name on them and consumed the whole top layer of a box of Black Magic which was my mothers favourite and then whilst devouring a hazelnut truffle found the other present was the book ‘Under Milk Wood’ which Id only heard of by name picked up from my parents sometimes cultural talk and naturally thought it was for little me.
But then mid morning time arrived when mother emerged the proverbial hit the fan with most of the chocolates in the house eaten ! Dad was already up with classical music sounding out and upon seeing the problem was actually quite amused and smirking quietly trying his best to cover it all up. There was a badly re-wrapped book with the same paper but new string and a half eaten box of chocolates sort of re-sealed with insulation tape ! (cos Dad was a Radio Ham) both with ‘love to Pet’ labels as my Dad’s presents to my Mother together with my little offering of a box of Whimsies (tiny porcelain animals) ...
Her expressions upon opening was just comical to both me and my Dad and even my mother had to laugh a little later on...especially as she hated Whimsies and any ornaments of any kind as I later found out. But the Capon was still good for the Christmas Dinner and a sort of junior version of the ‘Boy on the Box’ crane was taking shape ...
A little claim to fame is my Welsh father knew Dylan Thomas growing up as boys in the same area of Uplands Swansea.