I have a vague memory of my father, pot-bellied and seemingly a torso with an assumption of legs, but led to bed, assisted by my mother as politeness would say, approximately drunk, as a swaying object somewhere about the fourth year of my reign.
In our small flat. Which appeared to possess a hall of sorts, like the illusion of perspective, bridging the between of the two bedrooms (the smaller, mine; the larger, theirs) and the living-room (ours) which was where, in stage terms, the language claimed we acted out our lives.
He does not then seem to appear for years, though for sure he too lived with us. He had to do something called work, by day, which was distant (sometimes two bus rides away) and alien, as unlike as Welsh, and at nights was required by the pub, where George met the Dragon, the union, and his mates. Which my mother condemned, for the drink. But the plain and ever-present fact of his absence she did not protest. Otherwise, he must have inhabited that same mist that covers so much of my early (and more recent) memories.
I think he recurred when I measured eight, as I recall an evening before the still-then coal-fire, a glowing snugly winter's evening, when my mother urged and urged me to mock his nose (its largeness) his tea (its undrinkability) his friends (their smell) his importance (its littleness). That fades, and I am sitting on the floor and he is high and seated above me but mumbling in a voice he tells me means that he was born elsewhere, not, God forbid, here, mumbling all his funny (unfunny) stories of his childhood, of crowding with brothers and sisters round a pot yum-yumming at the prospect of stewed peel of potatoes and apple-rind, of his trousers damp from the wash that stank, of horse-shitten cobbled streets, of fresh milk in churns, of playing with hot coals in braziers, swinging them faster and faster around in an arc from his bare knees to his head and he laughs again, his out of place, living in his own world, alone and loveless at the hearth at the heart of his family, laugh.
And I can retrieve too a Saturday and a day-trip on the Midland Red through Tewkesbury (where we stopped for toast) and Upton-on-Severn (where from the upper-deck I watched how the river looped about the houses like a noose about to close) and Evesham, with all its close-packed churches, of which I remember nothing.
And, too, I can re-stock a road by a beach-front at Rhyl (it might have been) or Weston or somewhere else to the west and on the coast again, walking between and joined to their hands and sensing people, adult people, (my parents) for this time at least together, smiling.
And a restaurant where we ate plaice. Or sole.
And once seeing him cry, from the numb cold of his bricklaying hands, that fed us all, in the bitter world that was his alone and winter.