- Vol. 07
- Chapter 06
It doesn’t look great, does it? The red and the green, together like that. Well, think yourself lucky you have only to look at them for a minute. I lived my whole childhood with them.
My dad liked to get something for nothing. Not unusual, we had very little money so you don’t turn your nose up. Don’t look a gift horse and all that. When our kitchen floor needed doing, he said, “I can get just what we need from work.” Not stealing, you understand. Just putting to good use what would otherwise be thrown out. He was a very early recycler. Recycle, reuse, repurpose. He could have written the mantra, except he didn’t know what a mantra was and those words were unknown to him.
He cycled to work, eco-warrior see. Always had a bag on his handlebars for his sandwiches and flask and an extra jumper in case it got cold. It was a bigger bag than he needed for those bits but he’d stop for shopping on the way home, depending on what shift he was on. No twenty-four shops in those days.
The tiles were piled up in a dark corner at the back of the warehouse. Been there for donkeys. No point in just leaving them. He asked my mother which colour she wanted. Green, she said, reminds her of home. Green it is then.
They weighed a ton, those tiles. Much heavier than you’d think for the size of them. To this day I don’t know what they were made of. He could only manage two at a time, slid in down the side of his bag with his bits packed all around them and covered by his jumper.
There was security on the gate, of course, but they’d just wave you through. He’d wave and wobble, momentarily losing some control of the handlebars.
He was no time-waster, my dad, so the moment he had a few tiles, he ripped up the old lino and started to lay them. Tiles, in those days, were a cut above lino. It was like going up in the world. He started in the far corner and began to work his way across towards the backdoor, laying a few tiles after finishing a night shift and before getting his head down for a couple of hours then heading back to work.
Tile-by-tile he worked his way across, not noticing that the green pile at the back of the warehouse was running low. He wasn’t a planner see, he just did the work in the moment. A man of necessity, hands never idle. When the moment of realisation came, he did the only thing he could. My mum was not delighted when red tiles began to appear in her beautiful green floor. To be fair to my dad, he attempted to turn them into something that, nowadays, we’d call a feature. He formed a sort of red arrow from the backdoor, pointing a welcome into the house.