Whenever I put up tiles now, I think of George from the potworks. George with his thick white beard. George with his big spiky eyebrows.
I’m looking at the tiling in Caledonian Road station and thinking of George. I can’t get over the craftsmanship. The “Way Out” and “No Exit” signs. The arrow flourish after “To Hammersmith”.
That’s where I’m headed. I’m not from round here. I’ve been up to see my sister. She lives near Paradise Park. She moved when she married. “Far from paradise, that turned out to be,” she huffed when his nibs walked out a couple of months back. It’s a prickly issue.
Anyway, he’s gone now and she wants her kitchen doing. Out with the old. So I’ve been round measuring up.
A bunch of women pile out of the lift and plonk down on the plastic benches. One leans over and throws up. Another wanders across to where I’m standing.
“What does Staffs mean? Is it a station?” she asks. Her breath hits me in the face. It smells of something sticky. Orange juice, alcohol.
The sick woman wrenches forward again, but just spittle comes out this time, in a stringy line from her mouth to the floor.
“Staffs?” I reply. “Never heard of it. Not on this line.”
“It’s on the wall here.” She points.
A train rattles in, but her lot stay put in their tableau as I push against the tide of descending passengers.
“Staffordshire,” I say as the doors close. “It’s where the tiles were made: George Woolliscroft & Sons, Staffs.”
The woman steps forward and says something I don’t catch. She smiles and waves. Maybe it was thank you. Whenever I put up tiles now, I think of George. I think of George and I think of the woman.