Early On A Frost Morning
Early on a frosty morning in the spring of 1952 when he was a very young boy he made his way along Clonskeagh road to his school on Belmont Avenue.
It was a lovely red bricked Victorian building and I’m glad to say it still stands there today.
It was built in the days long before the Great War when Ireland was still a colony of the British Empire and little boys in knee britches and little girls in pretty petticoats promised to be loyal and true subjects of her majesty Queen Victoria.
Just like their daddies in the Dublin Fusiliers, away under the hot sun of South Africa fighting the ungrateful Boar and doing their bit to keep the map of Africa red, with their blood.
It was the coldest and frostiest morning of the young year. February had arrived hard and bitter. The front gardens of the houses were white, silent and frozen.
The ice in the potholed footpath cracked and snapped under his cold feet.
Icicles hung like tear drops from the electricity wires.
No birds were out that morning except one brave and foolish robin who pecked away at the cold ground in search of the early frozen worm. A C.I.E bus had skidded on icy road and was now leaning against a lamp pole like an old tired green elephant. It’s passengers having disembarked, were now standing around grumbling about their misfortune and the prospect of being late for work. And a few school boys delighted at the prospect of being late for school stood by the bus stop, their breath hanging over their heads like steam from a kettle.
An old man stood cold and trembling in a door way.He was picking up the milk bottles left there in the cold blue light of dawn by the red nosed milk man, his face as white as the milk he was delivering. Outside the railings his impatient horse stood, one hoof chipping away at ice on the road. While his tail flicked at the non-existing horse flies, in memory of summer days now gone.
The little boy walked on until he came to Eglington Road, tree lined, elegant and wealthy.
When the road was clear he crossed over but in his eagerness to get to school on time and out of cold. He didn’t notice the Corporation Workers standing there leaning on their shovels.
The cigarettes in their cracked lips were the only bit of heat they had on this cold day and by far the only bit of comfort. One old man, looking like a fugitive from a Siberian Gulag, trowel in his blue hand, was kneeling on a piece of sacking, putting the finishing touches to the pavement they had repaired.
The boy failed to see the danger and with his hands in his pockets walked straight across it, leaving a trail of tiny footprints in the wet cement behind him. The air grew colder, the robin took to flight, the people from the bus grew quiet. The workmen stood unmoving and silent,
a terrible hush in the air.
Then the old man from the Gulag, looked like his whole world had crashed around him.
With his shoulders drooped in despair, the trowel held in a rigor mortis grip in his purple hands, he looked up at me and spoke “ Ah Jaysus”
And he started to cry and as I walked away the tears were already freezing on his face.
They never repaired the footpath and for years the tiny foot prints were there to be seen by all who passed by, until the road was widened many years later and they disappeared for ever.
Whatever became of that poor man whose heart I broke that frosty morning I was never to know?