|Derbyshire Miners Coal-getting at the Bolsover Face. Drawn by D Macpherson. The Sphere | 22 March 1919|
This story is the winner of the Writers & Artists Short Story Competition in 2018. It is available to read online at https://www.writersandartists.co.uk/2018/03/short-story-competition-2018-winner-revealed .
The narrator is the child of a single parent dad, a miner, in a working class pit village. Her days are ordered by the care given by “Auntie Shirley” – Saturday is market day, Sunday is the day for roast dinner, Monday’s are wash days. This is turn means Tuesdays are for drying and ironing - days when fragrance fills the air. Like all children, the child has taken something that is not theirs and is in fear of being found out by the father. As readers we know this from the beginning of the story; we know there were 40 and there are now only 39; but we know not what they are until much later.
***SPOILER ALERT *** As the child comes home from school she expects to be accosted and chastised, perhaps even beaten, but instead is scooped up by Auntie Shirley to a house full of neighbours and grief to face her father, laid out, dead from a mining accident. Later she steals back to the coffin to ‘post’ the 39 into his coffin. These colourful drawings that her father had secretly, tenderly and patiently produced in his evenings with a delicateness hidden within the “sausage” fingers of his “rough hand”, “grimed in coal dust”, become a blanket of love over her lost father. The fortieth, hidden under her mattress, she keeps – a memento of the colour that was her father in such a black world.
Whilst some passages are for me overflowing with excessive adjectives, there are other really quite impressive passages
“ ..it was as if all the colours of a typical day were saved up in his mind whilst he was working in the black, and only in this his quiet, secret time was he able to let them flow out”
ashramblings verdict 4* Some beautiful passages in this story of love, of loss in hard times as seen through a child’s eyes.
PhotoCredit: https://blog.britishnewspaperarchive.co.uk/2017/08/30/occupations-19th-century-coal-miners Derbyshire Miners Coal-getting at the Bolsover Face. Drawn by D Macpherson. The Sphere | 22 March 1919