poetry and prose webzine
A father’s advice to a son sent to Coventry to build the Ring Road - 1958
A peppery sort
but with a good heart
the old man’s words came at him fast.
“Tell him your name
and don’t correct him if he mispronounces it:
bosses don’t like to be corrected.
“He’ll have nicotine stains on his fingers
but don’t stare:
bosses don’t like to be stared at.
“Whatever you do don’t listen to
Heartbreak Hotel before your interview:
that Elvis Presley will set you on the wrong road for sure!
“Wear a clean white shirt,
put creases in your trousers like razor blades and
don’t forget to shine your shoes.
“Stand up straight
and call him sir,
don’t speak unless you’re spoken to.
“If there’s a view of that new Cathedral they’re building
and the boss points to it,
be sure and say something nice about it.
“Your hands are made
to build roads like this ring road they want building:
so, make sure the boss sees them.
“If you get a chance
tell him you know
“If he asks,
the ratio of sand to cement
is 3 to 1.
“But make sure, son
for God’s sake:
that you don’t mention that other building you do!”
The old man’s words circled like crows,
and still I said
to the boss,
“Oh I’ve all sorts of building experience
including, just recently,
building a model Heinkel He 111.”
The boss’ nicotine-stained fingers tensed
and he said,
“You’ve apparently got a sense of humour, lad.”
From his window
was a view of
the old St Michael’s
The boss puffed on his Woodbine and said,
“But I like a lad with a sense of humour,
you start tomorrow.”