Sign of the Times-151Image by Christine Renney

When I visited him, and we sat across from each other and began to talk, I was uncertain as to who he believed I was. In the beginning, I had been convinced that he was speaking to himself. And I, of course, represented the younger man, still working, providing and caring for his family. Still married and still very much in love with his wife. But as he quizzed me and the questions came thick and fast I wasn’t so sure.
He had restored furniture and was constantly preoccupied with his old job. Not surprising, I suppose, given that it had been his trade for more than fifty years. I was impressed by his questions, they were so very specific and I didn’t know the answers. But what he was asking had long since passed and so I tried to humour him.
I had worked for him a little during the school holidays and at weekends and such, but I hadn’t ever really been that interested. I attended to the sanding and polishing. The work had been monotonous but I had happily completed these tasks leaving the more interesting and rewarding work for him and his apprentice proper. I had no desire to progress, to move on, to be schooled. My head had been elsewhere, the workshop wasn’t for me. I didn’t belong there, at least that is what my mother had always said. It was an unspoken command that I would continue with my education, go to university.
I do remember the furniture that was brought into the workshop. All the tables and chairs, old and broken. The dressers, chests of drawers, wardrobes and desks; dilapidated and past it. But when he and his helper had finished with them they had been restored, made new. And I had helped – my fetching and carrying, the sanding and polishing, had been a part of the process, although I hadn’t thought of it as such, not until he started with his questions.
He was confused and I believed I could convince, that I could reassure him. He would ask how a particular piece was coming along and I did remember the names of many of his old clients. In fact, much of it was surprisingly familiar to me.
Hinges, handles and brackets, this or that stain, the right polish or wax. How different oak is from teak or mahogany, how to spot infestation, how to isolate and treat it. Despite my hazy recollections he might as well have been speaking in code, one that I couldn’t crack. In the end I hadn’t any choice but to shrug my shoulders and tell him that I didn’t know and despite his confusion it was written, all too clearly on his face, his disappointment and disbelief.



  1. Miranda Stone October 17, 2014 / 12:46 am

    This story strikes such a poignant note, particularly in the way the narrator describes the slow and heartbreaking loss of his father. It’s all the more powerful because the narrator’s voice is somewhat stoic and resigned. Well done, Mark.

    • markrenney1 October 19, 2014 / 7:19 pm

      Unhappily, many of us know the sadness of losing the person before their death and that you feel I have managed to communicate this means a great deal. Thank you, Miranda.

  2. clinock October 17, 2014 / 8:38 am

    Beautiful, heartfelt and compelling writing Mark. This subject, if not the occupation, is a human experience so many of us know only too well. Thank you for sharing such deep observations and feelings…

    • markrenney1 October 19, 2014 / 7:24 pm

      Thank you John for taking the time to read this piece and to comment, both of which are very much appreciated, regards Mark.

  3. chrisnelson61 October 17, 2014 / 11:13 am

    This is wonderfully written, Mark, and carries along with it a sense of melancholy and disappointment. I feel that this situation is one which is all too common – where parents want to see their dreams and hopes continued through their children, oblivious of their own desires.If not a fracturing process it leads only to guilt and regret.
    You have captured this superbly, Mark.

    • markrenney1 October 19, 2014 / 7:30 pm

      That is so true Chris and the pressures put on us by others can be so destructive at times, and we don’t always see it. Glad you felt this piece worked. Thank you and regards, Mark.

  4. j.h. white October 17, 2014 / 5:33 pm

    You say a lot here Mark, much of it between the lines. I read it a few times to catch all the nuances of relationship and persuasion. This is really well done Mark. You captured so much in a moment.

    • markrenney1 October 19, 2014 / 7:32 pm

      I am pleased that you felt this worthy of rereading and that you did find other things beneath the surface. Thank you Jana, regards Mark.

  5. Pippa September 26, 2015 / 2:16 pm

    Your work is so profound, so beautiful, so compelling, Mark. Your writing is simply brilliant. I also love the images by Christine. A powerful combination.

  6. markrenney1 September 26, 2015 / 8:02 pm

    Both Christine and I feel the same about your work. Christine was struck by your gravatar – she is reminded of Branwell Bronte’s paintings of his sisters. Kind regards Mark.

    • Pippa September 27, 2015 / 5:51 am

      Wow, thank you. Thank you both, Mark and Christine.

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