Kelly’d just finished putting Edna’s shopping away and took her a cup of tea. She’d thought the old lady was asleep by the fire which had burned right down to almost nothing. So she picked up a shovel full of coal from the scuttle and as she tipped it slowly onto the embers Edna woke up, shouting, “Mum, mum, the coal man’s here, the coal man’s here!”
Surprised, Kelly turned to see her old eyes shining and a broad smile on her pale crumpled face.
“Edna, it’s only me, the Carer.”
“No, no. It’s the coal man, and the horse will want his carrot. I must run out and give him his carrot”
Kelly sat down and gently took Edna’s hand and reminded her the coal was delivered on a big lorry from Corrals and they’d already been this autumn.
“Oh I know dear – but I just smelt that coal dust and I went straight back to my childhood. He’d come with his horse and cart and a half cut-open sack over his head and back so he could carry in the heavy bags over his shoulder. Mum would stand watch at the door and count them in. She wasn’t going to let him sell her short, not my mum! Of course I’d be out like a shot to give the horse his carrots while he waited at the kerb. That horse was so big; I must’ve been about four then and he towered above me, but I really loved him, he was so gentle and his big lips were so soft on my hands as I fed him. Oh I really loved that horse… He was glossy red-brown like a conker with a long black mane and tail – and his feet! His feet were huge and covered with long white fluffy hair, like frilly tassels. He was a Shire horse of course you see. Had to be big and strong to pull that heavy cart with all those sacks of coal. Yes, and the lovely warm smell of his glossy coat as I stroked him. I wouldn’t wash my hands afterwards so I could smell him for the rest of the day. That coal dust just reminded me of the coal man’s visit and how I loved that grand old horse to feed and fuss.
Kelly smiled, “You’re right Edna, it’s amazing what memories can be sparked off by a smell.