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Extract from The High Path

When he came home of an evening, we went through an unchanging ritual. Hanging on the gate, I could tell the shape of him as he cruised the last half-mile along the Brighton Road on the Ariel. Just our side of Chandler’s Corner he would switch off the petrol for the sake of economy and freewheel silently the rest of the way, having judged his impetus so exactly that the merest touch of the brakes would halt him after the front wheel bumped over the kerb. The bike would be wheeled into the outhouse, suddenly full of the stirring odour of hot oil and the clicking of cooling metal. And then, in the kitchen, even had I been blindfolded, I could have recognised him; for he brought into the house an entire anthology of smells I associated with nobody else: the hair-oil smell of his cap; the open-road gustiness of his flapping coat; and then the redolence of his trade: sawdust and shavings of pitch-pine and mahogany, a toolbag rankness of nailsacks and creosote, carpenter’s pencil and linseed oil. With water scaldingly hot from the kettle on the hob, straight away he would wash his hands as methodically as a surgeon; and then I would nuzzle at his own essential fragrances – sweat and Nut-Brown shag at the nape of his neck – when he carried me through to the living-room table. Here his dinner would be waiting for him (my mother and I would already have had ours) and I would watch him, cat-like, eat every mouthful . . .