I was very young. Young enough to be wearing a white plastic bib that curved upward at the bottom to catch stray bits of food. My parents and I were seated at a small round table at breakfast in the dining room of our house in Rochester, Kent. My Mum to my right and my Dad, opposite. He was a Naval officer and wore shiny, black shoes. The memory resurfaces in monotone, not sure why. Our carpet had a seventies feel with wild swirly patterns and the wallpaper matched in its garishness. I remember distinctly bending over to the right to peer under the table at my Dad’s shoes. He polished them every night, you see. Spit and polish he called it even though he always used proper Kiwi black shoe polish and brushes for the first go-round. When he was satisfied with the quality of his work, he would pull from his polishing kit bag, a tan colored cloth with red edging. It was the softest material and he’d wrap it around his index and middle fingers, spit on his shoes and polish once more. He was not the most emotionally available father but he knew I was watching with veiled curiosity so when he was absolutely done, he would show me the last little bits of polish that the brush had not removed.
He was going to work that morning dressed in his black jumper with the gold stripes on the shoulders, a white shirt, black tie and black, perfectly ironed trousers. My Mum and I were new to the country and I believe these were stay-at-home days for she and I. My Dad was probably eating fried eggs, bacon and toast. When I leaned over to check out his shoes, I think I smiled: confirmation that I’d have my Mum alone to myself for the day instead of sharing her with a stranger.