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Dreamweaver

"You make your way, lost in the crowd,
Through this city of dreams,
You both have known"

It was June 1967, one of the hottest summers on record. I had recently taken up employment as a grocer's boy in a shop called Galbraith's near Eastwood Toll, a suburb of Glasgow. The shop was old fashioned, even for it's time. The male staff had to wear white linen aprons, the butter was still, 'paddled' and the tea was weighed by the half pound, scooped out of a massive tea - chest with the legend, 'Finest India', stencilled across it.

An ancient bicycle with a large, wicker basket attached to the handlebars was still in daily use, to deliver the orders which were placed by the customers who frequented the shop.

An elderly lady was a regular visitor. She was tall, elegant and of 'of a certain age'. She was also very eccentric and very, very funny. Theatrical and with an air of confidence as sharp as her wit. The other staff in the shop thought that she was mad, but I loved her. She took a particular shine to me and, every Friday, I would deliver her order to a large house where she lived alone.

There was always sultana cake and tea and music, old records on the turntable, melodies of a bygone era of her life on the stage; a perfect accompaniment to the sepi-tinted photographs of a beautiful young girl which adorned the walls . Here, accepting a bouquet of congratulation from an admirer, there, Pygmalion, caught in the flash of a camera bulb, smiling, youth with time on it's side.

All that summer I was a regular visitor to her house and she regaled me with stories of her life as an actress. The albums of photographs which illustrated it so well, became as familiar to me as the lyrics of the songs she loved so muchÖ

"I get along without you very well, of course I do, except in springtime when soft rains fall, and I recall, the thrill of being in your arms."

One Friday afternoon, towards the end of that long, hot summer, as we sat in the lounge of her home with the sunlight flooding the room through the large bay windows, she told me that her husband, who had been a naval officer during the Second World War, had died in the North Atlantic when his ship had been torpedoed.

She gave her last performance on Armistice night and then, wearing her courage like a cloak to ward off the chill, she had walked out into this 'city of dreams, you both have known'. She was alone now and it was that which had touched me.

Perhaps, on those long-ago summer afternoons when the old lady took tea with the unworldly youth, she reprised, for a moment in time, hat she had once been - a beautiful young girl, ephemeral beauty captured like a butterfly in the faded photographs of a life lived in love and the theatre.

She planted seeds of a poem in me; Dreamweaver is her poem more than mine.

A year later, I returned after moving away from the area but she was already gone. The house which had been her home was under new ownership and the memories it contained, along with that summer were gone, too. But I never forgot her and carried her memory with me for thirty years.

In memory of a wonderful lady, and a trouper, to the very end.

Previously published by My Weekly Magazine, DC Thomson & Co Ltd.