It is 9 years since my father, Alan Harry Herbert Wills, died. The pain of loss is not as keen now. Is that because of time or distance? That is the realm of the physicist/philosopher.

Still sharp, though, are the memories of his ways, and the older I become, the more etched many of them are becoming in my being. He lives on in me.

The Tool Room

The narrow room next to the laundry

Was an architectural aberration,

A cavity which, given a door

With a key, became

The Holy of Holies.


Outside it, garden tools leaned like

Once-hopeful acolytes waiting

To catch a glimpse of the arcane

Goings-on within.


Ah, within – a narrow, hand-made,

Rough-sawn workbench,

Hand-me-down vise, and a hundred

Half-filled jars of rarely-used

Fasteners, washers or pieces of

Carefully sliced cork to be used

In who-knows-what obscure task.

Precision hand tools – some

Hand-made – hung from

Makeshift brackets, or huddled

In type on dedicated shelves.


The air was all sawdust, turps,

Lubricants and linseed oil, and,

If not properly sealed, the pipe

Tobacco in the coloured tin

On the second shelf.


I go there often in my mind, to see

The notches from a poorly handled

Wood chisel, see the shavings and bent nails,

The bricks in the wall that dried

Woodstain brushes – like a nuanced

Checkerboard – and the clear nail polish that he used

To seal the dozens of cuts and scrapes that he

Wore over year like medals hidden

Under a coat; I feel them when I hold



This screwdriver – ineffectual, rounded, chipped blade,

Wooden handle paint-stained and darkened

From decades of use – and hear the instruction

To let the tool do the work

Or you’ll wind up one yourself.


These are the things that hold me,

Keep the connection, echo in the soul

When a job’s well done, draw a smile

Instead of a curse when a nail is bent.

With work pressing and time for pause disappearing, I think of Italy….

I have nothing more to say, except that this really happened.

Le Colline della Toscana in Primavera

Paola speaks English like my Italian –

A jumble of key words joined by hit-or-miss

Conjunctions and directions.

“See you reach small village name Rosano

All right from bridge then

Other way to road no pav-ed.

You turn to villa here.”

On the phone, in the dark,

I hear U-turn

But in miraculous ways

Try to think like Paola.

There was no U-turn, just a left

Beyond the village as the villa

Lit the track with welcome.

Morning unfolded like

Waking from an ages-old sleep, the hills’

Rich dough turning slowly in the chef’s bowl,

Toes pressing into cool grass,

Distance beckoning from olive grove,

Vineyard and thicket.

Near and far, the quiet, blood-warm breeze

Floated a gentle condiment: a fairy river

Of seeds of giant dandelion.

Thick in the air, they softened perception

From dream-like to dream; we did not move

Lest we wake again.

Paola sang from the kitchen;

Niccolo smiled beside us, reading our thoughts,

“It is a dream, yes?”