In one of my infrequent episodes of tidying-up, a small round tin emerged, resisting any immediate attempt to reveal the contents within. A pipe tobacco tin from the 1950s, a remaining link to my father who for a few years after his return from War service smoked a pipe. Despite the censure in later years there was something welcoming to be greeted on returning home to the scent of pipe smoke.
In later years my father gave up smoking, as he also gave up his pre-war twice weekly fox hunting having been captured by the German army, made his escape, found his way to the Dunkirk beaches, only for his rescuing paddle steamer to be bombed mid channel and to be rescued again by the French navy as he swam, naked and determined, toward the English shore. He understood the terror of the hunted pursued by the many.
Despite regular endeavours over the next twenty-four hours, the tobacco tin was reluctant to reveal its contents. It was certain something was inside. Shaking the tin gave a sound intriguing enough to resist throwing the unopened tin away. I was sure this pipe tobacco tin was not the one my father had sent back from Italy when Mt.Vesuvius erupted in 1944, a massive and its most recent eruption. That other tin contained lava dust from the volcano; we still have it on a shelf somewhere.
It was obvious the Gold Block – 2 oz, net of Fine Virginia Cut Plug – tin opened by twisting the lid from its base. Hand pressure was resisted, hot water on the lid made no difference, tapping all round the tin was to no avail, rubber and leather gloves brought no success. The final resort on D+1 was WD40 in the knowledge the oil might contaminate the contents.
Five minutes later the tin was open and the contents unharmed. Inside was a supply of decades old small stationery labels, each with its string attached ready to identify keys and other like objects.
It struck me then how apt the legend on the tin was. I have been distracted of late from my work-in-progress, flitting, and hesitating, between one part-written novel and another, between – The Register of Joe’s Trees – set in the 1940s and ensuing decades, to another, with the working title – Exmoor Puffball – set in the twenty-tens here on Exmoor; yes, Puffball has been on the stocks for months, if not years.
In front of me was this wake-up call: GOLD BLOCK, to bring me back to measured and directed work. Further it was a tin full of labels as if each one was crying out to be a prompt to measure and inspire the pace of my writing.