Mr Smith was a short wiry man.
He had jet black wire-wool hair and dark olive skin.
I have in my mind that he mostly wore a flat cap, but that bit of my memory is a little fuzzy. He regularly had a cigarette in his hand, not a smart long white cigarette, but a short crumpled roll-up.
The jacket that he wore looked like it was once part of a suit but the trousers never matched. The shirt was always accompanied by a tie but more from tradition than a need for formality. He often wore a jumper under his jacket. The boots were black, but not polished, functional rather than cosmetic.
I knew Mrs Smith and the children by sight, but I don’t remember ever talking to them.
They were occasional visitors to the wide grass verge just along from the top allotment where they dwelt in a bow topped caravan that was painted in faded traditional patterns. The pony that pulled the caravan from location to location was attached to a large weight and a long string. Long enough for it to roam for grass but short enough to keep it from straying onto the road. There were chickens too but only a couple.
The allotment was on top of a small hill at the edge of the Yorkshire Wolds with views over the flat plains towards the coast and the North Sea. On clear evenings you could see the lighthouse at Flamborough Head spinning and flashing it’s unique signal.
While Mr Smith and his family were around treasured produce would very occasionally go missing from the short single row of allotments. I wasn’t aware of anyone complaining though; while the Smiths were around there weren’t any rabbits. The rabbits did far more damage and I assume people saw it as a bit of bartering.
I assume that Mr Smith had a trade but I couldn’t tell you what it was, it would have been something agricultural, but probably not skilled. Mr Smith was a simple man with simple traditional ways.
While we were working on the allotment Mr Smith would sometimes come for a chat and a smoke, our allotment was near to the end were the caravan was stationed. My Dad would chat, I wouldn’t, I was a child and thought Mr Smith was odd with a strange smell and a peculiar accent. I would busy myself putting some more weeds on the fire, or cut another spade full.
One day my Dad was stood talking over the fence to Mr Smith when he looked down at the plants growing their and said:
“Your bananas are growing well”
My Dad turned to look in the direction Mr Smith was facing, somewhat puzzled. We might have lived on the drier side of England, but it certainly wasn’t warm enough to grow bananas.
Having looked my Dad knew what Mr Smith meant, this year he had decided to grow something a bit new, yellow courgettes. They were, at least, the right size and the right colour for bananas, but they tasted very differently.
My Dad chuckled about the bananas for days afterwards.
No, I don’t know whether is name was really Mr Smith, I suspect not, but it’s the name we knew him by.