As with punters, we serve three grades
here: that’s Super, Premium and Regular.
Oil comes in pints and quarts and gills –
some of them’ll ask for Commercial.
Some order shots at a penny a go.
Where in hell’s the dip-stick hiding?

“Just shove us in a quid’s worth, kid.
And top up the batteries too.” Fords are
known as are fast-fillers. But watch out
for those makes with fuel tanks liable
to air-locks. Very dramatic blowbacks
can spew half-a-gallon all over you.

The clattering heater in our little hut
convects its nicotine fug. Ossie Stedman
looks up from ringing his bets in today’s
Chronicle. “A word in your ear, my son –
this one’ll ask to have her tyre pressures
checked. And is usually a big tipper.”

Fag cupped back-handedly, he slurps
his brew, steps back to bow me out onto
the drizzled-on, rainbow-puddled forecourt
that we call The Front. My oily rag
dangles from an overall pocket weighted
with copper, thrupenny bits and tanners.

From every globe on Ossie’s row of pumps,
National Benzole’s legendary wing-
helmeted Mercury logo (head only) looks
down on us in striking jet black and gold:
our patron of the adequate pay packet
and fleet messenger of the trunk road.

                                                The North (49)
Poem 11