Did I ever tell you about the first time, at least of which I am aware, that my grandma decided to visit us? No? Well if I did just let me know, I'd hate to repeat myself. Now I know old people tend to do that, but I'm not old even if my body is getting on a bit. Have you also noticed that the older people get the more they tend to finish any statement they make with a sort of laugh? Not a belly laugh mind you, but the sort that is bordering on the apparently hysterical, and implies they might have said something a little more interesting, given enough time and some assurance that they were not about to have a 'senior moment'. Well I'm not laughing ............. Ummm........ What was I saying?
Now the first time she came, I must have been about six-ish, give or take, maybe a fraction more give than take, she brought with her two of my three uncles. I shall draw a veil of forgetfulness over that pair, because they irritated me beyond measure. Well it was my toys they broke! I didn't have many; there was a war on, and we were not exactly rich you know.
Now while my parents and grandma are talking let me tell you about my home. We live in a standard, one storey terraced house with a reception room for visitors (the front room), a parlour (the back room), a dining room (the old kitchen) and a kitchen (the old scullery). The upstairs rooms match the downstairs rooms as you might expect. To avoid any confusion, I should point out that the original, old kitchen used to have a cooking range installed which my mother ripped out to have it replaced by a fireplace. Hence the old kitchen was transformed into the living room in which we all now eat. The scullery used to have an old stone copper in it, which my mother removed, thus making enough room to have a gas cooker installed. So that old scullery is now our kitchen. Oddly enough the current kitchen continues to be called the scullery, and the dining/living room is still called the kitchen. I do hope no-one is confused.
One further point that needs to be made, so that you get a feel for the place, and that is that the kitchen (where we all eat, but don't cook) is lit by a rather dim gas lamp on the chimney breast. It is the sort that houses the flame inside a very fragile mantle, the whole contraption being surrounded by a glass guard, with two 'ears' to let out the heat. And it never stops buzzing! (Gosh, it's all coming back now!) The only other light came from a bay window which looks out onto a back yard, about a yard-and-a-half wide at its widest point. Between us and 'next door' is a very tall, peep-proof, wooden fence. We are so close that from upstairs, we can look directly down into their kitchen (where they eat, but don't cook). As you can imagine, I hope, our downstairs rooms were not exactly flooded with light. But we managed well enough.
My father sits in one corner of our kitchen, by the fire, in an old armchair. The door to the scullery (where the cooking is done! Yes, I can see you're getting the hang of it now.) is situated immediately to his left. That's important to remember. Now today grandma, by dint of magnanimity, courtesy and thoroughly gentlemanly conduct on father's part, is sitting in his favourite armchair. At the moment he is stting at one end of the table, leaning forward uncomfortably on the edge of his chair to hear what is being said (father's deaf you see), and I am at the other end. Mother is sitting in her accustomed place at the other side of the fire. Hold on, there's a break in the conversation; mother and grandma are looking at me.
Mother is saying,
"Give granny a kiss, Tom!" (Oh yuk!)
Actually, she never uses that name: she uses the diminutive form which I have always loathed with a passion. (Do you know, my middle sister still calls me that. For pity's sake, I'm 75 years old!!) What does father call me? Nothing, but I always know when he's talking at me. My grandma responds, witheringly,
"Naah! 'e don' wanna kiss no ol' woman like me!"
The lady speaks the unvarnished truth! Fortunately, she didn't request confirmation of that statement from me. Had she done so, I would have been put into the unenviable position of agreeing, and thus risking the ire of my father, or disagreeing - and thus lying - and being submitted to the indignity of being kissed. Well she is very old, and not all boys like to be kissed by old people, or even their less aged aunts, unless of course it's by my young aunt V, my mother's younger sister.
"Carn'cher put anuvver bi' of coal on the fire? Ar'm cold!" whines the aforementioned, presumably shivery, grandma, to which mother responds,
"We're a bit short, mum. And yer si'in' in the draft from the door." (Remember the door leading to the scullery where the cooking was done?) Come an' sit over 'ere, near me."
"Don't wanna si' over there! Wanna si' 'ere!" (Suit yerself! Sorry. Suit yourself!)
Gosh, is that the time already? Oh dear, I seem to have run out of both time and space, that's the problem with spacetime, they're connected. Einstein said so.
"It's six o'clock, your bedtime," said mother. "Now go before your father tells you."
"But I haven't finished my story." Mother looks meaningfully in father's direction.
"Give granny a kiss, Tom!" (Oh yuk!)
"Ahem! We've already done that bit, mother. Goodnight!"
And that means, I fear, you'll all have to tune in again next week to read the next and final instalment of this gripping drama. I tell you, "Eastenders" has nothing on this stuff.