Saturday 1 June 2013

Grandma's Been..........

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.


  1. Fabulous writing, Tom - I was there, and would love to read more.

  2. Hi Jean! Glad you enjoyed it. Next instalment next Saturday.

  3. Rouchswalwe: I can well imagine! This is thrilling drama, the cutting edge of excitement!

  4. What pleasure to read this. Is Grandma speaking Welshis? Even if not so your story made me also think of young Tom Jones whom I liked but not as much as Moustaki.
    (when I ask to be corrected, please please do so. Message to all who read this comment).

  5. Tom,you have a more than photographic memory! Auditory as well as visual. I'm very impressed by and envious of such total recall. I can see and hear the scene so clearly and experience it from the perspective of the little boy you were.
    Were you living in London then? I recognise the Cockney pronunciation.

  6. I remember as a small child having to "kiss goodnight" everyone present. Some aunts and uncles this was lovely, some a terrible onus. The best dryly kissed my cheek or head, the worst gave "wet" kisses, or any kind of kiss near my mouth - eww. Age nor gender mattered - only moisture content.

  7. Hi Ellena: No my grandma was a very uneducated East Londoner. I believe it correct to say that if you were born within the sound of Bow bells, you were deemed to be a cockney. Bow Church is situated in the City of London, (one of the fifty churches in the area built by Wren) but was bombed during WW2, its bells not sounding thereafter. I was born close enough to the church to come within the sounding area of its bells. It is highly likely that all my relatives on my mother's side did also. My father's? Don't know, but unlikely, although they were Londoners.

  8. Natalie: Thank you for your comment. Yes, I was living in London at that time. In fact I didn't leave London until I entered the RAF at 18. We were evacuated for one weekend during the war, but the conditions were so intolerable that we returned to London. I may have lived in Kent, just outside London for a brief period of convalescence, sometime in the two years before WW2 started, but those years are obviously beyond conscious recall.

  9. Zhoen: Although age did come into it for me, when the 'kisser' was old, moisture content was certainly a major factor. Gender, also, was an issue, very largely I suspect because my father and I never kissed.

  10. Oh Tom, this is just wonderful and so funny, a bit like some of the old British comedies I used to watch on TV. And another side to your writing and personality which I'm enjoying getting to know.

  11. Hullo Marja-Leena: Ah me! A man of many parts forsooth! Thank you, and I'm glad you're enjoying the ride.

  12. What a delightful post, Tom!
    "Just what the doctor ordered:"
    smiles and chuckles and an eagerness to read more!

  13. Good 'un, Thomas. (Now that ought to confuse you.)

  14. Bruce: Only momentarily. You have now joined a very select group.

  15. I read your post again because I was looking for the spot where you say "my father and I never kissed". It says a lot of your father/son relationship. Found the spot in your answers on comments made. While searching the post 'father talking AT you' started flashing. Says as much.

  16. I'll be looking forward to the continuation of this gripping tale.

    (I didn't like kissing my grandfather because he had whiskers.)

  17. Oh lovely. I cam easily imagine you screwing up your little face at the prospect of kissing grandfather. An amusing image.