*Alert! There is no mention of Covid-19 or lockdown in this post*
Believe it or not, I can remember exactly what I was doing 40 years ago today! I was sitting in my grandparents’ back room, eating a pot noodle, having had school orchestra practice and before heading off with my sister to youth group. Frances and I made our way round to Nana and Grandad’s every Wednesday after school. I’m not sure why we had pot noodles. (Who would have thought they’d been around that long?)
Nana and Grandad lived in a two up, two down terrace in Alfred Road, overlooking the cemetery at the back of the High Street. My memories of time spent there are very happy. Of chives and dahlias growing in the back garden. Of scoring holes in the brick wall with a nail. Of old Aggie who lived on the other side of the street and watched the world go by from behind her curtains. We visited my grandparents a lot during the school holidays when Mum and Dad were working and I mostly remember that the sun shone. Didn’t it always back then?
We always used the back door to get in. Down the alley at the side of the house and into the tiny kitchen which led to the back room. This room was also small, with just enough room for a table and two chairs, a couple of armchairs beside the fire and a heavy wooden sideboard on which sat a clock with a mesmerising tick and a reassuring chime.
The stairs led off this back room, but you had to open a door to access them. It was like stepping into a wardrobe to go upstairs. We didn’t go up there too often, but when we did I admired Nana’s tortoiseshell backed mirror and the height of the bed with its heavy eiderdown. Upstairs is where Mum and her twin were born. Where they slept inside a chest of drawers. Two tiny babies.
Nana and Grandad led a beautifully simple life. No TV. No computer. Just the radio. Grandad sat and listened, his fingers intertwined as he leant forward with his elbows on his knees and his eyes down, sometimes holding his walking stick and tapping it on the floor.
I remember the comfortable sounds of cricket matches coming through the air waves.
I remember laundry drying on a wooden airer folded box-like around the flames of the gas fire.
I remember the softness of the maroon, velvet cloth which covered the table. It had a twisted tassel fringe that attracted your fingers constantly.
I remember the sliding door of the bathroom with thin cotton curtains at the frosted window panes. And the crunchy Izal toilet paper. And the smell of Lifebuoy soap.
My grandparents, Thomas and Emily, were quiet, humble and generous. They didn’t have an awful lot, but from stories I’ve heard, they were always happy to share with those who needed it. Even prisoners of war!
In these times, on the whole, we have far too much and probably hold onto it too tightly. I know I’m guilty of this. On this Wednesday, I have a pot noodle and think long and hard about how I can help others a whole heap more.