Wednesday, January 13, 2010

4 Wellington Road

Picture of my Nan's HouseMy grandfather’s house is likely to be sold sometime this year. At the moment it now belongs to my mother as next of kin and although it would be nice to retain it in the family (my grandparents owned it for a good 60 years) practically that is just not going to be possible.

I’m going to find letting go of it very difficult. It is a house that holds very happy childhood memories for me and it is a house that I have visited on and off every week for the last 40 years. As children me and my sisters would spend every Sunday there with my grandparents and during school holidays every Wednesday too.

It was an idyllic time. Grandparents tend to be softer and more easy going than parents so my memories of my time with them are very warm. I can remember my Nan used to have a huge square dining table with fold out leafs and for some reason my sisters and I, when very small, would play beneath it, sitting on the crossbars that braced the legs, imaging we were in a vast sailing ship.

I can remember also being in my Nan’s kitchen, standing on tiptoe to see the stew bubbling on the cooker or later, when I was a little older and taller, being allowed to stir the boiled milk into the custard powder as my Nan stirred it in. It was a special treat to be allowed to help my Nan cook in her kitchen.

Whenever I visit the house now – and I am visiting frequently to make the most of it while I am able – I am assailed by these memories and more. It is both a comfort and a heartbreak. Just the smell of the house almost fools me into believing that my grandparents are just in the next room. I guess metaphysically, if your beliefs are that way inclined, they kind of are. I find myself pining to go there – seeking comfort I guess – and yet when I am there the absence of life is very upsetting and just brings home the reality that those who gave the house its true warmth are no longer there.

The furniture, the clocks, the ornaments all seem to speak with voices that I can’t quite hear but that I can feel... old times, past times, times gone by. Happy days as my Nan was often fond of saying when she herself reminisced. But their voices are fading now. Getting quieter. My days of access to the house are numbered. I’d love to buy it (if I were a millionaire) but I have to be realistic – it’s smaller than my own house so would not be practical. And keeping it as a shrine is a very bad idea. My sister and her husband are looking to buy a house but sadly not in Leamington so it is not an option for them either. And my mother, living in Sheffield, quite understandably wants matters sorted and settled as soon as possible.

It is inevitable then that the house will be emptied, sold and find itself occupied by new people starting a new history together within its walls. It’s the right thing to happen. But it makes me sad to think of it. Silly, I know, to get so emotionally attached and sentimental over bricks and mortar.

For at least as long as I have been alive my Nan had an old fashioned egg timer hung on the kitchen wall. Above it, painted into the small wooden panel that it is mounted upon is the legend “Kissin’ don’t last, cookin’ do”. It always amused her to read this out to us as children. With my mother’s permission I have taken this egg timer home as a small keepsake.

It reminds me of my Nan and of how little time we have with those we love.

And of how, despite my Nan’s wry amusement, sometimes it’s the cooking that doesn’t last but the kissing, the love, that does.


27 comments:

Clippy Mat said...

Lovely. :-)
sometimes, when I close my eyes and I am really still I can go right back to my grandparent's house. I can hear the ticking clock, the background sounds of shipbuilding in the nearby shipyards and the radio playing in the living room while the budgie in his cage near the window trilled over it all. I smell the fruit cake, and brown bread that were always on the table at tea time. I can smell my grandfather's pipe and I can hear both of their voices.
You will carry your grandparent's house in your heart too.
:-)

Steve said...

Clippy Matt: I hope so. I must admit I've been dreaming of my grandparents every night for weeks now... my mind is obviously working through a lot of stuff.

Gina said...

Oh gosh, it feels so much as if you are following in my footsteps but 7 years later.

I felt exactly as you do. My grandparents had their house since 1954 and like you we were there every week. I lived too far away to go back often in the weeks after my grandfather died but when I did go back with my sister to choose which items we wanted to keep, I kept drifting back to those days. We played under the table too - how very odd.

It was the clocks that got me most, those and the funny lacy things on the back of the chairs - oh lots of things - the shiny hideously dark brown floor tiles in the dining room that my granny used to chastise us for skating on!

I have not been back since it was sold and have no idea who lives there. I'd rather not know funnily enough.

Such happy times.

We still have the memories eh? Oh and it's a fine address, isn't it?

Steve said...

Gina: clocks and chairs are such emotive things aren't they. I guess there are certain fashions that our grandparents bought into that give us all a common experience... Like you, once it's sold, I don't really want to know who ends up living there. It will be very hard feeling so excluded though... not sure how I will cope with that.

The Sagittarian said...

awwwww..........I lived in Wellington, loved it. I once went back to my grandparents place, it was smaller than I recalled, it was such a sad day when I accepted that I ahd grown up and that things had moved on. It wa a joyous day when I realised that I could take all those times with me and replicate them. Hugs buddy. xx

Steve said...

Amanda: thanks, mate!

Selina Kingston said...

You've written this so beautifully and described your memories so vividly that I can totally understand what a wrench it must be to have to have to let the house go. Thinking of you x

Steve said...

Selina: thank you.

Gypsy said...

I didn't get to spend a lot of time with my grandparents as I have lived on the other side of the world for almost all my life. They have only both passed away in the last few years but I vividly remember the times I did have with them when we returned to England in '69-'71.


I loved sitting in the kitchen with my Nan and smelling her beautiful rhubarb pie cooking in the oven. She never seemed to leave the kitchen.


I would go down the bottom of the garden with grandad and feed all the rabbits until one horrible day I found some carcasses hanging in his shed and found out I'd been eating my furry friends for dinner.


My favourite memory is playing in the cupboard under the stairs and wearing all of Nan's old clothes and playing with her handbags and hats. It was a magical place for someone with my imagination.


I was made to feel so special when I was staying with them and grandad always bought me peppermint sweets at the corner store which I loved.


I could go on and on and probably already have, but my point is that I haven't seen the house they lived in for years and yet if I close my eyes I can transport myself there in my mind in an instant. No-one can take away our memories. They're yours to keep for always no matter who will one day live in their house.

French Fancy said...

Letting go of places is very hard and once it is all over and done with and no longer part of the recent memory things might be a bit easier. Having said that, about eight years ago Mr FF and I drove to my childhood home and sat outside whilst I was transported back years and years - and I got very upset. I almost rang on the doorbell but then changed my mind. We can never go back really, once someone else is living there. In any case my starry ceiling wallpaper would have been long gone.

Steve said...

Gypsy: I can feel the warmth and fondness in your words. These are obviously very strong, very special memories for you. I guess I need to prepare myself to let go of the reality and console myself with such myself. It's going to be a long process. Thankfully sorting the house out is liable to take months so there is no immediate rush!

FF: I can imagine myself getting quite upset too. I think once the house is sold I may have to avoid the area for a long time until I've let go a bit. But I daresay any encounter will be both evocative and piquant.

Suburbia said...

What a lovely post, written from the heart, I am sad for you but,as you say, it is the right thing to do.

I have very fond memories of my Grannys house, I can see it now, in minute detail and was only describing an incident there to my children recently. She has been gone nearly 20 years. I will never forget her.

Sometimes I dream about her house, being there, inside it as it was when she was there. It all lives on, but just in our memories. :)

Take care of yourself

S x

ArtSparker said...

This may be completely notional (I'm that way inclined) but I might be inclined to write something along the lines of what you've just written, and seal it in envelope or box with one or two other things, and conceal it in the house, I mean in such a way that it wouldn't be discovered, it would be inside the wall or floor. Just a thought.

Steve said...

Suburbia: I have been so many dream about my grandparents recently it's unreal... but it is comforting too.

ArtSparker: that's a brilliant idea... I may give it a go. Thank you.

TheUndertaker said...

Hey this is a tough one, it is so hard to realize that we have grown up, and that place where you can still be a kid in a safe Haven is gone. It tugs at the heartstrings, it really does (and not said with sarcasm this time, just wanted to clarify that!).

Steve said...

The Undertaker: the lack of sarcasm is truly appreciated, thank you! ;-)

Completely Alienne said...

Savour the memories, Steve, you don't need the house to keep them. Reading this took me right back to my grandparents' house - a bungalow in what was countryside then. My grandmother sold it and moved in 1973 after my granddad died, but I can still close my eyes, see the wisteria outside the kitchen window and (in my memory) walk round their garden .... The buyers put dormer windows in and turned the attic into an upstairs, doubling the space. Last year it came on the market again - one of my sisters found the details on the internet and we all pored over them, remembering the place so well.

Mark said...

Nice post.

I have a hat belonging to my grandfather - his airman's hat from the war and it used to smell of his house - sadly no longer but I enjoy having it.

I hope my kids / grandchildren take some keepsakes when the time comes and then move on - that seems like the right cycle of life.

The Poet Laura-eate said...

I know how you feel Steve. I was pretty sad to see my grandparent's home in Coventry sold. It was a distinctive red-brick and red-roofed 1920s house and they had moved in when they got married in 1926. My grandmother knew everyone who'd ever lived in the street and could relate the life stories of all!

I have written many poems about them. My grandad was amazingly dignified and would never speak unless spoken to, but if you asked him to explain anything, he would have all the time and patience in the world. The sort of man who would respectfully warm up the TV for ten minutes before watching it and treat all his few possessions with the greatest of care as if they were precious objects. Yet he'd done a bit of acting in his engineering company's theatre in JB Priestly plays and was utterly delighted whenever we demanded to see the photos of those productions again.
My grandmother was always cooking cauliflower and boiled potatoes for tea. Though luckily (and strangely) those were indeed my favourite food as a child, though she did make me eat some lettuce and tomato as well.

Miss behaving said...

I had to read your post quite a few times Steve, it's so lovely, sad but lovely and it took me right back to my own grandparents house and made me think about the big dining table and the toy cupboard behind grandma's chair,the fantabulous steak and kidney pie with an egg cup holding up the pastry in the middle that grandma made on Tuesdays, the huge scratched enamel sink in the kitchen, the outside loo, memories I haven't visited in a long long time.
I hope you don't have to do things *too* quickly and have at least a little time to process.

Steve said...

Completely Alienne: I remember wanting to do the same when my old house came on the market a few years ago. It had been completely renovated and I would have loved to have taken a look inside... but never summoned up the courage.

Mark: I hope the same. I certainly hope to pass on the keepsakes I have already taken myself from the lives of my grandparents. It is weird to think my Nan and granddad will be as distant to my boys at my parent's own grandparents were to me.

Laura: I must admit I've been toying with the idea of writing a few poems myself though, having devoted myself to prose for the last three years I feel rather rusty. I guess this experience (letting go of much loved homes) is quite universal.

MissBehaving: I think things will naturally take months to sort out. Solicitors are never in a rush and the housing market is so slow at the moment there is no real pressure. I still have time to savour the old place before I find myself locked out forever...!

Owen said...

But it's not just bricks and mortar... homes have a soul just like the people that live in them, and they become a part of us... the memory will live on, even if the occupants change. I went back a couple of years ago to the house where I grew up, which was sold maybe ten years ago now. Though there were new people living there, which was strange to see, nothing can change the memories that came welling back up from those deep early sources... My grandparents house, on the other hand, is now abandoned, and disintegrating in the woods... which was even harder to see. Hard realities.

Steve said...

Owen: you're right of course, Houses have their own souls, imprinted upon them perhaps by the people who live there. The bricks soak everything up, the years, the loves, the memories...

Old Cheeser said...

Understandable sentiments, Steve! My grandmother passed away a couple of years ago but my granddad still lives on...she was a stalwart as she was close to 90 and my granddad is of a similar age. They still live in the same bungalow house in Kent that I used to visit when a kiddie and whenever I visit (rarely) it evokes some memories.

Steve said...

OC: all I can say is, make the most of the bungalow, your memories and your granddad especially while you still have them...

skatey katie said...

this whole 'letting go' thing is ridiculously hard. my mum gave me a set of stainless steel measuring spoons (1 tsp, etc) that were Gran's. which is kinda funny, cos even tho i don't tend to measure stuff perfectly as i cook, i'm sure i'll use them cos they were Gran's.
glad you have the egg timer X

Steve said...

Katie: the egg timer easily means as much to me as my granddad's medals. It's a link not just to my Nan but also to my childhood and the times we were together in her kitchen.