When I was little my grandparents lived in the house where my mother grew up. My grandad was ill and slept in the room that had once been my mother’s bedroom – complete with silver ceiling and hot pink walls. He died when I was really young, so really my only memory of him is sitting in a chair in the living room with a big jar of mint toffees next to him. He had a motorcycle accident before I was born, and had a fake leg and a brain injury. Sometimes he shouted, and often when we visited he wasn’t there (probably upstairs in bed), but we always got to have one of grandad’s toffees, so we always thought he was pretty great.
My nan’s house was the place the extended family congregated on Christmas afternoon to exchange presents and eat Christmas tea. There was jam in a beautiful cut glass bowl with a metal holder that dangled the spoon above it. That and opening presents is all I remember of those afternoons!
On Tuesdays when my older sister was at school we would buy fish from the market and my nan would let me help her cook it. I remember dipping the fish in the breadcrumbs for her, and sometimes she would sit me at the dining table with a big bowl of potatoes and a masher. I have never in my life managed to make mashed potatoes that taste like those stolen spoonfuls when I was left to mash them at my nan’s house. She would always make lemon cake for pudding and when she died we found that nobody in the family had the recipe for it. I can still taste it if I concentrate really hard.
Every teatowel in my nan’s house was one of those ones with a picture on it, like these Countryside Art tea towels. I remember seeing her use them to dry the dishes and thinking, why are you using all those pretty pictures to dry dishes? It felt like they should be on the wall or something.
One evening a week my sister went to Brownies at the community centre, and my nan’s house was close to the community centre so while my sister went off in her brown dress, I got to go to my nan’s… and mostly just watch Emmerdale! It sounds boring, but it was a real treat to be able to go to my nan’s without my sister there and have all of her attention, just for me. (My mum, by this point a mother of four children under 8, mostly used that hour to zone out in front of a bad soap I think)
The lady who lived nextdoor to my nan had a dog. I forget its name, but it was brown and white and my nan kept an old coffee jar filled with special chocolate buttons for the dog next to her back door. Whenever we went out into the garden we would feed the dog chocolate drops through the fence.
My nan moved out of that house over thirty years ago, but whenever I go anywhere near it I crane my neck to see if the ceiling in the bedroom is still silver. It’s probably been redecorated a dozen times or more since I was last in there, but I like to think there’s still a bit of my bother’s rebellious teenage years in there somewhere!