Sunday, 5 October 2008
My Grandmother's House - Conclusion
I think that, although the Parlour was the least used room, it was always my favourite because of the memories of those wonderful parties and because I am sure the spirit of my Grandfather made contact with me there as regular readers will know from a prior entry. I loved this room with a passion.
As you entered the room, on the right hand wall was a huge oak dresser, ceiling high, with ornate carved pillars and a huge central mirror flanked by little shelves that held all sorts of ornaments and photographs, again backed by smaller mirrors. Pride of place on the dresser went to Grandfather’s "Marley Horses". He had two huge ones and two smaller ones that had been presented to him for his running many years earlier. I am now the owner of the two smaller ones. On either side of the dresser were two paintings both of The Monarch Of The Glen". They were genuine oil paintings albeit copies of the original and must have been done by a skilled artist because he had done "a pair" otherwise there would have been two identical paintings. They were surrounded by heavily decorated gilt frames. Nan loved these so much and used to talk about them to me and about her love of her Scottish homeland. They were very dirty from years and years of coal fires, household cooking and general dirt but would have been stunning if they had been professionally cleaned. Where they came from I have no idea, maybe they were brought from Scotland when the family uprooted. These were promised to me, Nan wanted me to have them.
Directly in front of you was a bay window. I am sure you know the type - one central window and two on either side. In front of them stood an Aspidistra on a tall dark wood table. They call these the "Cast Iron" plants and this particular specimen must have been because I never saw or remember it being watered and the soil was always like concrete and yet the plant thrived. The far wall had the fireplace which was also made of cast iron with a little mantlepiece again filled with small trinkets. On one side of the fireplace was a china cabinet filled with treasures, mostly brought back by Bill from his voyages. Paper thin plates with beautiful designs, blown glass ornaments and the crowning glory was a punch bowl made of amber translucent glass heavily decorated with grapes and vine leaves with matching cups. My Mother was to have this to be passed down to me. On the back wall, behind the entrance door was the piano, an old upright inlaid with Acanthus leaves in gold with two intricate iron candle holders. This held more family photographs. The keys were yellow with age and use and I would spend hours tinkling when I was very young hoping I would be able to play as well as Aunt Ada. In the very centre of the room was a huge circular table supported by just one very large central column which splayed out into four ornate feet. I used to believe this was King Arthur's table that had somehow come from Camelot.
After Grandfather died, this beautiful room was never used much again except for very special occasions. Then Nan spent her declining years in there when she could no longer wander down the road to sit on the bench outside the Town Hall and watch the world go by. She kept active for a long time but the writing was on the wall when she had to be told that her beloved Bill had died. She could not accept that her son had been taken during her life-time. She would spend many hours after that talking about her Will and her Bill and saying how she wanted to be with them. So, her bed was brought into the parlour and placed in front of the window where she could still see her friends and neighbours passing by and having chats through its opening when the weather permitted. Her eyesight got worse and worse but she still had an active brain.
When Mike and I returned from holiday - engaged, I took him to meet Nan. We sat and chatted for a while and then she asked me to leave the room. Mike told me afterwards that she had taken his hands and asked him some questions. Then she called me back and told me that I had found a good man and not to let him go. I think her old psychic ability was still at work. She lived just long enough to know that she had a great-granddaughter, our daughter - Rebecca. All her other great-grandchildren had been boys so my Mother rang Aunt Bet immediately and told her that I had given her the much wanted great-granddaughter. Bet said that her face beamed like the sun. It was not long afterwards that she passed away. Alas, I was unable to attend her funeral because it was too soon after quite a difficult childbirth but I had my own little memorial service. I am only sorry that my daughter never had the chance to know her. She has missed out on a great deal.
I have written so much about Grandmother's house and yet I do not possess one single photograph of it. Nobody ever thought to take one.
I know it was black from London soot. I know it withstood two World Wars and was shaken to its foundation during the Second when the East End sustained such heavy bombing. One wall was braced with a vast crosspiece of iron to support it.
Would I go back? No! I have learned you cannot go back in this life. The Bible is right when it says there is a time and a season for everything. It will all have changed by now. I know the road which used to be so quiet that us children could play in it all day now hums with traffic as road systems have been put in place to ease the congestion from the High Street. The dark green front door with the heavy knocker (rarely used) is probably gone. Anyway, I do not need to go back physically. I can go back any time of the night or day, whenever I wish in my mind and in my recollections.
I have other memories of my Nan, sitting with her in her local park and watching the flowers and the birds, her taking me to the cinema on a few occasions, her stays at our house where she loved to sit in our garden, but it is her house I will always remember with such deep and abiding affection. Her house and the people that lived in it and passed through it. People the like of which you do not find nowadays. Characters, each and every one of them.
This photograph is of properties in the same area, actually only a couple of streets away and.....................this is the road where my Mother and her twin brother were born on Christmas Day over a century ago. I found it on the internet. My Grandmother's house was identical.
The house was never theirs. Maybe I omitted to tell you that. Always rented. It was a Victorian property, built in the 1890's and my Grandfather originally paid the princely rent of eight shillings per week for it (40 pence in our decimal currency). I think they might have had the option to purchase but never did. After Nan left us Bet and Alan continued on together there. When Bet passed, Alan continued alone until his death three years ago at which time the key was handed back to the Landlord. There are new people living there now and they will have changed the interior so much, I would not recognise it.
Only rented and yet my family lived within those four walls for almost one hundred years.
Every house in that street, every house in every street has a story to tell. This has been my story of Grandmother's house. I hope you have enjoyed strolling down memory lane with me and enjoyed reading the stories just as much as I have loved writing them down and sharing them with you.
Thus I finish the tale.
A small terraced house in a street of terraced houses with hundreds, no thousands of identical properties throughout the area and indeed, throughout London, throughout England. A house that helped to shape my life, taught me so much about people and the world, made me laugh, made me cry. I miss it. I will always miss it.
We never knew what became of Grandmother's things. My Mother never got the punchbowl and I never got my beloved "Monarch" paintings. We suspected that Alan sold them. We were sad about it. But, my friends, I do not need those paintings. You see, I have much more. I have what nobody can take away. I have that room, those paintings, the house and above all the people, those wonderful people. I have them painted rich and vibrant on the canvas of my mind.
Her name was Mary, Mary
Plain as any name can be
But with propriety, society
Some will say Marie
But it was Mary, Mary
Long before the fashion came
For there is something there
That sounds so rare
It's a grand old name.
In memory of my beloved Grandmother Mary and my beloved Grandfather William, my Mother and Father, my brother Keith, my Uncle Bill, Aunt Bet, Uncle Alan and all those other special people I have mentioned in these last few postings. I love and miss them all.