The car has barely stopped before I’ve got the door open and I’m sprinting through the gate and bounding up to the front door. With a twist of the big brass door knob I push the it open and announce our arrival with a cheery “Coooeeeee”. I can still remember the smell of the house, that old house smell, a hint of damp mixed with stale cigarettes and boiled vegetables.
The corridor is in to parts, the first takes you to the bottom of the stairs before it dog-legs to the right and continues on towards the back of the house. But before all that I veer right into the front room and head for the sweetie tin. It is where it always is, on the bottom shelf of the side table next to the TV, right under the old servant bell (which still works). I yank open the tin, a celebration from the Jubilee, and delve in. Sometimes Oddfellows, sometimes Eclairs, but always, always sweeties.
By the time I’ve stuffed one in my mouth my parents have made it into the house and I race ahead of them again towards the back of the house, pausing at the end of the corridor to consider the dark scary stairwell down to the basement, before turning right and into the living room.
At the far end of the room, taking up almost the entire wall, stands a huge old wooden sideboard that must’ve been constructed in the room for it certainly didn’t come in through the door nor the window that overlooks the back garden. The back of the house is three levels to accomodate the hill, so we are now on the first floor.
On the far side of the room the fireplace is the dominant feature where my Grandpa sits in his large, leather chair in pride of place facing away from the window towards the fire. A smaller, fabric covered chair opposite him where my Gran would sit. The wall to my right has the dining table, already laid in preparation for dinner and to my left is the entrance to the kitchen. I take the three small steps down and there she is, my Gran, spooning boiled potatoes into a dish already full of mince.
With a hug and a kiss I ask her what’s for dinner, knowing the answer already. Silverside beef, potatoes and veg, with mince and potatoes just for me. I reach up into a cupboard for a glass, choosing the black and white domino cup over the pink and white (ugh, for girls!) and pop open a can of Lilt.
As my Mum and Dad enter the living room all the fuss turns to my baby sister so I leave them to it, heading back out to the corridor and, deciding to brave the darkness I start down to the basement. At the foot of the stairs is the door to the coal cellar, a truly black place to be avoided and I skip past it as quickly as possible, before taking the next door on my right into the snooker room, bedecked with pictures left by my Uncle. Soft focussed, big haired ladies in various states of risque undress (70s style) look down on me as I rack them up.
I can still remember the noises as the balls clacked and clunked their way around the old snooker table, bent as it was through the damp and so allowing easy shots to the bottom right pocket (hit it gently into that area and the balls would veer magically towards the pocket, you really, literally, couldn’t miss).
I can remember the smell down there too, dusty and dank, scary noises imagined in my head.
I can remember the shout from upstairs that dinner was ready and frantic scrabble to get back upstairs. I did love my Grans mince and tatties.
I can remember summers playing in the back garden, lying in the grass making daisy chains or blowing up Action Man figures, racing cars down the sloping path, or battering an inflatable football against the big concrete supports that held the garden in place.
I can remember the cold black and white bathroom, the big cosy bed upstairs and the polystyrene tiles on the ceiling. I can remember the remnants of my Uncle, none of my Mum, that still dotted about upstairs, the model Harrier hanging from the ceiling in the small bedroom.
I can remember exploring every inch of the house, chasing balloons up and down the corridor, the pine needles strewn by the Christmas tree, the ornaments in the front room, and the cigarette burned armchairs.
I remember weekends spent with my Gran, wandering down to the shops, the sneaky ice creams and “don’t tell your Mother” toys. I can remember guessing the colour theme of the shop window merchandise as we turned the corner into her street (“Yellow!”… “Blue!”).
I can remember the digestives and milk, mushed in a cup for breakfast, the corned beef sandwiches, the salt and vinegar square crisps. I can remember the Abba record, and the smell of her hairspray. I can remember a million and one things about that house and my time spent in it, I remember being happy and safe there. Me and my Gran.
And now they are all I have as my dear beloved Gran has passed away. She spent the last few days sleeping and slowly ebbing away towards a soft, gentle end.
There is so much more I could say, but nothing more I can type.
I’ll be back in a few of days.