Rooms For Reflection

Friday: West Wales.
With relatives in and out on hospital on both sides there are pressing reasons for a trip to the south. Mil and Dil are missing Tom but Mil isn’t up to travelling at the moment and Ma’s been sounding a bit wheezy on the phone so I’d like to make sure she’s all right too. A couple of phone calls later we’re collecting things together for an early start the next day.

Saturday: Epsom
We’re at my Auntie Joanie and Uncle Sid’s for a quick visit and it occurs to me that their modest living room is one of the constants in my life, a container of so many memories. I’ve ‘twisted’ here as a very little girl amongst a sea of adult legs at one family party, drank my first Snowball at another and spent years aching to be like my glamorous and sophisticated older cousins. It’s a merry, vibrant room with the satisfying patina of long, deeply entwined lives. There are small plastic tubs filled with dolly mixtures and liquorice allsorts and other little treats on one table, a huge complicated jigsaw is a work in progress on another, there are puzzle books half finished and crosswords to be solved.

Of course it’s not just my memories that fill the air; images of the sea line the walls and there are many photos, reflecting not only my uncle’s service in the merchant navy but also that of other family members who’ve served, or continue to serve their country at sea. With prompting Uncle Sid shows us his medals, including the Atlantic Star and the Arctic Emblem, tiny symbols I think, for such a dangerous and difficult time.

Auntie Joanie is philosophical about her own trials; every day this week she’ll be receiving radiotherapy for what she and Uncle Sid call ‘a bug in the head’. ‘Well, you’ll be getting the best care from the best people,’ I tell her. ‘No,’ says my uncle. ‘She gets that from me.’

Sunday: Cheam
We’re at a Chinese restaurant with Ma, my stepsons and their girlfriends. In the aftermath of two painful and difficult divorces (is there such a thing as a pain free and easy divorce?) I would never have believed that this day would come but we’ve made it. We’re meeting Stepson Two’s girlfriend for the first time and she is Gorgeous with a capital G and a complete delight as well. Ma enjoys herself immensely.

Monday: Worthing
I’m trying not to eat the sweet new peas and tender baby broad beans in the colander in front of me before they’re cooked. We’ve picked them from Dil’s allotment this morning along with fresh mint, green garlic, and thumb sized carrots. Aren’t new potatoes exciting, too? I love watching the earth to see what jewels are waiting to be uncovered. Tantalizing smells of roast lamb and rosemary fill the air and when we sit down to eat it feels like a banquet. What a lovely way to celebrate being together.

Tuesday: Cardiff Bay
I’ve thought about the past, the present and now, sitting on a beanbag on the floor of an otherwise empty flat with my lovely daughter, Lily, it’s time to think about the future. After a year of living in a house worthy of ‘The Young Ones’ Lily is moving in with her boyfriend and they’re renting a brand spanking new flat with views across the old docks, the sea and the Mendips in the distance. We’re waiting for Russ to arrive with boxes to unload then we’ll be off to Ikea for bits and pieces. Here’s to Lily and Russ with every good wish for their first home together.

Painting is 'West Pier, Brighton' by Tom Tomos


Crystal Jigsaw said…
Your Auntie & Uncle's living room reminded me so much of my Grandma's living room when I was a little girl. Lovely memories.

CJ xx
l love that painting, funny how rooms recall memories and hold such treasures.
LittleBrownDog said…
My goodness, woman - don't you get around! Remember Snowballs well - tasted my first (and last!) whilst watching Abba win the Eurovision Song Contest (whilst obviously a babe in arms) - thought it was disgusting then and haven't changed my mind since. It sounds as though your family is well connected on so many levels - not everyone can come to a place of peace and acceptance after divorce. All the very best to Lily and her man - from what I hear, Cardiff Bay is quite the place to live now. And my thoughts are with Aunt J - fingers crossed the treatment goes well.

And finally, that's another cracking painting. Is there no end to your family's talents?

Debs said…
Best wishes to Auntie Joanie. I love the description of their living room, I feel the same way about my father's house. So many memories.

Divorces are never easy, so many misunderstandings, it's nice to know that people get through it, though it takes a lot of work.

Great post, made me think.
Lovely living room - what a wonderful place to 'keep' your memories.

Have I already told you that my uncle was Mayor of Cheam many many years ago - my Uncle Bob.

Good luck to the young pair - it is a big step in life. Robot Boy has just moved in with his girlfriend. Such a relief when you get on well with the kids chosen partners.
Cait O'Connor said…
I remember snowballs,what happened to them? And the twist, do you remember twist competitions?
Milkmaid said…
Yes you do get about, sounds like you had a lovely time catching up with all your family. I used to live in a 'young ones' house too
Pipany said…
Oh you made me blub Chris! I was just thinking and missing my gorgeous Lauren who has taken herself off to Thailand for a month volunteering in an orphanage. Your end note about Lily and new phases just struck a chord. Lovely blog and hope the poorly ones improve xx
Exmoorjane said…
Cheam??? By heck, I went to school in Cheam.
Snowballs a classic part of growing up in suburbia - though not sure how I'd feel about going back to the living room in which I drank three piece sweet and gold curtains (but not, I assure you, in any kind of Bollywood glamour way).....
Am I being really slow here and the paintings are all by relatives? Sometimes it takes me a while to catch on.....
ChrisH said…
Paintings are all by my other half, Jane!
Milla said…
rather wistful this, Chris, indeed. Good luck to Lily, Yes, Cardiff is v happening. When's Clocks album out? (or is that v old fashioned)
Flowerpot said…
all the best to Lily and her future - and yours as well of course, Chris. My God I haven't had a snowball for a long time!!
elizabethm said…
This is a lovely blog Chris. I know just what you mean about the living room and wish your Aunt all the very best. We too have come through (some long time ago now) the pain of a difficult divorce and we too are in a place that was unimaginable once. Younger son gets married on Saturday and his stepsister has made the cake, stepbrother will be an usher. Good for you for you care of MIL and DIL. x
Lane said…
What a spectacularly, sensory post! Beautiful.

a bug in the head and Uncle Sid's reply are priceless.

I raise my tea to Lily and Russ. All the very best to them.

Fab painting btw!
Hi Chris,

I remember Snowballs, first tasted them in a pub of which name escapes me, just before the entrance to Hampstead Heath in London. The twist, remember that too Chris.

I hope the poorly ones improve soon, all the very best of luck to your daughter Lily and her partner.

Camilla. xx
Fennie said…
I'd never thought of that - rooms as constants - but it's quite true. Unchanging points in a life - stepping stones across the flood of life.

Good luck to the youngsters. Such a big step moving in together. Cardiff Bay has a lot going for it.

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