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.
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.’
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.
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