Tuesday, 20 October 2015

Intermingle your Savoury Biscuits

 

  In Aldeburgh the tupperware grit container is back by the roundabout.  The Christmas Cards are masking the large print Jean Plaidy section in the library. The LED Santa and Sleigh lights have replaced the ultrasound mosquito repellents in in MCT Electrical.  With winter shouting its threats like the Hobyahs, I remember one particular stream of consciousness letter from my Nan Silcox. Everything that was happening went down on the paper.  
 Everything.  
  
  Dear Eirwen and oh here we go it's Mrs Williams about to pop in, she must be better, haven't seen her out and about since last Tuesday. Oh but Eirwen you'll remember more than one Mrs Williams from Gelligaergwellt Street.  Well, remember, it was Mrs Williams I had my hair off to that Thursday in 1942, after I'd already had more than quite enough with her letting her children hang on the back of the rag and bone man's cart, even after he asked them to stop, and the final straw had come when she stole my milk delivery off the doorstep and Letty saw her do it?  Not that one.  The other Mrs Williams with the glasses. Oh now, she ended up not popping in after all anyway, she was just putting the Radio Times through the letter box as usual for me to have after her, because she's written down everything she'll want to watch in the coming week Terry and Iestyn,
  I hope that you are all well and oh here's the coal delivery hang on...Christ, Cooper the Coal can talk, all about his wife's lumbago. Apparently she had another collapse in Ponty Market. Just as well she'd bought those seconds toilet rolls in bulk and they were in her shopping bag on wheels to break her fall. Cooper the Coal says she've had to buy a new shopping bag now and they've run out of yellow ones, which she do always want as she says they're easier for the cars to spot when she's crossing the road by the working man's club. Oh and yet again I got the story of your Nana Bron putting the brick through the window of the club because they wouldn't allow women in the public bar.  Cooper the Coal says the committee were reminiscing again about it Saturday night.  Do they want me to go down there and pay the bastard glazier's bill in retrospect or what? and moreso I hope that this depression you've been feeling is lifting, now?  I put it down to Oh, talking of Ponty Market, did you ever get that blackcurrant stain out of Iestyn's shawl you bought there? I'm sorry to hear you've been letting yourself get down, really I am, as it's never been like you.  A couple of your brothers maybe and oh God not again, now, Bert is round from next door. Hang on I've got to hide in the walk-in cupboard.  Don't want him coming in and seeing that there's no china cat that Letty gave me before she died. I put it out if his visit is planned, of course. It's not so much I hated the sight of the ugly thing, but more that I got fed up having to reach round it for the Jeyes Fluid when it was on the window sill in the kitchen, as out of sight as I thought could still be construed as being polite.  These days it's right outdoors on the shelf above the privy.  
  Here I am back again now.  Blast Bert if he didn't come straight in and see I was here from the pen and paper on my good table, and open the cupboard door looking for me.  He didn't mentiin the china cat, so neither did I.  And all I could think of to say about why I was in the cupboard, was that I was finding your father's old Davy Helmet to give to Teresa to take in for her school's show-and-tell of the bygone era. Bert's taken that for gospel and is going to look for his mother's calipers to give Teresa to take in now.  I'll have to ring Dorothy and tell her to tell Teresa to go along with my little white lie, and when Bert gives her the calipers to say she's sure they'll prove to be ever so educational and historical, thank you, Bert.  It's times like these I wish I had a cupboard under the stairs, right out of sight. But this is a bungalow so I'm stuck with a lack of stairs to have an out of the way cupboard under, aren't I? Anyway, can't stick any more interruptions so I'm taking a tea tray out to the privy and going to lean on it to finish this letter undisturbed.  
  Right, here I am.  What was I writing...?
  You've always had that fight about you, Eirwen, for better or for worse.  You say you're wanting to face feeling abysmal alone.  Well, don't.  It's all very well being like Miriam Hughes from up the forty houses who never needs Jenkins the Meat to roll her lamb neck for her.  Self-sufficiency is the bedfellow of alone.  Now, the first thing I was going to advise was to be part of something.  You do tend to set yourself apart.  Unusual interests, your father always said.  That Miriam Hughes from up the forty houses (remember, I mentioned her just now) is another one. This is the time when we're all starting to put some money aside into the Castle Hill Christmas Club.  Well, not her.  It's a good thing to have a hamper in the middle of freezing, slate grey days to look forward to, Eirwen.  And you don't have to go for everything they could possibly stuff into one hamper to the point of the basket work coming unwoven.  Take me and Letty when she was alive, one year perhaps she would go for the Ritz Crackers in her hamper and I would go for the Tuc ones, so when we got together on Boxing Day night we could intermingle our savoury biscuits.  You can make mistakes.  We never forgot going over the top in 1967 and ordering from the Deluxe hamper section.  Never again, we vowed. Almond paste-entombed lychees.   It was like finding a cat's testicle in a Bakewell Slice.  But it didn't dull having the hamper itself. And might knowing there will be a hamper stave you off a bit dreading the onset of winter?   
  And, too, make sure you see a through-path to spring.  See, that Miriam Hughes from up the forty houses, she works in Hereford.  Airs and graces isn't in it. And Fenella told me she do like things that they call minimal.  No clutter.  One thing that she'd count as clutter I'll bet is the next thing I'm advising for you.  Bulbs. Plant indoor bulbs so you've got something to look forward to all colourful and fragrant due up in spring. Wouldn't be the thing for Miriam Hughes from up the forty houses, as I say. No morning in early March with me and a few of the others from Bingo creeping up to her front windows - roller blinds and not proper blue-whitened nets, mind - and peering in to see the hyacinths out, specially chosen colours to match her settee.  
  So, join in, and save for a hamper and plant hyacinths. My advice, take it or leave it.  But you'll be in my thoughts so let oh of all the things, would you believe, I heard scratching on the privy door, pushed it open, bastard big dog fox staring up at me from outside.  And even though I'm not doing my business in here, still I feel interfered with in some way. Don't tell Terry and Iestyn that bit, just for me and you - me know how things go.   All love...mam x
  PS you won't find hyacinth bulbs to match your settee.  Don't worry about it.  Your choice of cottage style furniture, I'm sure, has its own rewards.  

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