January 20, 2022 at 9:16 am #6255
In reply to: The Elusive Samuel Housley and Other Family StoriesTracyParticipant
George Samuel Marshall 1903-1995
Florence Noreen Warren (Nora) 1906-1988
I always called my grandfather Mop, apparently because I couldn’t say the name Grandpa, but whatever the reason, the name stuck. My younger brother also called him Mop, but our two cousins did not.
My earliest memories of my grandparents are the picnics. Grandma and Mop loved going out in the car for a picnic. Favourite spots were the Clee Hills in Shropshire, North Wales, especially Llanbedr, Malvern, and Derbyshire, and closer to home, the caves and silver birch woods at Kinver Edge, Arley by the river Severn, or Bridgnorth, where Grandma’s sister Hildreds family lived. Stourbridge was on the western edge of the Black Country in the Midlands, so one was quickly in the countryside heading west. They went north to Derbyshire less, simply because the first part of the trip entailed driving through Wolverhampton and other built up and not particularly pleasant urban areas. I’m sure they’d have gone there more often, as they were both born in Derbyshire, if not for that initial stage of the journey.
There was predominantly grey tartan car rug in the car for picnics, and a couple of folding chairs. There were always a couple of cushions on the back seat, and I fell asleep in the back more times than I can remember, despite intending to look at the scenery. On the way home Grandma would always sing, “Show me the way to go home, I’m tired and I want to go to bed, I had a little drink about an hour ago, And it’s gone right to my head.” I’ve looked online for that song, and have not found it anywhere!
Grandma didn’t just make sandwiches for picnics, there were extra containers of lettuce, tomatoes, pickles and so on. I used to love to wash up the picnic plates in the little brook on the Clee Hills, near Cleeton St Mary. The close cropped grass was ideal for picnics, and Mop and the sheep would Baaa at each other.
Mop would base the days outting on the weather forcast, but Grandma often used to say he always chose the opposite of what was suggested. She said if you want to go to Derbyshire, tell him you want to go to Wales. I recall him often saying, on a gloomy day, Look, there’s a bit of clear sky over there. Mop always did the driving as Grandma never learned to drive. Often she’d dust the dashboard with a tissue as we drove along.
My brother and I often spent the weekend at our grandparents house, so that our parents could go out on a Saturday night. They gave us 5 shillings pocket money, which I used to spend on two Ladybird books at 2 shillings and sixpence each. We had far too many sweets while watching telly in the evening ~ in the dark, as they always turned the lights off to watch television. The lemonade and pop was Corona, and came in returnable glass bottles. We had Woodpecker cider too, even though it had a bit of an alcohol content.
Mop smoked Kensitas and Grandma smoked Sovereign cigarettes, or No6, and the packets came with coupons. They often let me choose something for myself out of the catalogue when there were enough coupons saved up.
When I had my first garden, in a rented house a short walk from theirs, they took me to garden nurseries and taught me all about gardening. In their garden they had berberis across the front of the house under the window, and cotoneaster all along the side of the garage wall. The silver birth tree on the lawn had been purloined as a sapling from Kinver edge, when they first moved into the house. (they lived in that house on Park Road for more than 60 years). There were perennials and flowering shrubs along the sides of the back garden, and behind the silver birch, and behind that was the vegeatable garden. Right at the back was an Anderson shelter turned into a shed, the rhubarb, and the washing line, and the canes for the runner beans in front of those. There was a little rose covered arch on the path on the left, and privet hedges all around the perimeter.
My grandfather was a dental technician. He worked for various dentists on their premises over the years, but he always had a little workshop of his own at the back of his garage. His garage was full to the brim of anything that might potentially useful, but it was not chaotic. He knew exactly where to find anything, from the tiniest screw for spectacles to a useful bit of wire. He was “mechanicaly minded” and could always fix things like sewing machines and cars and so on.
Mop used to let me sit with him in his workshop, and make things out of the pink wax he used for gums to embed the false teeth into prior to making the plaster casts. The porcelain teeth came on cards, and were strung in place by means of little holes on the back end of the teeth. I still have a necklace I made by threading teeth onto a string. There was a foot pedal operated drill in there as well, possibly it was a dentists drill previously, that he used with miniature grinding or polishing attachments. Sometimes I made things out of the pink acrylic used for the final denture, which had a strong smell and used to harden quickly, so you had to work fast. Initially, the workshop was to do the work for Uncle Ralph, Grandmas’s sisters husband, who was a dentist. In later years after Ralph retired, I recall a nice man called Claude used to come in the evening to collect the dentures for another dental laboratory. Mop always called his place of work the laboratory.
Grandma loved books and was always reading, in her armchair next to the gas fire. I don’t recall seeing Mop reading a book, but he was amazingly well informed about countless topics.
At family gatherings, Mops favourite topic of conversation after dinner was the atrocities committed over the centuries by organized religion.
My grandfather played snooker in his younger years at the Conservative club. I recall my father assuming he voted Conservative, and Mop told him in no uncertain terms that he’s always voted Labour. When asked why he played snooker at the Conservative club and not the Labour club, he said with a grin that “it was a better class of people”, but that he’d never vote Conservative because it was of no benefit to the likes of us working people.
Grandma and her sister in law Marie had a little grocers shop on Brettel Lane in Amblecote for a few years but I have no personal recollection of that as it was during the years we lived in USA. I don’t recall her working other than that. She had a pastry making day once a week, and made Bakewell tart, apple pie, a meat pie, and her own style of pizza. She had an old black hand operated sewing machine, and made curtains and loose covers for the chairs and sofa, but I don’t think she made her own clothes, at least not in later years. I have her sewing machine here in Spain.
At regular intervals she’d move all the furniture around and change the front room into the living room and the back into the dining room and vice versa. In later years Mop always had the back bedroom (although when I lived with them aged 14, I had the back bedroom, and painted the entire room including the ceiling purple). He had a very lumpy mattress but he said it fit his bad hip perfectly.
Grandma used to alternate between the tiny bedroom and the big bedroom at the front. (this is in later years, obviously) The wardrobes and chests of drawers never changed, they were oak and substantial, but rather dated in appearance. They had a grandfather clock with a brass face and a grandmother clock. Over the fireplace in the living room was a Utrillo print. The bathroom and lavatory were separate rooms, and the old claw foot bath had wood panels around it to make it look more modern. There was a big hot water geyser above it. Grandma was fond of using stick on Fablon tile effects to try to improve and update the appearance of the bathroom and kitchen. Mop was a generous man, but would not replace household items that continued to function perfectly well. There were electric heaters in all the rooms, of varying designs, and gas fires in living room and dining room. The coal house on the outside wall was later turned into a downstairs shower room, when Mop moved his bedroom downstairs into the front dining room, after Grandma had died and he was getting on.
Mop was 91 when he told me he wouldn’t be growing any vegetables that year. He said the sad thing was that he knew he’d never grow vegetables again. He worked part time until he was in his early 80s.January 14, 2022 at 3:06 pm #6253
In reply to: The Elusive Samuel Housley and Other Family StoriesTracyParticipant
My Grandparents Kitchen
My grandmother used to have golden syrup in her larder, hanging on the white plastic coated storage rack that was screwed to the inside of the larder door. Mostly the larder door was left propped open with an old flat iron, so you could see the Heinz ketchup and home made picallilli (she made a particularly good picallili), the Worcester sauce and the jar of pickled onions, as you sat at the kitchen table.
If you were sitting to the right of the kitchen table you could see an assortment of mismatched crockery, cups and bowls, shoe cleaning brushes, and at the back, tiny tins of baked beans and big ones of plum tomatoes, and normal sized tins of vegetable and mushroom soup. Underneath the little shelves that housed the tins was a blue plastic washing up bowl with a few onions, some in, some out of the yellow string bag they came home from the expensive little village supermarket in.
There was much more to the left in the awkward triangular shape under the stairs, but you couldn’t see under there from your seat at the kitchen table. You could see the shelf above the larder door which held an ugly china teapot of graceless modern lines, gazed with metallic silver which was wearing off in places. Beside the teapot sat a serving bowl, squat and shapely with little handles, like a flattened Greek urn, in white and reddish brown with flecks of faded gilt. A plain white teapot completed the trio, a large cylindrical one with neat vertical ridges and grooves.
There were two fridges under the high shallow wooden wall cupboard. A waist high bulbous old green one with a big handle that pulled out with a clunk, and a chest high sleek white one with a small freezer at the top with a door of its own. On the top of the fridges were biscuit and cracker tins, big black keys, pencils and brittle yellow notepads, rubber bands and aspirin value packs and a bottle of Brufen. There was a battered old maroon spectacle case and a whicker letter rack, letters crammed in and fanning over the top. There was always a pile of glossy advertising pamphlets and flyers on top of the fridges, of the sort that were best put straight into the tiny pedal bin.
My grandmother never lined the pedal bin with a used plastic bag, nor with a specially designed plastic bin liner. The bin was so small that the flip top lid was often gaping, resting on a mound of cauliflower greens and soup tins. Behind the pedal bin, but on the outer aspect of the kitchen wall, was the big black dustbin with the rubbery lid. More often than not, the lid was thrust upwards. If Thursday when the dustbin men came was several days away, you’d wish you hadn’t put those newspapers in, or those old shoes! You stood in the softly drizzling rain in your slippers, the rubbery sheild of a lid in your left hand and the overflowing pedal bin in the other. The contents of the pedal bin are not going to fit into the dustbin. You sigh, put the pedal bin and the dustbin lid down, and roll up your sleeves ~ carefully, because you’ve poked your fingers into a porridge covered teabag. You grab the sides of the protruding black sack and heave. All being well, the contents should settle and you should have several inches more of plastic bag above the rim of the dustbin. Unless of course it’s a poor quality plastic bag in which case your fingernail will go through and a horizontal slash will appear just below rubbish level. Eventually you upend the pedal bin and scrape the cigarette ash covered potato peelings into the dustbin with your fingers. By now the fibres of your Shetland wool jumper are heavy with damp, just like the fuzzy split ends that curl round your pale frowning brow. You may push back your hair with your forearm causing the moisture to bead and trickle down your face, as you turn the brass doorknob with your palm and wrist, tea leaves and cigarette ash clinging unpleasantly to your fingers.
The pedal bin needs rinsing in the kitchen sink, but the sink is full of mismatched saucepans, some new in shades of harvest gold, some battered and mishapen in stainless steel and aluminium, bits of mashed potato stuck to them like concrete pebbledash. There is a pale pink octagonally ovoid shallow serving dish and a little grey soup bowl with a handle like a miniature pottery saucepan decorated with kitcheny motifs.
The water for the coffee bubbles in a suacepan on the cream enamelled gas cooker. My grandmother never used a kettle, although I do remember a heavy flame orange one. The little pan for boiling water had a lip for easy pouring and a black plastic handle.
The steam has caused the condensation on the window over the sink to race in rivulets down to the fablon coated windowsill. The yellow gingham curtains hang limply, the left one tucked behind the back of the cooker.
You put the pedal bin back it it’s place below the tea towel holder, and rinse your mucky fingers under the tap. The gas water heater on the wall above you roars into life just as you turn the tap off, and disappointed, subsides.
As you lean over to turn the cooker knob, the heat from the oven warms your arm. The gas oven was almost always on, the oven door open with clean tea towels and sometimes large white pants folded over it to air.
The oven wasn’t the only heat in my grandparents kitchen. There was an electric bar fire near the red formica table which used to burn your legs. The kitchen table was extended by means of a flap at each side. When I was small I wasn’t allowed to snap the hinge underneath shut as my grandmother had pinched the skin of her palm once.
The electric fire was plugged into the same socket as the radio. The radio took a minute or two to warm up when you switched it on, a bulky thing with sharp seventies edges and a reddish wood effect veneer and big knobs. The light for my grandfathers workshop behind the garage (where he made dentures) was plugged into the same socket, which had a big heavy white three way adaptor in. The plug for the washing machine was hooked by means of a bit of string onto a nail or hook so that it didn’t fall down behing the washing machine when it wasn’t plugged in. Everything was unplugged when it wasn’t in use. Sometimes there was a shrivelled Christmas cactus on top of the radio, but it couldn’t hide the adaptor and all those plugs.
Above the washing machine was a rhomboid wooden wall cupboard with sliding frsoted glass doors. It was painted creamy gold, the colour of a nicotine stained pub ceiling, and held packets of Paxo stuffing and little jars of Bovril and Marmite, packets of Bisto and a jar of improbably red Maraschino cherries.
The nicotine coloured cupboard on the opposite wall had half a dozen large hooks screwed under the bottom shelf. A variety of mugs and cups hung there when they weren’t in the bowl waiting to be washed up. Those cupboard doors seemed flimsy for their size, and the thin beading on the edge of one door had come unstuck at the bottom and snapped back if you caught it with your sleeve. The doors fastened with a little click in the centre, and the bottom of the door reverberated slightly as you yanked it open. There were always crumbs in the cupboard from the numerous packets of bisucits and crackers and there was always an Allbran packet with the top folded over to squeeze it onto the shelf. The sugar bowl was in there, sticky grains like sandpaper among the biscuit crumbs.
Half of one of the shelves was devoted to medicines: grave looking bottles of codeine linctus with no nonsense labels, brown glass bottles with pills for rheumatism and angina. Often you would find a large bottle, nearly full, of Brewers yeast or vitamin supplements with a dollar price tag, souvenirs of the familys last visit. Above the medicines you’d find a faded packet of Napolitana pasta bows or a dusty packet of muesli. My grandparents never used them but she left them in the cupboard. Perhaps the dollar price tags and foreign foods reminded her of her children.
If there had been a recent visit you would see monstrous jars of Sanka and Maxwell House coffee in there too, but they always used the coffee. They liked evaporated milk in their coffee, and used tins and tins of “evap” as they called it. They would pour it over tinned fruit, or rhubard crumble or stewed apples.
When there was just the two of them, or when I was there as well, they’d eat at the kitchen table. The table would be covered in a white embroidered cloth and the food served in mismatched serving dishes. The cutlery was large and bent, the knife handles in varying shades of bone. My grandfathers favourite fork had the tip of each prong bent in a different direction. He reckoned it was more efficient that way to spear his meat. He often used to chew his meat and then spit it out onto the side of his plate. Not in company, of course. I can understand why he did that, not having eaten meat myself for so long. You could chew a piece of meat for several hours and still have a stringy lump between your cheek and your teeth.
My grandfather would always have a bowl of Allbran with some Froment wheat germ for his breakfast, while reading the Daily Mail at the kitchen table. He never worse slippers, always shoes indoors, and always wore a tie. He had lots of ties but always wore a plain maroon one. His shirts were always cream and buttoned at throat and cuff, and eventually started wearing shirts without detachable collars. He wore greeny grey trousers and a cardigan of the same shade most of the time, the same colour as a damp English garden.
The same colour as the slimy green wooden clothes pegs that I threw away and replaced with mauve and fuschia pink plastic ones. “They’re a bit bright for up the garden, aren’t they,” he said. He was right. I should have ignored the green peg stains on the laundry. An English garden should be shades of moss and grassy green, rich umber soil and brick red walls weighed down with an atmosphere of dense and heavy greyish white.
After Grandma died and Mop had retired (I always called him Mop, nobody knows why) at 10:00am precisely Mop would have a cup of instant coffee with evap. At lunch, a bowl of tinned vegetable soup in his special soup bowl, and a couple of Krackawheat crackers and a lump of mature Cheddar. It was a job these days to find a tasty cheddar, he’d say.
When he was working, and he worked until well into his seventies, he took sandwiches. Every day he had the same sandwich filling: a combination of cheese, peanut butter and marmite. It was an unusal choice for an otherwise conventional man. He loved my grandmothers cooking, which wasn’t brilliant but was never awful. She was always generous with the cheese in cheese sauces and the meat in meat pies. She overcooked the cauliflower, but everyone did then. She made her gravy in the roasting pan, and made onion sauce, bread sauce, parsley sauce and chestnut stuffing. She had her own version of cosmopolitan favourites, and called her quiche a quiche when everyone was still calling it egg and bacon pie. She used to like Auntie Daphne’s ratatouille, rather exotic back then, and pronounced it Ratta Twa. She made pizza unlike any other, with shortcrust pastry smeared with tomato puree from a tube, sprinkled with oregano and great slabs of cheddar.
The roast was always overdone. “We like our meat well done” she’d say. She’d walk up the garden to get fresh mint for the mint sauce and would announce with pride “these runner beans are out of the garding”. They always grew vegetables at the top of the garden, behind the lawn and the silver birch tree. There was always a pudding: a slice of almond tart (always with home made pastry), a crumble or stewed fruit. Topped with evap, of course.rmkreegParticipant
John placed himself down on a crooked old chair at the table, with journal in hand, and stared out the window of his cottage. As he sat there, the imperfect glass of the window distorted his view slightly, but noticeably, almost unconsciously, and he swayed in minuscule displacements or perhaps shifted a bit to take a sip of his black coffee, giving the effect of a liquid world – to someone of imagination, of course. To those with no imagination, the window was rubbish and needed to be replaced.
It’s been a relaxing weekend for John, who, on his working days, finds himself as a writer. This is, of course, if you were to think of any days as those in which you might suddenly stop writing or ignore inspiration. In that respect, every day is a working day. However, this weekend was a special one for himself.
The writing that got him money was of the technical sort, dedicated to dry manuals and instructional fare. His passion, however, lent itself to the imagination. No doubt, he still adored the natural world and it’s workings, but he found himself nearly dead inside after completing a project for work. This, invariably, lead him to his personal expeditions.
Every few weeks he’d save up enough money to take a train or bus to another location, picked nearly at random, just so he could get away and bring color back into his life. This cottage, with its imperfect windows, was one such expedition.
So, he sat there for a moment, playing with his perception through the window, and then shifted his attention through it to world outside. A breath of beauty swept over him and he was inspired. In his journal, with no expectation of the entry living beyond those pages, he wrote:
The Wystlewynds (Whistle Winds) or Wystlewynd Forest
The Wystlewynds (Whistle Winds) or Wystlewynd Forest is a forested, mountainous area – if you’re apt to call these green, low laying perturbations in the Earth “mountains”. The cool-yet-comfortable south-easterly winds blow through the Wystlewood trees, whistling as it goes. Some would say the forest sings.
Wystlewood trees “sing”, as it were, due to the way the wind passes through their decomposing trunks. While alive, the trunks of the trees have a hard, fibrous outer wood, while the inner portion is soft and sponge-like, saturated in chemical that simultaneously grabs on to water and repels insects. When the trees get old and begin to die off, they tend to remain upright for some time as the inner sponge decomposes. This leaves a hollow void where a particular caterpillar takes refuge, unaffected by the repellent chemical that a fungus slowly decomposes into an edible source of nutrition.
These caterpillars leave behind a secretion that the decomposing fungus in the tree requires. The relationship between the caterpillar and fungus is symbiotic in that regard, both feeding each other. We call these caterpillars “Woodworms”.
When the caterpillars are ready to cocoon, they climb out to one of the old branches and hang themselves from a cord of twisted threads at least a foot long. When they are ready to come out, they bite through the cord, dropping themselves to the forest floor while still in the cocoon. The cocoon and all drops below the foliage of the undergrowth, where the moth can come out into the world under cover of green leaves and the shimmering violet flowers of the Spirit Flower – a color scheme that the moth shares.
The Spirit Flower is a rhizome with a sprawling root structure that tends to poke it’s way into everything. It has small violet shimmering flowers in umbels that in any other case might be white. The leaves are simple with a jagged margin, alternating. The stem is on the shorter end, perhaps a foot tall, fibrous and slightly prickly.
There are a few flowers that tend to dominate the undergrowth, Spirit Flowers being one. Sun Drops and Red Rolls are additional examples, the former a yellow droopy flower and the latter a peculiar red flower with a single pedal that’s rolled up in a certain way that would suggest a flared funnel with wavy edges.
The flowers and trees enjoy the soil here, a bit sandy and rocky, but mixed with a richness created by the mixture of undergrowth, fungi and bacteria. The roots dig into the soil, slowly stirring it and adding to it’s nutrients. The fungi eat the dead roots and fallen foliage and the bacteria eat the fungi and everything else, of course.
The whole matter leaves a note of scent in the air that cannot be described as anything other than that of the Wystlewynds. It’s perhaps sweet, with Earthy undertones and an addictive bitterness. The whole place seems to elevate one’s energy, sharpening the senses. You want to sing with the trees, or perhaps play along with a haelio (a flute-like instrument created with wystlewood).EricKeymaster
When Rudy the myna had come back crashing on the boat, it all became suddenly a huge uncontrollable chaos.
The hovering menacing clouds that were looming in front of them were coming closer at a dreadful speed, and even more concerning were the rocks that were appearing everywhere now, that they had more and more trouble to avoid in betwixt the turmoils and eddies.
So they had finally come to the Great Rift, Bådul was thinking. The back of the legendary water dragon that noone was known to have crossed.
But Bådul knew better.
He howled orders to get everybody ready at their posts, and felt reassured when he saw that Austor was maneuvering with dexterity and confidence through the rift.
He ignored the crazy laugh of Razkÿ, the madman who was now shouting with a manic laughter “We all gonna diiie! AHAHAHAH! DIE! DIE!” Then winking at Bådul and laughing again.
A few months earlier, Northern Åsgurdy
A huge cloaked figure was riding in the middle of the deserts. The saurhse, a bit small for its rider, was getting tired, but the man wanted to move before the night came. Åsgurdy had a climate which made travels uneasy on land, and only on these bipedal saurians they named saurhses, could Åsgurdians easily travel on the burning hot sands by day. Then, they could gain the high plateaus of rock and ice, where the temperature was kept cold by the high chilly winds. But at night, the deserts would be chilly too, and the cold-blooded creature he was mounting would require a shelter.
He knew that such a shelter wouldn’t be far away now.
That region was mostly uncharted as it was fairly remote from all known cities, but that strange man he had met had said he was a traveler who knew were he could find something priceless.
At that time, Badul had felt he had nothing to lose, and said to himself “when in doubt, go for the experience”.
He had felt he could trust that man known to him only by a strange name, something like Gheorg.
There had been nothing boastful about him, and he had been kind to him. He had been the only person in the World he had known to have given him back his dignity as a human being, and even more, to have given him a reason to live.
He owed him a lot, and perhaps even more as he was now drawing closer to the cave… that same cave which was a mere cross on the torn map he had been drawing hastily before vanishing almost preternaturally, living him a bit of money and that map…
Roselÿn had felt the urge to move somewhere else. This land didn’t resonate with her energy, and that of Rëgkvist, and of the few eggs the dragon had managed to lay, none had actually been able to hatch.
It had affected her so much that she had even retreated from her sisters’ usual talks through the glubolíns.
She needed to move on.
When he entered the cave, Badul was disappointed. He could feel there had been someone living here quite recently, but it was like the cave was now abandoned. He hoped he could have found more answers, but now it was again like burning sand slipping through his fingers.
In a fit of rage, he took a boulder as big as him and threw it across the cave with a roar.
Something was brought down by his huge force further down into the cave and he heard it quite distinctly.
He tied up the saurhse at the entrance of the cave, and entered it with determination, ducking through the tunnel too narrow for his big baby-faced frame. Then he found something glowing. At first, he thought it was some gold, but what kind of fool had been living here before and had been in such a haste to move as to forget gold?
It was not gold. It was something like a broken shell. The broken bits were like a jigsaw puzzle and he wished he could make it one, as he was attracted by the strange radiance of the thing.
Austor did not believe his eyes…
They had crossed the Rift, all three of the ships.
And it was nothing like the dark void they had nearly expected behind.
It was an open sea, glistening in the sun, and all hope had come back through them all.
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