I don’t remember much about Grandma, to be honest. She is more a series of photographs. One in particular, as a young married woman in a long, black Edwardian skirt and frilly blouse, stiffly posed in “gob-stopper” glasses. Poor sight is one of our family problems. She looks bewildered. I suspect it was a memento for Grandpa, who was being posted overseas to China. He would eventually bring her a Buddha made of brass, scrolls with delicate watercolours and Chinese writing from top to bottom – the whole house had a vaguely oriental feel, I remember.
I suspect Grandma was also bewildered by us children. I don’t remember much interaction between us – it was mostly grown-ups talking. She was quiet – probably shy. I remember her mending my teddy-bear’s paw out on the terrace, with a background of lavender bushes. I remember being horrified and wishing she wouldn’t as I watched that giant needle piercing his tender paw, again and again and again. Poor Grandma.
And I remember her – indoors this time – with a background of rust-coloured velvet curtains. It must have been daytime, since we never visited at night, and yet she had drawn them, shutting out the garden. “Devilish wind!” she was saying. She hated the wind with a passion. It wasn’t just one of those mild preferences, either. When she spoke of it, she trembled. You could feel those waves of misery and unsettlement.
Luckily I didn’t inherit Grandma’s dreadful eyesight – my Canadian sister, poor soul, got that – but I did, at least in part, inherit her dislike of windy weather. It’s windy today. Normally I stay indoors on blustery days. I don’t like – I don’t know what I don’t like, exactly – the aggression of the wind; the way it pushes you and batters you; the way it whips your hair across into your eyes. The way it intrudes. The wind is a bully and a distraction. It’s in your face. But today I had to go out. Christmas the cat has – how to put it delicately – a tummy upset. (Magnify that by three.) I suppose it’s the changeover from mice and leftovers to food out of sachets. I can’t afford to take him to the vet yet again, and I’ve used up my two remaining tins of “post-operative” food on him, so I decided on chicken.
There is only one shop in our village, so I walked, getting buffeted this way and that. I met the blonde (temporarily, for Christmas, blue) post-lady scurrying from her van to the housing estate in her polar-bear hat, white bear-ears squashed out underneath her official post-lady hat. I like the post-lady. She’s cheerful and she talks to me. People mostly aren’t, and don’t, round here. It’s a God-forsaken, windswept place, especially in December. And February… don’t talk to me about February. If only to avoid falling into a crater full of brown water, most people keep their heads down. Unmade roads, you see. It’s like walking on the moon.
And once in the shop I grabbed their only two packets of pre-cooked chicken from the chill cabinet before anyone else could spot them and snatch them from me. As a vegetarian I dislike even buying meat, but needs must, when the Devil drives. Or the Devilish wind. Christmas must have his chicken.
So, we’re safe at home now and he’s eaten a large plateful of the stuff, and now I’m waiting for an explosion of unpleasantness and a pained expression – or not. Fingers crossed, not.
Fingers crossed for rain. Better still, fog. I am a foggy kinda gal. You know, if I had to design a planet for me – just for me – it would be cool, and thickly shrouded in mist. Seagulls, cats and occasional post-persons would be permitted but the roads would be smoothly surfaced in black tarmacadam. There would be no such thing as white plaster donkey ornaments (with panniers for pansies in summer) and bits of old boats or wells made out of driftwood in gardens. It would also be illegal – on pain of dunking in December’s briny ocean – to call one’s house Casa Mia, Dunroamin’, Ere-we-are, Thislldoo, Safe Harbour, Admiral’s Rest, Bay Cottage, Bayview, Blue Peter, By the C, Driftwood, Jolly Roger, Ocean Glory, Ripple Cove, Rippleside, Sea-breeze, Seacrest, Seaholme, Sea Shanty, Seaspray, Seaviews, Seven Seas, The C Syde, The Mooring…