Saturday, August 1, 2015

Where my grandparents lived.

This was a couple of paragraphs I wrote just before attending my mums funeral. I know Cotesbach so well that I didn't need to be there to know what it looked like. I could almost feel the air and smell the area before I left Wales for this trip. I think I wrote this in preparation for the day, just so I could cope better.

He stood there by the village pump.  It was all so familiar, but it was all so different.  The quiet hamlet was still, as always; bypassed since before he first came here a child, and few additions since he were a wee young'un, when a row of semis were built along Main St. just beyond the small Norman church, opposite the rectory.

It’s not one of those perfect idyllic scenes, no duck pond, and no half timbered, thatched pub.  The “village” hall behind him was new enough that he remembered coming to visit his grandparents one summer to find half the green had been replaced by a building site, and by the time he visited for Christmas there was a low modern building surrounded by an awkward gappy hedge of young cypress trees.  Now the brick had thirty plus years of soot, and weathering to take the shine off it, and the building was obscured by tall luxuriant trees.

Though the playing field to the left of the hall had provided hours of fun, the adventures had been had on the right in his gran-dad's garden.  It had been a large plot of land with a pig sty, a glasshouse which in the summer had the bitter air of green tomatoes, and several sheds filled with rusting tools, smelling of dust, soil, paraffin, oil, mowers and rotovators.  In the orchard at the back of the quarter acre lot there had been a chicken run, where pullets and bantams strutted and clucked.  Fed on millet, mash and windfalls they paid with golden yolked eggs, and when the eggs came no more, nana would have them for the pot.  That land was off limits now.  Nana and grandad had a bungalow built there for their final years.  When their estate was settled the lot had been divided and sold.

By the pump was a modest semi.  That was where his mother had been born and raised.  That was the first place he’d spent the night away from home; where he’d learned to set and light a fire; where he’d woken, not to the sound of a dustcarts yawning hydraulics or city buses diesel purr, but to the soft baaing of sheep, and the lowing of cows.  This was the house where the food tasted smoky since grandad had always insisted that they use the range; anything cooked by gas tasted of, well gas of course.  Vegetables were boiled soft, potatoes softer and meat was thin and chewy.  Toast meant a tanned face as you sat on the hearthrug and held your bread inches above the late evening coals.  A tanned face, flushed with heat, but your feet cold from the draught as the fire pulled air into the house under the doors and through the gaps and cracks in the steel framed windows.

The last time he’d been in the village was a lifetime ago.  It had been a funeral.  Grandad outlived nana by a few years, they were buried up the street, alongside an uncle.  That was where he was going today, to say a final goodbye, this time to someone too young for such a parting, but someone who deserved the rest and peace.  His mother was coming home, to the place and people she loved.