Friday, 8 October 2010

Sepia Saturday: A Kitchen Tale

The kitchen is usually the hub of any household. This one, tiny and haphazard, with my grandmother at the helm, was no exception. It was the heart of her home for many reasons. Here was a place where she concocted experimental health food recipes, boiled up potato peel for her chickens, made jams and bottled fruit. It's where the division of labour involved my grandfather lighting the range and making the tea. Aside from these duties, it was a room he drifted through, en route to where they both sat to eat, watch television and play Scrabble.

At night, two sets of dentures resided in a bowl of water, frothed with Steradent tablets.


Lighting the range at around 05.00 was a ritual. As the bright burning wood generated enough heat to cook, an ancient electric kettle was used to make tea. A cupful was conveyed upstairs to the bedroom, and grandmother sipped it while porridge was stirred to the correct consistency.

Hot, kettled water was used for washing in the kitchen sink, before the addition of a proper bathroom.

The air was always heavy with the aroma of woodsmoke, Fairy household soap and baking.

On wet days, I'd play word games with my grandmother or, spend time investigating the inner workings of an old clock. I might even make iron filings dance on newspaper, by running a small magnet underneath.

I recall, one frosty morning when my great uncle dropped in. He sat himself on the kitchen chair, removed his boots and proceeded to warm his feet in front of the open oven door!

Phyll, the woman who delivered the daily papers - more about her in a future post - tied my school tie here, once. She'd claimed to be an expert and grandmother was getting more exasperated with her own failed efforts. Some expert! Phyll tied my tie in a bundle of knots that took almost the entire length of my school bus journey to unravel.

Whenever I look at this slightly out-of-focus photograph, so many memories come flooding back. Tucking into baked rashers, cabbage and potatoes, followed by a hot milk pudding. Steaming cups of cocoa just before bedtime. A friendly face and a warm welcome on every visit, regardless.

Most poignant of all, the day we called to discover grandmother on the floor, following a tumble. Grandfather - nearly 90 at the time - too frail to help her to her feet. Not much damage done on that occasion but, a significant turning point in the lives of this fiercely independent couple.

I must have taken this photograph in the mid-seventies yet, that kettle still looks as though it might be ready and willing to make us all a cuppa.

22 comments:

  1. I meant to say -- What a richly nostalgic post from that small photo! Beautiful, Martin!

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  2. Lovely memories, Martin. I enjoyed reading this.

    I like the new blog design too. :-)

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  3. This simple photo evokes so much, Martin and you tell it so well! It must have been so hard for your grandfather not to be able to help her.

    Kat

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  4. I loved this; it brought back many memories for me, including playing with a magnet.

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  5. What a post, Martin. So poignant, and so warm. It is such a lovely thing to do, to look back at these idyllic times, to remember these wonderful people and what they meant to you.
    Thank you for sharing. C x

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  6. That would be a Rayburn? or maybe an Aga?...Great post, going down memory lane.

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  7. I enjoyed reading your memories - you're so fortunate to have had such warmth from your grandparents...just as Speckly Woo does now.

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  8. What beautiful recollections. Your grandmother's fall was especially poignant. It's also a great reminder that people got along Dione without the modern conveniences we think we can't live without.

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  9. I remember the dentures in the Steradent as well - my grandparents did the same. Nice post.

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  10. What a trove of memories poured from this one photo. The "shared" responsibilities -- wasn't that the norm, then? Men did a couple of manly things and women did everything else. The recall of food offerings appeals to the senses, as well as speaking of the love and care your grands lavished on you.

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  11. I love these tales. We are all our own historians now. The past comes alive through them and we are keeping the memories alive for those who follow us.

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  12. I love the photo but it seems an odd thing to have photographed. Do you remember why you shot it? Whatever the reason, I'm glad you did because it brought about this poignant story to share with us.

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  13. What forethought for you to have taken this photograph all those years ago. I wish I had photos of some of the most common places in my memories. Your grandparents' home sounds like a dear and wonderful place to have been as a child.

    I really enjoyed your poem on the Sepia Saturday invitation this week. Wonderful!

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  14. I loved the stories of memories of the coal range Martin. Like Nancy I wish we had photos of commonplace things from the past. I must remember to take some of the interiors of family houses now..in case they survive into the future. Wonderful.

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  15. Wonderful memories of the most important room in the house. Naturally the kitchen evokes memories of the people who have used it every day.

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  16. A trreuly beautiful post--photo & words. Very much enjoyed this.

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  17. I'm so pleased that you all enjoyed this post. As ever, my thanks for taking the time to visit and comment. I really appreciate it.

    geraldgee - Yes, well spotted, it was a Rayburn. Nothing cooks quite like it. We were fortunate enough to have one in the cottage where lived, during our time in Cornwall, too.

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  18. This is so touching. What an amazing amount of memories to come from such a small photo! Your way of expressing yourself is just beautiful. Thank you!

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  19. love the picture, love the story. not keen on the porridge though...but to hear the story is well worth it. i almost want to have a bowl now, as long as it is "there", as is...
    :)~
    HUGZ

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  20. Don't know which is more stunning - or more descriptive - the photograph or the words. Together they provide a glorious exercise in memory and imagination.

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  21. This is so similar in feeling to what I saw in my grandmothers home. It was a gas, propane, stove and no running water. The same routine of rewarming the house back up to a comfortable temperatures as the heat was shut off for the night. Great story and great photo.

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