Friday, 26 July 2013

SUMMERS PAST

The good weather here continues, not quite unabated. I am in shoes today rather than sandals, we’ve had a few thunderstorms, I wore a raincoat yesterday. But no complaining here. I don't know if it's the sunshine or just that time of year but I seem to have been having a lot of conversations recently about childhood holidays, where we went, what we did, how we remember those days. 

I remember our holiday to Ibiza, I must have been about seven. Mum, Zoё and I flew from Gatwick to meet Nana and Taid (our Grandparents), Aunty Di, Uncle Steve and our cousin, Michael, at a villa that Nana and Taid had booked for the week. At the airport Mum bought Zoё and me a Walkman and said we could choose a tape each to listen to. Zoё chose Bros, I chose Five Star. I’m not sure I even knew who Five Star were. When we got to Ibiza there were push-up ice-creams. 

But most of our Summer holidays were spent in North Wales with Nana and Taid (Taid being Taid and not being Grandad because of their move from Chester). Mum says it used to rain in the morning and then clear up in the afternoon and we would dash through the fields next to the house (down the lane, across one field, through a gate, another field, another gate, a raised path alongside a graveyard, past the primary school, down the road, past the shop) to the beach to stay there for as long as we could. I’ve mentioned those Summers, that beach, here before and those stories are often repeated – the rock pools, the games, the caravan, the old brass bed, the farmer down the lane... But there is more, always more when I start talking to Mum and Zoё about it, we fall down a hole filled with 'do you remembers'. We usually start with the drive, those 300 miles from Sussex which would sometimes be interrupted with a stop in Chester, sometimes not. When it was we would stay with my Mum’s eldest sister and spend a few days playing with our cousins, mostly in the barn that belonged to the farm next door. We would build dens out of hay bales and our cousins would scare me, the baby, with tales of the farmer and his anger if he found us. We built a crash mat out of a pile of hay to jump into in case he ever came. I think about this now and realise how big a jump that must have been.  

On the trips where we hadn’t stopped at Chester it felt like the drive would never end. It was seven hours, three of those along winding Welsh roads. When we started seeing places we recognised the excitement would build, first Nefyn with its tiny Spar, then to Morfa Nefyn and the turning for the lane to the house. Along the lane, past the farm, to the house where Taid would have been watching out and where he would be waiting for us with his arms held high. I remember the room we shared with Mum, a room with a double bed and a little annexe off with single beds for us. It looked out over the garden and sometimes we would wake up and go downstairs to find Taid clearing out the fireplace from the night before, sometimes we would wake and he would be knocking on the bedroom door, bringing Mum a cup of tea and a rich tea biscuit. The room had green carpet with a pattern of big leaves and we would leap around the room trying not to land in the ‘water’, we hung off wardrobe doors, jumping to the bed, making our way round. I remember the small outhouse attached to the side of the house where there was an outside toilet that was full of spiders, from the front of the house we would climb a wall and sit on the outhouse roof to watch what was happening in the garden without being seen. I remember Taid’s constant annoyance at Shandy, then Heidi, Nana’s small dogs. I remember the times when more family arrived (my Mum is one of nine). I remember helping in the kitchen, peeling potatoes or washing dishes. I remember big roast dinners with puddings which I invariably didn’t want to eat as I didn’t like trifle, apple pie, crumble, Queen of Puddings and just wanted a bowl of ice-cream or custard. I'm sure I just waited knowing that Mum would pass me the pudding I wanted, as Nana asked if i was sure I didn't just want a little bit and I would shake my head. My great-Aunt, Aunty Hilda, recently said that she remembered me as a quiet little thing with very big eyes. I remember finishing dinner and the men staying at the table to drink brandy and smoke cigars. I remember wanting a glass of milk and having to run through the cigar smoke haze to the kitchen. 

I remember a lot, I hope I always do.

12 comments:

Jess said...

You hopping around that carpet, wanting exactly what you want at the table -- wonderful, Gemma. I'm so glad to have read this.

BF said...

This is incredible, Gemma. Visceral. Something about summer & memory does that.

Jessi said...

This was retweeted by Gluten-Free Girl, and I read it wanting to read something nice about childhood memories. What I didn't realise, though, was that your childhood holiday experiences would tally so closely with my own. I go to that small town with a Spar not as often as I'd like any more, although once upon a time, as a child, it was every weekend (my parents have a house there). :)

Foodycat said...

What a lovely post!

Nora said...

This is so beautifully and evocatively written. The one thing I would love to have is a memory that can recall my childhood in this kind of detail - you are very lucky.

Molly said...

Oh, G. This is just beautiful. Thank you for it.

xx

Trish Norris said...

Gemma, you made me cry. Such happy times with my two little girls and Mum and Dad. How fortunate we were to enjoy those holidays in that beautiful place.Mum x

Anonymous said...

Gosh Gemma. You really brought it flooding back! I feel like I'm there. Thank you. And sorry I scared you! See you one day soon I hope. Bev.

su said...

Got here through Orangette, and I am so glad I have. Such a poignant story about summer brought me some tears of the summers I remember. Thank you for sharing.

Pia said...

How beautifully written. It felt like your nostalgia was mine for a bit, though I grew up in India, in very different summers.

Gemma said...

It's taken too long for me to say how much your comments on this post mean to me. Thank you all xx

racheleats said...

Lovely, truly engaging writing, I was swept along in the best possible way. x