Easter weekend which means it’s two years since Celia and I did the Guildford circular walk via Watts gallery. I am cold. I have been sitting outside with B&J having an al fresco meal. I didn’t feel cold then, but coming in I suddenly want to wrap a blanket around myself, convince MasterB he wants to sit on my lap (he doesn’t, he’s sitting across from me, on the chair, having a wash), snuggle into the sofa cushions.
The meal was delicious, from a Vietnamese takeaway close to the Elephant which I have known was there for years, but never tried. The exterior does not invite. The interior is plain, there are no takeaway menus to take away. J had heard about it, then read reviews, all of which were full of praise to the point of ecstasy. There is no website, it’s cash only in these cash less times; it’s very much old Elephant rather than the new shiny, sanitised, any place model being promoted by the developers. I’d say its days are numbered.
There are plans to put a penthouse storey on top of the council flats where I used to live. I am affronted. We called our flat the penthouse suite as it was on the top (seventh) floor with views to die for. We also called it Seventh Heaven, though that was usually ironic and when the lift wasn’t working; or the Centipede With a Wooden Leg, because of the joke and we lived at number 99. Now it seems the joke was on us.
It’s different going to the dentist these days.
When I was little we would wait in a small room, heated by an open fire in winter, then be ushered through to the surgery which was huge. A black chair stood in the bay window, so if it hadn’t been that you had to face the ceiling most of the time you’d have had a great view down to the river and across the valley. There was a large cream machine in the corner. I never did find out what it was for, and some hard chairs that we waited on. There was a rolltop desk adorned with pictures of all four Beatles exhorting us to eat apples. The dentist was in Quarry Street. My sister and I knew one side of the road well. It was round the corner from our grandparents’ house and where I used to go to fetch my grandfather’s newspaper on a Saturday and spend the thruppence he gave me in Piper’s the confectioners next door.
Quarry Street is quite transformed these days, almost chic. Piper’s is long gone. for a while it was a saddlery. I don’t remember the name, now it is a restaurant. Anyway. The dentist was on the other side of the street which Mother warned us against crossing alone as it was Dangerous. So it was only when went to find out if our sweet consumption had decayed our teeth that we got to the other side.
Most excitingly, and this is a very early memory, one of the residents on the far side of the street kept a pig in the cellar. My sister and I used to eagerly look through the grating to see its snout raised looking back at us. Poor pig. Some twenty years ago I mentioned the pig to my mother. “A pig?” she said blankly. Evidently it had not etched itself so clearly on her memory, or maybe she was far more conscious that we were of how cruel it was to keep it in a cellar and what its destiny would be. Continue reading