I open the heavy, wrought iron gates and listen to the familiar comforting creak, running down the gentle sloping drive, I glance at the beautifully tended flowers in the garden. I breathe in their heady, perfumed smell like walking through a meadow in full bloom. I feel a sense of pride, I helped plant those flowers, I helped water them every week and I helped pull the weeds out. Reaching the bright blue, freshly painted door I flip up the catch and open it wide. “Bampy, Bampy, I’m here!” I shout at the top of my voice. Running into the kitchen I smell the best smell in the world, Bampy cooking my favorite food, fish and chips. The pan is a bubbling, golden pot of love and the warmth of the cosy, small kitchen overwhelms me. My grandfather is standing in front of the stove with a spatula in one hand and his other hand open to pull me towards him into a bear hug. The sound of the batter splatters in the hot oil. “It’s nearly ready, hope your hungry”. I am always hungry.
I walk through the painted archway into the living room, the real coal fire burns brightly in the hearth and my Nan is sitting by the side of it sewing. “Hello darling, come here.” My Nan puts down her sewing to listen to my latest story. I sink into the soft, patterned sofa contentedly while I wait for my lunch. At the side of the sofa is a grand, old welsh dresser ,it is full of small ornaments collected from all the trips, days out and places my grandparents have visited over the years. Forty years of memories wrapped up in special mementos, displayed for all to see. I love the idea so much I have started collecting my own. On school trips, days out at the beach and holidays, I carefully look high and low for a trinket that best displays my experience. “Tell me about this one Nan.” I hold up an ornament of a small girl holding a watering can, I have heard the stories many, many times before but I love the comfort and familiarity of hearing them again and again.
Lunch is ready and I am called into the kitchen. The tiny table against the wall is set with placemats showing a farm scene and a tumbler of lemonade is placed to the side. Bampy puts the full plate down in front of me, hot, crispy battered cod and golden chips with a soft fluffy middle and the best bit, the bits of batter that have turned crispy in the pan. Bampy called them “Scrumpies”. The meal is soon devoured. “Can I have ….?” It doesn’t matter what I ask for the answer is always “Yes”. Usually there is so much choice that I find it difficult to narrow it down. My favorite ever reply, when I told my Nan I couldn’t choose between all the lovely desserts she had on offer was “Have a bit of everything love.”
“Let’s go into the “Best” room Nan”. I say eagerly. Shoes are removed and I sink into the huge white fluffy rug in the centre of the immaculate room. The wall paper is a dark red and gold adding to the grandeur of the room, the fire place has beautiful patterned grey tiles and the sofa is a smart 1940`s style, grey leather. The best part of the room is the piano in the corner, I have never had any piano lessons nor ever asked for them but every week I sit by the piano in the corner and randomly and expressively press the keys. I imagine the noise to someone who loves the classically played piano is unbearable, but I am never shown even a hint of it, my Nan sits beside me smiling widely and encouraging me.
My grandfather comes in to call me, “Are you coming to help me in the garden?” I rush out into the beautifully kept garden. My first job is to hold the hose pipe and water the plants. I am soaked through and so is poor Bampy. We sit by the best feature of the garden a beautiful handmade (by Bampy) stone wishing well, He has painted it red and blue and fitted some seating around it. I love to drop my penny into it and wait for the reassuring plop, then I can make my wish. We sit quietly so we can watch the birds land on the wall. Bampy has fed the birds in the garden for so many years now that they are relatively tame and come down to eat the treats as soon as he puts them out. I take a deep smell of the fresh mint he is growing in an old white sink. “We will make some mint sauce together later.” Bampy tells me as I rub the leaf in my fingers to gain the maximum smell. We walk down the path to the greenhouse, the overwhelming smell of tomatoes and heat greet us as we step over the threshold and I am excited at how much the plants have grown over the last week. I choose carefully and pick my own tomatoes and the biggest cucumber to take home to my mother.
Before going back inside the house I show Bampy my handstands and cartwheels on his lush, green lawn. He claps and shouts “Wow” as I perform my tricks feeling like the best gymnast in the world. We put the tools back together in his “Outhouse”. His work bench is covered in holes where he allows me to “practice” drilling. All too soon it’s time to leave, but not without my arms full of goodies and my heart full of love.
Unfortunately my grandparents have both passed away now and there are new people in the house, the bright blue door is now painted red. But, I can still go back to my favorite place any time I want. I just sit down somewhere quiet, close my eyes and I am there again, nothing has changed, everything is beautiful and I am still loved like the most special child on earth.