Julie T with her 10-year old Patterdale terrier, Sadie
Paul and Me and The Garden City
A short story inspired by the Tarot's Six of Cups
by Julie T of Julie T Tarot
When I was a very little girl, Mum, Dad, my big brother, Paul, and me all moved to a place called The Garden City. We went there because it had trees and wide open spaces and no black faces. Granddad said that you didn’t need trees when there were lampposts for the dog to wee up, and if you needed open spaces, there was a whole street out there. But he said Mum and Dad were right about the no black faces. I wasn’t allowed to say the name that Granddad called them because it was a grown-ups’ word and I was just a little girl. But I was glad that I didn’t have to come in with them on the banana boat because I’d once seen a spider in the bananas at Sainsbury’s.
We didn’t stay in the Garden City on Sundays because we went down to Nanny and Granddad’s for tea. Every Sunday Dad said that our tea would be salad with a rotten bit of fish on top, and it usually was.
Nanny and Granddad’s house was funny. To start with, upstairs was lived in by somebody else. Their names were Flo and Griff. I saw them in The Passage one Sunday, but they didn’t say anything, so I don’t know if they were as funny as their names or not.
Then there was The Kitchen, which wasn’t a kitchen at all because it had three armchairs in it. Paul and I never sat in Granddad’s armchair because we’d seen Nanny skinning rabbits in The Scullery and we didn’t want Granddad to skin us alive. There was a telly in The Kitchen too, and a table that folded out on Christmas. The fire had a huge guard round it so that Paul and me wouldn’t fall into it. The same socks were hanging on the guard every Sunday because Nanny could never get anything dry in that bloody house.
The Scullery was the real kitchen where Nanny and Mum went to cut up the salad with the rotten bit of fish on top. There were six flower pots on The Scullery window sill with busy lizzies in. She said that you couldn’t swing a cat in that Scullery. Good job, because the cat would have knocked the flower pots off the window sill. That was why Nanny and Granddad had a dog instead of a cat. The dog’s name was Paddy.
Paddy was scared of Granddad. If Granddad took his newspaper out of the hanger on the side of the armchair and rolled it up, Paddy ran away up The Passage. Granddad’s newspaper was called The Revalley, which is also what you call the trumpets that wake soldiers up in the morning in The War instead of an alarm clock. Nanny didn’t have a Revalley to roll up, so she had to shout at Paddy come back down The Passage and go on her box. Paddy’s box wasn’t a box at all, just a corner with a blanket in it that smelt of dog.
Nanny and Granddad slept in a funny place. They didn’t go to bed in The Bedroom because Great Nanny had needed it when she couldn’t manage. Nanny and Granddad went to bed in a shed in the garden that was called The Shalley. The bed touched the walls in The Shalley and you couldn’t swing a cat in there either, but it was what people in Switzerland lived in all the time.
Great Nanny had been very little person who looked down at her slippers all the time. Sometimes she’d sing a song after the salad with the rotten bit of fish on top. The song was called Me ‘Eart’s Good, But Me Feet Won’t Let Me. It was the only song she knew. When Great Granddad didn’t come back from France after his holidays, Great Nanny got married to a man called Ol’ Charlie instead. Ol’ Charlie once drank a cup of fat that he thought was a cup of tea. He died of TB and then Great Nanny couldn’t manage. Dad said that Ol’ Charlie would’ve got the TB whether he’d drunk the cup of fat or not. TB stood for “tiny brain” in Ol’ Charlie because he was as daft as brush. Actually, TB was something that made you blow up like a balloon after you’d had an operation in Hospital.
When Great Nanny went, Nanny and Granddad still went to bed in The Shalley and no-one went in The Bedroom anymore.
Nanny’s best friend from Round the Corner was called Mrs Moore. Round the Corner was where everything was. At The Post Office, you could get Tom Thumb drops out of a big jar with a red lid. Mrs Moore didn’t get out much, even to Round the Corner, because of Little Bobby. Little Bobby had been a blue baby. He wasn’t blue anymore, but he still had to stay in The Kitchen at their house all day. He couldn’t sit down properly because he couldn’t bend in the middle. His wrist was always up near his face and I thought he was trying to look at his watch all the time, but he never had one on. Mrs Moore said that he didn’t need a watch because he didn’t go to school or play out. She said that Little Bobby loved his telly, but we were round there one day when Squiddly Diddly and Secret Squirrel were on, and Little Bobby didn’t even look up from trying to see what the time was. Nanny said to bless him because he’d have watched the test card.
Granddad was a Guard on The Railway, but not the kind of guard that you put socks on because you could never get anything dry in your bloody house. Being a Guard on The Railway was so important that you couldn’t go to The War. Gerry couldn’t stop England’s trains. Granddad had a dark blue uniform with knobbly buttons, a cap with a shiny peak and a long metal badge that said “Guard” on it. We weren’t allowed to touch his whistle because Nanny said that we’d end up as mutton as him if we blew it. Mutton meant that you couldn’t hear people when they spoke to you, like Little Bobby couldn’t. But I don’t think Little Bobby ever touched Granddad’s whistle.
My other Granddad had been on the tanks in a place called Norfafrica. He’d been a lorry driver before The War, but lorries aren’t as important as trains and it didn’t matter if Gerry stopped them or not. So my other Granddad went on the tanks. Paul and I knew what The War sounded like because his Action Man said, “Mortar attack – dig in!” when you pulled a string out of his tummy. And we knew what The War looked like because Dad always watched The News on the telly when he came home from The Wonderloaf and there were pictures of it on there every night. The War was a long way away and Dad didn’t have to have to go to it, even though he was on the lorries and not the trains. Gerry couldn’t stop England’s trains or The Wonderloaf. Anyway, The War was in the jungle and there were bunnies there that you didn’t need to mix with any more than you had to.
We always went to Nanny and Granddad’s on Christmas, even if it wasn’t a Sunday. We weren’t allowed to watch telly that day, not even Morecombe and Wise, because Christmas was in the Front Room and telly was in The Kitchen. The Front Room was the only place where Nanny and Mum could have snowballs. We left Father Christmas a bottle of Brown Ale by the Kitchen fire when we went to bed on Christmas Eve night. Nanny said Brown Ale was best because Father Christmas could have snowballs whenever he liked. He lived in The North Pole where it was winter all the time and the snow was yellow. Paul and me put the bottle of Brown Ale next to the socks with a glass because Father Christmas wasn’t common.
Good job we were at Nanny and Granddad’s on Christmas because we didn’t have a chimney at The Garden City. Because of that, Father Christmas sent somebody else round called Sweet Fanny Adams. She get into your house through window or something instead.
Nanny’s Christmas pudding always had two silver thrupenny bits in it. Paul and I always got them because Nanny cheated and made sure that they got into our pudding and not into Mum’s or Dad’s. We couldn’t spend the thrupenny bits because they were old money and Nanny had to swap them for proper tanners that we could spend at The Post Office. We couldn’t go Round the Corner that day though because everything was shut on Christmas.
One Christmas, Paul gave me his tanner so that I’d have a whole bob to myself. When Nanny found out, she said to bless him. That was funny because Paul did have a watch on – Father Christmas had brought him a Tick-a Tick-a Timex – and I don’t think he ever watched the test card. Paul didn’t give me anything else for a long time after that.
After we’d had our Christmas dinner, we all stood in The Passage to speak to Uncle Bill from Australia. Nanny and Granddad’s phone had a special machine on it so that everyone could hear what Uncle Bill was saying. You had to shout when you spoke back to him because Australia was on The Other Side of The World. Uncle Bill got married to an Australian lady who wore trousers to their wedding and drank tea without milk in.
When Uncle Bill brought Auntie Anne back to London, we all went to the docks to meet them with a big sign that said Welcome Home Bill and Anne. But Granddad didn’t know who Uncle Bill was when he got off the boat because he looked like Jesus instead of Tony Curtis. I know it wasn’t a banana boat because all the people who got off it were white. When we got home from the docks, Granddad and Uncle Bill had a big row about the word that I wasn’t allowed to say because it was a grown-ups’ word and I was just a little girl. After that, we didn’t stand in The Passage shouting to Australia anymore on Christmas.
The Passage was also the place where Nanny’s Wool Cupboard was. It was so full up with balls of wool and bits of material that things fell out when you opened the door. Granddad said it was a Death Trap. There was a Quality Street tin in there with eyes in it. They were for the teddy bears that Nanny made for Round the Corner. I was a little pest because I always wanted Nanny to get the eye tin out and I couldn’t open The Wool Cupboard door by myself in case I fell into The Death Trap with all the eyes.
I had another Uncle apart from Uncle Bill. The other Uncle hadn’t got married a lady who wore trousers to their wedding and drank tea without milk in. He was called Uncle Jim. He wasn’t at Nanny and Granddad’s on Sundays, but he came round for his dinner on Christmas in his big black glasses. Uncle Jim never seemed to mind not getting a silver thrupenny bit in his pudding. Dad said that he looked like somebody called Buddy Holly and Granddad said that he must have very good eyesight to see through those jam jar bottoms. I thought Uncle Jim was silly to wear big black glasses when he had good eyesight. It wasn’t just Ol’ Charlie that was as daft as a brush in our family.
When we’d finished doing everything at Nanny and Granddad’s after Sunday tea, Mum, Dad, Paul, and me went back to The Garden City and the trees, the open spaces and the no black faces. We had Sing Something Simple on in the car on the way home, which I hated. The voices scared me and they never did Me ‘Eart’s Good, But Me Feet Won’t Let Me. I sat on the back seat of the car next to Paul and thought about the six busy lizzie pots on The Scullery window sill and Granddad’s socks on the guard in The Kitchen.
I wondered if the socks be dry by the time we got there the next Sunday. They never were.
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