School holidays, Seventies style: Part One

My blogging inspiration has completely deserted me this week and I decided the cure was a bath, an episode of Greys Anatomy, my book and an early night. No blogging, no trying to blog, no Twitter. As I was running my bath I happened upon a great post from Modern Dilemma about the school holidays. Eureka! I was inspired not only to write one post but two. I couldn’t get out of the bath fast enough.

My nieces are 6 and 8, their Mum works term-time only, apart from a week at Easter and a week in the Summer holidays. I’ve noticed recently that they deal with the childcare headache by sending the girls to stay with my Mum for a few days and then my Dad and Stepmum  for the rest of the week. I think I know where my brother got this idea from as it brings back tons of memories of our school holidays when we were similar ages.

We had a Nana and Grandad on my Mum’s side and Nana on my Dad’s and we would stay with them for a week each every summer. They only lived, maybe, 15 miles apart but our time with each couldn’t have been more different and yet we loved both weeks equally.

Nana and Grandad lived in a market town about 35 miles away from our home. When you are 6 that seems like the other side of the country, in fact it was like a different world. They were very much country people and as a result when we stayed with them we didn’t take day trips or go shopping or any number of activities that would cost money. We simply stayed at home and it was brilliant. 

Grandad had taken over a small plot of land at the back of their garden and had the most amazing vegetable patch. I should imagine if I went back now someone has probably built a couple of houses on the space, but in the late seventies it was a series of beds surrounded by neatly cut grass paths and was a brilliant place to let my imagination run wild. Pretend secret missions, invisible rabbits to feed, experiments to carry out in the greenhouse and of course the obligatory mud pies and perfume made from water and rose petals. He would be there, I guess, working on the patch as he always did, but he stayed in the background, allowing my brother to simply play.

Nana was always in the house or more specifically in the kitchen. Everything was homemade and the main meal was at lunchtime. She also looked after the neighbours, cups of tea for the widows in the street and a hot lunch for the old man next door every day for years, no need for meals on wheels in her street. Lunch was always meat, potatoes and lots of vegetables. She made the lightest, shortest pastry and her minced beef pie was the best I’ve ever tasted. To be honest Grandad would have been happy with the vegetables alone, followed by a hot pudding. Every lunchtime he would sprinkle dark brown sugar on his pudding and when only my brother and I were looking would steal the lumps out of the jar and eat them – which, of course we thought was hilarious!

After lunch they would always nap, which would drive us crazy. We would try to do the same but eventually would sneak outside and play in the garden or read or draw in one of the summer houses. I’m sure they only slept for an hour but at the time it seemed like an age and I would sit and stare at Grandad snoring just willing him to wake up so I could put the television on.

Once awake Nana would be back in the kitchen and Grandad would entertain us in the verada (no-one had conservatories in the seventies!) He would feed the birds and they would come right up to his hand. There was a blackbird that I swear lived for about 15 years purely because he was fed by him, it would come every day for it’s fill. More food for us would appear. Salad, sandwiches, cold meat, cheeses or simply toast. 

Funnily enough I don’t remember much about the evenings. It was very much an early to bed, early to rise type of house. For the whole week we hardly left the street and maybe that was why it seemed like a world away from home. The following week we would be packed off to our Nana Kit’s, which as you will find out in Part Two was a totally different experience.

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