Sitting with our coffee in bed this morning Jackie and I watched runnels of condensation trickling down the surfaces of the misty window panes. They produced streaks of blue sky penetrating the grainy grey film. We then began to describe the patterned patina depicting fern and snowflake designs that had covered the inside of wintry windows of our childhoods. In those days central heating warming the insides of houses in contrast to the cold air outside was not common. Moisture from our breathing simply froze on contact with sub-zero temperatures. Tracing the geometric shapes then fully visible and now revealed in microscopic snowflake pics compensated for waking up in freezing rooms with tingling ears and noses. Lovely swirly ferns curled across the panes in magical formations. When very young we had not known how they got there. David Jason had not even thought of playing Jack Frost in the TV detective series ‘A Touch of Frost’, but we knew all about the freezing fingers of the mysterious ‘Jack Frost’, which had allegedly produced the glistening traces on the glass.
It was then that I learned my firelighting skills that Louisa is so disparaging about. I’ll have you know, dear daughter, that my fires may have required several hours on hands and knees breathing life into a few bits of stick and crumpled paper through a gap in the grate, with a poker behind a sheet of newspaper to draw the flames, but they did actually catch alight in the end. We probably should have invested in a set of bellows. I could not be as profligate as your brother Sam with wood and fire-lighters, because a Raynes Park maisonette was not as well supplied as was Lindum House.
Throughout the Lindum House years we supplemented the central heating system with open coal fires, largely because I wanted to relive the experience of my childhood; in particular Christmas around such a fire in such a similar house as was my grandparents’. Chestnuts could be roasted and bread toasted in and by the fluid flames which flickered around the red coals. Louisa may feel she has ‘inherited (her) Dad’s rubbish skills’ at laying a fire, but I hope she is proud to be continuing such a long tradition. Actually we didn’t toast much bread by the fires. It was far easier to use electric toasters which had not been available in the 1940s.
On this glorious Armistice Day, there was not a cloud in the brilliant blue sky as we drove back to Morden for our final stage of packing. We listened in silence to radio 4’s broadcast of the Whitehall ceremony. As Jackie stopped the car for us to observe the two minute’s silence I thought, as if still a child, of Remembrance Sundays with Auntie Gwen, during those post-Mass breakfasts with my godmother that I have mentioned before (see 25th May). It was an awesome two minutes that we always observed, listening for the cannon’s thump that seemed to shake the windows. Traditionally we honour those who died in battle on the nearest Sunday to 11th November. This Sunday is the 11th.
The afternoon and early evening were spent not finishing the packing. There was a bottle of Roc des Chevaliers with a glassful left in it. Well, you couldn’t pack that, could you? So, I drank it. We then went off to Becky’s to leave her a key to number 40 where we are leaving a wardrobe for Matthew to collect and deliver to her in the week. From there we went with Becky, Ian and Flo to The Ravensbury Arms on Mitcham Common for Sunday Roast dinners. I was delighted to find, for the second time in recent days, Sharp’s Doom Bar ale.