The grey clouds sit in gathered mounds like a giant knitted scarf across the Autumn sky. Summer has turned it’s back on the days but like a smile sensed from behind a departing friend, the sun still shared a little warmth.
A Girl sits on the floor of an overcast lounge, under the glow of an old 70’s floor lamp. She basks in the comfort of the slow Sunday afternoon pace, hunched over a colouring book sneaked from her mother’s stocking last Christmas. It had been rediscovered after the distraction of long energetic summer days, days which involved running and sneezing amongst the long grass as it scratched at her bare legs and clawed at her senses; twinned with drawn-out evenings of cartwheel competitions in the disused cricket ground.
She paused, stretching her back and becoming aware of the room again, her sisters sat like dozy cubs propped against one another on the sofa; hypnotised by the sleepy Sunday mood and the dim light of Alice in Wonderland on the TV screen. Content that all was how it should be she returned to her colouring. The faint cockney slant of her Grandad citing the ‘Walrus and the Carpenter’ travelled from the kitchen; he was helping with Dinner but revealing he’d rather be watching Alice over the top of his glasses (and the latest Terry Pratchett).
The warm scent of beef with mustard crust swirled about her nostrils, her tummy reached out for the food but she enjoyed the wait. The faint scent of baking in the background made her mouth water, Apple crumble and custard — delicious. Her mum peeped round the door brandishing a tea towel of warning “Dinner in 15 minutes girls,” her sisters were startled into life, stretching and yawning as though waking from hibernation.
The smallest sibling crouched by the Girl and peered at her colouring book, picking up a pencil to join in, “Don’t! Get your own colouring book, you’ll ruin it!” she gathered her work to her chest. Her baby sister silently stuck out her tongue whilst returning her eyes to the screen. The Girl got to her feet and went on the quest for dinner. She washed her hands with a creamy bar of Imperial Leather and went to fetch a drink of cloudy Lemonade from the kitchen.
“It’s nearly ready, I’ll fetch a drink in a minute. If you want to help you can lay the table. Then get your sisters and sit up in the dining room” she was under their feet and timings and patience were reaching their peak. She skipped out into the room next door and placed the cutlery with absolute precision. The scent of woods from around the world filled her nose, a game of Solitaire from Turkey that smelt faintly of a hundred spices, dressers that smelt of varnish and bookcases drenched in ages she would never know.
With full tummies and contented hearts they stretched the day into the evening, laughing and comparing interpretations of rules and guidelines of their chosen family game. Arguments ensued as ideas clashed in the traditional way.
The Girl spectated, smiling, there was no greater comfort than the events round this table. She loved how each Sunday was a miniature insight into Christmas celebrations, always the same. Routine and tradition were precisely the things that made for a comforting and heart warming childhood.
Surrounded by five women, her Grandad never seemed phased. He always knew what to say and how to respond to their dramas. His particular area of expertise was adhering to their tom boy natures, constructing toboggans from old skis when the snow surprised them in winter, or kite building in the spring sunshine.
As nighttime swept over the sky the children didn’t protest, each section of the day bringing a new enjoyment. Bedtime was no exception, warm milk and ‘Old Bear’ stories was a recent habit that soothed their fear of missing out. The lights went out and the sound of muffled laughter filtered through the floorboards.
The morning would bring different practices to recreate, each family member taking their own first steps into the week. The Girl looked forward to the morning and the taste of warm buttery toast against the sharp tang of orange juice on her tongue. She drifted into blissful sleep to the angelic sound of nursery rhymes that danced along the hallway from her sister’s bedroom.