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Friday, 14 April 2017

Comfort Food


Remembering a Grandmother from the viewpoint of a grandmother is not an easy thing to do.  

I would like to think that I’m as loving a grandmother as mine was, but I fear I fall short.  Of course it could be that my grandchildren never needed a grandmother the way I did – and that’s a good thing!

Life in our little cockney household was not always the “happy-go-lucky” adventure that my stories tend to highlight.  Sometimes I needed to escape and where better to escape to than my Nanny GM’s.  

Unfortunately she didn’t live around the corner.  While we lived south of the Thames in the south west part of London she lived north of the Thames in the north east.  I’m amazed when I think how old I must have been, definitely younger than 12 years.  I know this because I was 12 years old when the war ended and my travels took place before and after that date.

It’s difficult to tell from a small map but London is not laid out in any grid type formation.  It’s a higgledy-piggledy mass of streets and alleyways and there was no direct route from our house to hers.  To the best of my ancient recollection: first a tram ride that took me across Westminster bridge, where I got off this tram and waited for another on the Embankment as I gazed at Big Ben looming over me.  

There, I boarded another tram which wonder of wonders went below ground into the only tram tunnel I’ve ever been on.  

The Kingsway Tram Tunnel is an abandoned tunnel, built to connect the "North Side" and "South Side" tramway systems in the Holborn area of London. 
One of the underground stations
Eventually the tram emerged at what I now know was a street called Theobalds Rd. and continued to travel North East until it reached “The Angel”.

Emerging from the tunnel

From here I knew my way.  A short walk, then turn left into Chapel Street Market, a shopping mall of costermongers with their wooden stalls and barrows set up curbside in front of regular stores.  

Chapel Street Marker in more recent times - not too different from when I knew it.

My next landmark was the Italian ice cream parlour, where if I had enough money I would buy an ice cream sandwich, (none of those baby cones for me).  Turn right until I came to the pub on the corner, peek inside, yell out her name, if no reply then I continued on until I reached her house.  

If you think this is strange behaviour I should mention that my Nan didn’t know I was about to visit.  Phones, while certainly available in the familiar red phone boxes were not something that many individuals possessed.

Upon reaching her house I would bang the knocker three times.  She lived on the third floor and three knocks indicated to her that she should look out of her window to see who waited below. When she saw that it was me she would toss out a door key for me to use.  

Once inside her two room home I could explain to her about all the disagreements, arguments and problems that I was dealing with on the other side of the city.  She never told me I was in the wrong; come to think of it she never told I was in the right either!   I just somehow knew I was in a comfort zone, as she sat me down to eat her jelly pudding made so thick it was like chewing toffee.  I got to like jelly made like that.  Grandmother’s food is always different from mother’s food, isn’t it?

I don’t know when Louis Pasteur’s pasteurized milk became all encompassing, but my Nanny GM was having none of it!  Sterilized milk was her tea whitener of choice.  It was quite safe to drink, it had been boiled to remove impurities.  You might wonder why I’m mentioning this. Yes?  

Well, it’s only lately that I’ve been able to make the connection myself.  I’m no fan of regular milk, but a peek into my kitchen cupboards will reveal a number of cans of evaporated milk.  Of course you know that evaporated milk is fresh milk boiled until the water evaporates.  Add back some water and it tastes just like sterilized milk!

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