Yesterday was my dad's birthday. He was 77.
77 years ago in a small house in The Black Coutry in the Midlands of England Gran sent Aunty Muriel and Aunty Mary off up the park at Hayden Hill to play. On the way back they met their cousin.
"You'm got a baby brother," she said.
"I have not!" said Mary. They ran the rest of the way home.
The house was quite. Grandad sat staring into the fire of the range. Mary walked up beside him and put her hand on his shoulder.
"Han we got a baby brother, Pa?" she asked.
He nodded, almost as if to the fire.
"Can we'n go see 'im?"
"Aye, I reckon so."
Later the cousin came back. She brought a chocolate Easter egg as a gift for the new baby.
Mum and Dad on their wedding day, 55 years ago.
My grandad was a labourer. My gran was a self employed chain maker. She made chains and nails in a shared shed at the bottom of their garden and they were paid by the weight of their work. Hard work, hot and heavy. She stopped when her third child was born.
One day my aunty came home and found Gran with a great pocket full of gold sovereigns. Together they counted them out. 100 sovereigns in all. Many years later she asked gran whatever became of this hoard of wealth. " We lived on that when your father was out of work and it was all that kept us alive," Gran said. A lifetime's worth of savings, all the money from her chain making.
Gran and Grandad kept a pig in a pen at the bottom of the garden. They had chickens and Grandad would take cakes and sit in the chicken house, talking to the hens to find a bit of peace from the family, to think. When it was cold the hens would come in and sit by the fire.
On the day that Gran and Grandad were married they walked home from chuch and into a house in the street they had both lived all of their lives and she cooked him a cow's tail for his dinner. People in the street bought plates and cutlery and pans that were spare as wedding gifts for the newly weds, and they spent two pounds on a bed and a chest. I still remember that house, although when I knew it the pigpen had gone and the bathroom had moved indoors.
Me and Mum and Maxine
My Great Grandfather was a collier. He worked on the mine surface. Part of his job was to pay the men their wages and this he did every Friday. He would sit with a great bowl filled with gold sovereigns, and a book and the men would queue up, a great long line of black dusty men. To each he would give two whole sovereigns, bright and shining and each would sign against their name or make a mark.
Dad and I talked away some of the day and I tried to hold in my head some of the stories he and mum told me, of Aunty Hannah and Uncle Benjamin, how Ben had had a vision of paradise one morning and then died in a coal mine, crushed by a wagon on the same day. As they wheeled his body to the mortuary they threw his boots down the alley between the houses and this is how Aunty Hannah discovered that her husband had died.
So many stories.
And I love to listen and hope that I can hold them all in my heart and my head.
This is what I am made from.