Grace and Favours
The aroma of boiled lamb-bones mixed with onions and potatoes, wafts out the open window from Grandmother’s kitchen. A rickety copper stands in one corner and next to it, a gas-stove, hardly ever used; preferring, as she did, to cook on the black-leaded stove, with its flat-irons, standing to attention, ever ready.
She beckons to me and my sister – outside in the yard, playing two-balls against the wall. My aunt, fetching up coal up from the cellar, says to be sure and wash our hands, then summons Mum and Dad – upstairs, huddled around the radio. It’s Saturday night – football results time and dad yells down they’ll be there in a minute. He only needs one more draw, and he’ll be a millionaire, he says. Bids us keep our fingers crossed.
Meal-times were never quite the same convivial affair though, after we were rehoused in the October of nineteen-fifty-eight. An eternity on the waiting-list, then the London County Council gives the four of us a flat; central heating, hot, running water. A dream, come true for my parents. It meant too, that my sister and I could have a bedroom to ourselves; eleven years of sleeping four in the same room, was eleven years too long and we were dead chuffed. But presently, as I look back to the seven of us sitting round that utility table with its oil-baize cloth, beneath the phosphorescent yellow glow of the gas mantle – heads bowed while Granddad said grace, I can’t help but wistfully smile.
‘May the Good Lord watch over us...keep us in good health, put food on our table’ – cure his T.B. Then, my dad would chime in and ask if next Saturday, please, God could see his way clear for us to win the pools, oh, and would he make Spurs win next time round. Mum and Aunt Rene would mouth silent hallelujahs as, in unison of prayer, we’d recite, “In the name of The Father and of The Son...” And in vintage timbre of accomplished resignation, a tardy ‘Amen’ would punctuate ours, as only a grandmother can.