And yet another beautiful day of sunshine somewhat marred by poor old Stinky Dinky falling into the ditch this afternoon...she is ancient and wobbly and she can't see very well and is as deaf as a post. It wasn't until I heard a plaintive squeak that I realised where she was...Himself rescued her and she was dunked into the old laundry basket which serves as a small dog bath but she still smells faintly of rot and slime...though she tends to smell a bit at the best of times.
Dad had an old cat he called The Old Man...he spent his days sleeping on the radiator in the hall, dribbling profusely, every now and then he'd slide off onto the floor and land with a crash and a whimper...Dad would heave himself out of his chair and go to put him back on the radiator...until the next time. He smelt as well actually...the cat did, not Dad.
They had another cat called Chimney...she was black and white and had a pretty face. She'd fallen down the chimney one Christmas Day many years before and had landed in the hearth covered in soot and bits of twig from old jackdaw nests...she sat on top of the boiler...and dribbled.
And there was Girlie, who was mostly ginger with splodges of black and white...she slept in the drawer Mum kept her dusters in...the drawer was never closed of course...come to think of it, she dribbled as well.
There were lots of other cats as well of varying sizes and dispositions...some were friendly and cuddly and some were plain grumpy and bad-tempered...the younger and more agile ones used to race up and down the stairs and skid across the first landing...it was a highly polished wooden floor so easier enough to slide on...and then turn tail and race up to the second floor and then onto the third where you could hear them creating mayhem on the old furniture that was stored up there.
It was on the second landing that the wardrobe stood up against the wall blocking the door to what was once the servants stairs down to the kitchen...and that is where Dad said he saw Mum's mother walk through one day and disappear...long after the old lady had died.
Now Dad was staunch Chapel and had no patience with ghosts and such like...until the day he saw Sarah cross the landing and disappear from sight through the wardrobe doors...
Mum told him he was quite crackers, basing it on the fact her Mother would never have dreamt of using the servants stairs...a different world altogether back when Sarah was a young married woman.
During the Second War the house was commandeered as an Officers Billet and Mum and Dad moved out for the duration to live in the flat over Dad's shop...I find it really difficult to visualise what it must have been like full of soldiers. Apparently their batmen lived in the attic bedrooms and they had the main bedrooms and the run of the rest of the house of course. They looked after the house very well though and caused no damage at all.
There was a tortoise who lived in the garden at the back of the house...he used to plod slowly up and down the path, munching pansies as he made his way from one end to the other.
And there was a mounting block just outside the back door which had once led into the stable but when I lived there went into the room where the washing machine was and the old cooker used for cooking up the 'lights' for the cats supper. The mounting block is self explanatory...you stood on it so as to be able to reach the stirrups of the horse.
Right down at the far end of the garden was The Plot...a small area with a stone wall around it used as a general sort of compost bin...it grew everything from enormous sunflowers to a good crop of cannabis from the parrot seed that was thrown out when he was cleaned out...I used to pull it all up in a panic imagining Mum and Dad being arrested for deliberately growing the stuff when the truth was they didn't have the faintest idea...
Mum usually had a Dachshund...dear little dogs with long, soft as velvet, ears. They were always called Willie and she used to carry each successive Willie more than it ever walked...tucked up under her arm with her handbag and her walking stick in the other hand.
Long after I'd moved away when Mum came to stay every summer she'd bring Willie with her on the long train journey...I'd see this little, rather bent lady with her dog tucked under her arm and her hair freshly permed carrying a huge brown handbag and waving her stick in the air for a porter to carry her suitcase.
A note for those who don't know...Mum and Dad were my first husbands adoptive parents. They became my parents in every sense of the word and I loved them both to bits. Dad killed himself over forty years ago...Mum has been dead now for twenty-five years and the old house with its creaking floorboards and the ghost of Sarah is long sold...to a young couple who appreciated its history. I still wonder if they ever found the old tortoise...