The Time It takes To Boil A Kettle
Celia ran away from home. She had packed up her favourite doll, took her tall green plastic tumbler from the kitchen (because nobody was going to be using THAT) and donned her coat near the front door. Her mum stood at the living room door, arms folded.
‘Oh, running away is it? Well, save your energy. Walk, nobody’s running after you’
SLAM! The front door responded; Celia was already gone.
Fury and hurt coursed through her. Tears blurred her vision so she didn’t run after all.
‘I AM running away.’ She mumbled to herself
‘Never let me do ANYTHING!’ but she hesitated at the ‘I hate you’.
‘Never goin’ back there. Ever! Gonna live with gran!’
She began walking down the street. Her mother dashed upstairs to the bedroom and peered out of the window to make sure Celia had made it the three doors down to her grans house. Lily observed Celia open the garden gate at her mother’s house and run down the steps to the front door. Relieved, she closed the window and withdrew. It had been a good pact.
After Celia was born Lily and her own mother had joked together,
‘If any of them ever decide to run away Lily, just you make sure its my house they run to!’
Celia’s gran wagged a matriarchal finger in front of her own face indicating her seniority over Lily and said to Celia;
‘…Your mum ever upsets you? You just come to me. I’ll look after you. Your mum wont argue with ME!’ she had promised.
From that time on, anytime Celia was upset she made her way to her grans house crying and complaining. There she had someone who would lend an ear, ease her pain and gently pave the path for her to go back to her own home; dignity intact.
Celia’s gran was in her kitchen; she was always in the kitchen and the kettle was always on the boil. Even the local butcher, Adam, who travelled along their street every Monday in his mobile butcher shop would grace Celia’s gran with a visit. With him came his signature big blue and white striped mug which she would happily fill to the brim with strong, stewed tea in exchange for any local news. It was always good to be friends with the local butcher when you had a big family to feed it seemed.
Celia’s gran heard a timid knock at the door, she left the kitchen to answer it. When she went to answer the door however, she could see through the glass pane a small outline.
‘Oho! A runaway’ she thought, ‘wonder what’s happened this time’
She opened the door and looked down at Celia. Celia’s valiant effort to show she was upset was enhanced by a deliberate comical down-turning of her whole mouth.
‘Well! What’s wrong Celia? Someone been bad to you?’
Celia burst into tears again and her gran held out her arms, Celia fell into them and hugged her granny over the door step.
‘Oh well then come you here to me and tell me all about it.’
They made their way through to the kitchen and Celia sat down at the kitchen table. Celia’s gran fired up the kettle again and sat down at the table too.
‘Now then, what’s it all about Celia?’
In between sniffling and gasping for breath Celia explained;
‘I just wanted to go to the ice rink with Joanna Rice gran, mum wont give me any money to go. She says Joanna Rice is not the sort of girl to go anywhere with Gran. I really like her, she’s really nice. Mum says she’s too old to be friends with and that all she’s interested in is boys. I’m not! I just want to go to the ice rink! I’ve never been before and mum says its too far away as well, but its only two buses to get there and Joanna knows what buses to get! Mum doesn’t even know Joanna; she wont let me do anything I want. So I said my gran will let me go an’ she said you’re not going and that’s that an’ I said well I’ll just go an’ live with my gran ‘cos she’ll let me, wont you gran?’
More sniffles then Celia asks,
‘What’s a trollope?’
Celia’s gran listened and when Celia had finished she patted Celia’s hand twice and said;
‘Of course you can stay here Celia. You’re my girl and I wont stop you doing what you want to do. Now, I’ll just get the tea’
With that she got up from the table and turned to the bunker where the kettle stood.
Celia relaxed a little.
‘What’s a trollope gran? Can I have a biscuit?’
‘I’ve got new biscuits in that cupboard just there’ she pointed to a cupboard Celia had not ever gone into or noticed before.
‘Are they not in the biscuit barrel?’
‘Yes but these are special one’s, chocolate fingers! Only for people who live here though. That’s right, just in there, you might have to move a few things to get to them though…’
“Oh good!” thought Celia, already she felt like she was at home, her mum never had fancy biscuits like that! Her gran had come to the rescue and it would serve her mum right! Next was to get her tea, her hands on those chocolate biscuits and see what was on TV. She loved her gran but she did talk and talk, usually about things that adults want to talk about. The sooner she could get comfy on the sofa on her own in the living room with tea, biscuits and the tv the better. Her gran always stayed in the kitchen and that was just fine with Celia.
She opened the cupboard to find a large basket of dirty washing. The smell was a warm compost mix of dull, unfresh sweat overlaid with an aroma that reminded Celia of the bathroom smell after her dad had left clutching his newspaper – topped off with an acidic tang of feet. She recoiled.
‘Yuck! What’s these?’
Right on the top of the pile in line with her face were numerous pairs of white and grey underpants with huge brown skid marks running across them.
’Oh that! That’s the washing. They’re your uncle Pete’s pants, I don’t know what they make him do at work but the sweat comes off him like nobody else. Every day I’ve got another pair of them to scrub. But well, you’ll be able to help me with that now wont you? And there’s your Grandads too, his are even worse because he works in the garden all the time…and the socks; well, you smelt that didn’t you when you opened the cupboard door! And then there’s ‘toes Tuesday’ when I make sure your grandad’s and your uncle’s toe nails are clipped and clean – they grow like mad when you get as old as me and your grandad…and men’s feet really smell so you do have to make sure they keep themselves clean you know, because they wont do it if you don’t go on about it. Anyway, what was I doing, oh yes, tea!’
Celia wasn’t sure if she heard her Gran right and checked to make sure.
‘I’ve never done any washing Gran’
‘Oh its easy! You’ll soon get the hang of it, before you go to school just need to go into the baskets in each room upstairs and empty out all the dirty washing and bring them downstairs to the big basket in there. They’ve all to be scrubbed by hand in the sink here; I can give you a chair to stand on. Then they’re all put in the big pot on the cooker and boiled. The socks are a bit tricky so I’ll help you with them. You can do them when you get in from school. Then there’s the dog.’
‘What about the dog?’
’Well you’re nice and wee Celia, it’ll be much easier for you to pick up the dog mess in the garden ’she whispered and continued
‘…your closer to the ground’. She laughed.
Celia did not.
‘Anyway, have you found those biscuits yet? Just move the basket.’
Suddenly the biscuits didn’t sound so appealing.
‘Eh, ok Gran’ Celia reluctantly pulled at the basket, careful to keep her face away from the smelly, eye-level underpants. Beyond the basket she could see a thick brown sack.
‘Can you see them yet Celia?’
‘No, not yet, oh… what’s that Gran?’
Celia’s gran peered into the cupboard,
‘That’s the spuds that need peeling for the dinners, so when you’ve finished scrubbing and boiling the pants and socks and the basket is empty then we can peel the spuds for dinner.’
‘Oh yes! Everyone expects a good dinner after a hard day’s work you know? Anyway just push that sack of spuds over and the biscuits will be behind them, well I think that’s all that’s in their way anyway…there might be something else…oh yes, tea! I keep forgetting oh, I’ll need to boil the kettle again’’
Celia’s gran talked and muttered over the kettle as it boiled again listing more things they could do together to lighten her load. Finally, she had made the tea, but brought only one mug over to the table and sat down. She heard the front door shut with a loud bang.
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