Sunday, 23 December 2007

Antlers and parachutes...

What do Red Deer antlers, little men with parachutes, locks and keys, a tray of crockery, a cellar with a canoe, a piece of coral under a dome and three flying ducks have in common?

The answer is my Grandparent’s house – 46 Queens Drive, Liverpool. Nowadays the site has a petrol station and the foundations of a flyover at the end of the M62 motorway, deep in the heart of Liverpool’s suburbia. But when my Grandparents moved there the fields opposite contained Corncrakes and the Runcorn – Widnes Railway Bridge could be seen across the farmlands.

To a young child the three storey Victorian house was enormous and full of fun things. The decor seemed dark and gloomy as befitted the gas lighting but that made the deer antlers in the hall all the more alluring. I never quite took to the three ducks that flew above the mantelpiece but I would sell my soul for the sideboard (or at least for the space to accommodate it!). The pieces of internationalia (if there is such a word) that were scattered about the house were there largely as a result of the travels of my Great Uncle THS (Thomas Henry Spencer) who had died before I was born. One of these things was a glass dome with bits of coral, shells and various other things in it. I loved that dome.

Up in the attic rooms there were the remains of my Grandfather’s dressing case business, including a load of lock and keys. Why these should provide so much fun for so long I cannot imagine but they did. Nevertheless, taking one’s own toys was quite acceptable and none was more appropriate to Nana and Grandpa’s house than my little man with a parachute. He could be dropped from the top of the house and, subject to the threads not getting entangled and the launching having been accurate, it would flat down to the hall. Ah to be young again...

One of the doors from the hall led down a set of dark and slippery steps into the cellar which was divided into a coal cellar, wine cellar and a couple of other divisions which may have been a root cellar and some other weird Victorian idea. All they accommodated in my day were a wide variety of cobwebs and Uncle Eric’s ancient canoe.

And, talking of Uncle Eric, Mum’s brother, brings me to the infamous tray of crockery. The kitchen and back kitchen were down a long corridor (as was the bathroom upstairs). At either end of this corridor was a step. According to much repeated legend there was an occasion when Uncle Eric was carrying a tray of crockery from the dining room and he failed to adequately negotiate one of the steps. He survived; so did the tray. Little else did! Mum and Uncle Eric died just a few years ago – both in their nineties but right up until the end Mum would not let Uncle forget his disaster of eighty years earlier.

(The picture above is a rather splendid charcoal and pencil of 46 Queens Drive by Dad.)

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