Memories Going Pop

What flavour of pop would you like?

That’s a question I’ve not really thought about for getting on fifty years, but it was a part of any visit to my Welsh grandparents in Bristol. Sometimes it would be the question on the day, or it might be in preparation for the next visit, but it’s a part of three intertwined memories in a magical land of choice and adventure.

Going to see them was not a major expedition in itself – about three minutes walk – but once there it was a step into a huge and marvellous house. Actually, it was a pretty normal-size house, but I was small so it looked big, and it had more rooms than my parents’ house – a lounge, a dining room, a kitchen, and in the middle the games room. Somehow that made it special, something beyond the normal defined by my parents’ place.

With the benefit of hindsight, it was an ordinary family home from a time when there might be a single live-in servant, probably living in the attic room reached by a cramped little staircase. I wasn’t allowed up there very often, and only under supervision, probably because there were no locks on the hatches through into the rest of the roofspace. I do recall that access to those spaces was important – Grandpa had to get in there to empty the buckets and bowls under the leaks in the roof.

I’m not even sure that my grandparents’ house had any bigger footprint than my parents’ house which was built in the thirties, before the modern trend of creating estates of cramped shoe-boxes. That “games room” was probably meant to be the “parlour” whilst the dining room at the back was probably a “rear parlour”, or something like that. But, when I was four, the games room was a huge empty space, with old-fashioned lino and French doors out into the yard, past the rear dining room and kitchen, thence to the tiny garden where Grandpa would mow “roads” into the lawn and make “traffic lights” with a stick, three tin cans and some candles.

In spite of its tiny size, my grandparent’s garden was as huge as the house. At the far end, hiding under a shrub, was a fern, just like the myriad that grow all over our farm in Cornwall, but my grandmother assured me that her fern was where the fairies lived. It’s amazing what you believe when you’re four, but then I also had a wheat field, so these things were obviously true. I know that only a dozen or so wheat plants graced my field, all germinated from the seeds on a single ear my parents found in a layby on a drive back from somewhere. It doesn’t matter – a wheat field two feet by one and fairies under a fern formed a self-perpetuating belief. I must have been at least five before I started having doubts about those fairies, even though the ongoing wheat crop was still real.

Another important feature of my grandparent’s house was the all-weather facilities. When it was wet, I could run around the games room, or even pedal my tricycle, trying not to trip over the skittles board (circa 1940) in the corner, and brought down from that mysterious attic because it fascinated me. The games room was a malleable space, vast and flexible, waiting on the whims of my imagination. My grandfather added extra magic in the form of boxes. Really big boxes. OK, calibrate really big with four years old. Even so, they were genuinely on the large size because next door to the family business was a television hire, and these were the boxes that held new TVs. Not only were there boxes, but inside lurked an intricate array of cardboard packing that could be stacked into a shanty town from the edge of tomorrow. Or a spaceship. Or a boat. Or… Like I said: magic.

In one corner of the games room, tucked up by the chimney breast, was a metal meat-safe hanging on the wall, complete with a perforated zinc door. Inside would be a leg of lamb for roasting, and on the floor, underneath, a crate. I think it was grey, but that’s uncertain, because all that really mattered were the bottles of pop.

Does anyone still call it pop? Back then it came in glass bottles and maybe you could buy it in the shops, but my grandmother bought it from the van that delivered around the area. The Corona brand is gone now, but when my grandmother asked what flavour of pop? I knew exactly what I was getting. There was lemonade, and lime, orange and I think something in red, but like the Corona brand, that memory is gone. What I remember clearly is that my Grandmother always had a selection available, and my only challenge was to choose.

Whatever the flavour, those are the three enduring memories: the vast house, the wonder of the games room and the crate of Corona.

And roast lamb, of course. You can’t be much more Welsh than roast lamb. Even if it was from New Zealand.

This was written in response to the June #BlogBattle prompt of Corona.

12 thoughts on “Memories Going Pop”

  1. Love the memories of long ago when big is relative to size of the child. Simpler times methinks, or again is that relative too? I think Corona now is some Mexican beer or other. Now you mentioned pop, I also have it stirring grey matter there too.

    Great use of the prompt word. And, since you said wake you in July… we’ll WAKE UP! This months prompt word goes live this very week. Possibly tomorrow on the BlogBattle site and definitely on Thursday on mine. Hope to see you this month too!

    Liked by 1 person

    1. I’m sure it’s my age, but I find from time to time that something kicks of these old memories. A year or two back I blogged about walking into one of the sheds here on the farm and the smell was exactly like my maternal grandfather’s garden shed where I learned to solder, and then years later revised for a make/break university maths exam.
      As for Corona – I think I did sample the Mexican beer when I was in the US some years back. It’s a different Corona to mine which (now that I’ve Googled) was a soft drinks company founded in South Wales in the early 1900s and finally bought out by Britvic some years back.

      As for awake. Yes. I am. Very, very awake. I spent a few hours this afternoon weeding out a very pretty, invasive monster known as himalayan balsam. From experience, you need bare hands to judge the right amount of pull to get the roots out, and it’s growing closely entwined with the stinging nettles. The nettles got my hands, even got my legs through my trousers. The balsam has to come out because causes soil erosion and it’s got into the acre and a half of woodland on the northern edge of the farm, right where a small river comes through.
      Himalayan balsam got introduced to the UK in Victorian times, because it produces tall stands of beautiful pink flowers. Sadly, it has no natural enemies in the UK, out-competes native species and, because it crowds out everything else and then turns to mush at the first touch of frost, causes soil erosion once the winter rain comes, because there’s no root-structure left to hold everything together.

      Liked by 1 person

      1. Ha, ha! Age does that to us. Back reflections and memories. I’ve done a couple of memoirs myself too. One about a late carp angling school friend and another about an old farm cottage that nature had reclaimed. Both hit nostalgic moments and triggered a host of memories I’d long since visited.

        Not good with the introduced balsam though. Seems to me folk have always thought to introduce things with very little thought about cause and effect. Leaves folk like you a job of control that shouldn’t have existed in the first place. I’d say you’ve got a lead in with this “weed” for this months prompt which is “Stable.” You’re ground below said invader sounds anything but stable wrt nothing to bind the soil together.

        I’ve spent many hours on rivers seeing damage from mink and cormorants too. Not good if you’re truly tuned into the environment really.

        Liked by 1 person

      2. If you say “Japanese knotweed”, people sort of know what you’re talking about. Himalayan balsam is on the same list of notifiable weeds, just less well known.
        The amazing thing is, here in Cornwall we have some of the test sites where a biotech company has permission to test a fungal rust which attacks the balsam. It did badly in “the wild”, unlike other places where it did well. Turns out that the rust is so specific, and so unlikely to go nuts and attack native species, that it’s specialised to a particular genetic “sub-species” of balsam. The original plant introductions happened at different times and from different sources and the prevalent “sub-species” in Cornwall (or so the theory goes) needs a slightly different variant of the rust.
        In the meanwhile, we keep weeding…

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      3. I hear you Mark. Japanese Knotweed has had some media presence, or did. These sorts of thing should really have higher profile wrt countryside and environmental matters to educate people and raise awareness about non-native species. Genetic adaptation should get better over time wrt research into targeting such plants too. Gene insertions to specifically hit one and leave everything else should be possible to achieve too. The only danger is if the full genome content and what it does isn’t fully understood. Half cocked insertions might trigger latent sequences that are latent or inactive for a reason. They can also potentially mutate in the wild so specificity might reduce over each reproduction cycle. Biochemistry and molecular biology is kind of my “thing.” Still, weeding is exercise right?

        You up for a dabble with this months prompt. Really think you can work with “Stable” and that spoil erosion problem.

        Liked by 1 person

      4. I’ll try and take a crack at “Stable”, although the way my head goes it’ll probably have nothing to do with soil or erosion. It all depends on my busy life… next week has three days of medical appointments and I have found that writing in hospital waiting rooms doesn’t work so well. Then I’m trying to keep up with publicity stuff for my books now that the first one is in the Self-Published Fantasy Blog-Off.
        On the plus side, 140 bales of hay stacked, 40 to go tomorrow. It ought to be quick and easy, but the physical access to the barn is awful.

        Liked by 1 person

      5. Busy time of year for farmers. Also sounds like you’ve a lot on too. One reason we moved the BlogBattle to monthly was to give people time to do it. Weekly was just too much for many writers with busy lives. Once a month gives us a chance to do something. 1000 words is the maximum too, not necessarily a target.
        Book publicity takes hits on time too. I think most people who just read underestimate how much goes into them. It’s not a simple case of chucking words down and sitting back. It’s a heck of a commitment. Do what you can Mark, the prompts are monthly so when times easier you might find it less onerous.

        Liked by 1 person

      6. Weekly – wow! I would never have kept up.

        It’s just as well I didn’t try to do publicity until this year when I have some unscheduled spare time. My usual plan is to write over the summer, edit over winter, publish in March, do lambing… then write again. The last book overran so badly I’m not planning the fourth book in the series until 2021.

        Hmmm… I did have a third thought, but my browser hates me. I’ve typed this response multiple times as it decided to randomly jump to another page, and even got upset over a slip of the keyboard and flagged your post as spam, so whatever I was thinking is now lost in a haze of blue language.

        Liked by 1 person

      7. Spot on, it was abandoned as a concept a few years ago because people dwindled. I know Rachael and finally persuaded her to reinvent it monthly. Kind of how I ended up administering to help too.

        You seem to have a pretty good timetable fitting around peak farm times for writing too. Around that time often intervenes with curve balls too. I know that one. I’ve several books not even published yet as a result.

        Sounds like the mood lost a bit of stability there….on topic with prompt word methinks. We all do that too Mark now and again. A friend of mine lost a whole manuscript into the void after saving it a few weeks ago!

        Liked by 1 person

      8. And I’ve remembered that third thought forgot yesterday… The “Stable” stories have started appearing and I still haven’t read the other “Corona” entries yet. The challenge loses a lot of it’s point if I don’t see what everyone else made of it.

        Please stop the world for a few days whilst I catch up.

        Liked by 1 person

      9. I say that a fair bit too Mark. Times flying and the hours don’t seem as long as I recall doing triple chemistry on a Friday afternoon back in the school days of yore.

        Don’t feel obligated to read everything either. We are all aware time impacts everyone. The important part is to write!

        Liked by 1 person

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