It's British Summer Time, the sun is shining... that can't be right. Where's my rain-coat? I do have an umbrella up to protect me from the heat... floral pattern, frilly edges, probably chosen by my grandmother. I've had this umbrella ever since Granddad died, and I have it for several reasons: my grandmother didn't want it any more, it keeps the sun off, and it reminds me of my grandparents.
I don't have any photos of them – not due to some sad mishap, but because I don't really do photos. I have no pictures of my family around the house, never had any on the desk at work, sometimes added one to the screensaver on the computer, but really, I don't do photos. My partner is the one for photos – we have a camera which I use very occasionally, and she takes everywhere – even just feeding the sheep, because one might do something fun, or tonight's sunset could turn out to be particularly splendid, or just... because.
We do have photos that I rather like. There's the late Bitsy somehow curling his fluffy bulk into the lid of an A4 copier paper box, or my partner holding up two amazing onions from our first veg crop at the last house. Somewhere, there is a picture of a grumpy little tortoiseshell cat, one of the first rescue cats we took on. My partner caught her in mid-air, catching a ping-pong ball – not bad for a cat who could barely walk when we first got her. The thing is, I don't often see the actual photos, but something else around the house will remind me of them, like the distinctive t-shirt my partner was wearing as she held up those onions.
Instead of photos, I have family heirlooms, miscellaneous junk, and an old sun umbrella with some scrap 22mm copper pipe on the bottom half meter of the spike – Grandad put that there to protect the paint when it is pushed into the ground. Sitting here, under the umbrella, I see my grandmother on the beach at Eastbourne, or on the lawn at home, shaded from the sun, sitting in a cushioned folding chair (floral pattern again, currently in the shed.)
In the cupboard, in the kitchen, there are two elderly half-pint glasses, two different styles, both cracked and chipped, both still in use... and they belonged to my grandparents. Just getting them out to use is a small reminder of their kitchen and summer visits.
We have a pair of old duvet covers – so thin and threadbare that they are generally only used to act as a liner for the main cover. Green-and-white stripes, pink-and-white stripes, both made for me by my mother when I went to university. We keep using them because we both hate to throw something out until it is completely beyond repair, and for me it is a reminder of my parents - driving to Reading, navigating from the motorway to the University, not even knowing at the time that my father spent time at Brock Barracks on the other side of town when he did his National Service.
Dotted around the house, particularly in the kitchen, is a rag-tag of old bits and pieces from my family. Years back there were more, but wear-and-tear means some are no longer usable, because these are not trinkets to keep on the mantelpiece or in the back of a drawer, but everyday things, and everyday reminders, a sampling of my past.
Small memories, but so much brighter than a photograph.