Ziggler, Pickle and I are on a little visit to my mum’s in Yorkshire.
Google says South East London to this particular village in the Pennines is a four-and-a-half hour car journey. It took eight. That is all I’m going to say on the subject, although look forward to me having to purge the flashbacks of the journey in future posts. Let the fact that I allowed the purchase of ‘Barbie’ magazine at a motorway service area be a guage as to how well it went generally.
Anyway. Once we negotiated the banks of snow which are still littering the roads in the pennines and apart from not EVER wanting to go to bed and missing daddy and the cats, we are enjoying being here. We don’t seem to have completely broken my mum as yet and the girls are – or, at least, Ziggler is – now old enough for me to inflict my childhood memories on. I have been brightly saying things like, ‘Look, Ziggler, that’s where I went to school when I was a little girl!’ and ‘we used to get this steam train home from school in the summer’ (I am not 102. It is a heritage railway). Ziggler has been making fake interested ‘mmm’ noises much like I do when she tells me who has been naughty at nursery and in exactly what way (which I love hearing all about and pretend not to be all that interested in to discourage tale-telling, whereas she is actually not really all that interested in my nostalgic ramblings).
Today we met my friend Jolly and her kids Helga, Poppins and Jump at Cartwright Hall. I feel we spent practically every weekend there when we were small, though I am probably wrong. I have an early memory of watching my dad, smoking a cigarette, wheel in and out of view as I turned on the roundabout in the playground and the painting in the gallery I would always go to first was Wright Barker’s Circe, known in little-me’s head as The Lady with the Boobies and Lions. Today we went on the vastly improved playground, had some lunch in the cafe (also improved, though I couldn’t suppress a hankering for a marmite sandwich, a packet of Prawn Cocktail Seabrooks and a drink of orange squash from a square plastic-lidded cup you had to pierce with a straw), some of us had a bit of a tantrum because our ice cream fell on the floor (not me), and we went in the gallery.
Ziggler was unmoved by mine and Jolly’s description of the giraffe we once built in our garden. None of the kids was as impressed by the echo you can make with your stomping feet in the museum’s entrance porch as I felt they should be. Circes is in store. But the gallery still has some of the paintings I remember, and also some new and perfectly fitting ones, and it has some really brilliant and thoughtful activities for kids. The collected children were pretty awe-struck by Anish Kapoor’s Turning the World Inside Out. (Pickle, after Easter, was a tiny bit disappointed there was no chocolate under the shine).
As we were about to leave the black-and-white marble hall in which the Kapoor stands, Ziggler said, ‘I know! Let’s see if we can get to the other side by only standing on the black squares!’ And I had a sudden memory of playing the same game and of the sparkle in the marble as I jumped, draughts-like. And I realised. You can’t pass memories on like precious heirloom objects. You can’t tell your kids things and expect them to treasure them like you do yourself. You can take them to places and you can help them interpret what they see there. They’ll have their own ideas, and opinions, and experiences. Sometimes, they might be a little bit like your own.