It’s been a year of a year in Sudbury, Suffolk and something is lacking. It’s time for a pep-me-up, a bit of a filler, a return to centre-court – a top-up! A top-up with a back-up!
“Is it our sort of a holiday, Mum? Or, your sort?”
“It’s a …”
“It’s your sort, isn’t it?”
“Well, the thing is that there’s something in this one for everyone, for all of you!”
“Well, there are lots of caves and castles and …”
“Like we said – your sort of a holiday!”
“Our sort. It’s for everyone. For everyone, everywhere. We’re going back to the Myddle. Back where we all belong.”
“Back where you belong, you mean!”
“Well. Well, okay, you have a point ,but …”
“There’ll be lots of … spooky graveyards!
“Pile in then! Dad’s driving.”
Things have got off to a positive start. The kids can’t wait for their second instalment in The Red Lion Inn, our (my) ancestral home. TripAdvisor.co.uk wouldn’t let me book Great-Something-Or-Other-Uncle-and-Grandad Humphrey Kynaston’s luxury cave dwelling up at Nesscliffe, so I had to make do with the next best thing. But, no matter – the pub’s beer’ll go down well after the hubby’s completed his five-hour M6 stint in Birmingham’s rush-hour traffic. With a few pints, I’ll soon have him believing that, all along, it was his idea – to play chauffeur and chaperone to the living.
And the journey’s not at all bad. It’s slow going, granted, but that does at least leave plenty of time to soak up the views, passenger-seat style. Discarded CDs, gloves, urine-filled plastic bottles, and Adidas footwear. There’s a fortune to made along the embankments of our motorways. Why should street-kids have to rummage around in the developing-world’s dwindling rubbish tips, desperate for just one thing, for anything – any old scrap of plastic or tin to sell in exchange for another day’s survival? Why do the British make such mountains out of mole-hills of immigrants? There’s plenty here for everyone.
I consider taking a short trip out there myself …
There’s a sick-bag in the foot-well of the rear-left seat, just waiting for a fill-up, and there’s bound to be something to my taste in the encroaching mud drifts of CDs – a Five Star hit, or a Belinda Carlisle number – or even something a little more current.
Moana’s ‘Song of the Ancestors’ perhaps? Or, Zedd’s ‘The Middle’?
The embankments of the M6 churn out a steady flow of valuables, swept along by a slow but strong current that feeds into the M54, and trickles through Shropshire, in the hope of a surreptitious invasion of bedraggled English wasters into Wales. The embankments of the M6 have the capacity to feed the whole world. Surely it can spare just one tune for Jay Cool?
But, I’m thinking hubby might be more than a bit pee-ed off if I abandon ship on the M6 (slow-queue or not), so I take alternative action and, as unselfish as ever, I decide to go with the flow and summon up some spirited and heaven-sent entertainment of my own – I’d do anything for my back-seat descendants!
“So, why don’t you? Why don’t you just meet me in the middle? In the ….”
“You can’t sing, mum! Remember when you embarrassed us all, back in …”
“Okay. I’ll shut up. For now. Just until … I meet you in the middle …. in the middle!”
So, I keep quiet. I stay put, keep quiet, summon up the ancestors and …
… the traffic begins to move.
Wolverhampton. Cosford. Fat-on-Wellington-and-Dawley-and-Donnington-Wood Telford. Shrewsbury. Albrighton.
Time for a loo stop – traditional style. There was never anything quite like wiping one’s rear end (Vicar’s daughters can’t use the other word!), with a scrap of newspaper. So, just for the sake of nostalgia, I persuade (order) the hubby to stop by at Jay Cool’s paternal Grandparents’ abode at Single Lane, in Albrighton. We both need a cuppa and, even though Nanna Joan Cool is no longer available to provide one, my Uncle Dan Cool (resident in situ) is on hand to take my order. But, I need to vacate my bladder prior to this particular top up, and hubby has raced ahead of me to the flushable commode. So, I head through the sidegate and down the very familiar old garden to …
.. the outdoor loo and ruins of the attached pigsty! Amazingly enough for an ancient listed building, it turns out to be a bit of a no-go area. I return to the house to await my turn for the modern convenience.
Hopping around from arthritic-middle-aged toe to arthritic-middle-aged-other-foot-toe, I reminisce about Nanna Cool’s old-tin potties. Are they still under the beds upstairs? I’m tempted to take a look, but Uncle hands me a hot-steaming mug of one-cup-bag tea. I take a sip and utter a two-fold prayer of thanks for modern short-cuts: Uncle’s self-installed toilet is a piece of ingenuity – the Cools have always been a clever clan. There’s a double-door entry system. One can enter from the hallway, or from the laundry lobby. I wonder whether hubby knows this? Has he remembered to lock both doors? Can I make a surprise entry and frighten him out of there? But the steaming tea smells so … tea-bag ish, and the waft emanating from the lobby smells so ….
I decide that the loo can wait.
Focus on the tea.
It may not have been served out of one of Nanna Cool’s green-leaf-patterned dainty teacups, but the Cadbury’s chocolate logo design’s not bad – I can almost imagine that I’m drinking a Mocha, complete with squirty-I’m-full-of-air cream – and it’s not so bad not to have to deal with the hindrance of a saucer. And there’s a very excitable mutt licking the kitchen floor tiles. Seems it likes tea! Oh ..
… that’s why Nanna Cool always handed me my teacup with a saucer – seems the ‘bull in a China shop’ clumsyitis gene doesn’t improve in mid-life! I mutter a second word of thanks: ‘Dear God, thank you so much for the invention of dogs who like tea!’
And, as an afterthought: ‘And thank you also, for the invention of dogs who create fear in very loud-and-non-stop-talkative sons.’ The latter being in recognition of the fact that my son is still sitting in our car, refusing to set foot on the soil of this canine-savaged land called Single Lane.
I hear a not-so-distant flush …
The historian in me uses the me-time to sit and ponder about whether Thomas Crapper really did play a part in the introduction of flushable toilets. But my intelligent thoughts are rudely interrupted by the harsh sounds of approaching footsteps.
Did I lock the door to the hallway?
I reach out one of my ‘Mr Tickle’ arms, recalling the time when I proudly came first in a who’s-got-the-longest-arm-span completion in my Aberdonian schooldays. My fingers just about make it to slide the lock across, when I realise that my backside has departed from it’s wooden seat. Another spillage … best not go there (I’ll spare you the details!).
Best just clear up (where is that dog now?) and be off.
Back on the road to ….
Rain, grey skies, and sandstone slosh.
Miserable Myddle Manor House (takes on the title of Myddle Castle on sunnier days!)
Back with the ancestors.
The Red Lion Inn.
Not according to hubby! He’s looking more-than-a-grumpier-than-grumpy chauffeur should look. Time for a cure! I know he’ll buck up after a pint (or two, or three plus) at the once-managed-by-my-twinkle-eyed Great Aunt pub, The Red Lion. With kids in tow, glued to us by the promise of food, we head out for our second long journey of the day. The front door of The Red Lion is reached in approximately twenty steps. Okay, it might have taken the offspring more like thirty steps or so but, at the mention of pork cracklings, my son flew out of the door of our accommodation at The Red Lion’s guest lodge, and arrived in the lounge bar well ahead of the aged. So unfortunate that the trip to school each morning isn’t made in a similar time-scale! But, it matters not – we’re on holiday now!
Aware that not all family members are at one with that last thought (i.e. they have been forced to Myddle under sufferance), I get the food and booze order in ASAP. My son goes for chicken nuggets, peas and chips (just for a change!). And the daughter goes for …
The daughter? Where is the daughter? What is there for younger-than-young vegetarians? But, she’s still in the car park, walking very, very slowly towards the pub’s entrance. Clearly, dropping pork scratchings into the conversation doesn’t do it for everyone! Luckily, there’s not much choosing to do for vegetable sprogs: cheesy-tomato pasta or cheesy-tomato pasta? A little bit of each please!
I fancy the pasta myself, but seems us adult veggies have to make the pretence of being classy – so Farmfoods’ pasta’s off the menu (Get away with you, ye doubters, I’m sure there must be a Farmfoods’ store somewhere in Shropshire!). There’s a handcrafted vegetable patty in a bun, but I’m not convinced it’s not a by-product of the grass-munching alpaca’s over the road, so I go for the alternative posher-than-Jay-Cool-could-ever-hope-be stilton and broccoli tartlet with tatties (except that they use the proper word of potatoes, here in upmarket Myddle). And hubby goes for (How can I remember what the hubby ate, when I am sitting here writing all of this up weeks later in Sudbury, Suffolk?) something or other fleshy-and-dripping-with-blood, complete with a crunch of a garnish (the deceased beast’s toe nail?).
|A creative commons image courtesy of Pixabay & shutterstock|
I buy him a beer, but half-an-hour later, all fattened up and rehydrated, he’s still got a frown on his face. We depart from the dining area to a comfy-leather sofa back in the lounge bar. The kids are engrossed in fighting over our one Nintendo Switch console, and I steer hubby onto the topic of ancestry. He doesn’t seem at all impressed by the fact that this very pub was once managed by my Great Aunt Hetty Cool and her second hubby, or that my first cousin once removed, later took over – for the sake of family tradition. None of this is of interest to him at all.
Is he really my other half?
And, he starts telling me all about his Great Uncle So and So, who parachuted into Italy to startle the Germans during World War Two. Yes, parachuters are fascinating, I suppose, but we are here – here in The Red Lion in Myddle and …
Whilst narrating his own family history, hubby’s flicking through a leaflet he picked up on the way in (he’s a great collector of junk mail), and … suddenly … a light goes on! A connection is made. “Did you know?” he says. “Did you know that this building was originally brought here by cart by some geezer called Charles Maddocks?”
Hah! I’ve got him now! During my extensive and somewhat obsessive genealogy research, I discovered that a branch of my hubby’s tree has roots in neighbouring Staffordshire. And their surname? Maddocks!
‘Wouldn’t it be funny,’ I say, ‘if it turns out that the late Charles Maddocks, founder of The Red Lion Inn is one of your ancestors?’
With that, we fly on back to the Lodge, and take up company by the wood burner with my most trusted advisor – Ancestry.com.
The urchins abandon us oldies, and sneak up to our luxury bedroom to settle themselves onto our lovely comfy bed for an evening of Nintendo’s Mario Cart, with enlarged viewing on The Red Lodge’s mod-con flatscreen TV. You are most likely wondering why I, Jay Cool, blogger extraordinaire, am bothering to write about a flatscreen TV. Doesn’t everyone have one?
This is our TV back in Sudbury:
|Vintage TV, a free image available from clker.com|
And, no, hubby is not an antique dealer from Long Melford – we just haven’t got around to updating an excellent specimen which is in fine-working order, and with just one channel to choose from – it does have the advantage of saving us from a lot of arguments. And this is why we are still together after a lot of a lot of years of marital bliss. Thank you, Uncle Dan of Albrighton, who delivered this wonderful item to us at some point in the dim and distant past. May God be with you!
And God bless remoter-than-remote ancestral in-law Charles Maddocks. It’s past midnight, and we’re still here, on Ancestry.com, in your Red Lion Lodge, in Myddle, looking for you!
May the quest continue ….
Copyright of text and photographs owned by Jay Cool (with such prestigious family connections, it’s only right to retain my maiden name), April 2018
If, like the great author Jay Cool, you have an interest in toilets, look no futher than this very informative link – https://victoriaplum.com/blog/posts/a-brief-history-of-the-toilet – it even tells the reader how to install their own, Uncle-Dan-Cool style convenience.
Surplus-to-requirements information for Uncle Dan Cool:
I didn’t really fly off your beautiful-wooden toilet seat and mess up the … Honest!