The Dacia takes us from Newport to my birthplace – Signal Lane, Albrighton. I, Jay Cool, was born just over the road from here – in Cosford’s RAF hospital. I look across the lane and can still see the old dark-wooden slats of the one-storey hospital, fronted by a field of waving corn and a children’s play park. But, if you look over the lane, you will see lots and lots of red-brick RAF houses. So much for protected green-belt land; seems that the Ministry of Defence can build wherever they like. Never mind that they’ve build a Legoland on top of the very spot in which I was born. I would take a photograph for you, in validation of my claims – but I’d very likely be arrested for suspicious behaviour and have my name added to a list of terrorist suspects (with my ginger hair, I’d likely be mistaken for a member of the IRA). So you’ll just have to make-do with my description.
Let me take you on a tour of Grandad Cool’s garden. This is the greenhouse in which Grandad escaped from my Nan, to tend his delicious tomatoes, chain smoke and entertain my Great Uncle Jed with tales of his footballing days. Outside the door was a brick stove, upon which I used to cook tasty meals for my dolls. Somewhere behind it was a deep tank holding dark waters in which goldfish lurked. Perhaps it’s still there. I don’t look. The house, currently under the ownership of my cousin, Ned, is up for sale.
And, seeing as I haven’t won the lottery or written my bestseller yet, I can’t buy it! So sad.
This is what remains of an old pigsty and outdoor toilet. I think that what remains of it, is now used as a shed. Tragic.
And this is (or was) a shed. At the back of it, if my memory serves me right, are the hen boxes, in which my Grandad’s hens once lay their eggs. In front of it is one of Grandad’s beehives. I’d like to look inside, but I have a feeling that the whole effort might collapse on me and, besides which, it’s not mine. Still, I wish I could take the beehive home with me to Suffolk – and a souvenir slat! But I don’t.
This is the rear end of Grandad’s greenhouse. I’d like to imagine my Grandad in there, waving at me and telling me to come on in. But, in reality, he’d probably just be shaking his walking stick at me and shouting at me to stop nosing around and building my dens in his garden.
And the house in the background is not the house my Grandparents lived in, although it is on the same spot. Uncle and Auntie Cool built this house in the footprint of the old terrace of three cottages. But, I can still see the old house there, and remember its exact layout and interior decor, not to mention all the nick-knacks, including my Nan’s Lily of the Valley talcum powders in the spare bedroom drawer. A Gothic window looked out over a narrow concrete patio area fronting onto a small square lawn.
Today, the lawn is vast. Back then, a large part of the garden was taken up with vegetable plots, flower beds, apple trees and beehives. Things change.
It’s the last time I’ll be visiting this garden; it’ll have changed ownership by the next time I make it over from Suffolk to Shropshire.
One day. One day I’ll be buying it back for the Cools again. At the age of forty-eight, I’m surely not too old to make my fortune as a writer – am I? It’s all there in my DNA* – it’s what I was born for. Step aside J K Rowling. It’s time for the Salopian to rule again!
In the meantime, knowing that this (at least for now) will be the last time, I ask Uncle Cool whether I can have the old tin bath tub that I’m sure must be lurking around in the depths of then hen-house somewhere. He thinks that cousin Ned might have taken it to the scrap metal merchants, but I end up with something metal that’s a tub of some description in the boot of my Dacia. And I feel very proud of it. It’ll make a fantastic storage container for my books about Shropshire.
Trying not to feel weepy, I return with my family to the Dacia (Sprog 2 never got out of the Dacia – scared of Cousin Ned’s yapping dogs!). And the Dacia takes us all back to spend the last night of our week’s holiday in the lodge at Myddle. And tomorrow?
Never fear, there is a lot more of Shropshire to see before Jay Cool returns to Suffolk …
Copyright of text and photos owned by Jay Cool, May 2019
P.S. When I did return to Suffolk, I found a jam jar and emptied all the dirt out of the tin tub from Signal Lane into it. ‘Waste not, want not!’ my Nanna Cool always used to say. And that little bit of soil and dust is my little bit of Signal Lane to keep forever … (Oh come on! Some people keep collections of their own ear-wax in jam jars – it’s not as bad as all that!)
P.P.S. If any generous beneficiary out there feels so sorry for me that they’d like to buy Signal Lane back and donate it to me, so that I can live out the rest of my days there writing half-books – I’m not stopping you, so feel free!
*Consider the great literature, inventions, discoveries and achievements of my Salopian ancestors: Mary Webb, Joseph Addison, Charles Darwin, Thomas Telford, Richard Gough, Thomas Mytton … and the list goes on and on and …
Read more about my Salopian ancestors in the following posts:
Read about Nanna and Grandad Cool in:
You could even try out some of Jay Cool’s poetry:
Or book reviews?
Go on – you know you want to!