Friday 22nd May
Over Morrisons’ tea the night before, I break the news to Ollie about our real reason for going to York.
“So you know grandma has been living in Spain this year? Well the thing is…..”
I’m interrupted by crying from across the table. Ollie looks up sharply from his sausages and Yorkshire pudding. Now we’ve got his attention.
“Why is Daisy crying?” he asks nervously. Even I’m surprised by the loud sobbing. Daisy is as tough as old boots, where’s this come from?
“The thing is,” interjects Daisy, “we’ve got to say goodbye. She’s leaving that house and we’ll never see it again.”
The sobbing turns to wailing. Daisy shuffles around to our side of the table. She wants to deliver the rest of her speech from the comfort of my lap, but the fixed table and chairs makes it difficult for her to squeeze on to my knee, plus, selfishly, I’d like to be able to finish my salmon and chips.
“We’re going up this weekend so we can have our last fish and chips on Bishy Rd; our last sausage sandwich at the car boot sale; our last hot chocolate at The Pig and Pastry, ” she continues.
It is not lost on me that all of these events are food-related.
The next day the three of us travel up the A1 on a journey we know only too well. The five hour drive (bank holiday traffic) is only made bareable by blasting out the entire Shed Seven back catalogue. The children are very accommodating; Ollie nods his head in time to the music.
We drive straight to The Fisherman’s Wife and meet grandma there at 7pm for our usual order of fish, chips, mushy peas and a pot of tea. As soon as we arrive, the waitress tells me I left my almond milk behind last time; I may as well live here.
Back at grandma’s (the family home for the past thirty-one years) the two of us stay up until the early hours. It’s bad enough on a standard visit (a combination of both being Geminis AND having a lot to catch up), but add to it sorting through thirty years of family stuff, and I feel wired enough to stay up all night.
In the morning I bound out of bed and startle grandma who’s trying to have a quiet cup of tea in the kitchen. The kids are watching something in the other room.
“Right! Let’s start on the kitchen cupboards! I’ll pull things out, you tell me what you want to keep!”
Grandma looks horrified. “I just want a cup of tea!” she begs.
“Okay. Well, moving onto something else, I’m going to hire a van next weekend and come back again. I can’t let all this furniture go to the charity shop,” I say manically. I’m slightly concerned about what Tom will have to say when I arrive home with a consignment of old furniture, but I’ll cross that bridge when I come to it; hide it in the garage if needs be.
We spend the next two days sorting and clearing. I discover that I get my highlighter addiction (nothing better than highlighting something off a to-do list) from my mother: she has a highlighter for every week of the year; I also seem to have got my wide-ranging interests from her. Her bookshelves range from poetry to psychology to The Royal Family (her guilty pleasure).
Trips to the charity shop and tip are interspersed with last lunches and coffees at our favourite establishments. Cooking goes out the window this weekend.
I have avocado on gluten-free toast at The Pig and Pastry (a better cafe, you will struggle to find); while in Rowntree Park, Polly and I share tea and plum cake in The Library Cafe and try to pretend that we are on our own and not in charge of the four kids who are slurping smoothies and rolling on the floor (okay, that was just Ollie).
Monday morning comes around too quickly. Sun streams through the attic window on what is to be our last morning in this home. I lie in bed and try to work out how many nights I have slept up here in the eaves of the house. By my reckoning, nearly five thousand.
I remember back to my history A’level. Revising up here in the stifling heat, until I couldn’t cram another date in, and grandma had to march me around Rowntree Park pond until I’d calmed down and stopped crying.
And how on summer evenings, after we’d been called inside, I’d talk to the boys in the house opposite; shouting across the street from one attic window to another.
Daisy takes our departure badly. While grandma and I lug furniture from the top of the house down to the front garden (grandma’s idea to get a part-load sent down from York to Norwich); Daisy wonders around sobbing and stroking the walls:
“I’m going to miss you walls, and I’m going to miss you carpet!”
This goes on in every room. The night before she’d only calmed down after writing a list of everything she would miss. It included the cobwebs and the skirting boards. I feel like she is carrying the grief of the whole family.
The tears only stop when I mention to her that it might be best not to tell daddy that a furniture removal van will shortly be winging its way to our house in Norwich.
Seconds later, I find her outside confiding in Ish, the driver, that her mother will be hiding the furniture in the garage when it gets to Norwich and that her father might be cross when he finds out. Ish laughs cheerfully in a I’ve-seen-it-all-before kind of way.
I cram the kids into the car along with the adopted pot plants, the many books and my grandmother’s fold down table. It’s a slow, somber drive out of St. Clements Grove, along Bishopthorpe Rd and onto the A64. Then grandma phones and says she’s found a sandal. I look down. Ollie is only wearing one shoe. So we turn around and do it all again.
I have to restrain Daisy from getting out of the car and doing another round of goodbyes. For a child who is so stubbornly Southern (she even says pasta with a long ‘a’: ‘p-aaah-sta’ ); she’s definitely been bitten by the Yorkshire bug.
As we hit the A64 for a second time, I put Going for Gold on the stereo and salute goodbye to my beloved York. Thankfully, Polly’s last words to me are ringing in my ears:
“Don’t worry. You can take the girl out of Yorkshire, but you’ll never take Yorkshire out of the girl”.