In my dream I take a deep breath and the long-forgotten smell of the wooden floor and stairs in the hall of my grandmother's house fills my nose. Standing in front of the slightly open door to the lounge I tidy my hair, sort my jumper into a child's semblance of tidiness then pull my socks up from around my ankles and clean my shoes by rubbing my right shoe on the back of my left sock and my left shoe on the right before doing a final check of my pockets/hands/mouth for any incriminating evidence. I knock, as bravely or happily as circumstances or guilt allow and enter, trying not to seem out of breath.
"Hello Gran, were you looking for me?"
Don't get the wrong impression. I wasn't a bad kid. Just unfortunate - I usually got caught.
I’ve never been a good liar. Even 50 years later, as an adult with a lifetimes experience I choose honesty. Not that honesty is simply the right or adult thing to do, always the best policy or even my preferred option but my blush response is too well-developed and independently minded for me to get away with any hint of being economical with the truth. So, honesty is the best policy or normally anyway. I can do fibs - those little lies that people normally describe as "white", even when they’re not strictly speaking in the other person's best interest. Yes I can do fibs - most of the time.
Back then my tactic was to try and look cool, calm and collected, as innocent as a new born babe and to say as little as possible in an attempt not to incriminate myself with any old
story, excuse, explanation lie. The trick was keep schtuum for as long as possible to try and calm your mind and get the story straight in your head before the grilling began.
Granny Robertson undoubtedly had one of the most penetrating glares I have ever come across – then or since. Her eyebrows would twitch together and her nose would wrinkle in disdain as if dishonesty was a bad smell she could detect at a thousand paces. Her head would slowly lower until she looked at you over the top of her glasses. That look could find darkness in the soul of an angel, or would have persuaded said angel to confess there was darkness in there. What chance did a mere boy have, especially when that look was accompanied by a voice that prompted truthfulness as the only option for she already knew your innermost secrets. Granny Robertson could have outdone every interrogator from the Spanish Inquisition to the Secret Service. She’d probably taught Obi-Wan Kenobi that old "these are not the droids you're looking for" Jedi mind trick. What chance did a mere boy have, especially if he was guilty?
Not bad you understand.
But she was more than some extraordinary witch finder general. She was the glue that held my childhood together; she was babysitter, nurse, refuge, teacher, historian, storyteller, fount of all knowledge, maker of sense for all things perplexing, confidante, diffuser of worries and prodigious knitter of multitudes of embarrassing jumpers socks and other oddities. There was no situation that could not be made better by a visit to and a cup of tea with Granny Robertson. Even those – ahem -‘relatively’ rare situations where a young miscreant had to stand and confess his guilt to some nefarious deed or other was cathartic, no matter how uncomfortable reaching that confession had been or the consequences would be after. But a summons to ‘tea’ on your own with granny was a welcome occasion, except of course when something would best be kept hidden to avoid repercussions. It was her way of checking everything was okay and giving you the chance to talk of any worries that may be troubling you. She had, it seemed to a small boy, a bewilderingly innate sense
In my dream I take a deep breath and the long-forgotten smell of the wooden floor and stairs in the hall of my grandmother's house fills my nose. I smile at the overwhelming familiarity and comfort it brings after all these years. , I know my clothes are tidy but still raise my hands and run careful fingers through my hair. I look down at my shoes and even though they are clean I lift my right foot and rub it on my left calf and the left shoe on my right. My hands automatically move for my pockets but I stop them before they reach. I look down at my hands and find I am trembling and yet smiling. I knock gently on the slightly open door and step through.
“Hello Gran, I’ve been looking for you…..”