In the villages of La Taha, there is not a lot going on that people don’t organise for themselves. Sadly, the choir has stopped meeting every Monday whilst Cat takes a break but, fortunately, Clem has started up a writer’s group on the same night. So, during our last stay, I was able to join in with that. This short story started as a ten minute exercise based on the prompt “THE HOUSE WHERE IT HAPPENED”:
Every other Saturday, my sister and I caught two buses from our council flat in Weoley Castle to go and visit our Nan. She lived with my Mom’s two younger sisters and older brother, all unmarried, in a Victorian terraced house in Smethwick. Uncle Sidney would never waste a thing and was famous in the neighbourhood for his accumulation of “things that might come in useful” that cluttered up the back yard. As the oldest niece, I was the one press-ganged to the task of redeeming the 3d deposits on the heaps of empty pop bottles he rescued from the local gutters. Uncle Sidney always read the papers (and problem page from Woman’s Own) in batches. The pile of newspapers and magazines waiting for his attention was kept on a chair under the handle that raised and lowered the contraption for airing the washing. Once he was finished with a suitable amount of the printed matter, Auntie Dawn and I would be sent up the road to the fish and chip shop to exchange it for 4 pennyworth of chips and some batter bits.
There was hardly room to swing a cat in the only room that was heated. This was at the back of the house, next to the scullery, which was what they called the kitchen. In winter, there was always competition for the seat next to the open fire, which Uncle Sidney kept going with chopped up vegetable boxes and slack. Though a bedroom had been converted to an upstairs bathroom, the lavatory was outside, which must have been where I developed my love for spiders.
As usual, this particular Saturday, all the other uncles had arrived for the match and we squeezed around the big table that took up most of the room, eating bacon and eggs, the regular fare. My sister, who was a bit of a tom-boy, shared the uncles’ and aunts’ passion for football and, like everyone else in the family, was a Baggies’ fan. Just as they were all getting ready for the stroll to The Hawthorns, Uncle Sidney arrived back from his allotment with the veg he would take to my Mom when he brought us home that evening in his van. Deciding whether to eat his lunch or be late for the match was a no-brainer, so his plate of the fattiest bacon, eggs and tinned tomatoes was left next to his two pint-mugs of cocoa, which he always drunk cold. Fortunately, Auntie Dawn’s bag was always full of sweets and chocolate and Auntie Phoebe always made a flask of milky Camp coffee, so he wouldn’t starve.
Nanny and I were left to clear up. I loved this quiet time when I could play with Shandy, the dog and take the budgie, Fred, out of his cage. As Fred engineered himself out towards the door of his cage, he let out an unusually peircing sqwawk. “Blimey Nanny” I called out, oblivious to the inevitable scolding for the use of such bad language, “Fred’s laid an egg!”.
West Brom had lost but everyone cheered up at the news of Fred’s achievement. Uncle Sidney enjoyed his bacon and eggs, with a little extra on the side. It was funny to see the fried budgerigar’s egg. Henceforth Fred rejoiced in the name of Freda and, over the next two years, it was a regular event to see one or two of her little efforts next to the two normal-sized eggs on Uncle Sidneys’ plate.