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Monday 27 April 2020

Ten Minute Tales : Full Circle by Debbie Young

Ten Minute Tales
For your entertainment
a different Ten Minute Tale* every day

Full Circle
Debbie Young

It may not be the most obvious name for a cat, but the solid ginger barrel of fur that I adopted in my thirties reminded me of nothing so much as the firmly stuffed cylindrical pillow that in my childhood lived on my grandmother’s bed.

I learned a lot of words from my grandmother. I spent my school holidays in the little terraced house that she’d bought off-plan between the wars with my late grandfather, as the London suburbs crept ever further from her East End childhood home.

Grandma shared the house with many items retained from an earlier age. Raising her own children in a time of rationing and risk – her street still bore gaps inflicted by German bombs – she made things last. Though frugal, she was never mean. She just didn’t buy anything she didn’t need.
Her home therefore remained unchanged throughout my childhood, providing an invaluable anchor when I was changing so much myself – the wooden biscuit barrel, the old tea caddy now used for storing sweets, the unkillable tradescantia on the windowsill of the tiny front room.

The only new items appearing were well-meaning gifts from her family. To me each new arrival was an unnecessary intruder, apart from the gifts I bought myself. Most likely my father and my aunts had much the same experience when they were my age.

As to the bolster, it spent its days quietly on Grandma’s bed, waiting until it was time to prop her up to read her book at bedtime. Only rarely was it called upon to descend the stairs. Indeed, I only learned the word bolster when I twisted my ankle playing hopscotch in her garden. 

According to Grandma, elevation (another new word) of the extremity (and another), along with tea, biscuits and sympathy, was her prescription for my cure.

And so I spent the afternoon lying on her sofa with my ankle propped up on the sturdy bolster. To distract me from the pain, she read me stories and then recited the comic poems she’d learned by heart when she was my age. An unscheduled snooze, from which I awoke to find myself beneath the soft embrace of her grey paisley patterned eiderdown, also helped speed my recovery. No wonder Americans call eiderdowns comforters. By tea-time, I was sufficiently recovered to skip down her front garden path when my big brother came to take me home.

So when decades later, a very fluffy stray cat, light as a kitten beneath its soft silvery coat began to insinuate itself into my household, (with Bolster’s tacit permission, of course), my choice of name for the interloper was obvious: Eiderdown.   

Now on winter nights, when both cats sleep on my bed like gently vibrating hot water bottles,  I dream of my grandmother, who was rather bolster-shaped herself, now I think of it. And I’m back in her time capsule of a house, perfectly preserved in my memory, and we’re deep in conversation about bolsters, eiderdowns, elevated extremities and the enduring comforts of home.

© Debbie Young

Alas, this is the end of our Ten Minute Tales season ...
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  1. What a perfect way to round off this series. Thank you Debbie and thank you Helen :-)

  2. Lovely and gentle story and I especially loved the insight into the lives of a different generation - they certainly didn't buy what they didn't need!

  3. Thanks everyone - I enjoyed this project!

    1. Thank you for organising it all, Helen - I enjoyed every day of it and am going to miss my morning read

  4. A comforting tale of cats and "featherbeds" (as they say in Austria) to leave us with good thoughts. Thank you, Debbie.
    And Thank You, Helen, for yet another round of great stories.

  5. This brought back such strong memories of my own grandmother's house, Debbie - complete with bolster and eiderdown (and crocheted bed-jacket for really chilly evenings!). The only time I have ever slept in until noon was in the cosy box bedroom of her house, under that eiderdown - confirming all her worst fears about the slovenly habits of students! Thank you for a lovely blast from the past.

    And thank you to Helen for organising these ten-minute delights - I have enjoyed them all.


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