Yesterday after a long day out with friends we drove through Thatcham on our way home. Thatcham is where my Nanny lived until 2001 (I think it was at least). And I've only briefly been back once since then, to take her to meet her sister and go on holiday from there. I've not been back since she died.
Driving through there was really weird. There was the garden centre we always passed as we were on our way; it was when we knew we would soon see the "Welcome to Thatcham" sign. I think we visited once or twice.
And next there was the Catholic Hall where her 70th birthday party was held. There were so many people at that party and the walls were decorated with banners which said "70 Years Young". I was 11 or I might have been 12. She didn't have candles on her birthday cake, instead everyone was given a household candle (red, I think) and stood in a circle. Mum or someone, maybe my aunt, went round and lit them and Nanny followed a few people behind blowing them out. I was sat on a regular chair in that circle and holding an unlit candle. Mum wouldn't let me have a lit one but we pretended and she "blew it out" just the same. They played songs that she liked and songs that we liked. They also played No Limits by 2Unlimited and she did the dance to it; the one that had won her the title of "groovy granny" or some such on a holiday to a Haven Park a while before. We loved that our Nan was so game and would do such things.
And then over on the right, just behind that garage, she lived there. Next was the small row of shops - we'd go there for sweets when we visited. And on the left, She lived there too. There was the nearby library we would visit when I went to stay - she would let me chose a book to get out - I was 14 or 15 the last time I think.
That road, just over there? That was the one we would walk down on our way into town proper.
Oh, there's the chip shop. Nanny worked in there for a long time and I remember more than once being sat in the car outside with my Dad. It was always nearly closing time and we were waiting for her to finish work. Then we would drive back here with us and she would stay for a few days. I went along more than once "for the ride" as she would say. She'd come out with hugs and kisses and a portion of chips for me. I'd eagerly unwrap them and eat a few. Then she'd take them and wrap them back up again - properly just like they did in the chip shop. I can't remember how old I was then, it was during my primary school years and I'd imagine I was about 7 at more. But I thought it was absolutely amazing that MY Nan knew how to wrap the chips up just like in the chippy. Wow.
I vaguely remember the woman she worked with too. But what I really remember about her is an event some years after Nanny stopped working there. We went to visit and as we were sitting there in her little bungalow she mentioned that she was going to a funeral the next day. So mum asked who it was - the woman she had worked with.
"Oh yeah, what happened to her then?" asks mum.
Honest to God, Nanny just absolutely deadpan as if this was the most appropriate answer turned to mum and just went "She died."
Oh how we laughed - and how she laughed too.
It took probably less than 10 minutes to drive through Thatcham last night and it wasn't easy. But it was nice in a way to do so. I was just sat there going "this is so weird." and then I explained to Alison why that was. I told her the first chip shop story and how it didn't seem like anything had changed.
Tomorrow my parents are attending a funeral - in the same church and with the same cemetery as Nanny's funeral. And the burial is to be as close to Nanny's grave as possible. I would imagine that won't be easy.
I am glad I got to visit "her world" (even though she lived here for the last several years of her life - I will always think of her when I visit Thatcham and Newbury) yesterday however briefly.
I love you Nanny. And I Miss You too.
I am, are you?