Grandma's cake stand

Grandma's cake stand.

The cake stand carefully wrapped in Grandma Flo's tablecloths and packed in my large case makes the journey from Gatwick marvellously unscathed. Reverently unpacked and placed on the kitchen table. Lizzie busies herself with the tablecloths.

"These will need ironing," with a meaningful glance in my direction.

"This cake stand needs a cake," with a meaningful glance in her direction.

A small shriek draws my attention to the kitchen wall. A pale lizard stands there. Lizzie is pointing.

"It's a gecko. A house lizard, just come by to say hello!" I reassure her. "He loves cake crumbs."

"OK. Point taken. Do we have to keep him?"

"No. Just make sure he doesn't get into the fridge."

"Will he eat all the stuff?"

"No. He will die of hypothermia. And you can't do much with a dead gecko."

"We haven't got a fridge yet, so he's a lucky old gecko," Courageously she is shoo-ing him outside with a handbrush. "God! Can he run!"

We don't have a washing machine either. Both draw about level in the priority stakes. So the bathroom is the laundry. We use the bath, treading the big stuff with bare feet, the small stuff is hand washed in the bidet.

The people who have moved in below us are mainland Spanish. They have children and are celebrating by playing loud music.

Berenca comes in to complain. Stays to admire the china cake stand. "This is English china? Espoda?"

"No, not Spode. It's Crown Derby."

The great name is lost on Berenca. "Por la tortas?"

"Sí. For the cake."

Berenca thinks the word cake is very chocante, a bad word for niños to speak. It reminds her of goats' excremento.

I had an elderly aunt Carrie, who was an artist at the Crown Derby works. I wish I had spoken with her more often. Family-wise much guilt still sits on my shoulder. My interest in art came by much later.

Surprisingly, Berenca has never made a cake. She would like to see how it is done. Lizzie agrees. So we will have a cake bake with tea or maybe a sweetish wine, an old-fashioned tea party to extend our cordiale.

And I will do the ironing.

"The casa at Cantabria is sol-ed. To keep it and this we could not stay perfect. The tortas is hot or cold?"

"Cold, dear. You do not have two houses?" Searching for backround stuff I tend to be a bit too direct. I get a warning glance from Lizzie. None of my business.

"One house is sufficient. We have the jubilación."

We too are retired but far too young to convince anybody so we don't mention it. And to draw Berenca into the luxury of second homes is far too squirmy a subject when so many people in the world can't afford even one. Her family disrupted by the war were never able to settle. A brief period in Cuba waiting for it all to finish, then their return to a society abject in misery with only books and an ancient typewriter to decorate their homecoming.

Cristimar 1985: Just bare walls and cool marble floor

"This suelo it is brown, yes?"

"Brown, yes, sweetie. It does not show the dirt!"

She falters at our obscure sense of humour. We are taking her too far too soon. Lizzie gives her a quick hug. "Mugre - on the floor, Berenca dear".

"These stones are on the floor! For the dirt, yes?"

"For the niños. Between us we have seven. Alan has four. I have three."

"You make cake for all of these?"

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