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Tuesday, 11 September 2007

The Caller

[EDITORIAL NOTE: It is pleasure to be the conduit for this growing collection of excellent elder stories, and your comments show that I am not the only one who appreciates the storytellers' efforts. I want to remind you that every storyteller's name is listed on the right sidebar, so if you are interested in stories by a particular contributor, stories you may have missed or want to re-read, click the name and you will get a list of links to all the stories that person has published here.]

By Grannymar of Grannymar blog

Granny Kildysart was in the kitchen one dark, wet and blustery evening when she heard the loud ding dong. It was the door bell ringing. Out of curiosity, she went to open the door. She took one look at the caller, and my father who was coming down the stairs, heard her say, "We have nothing for you tonight!" before she quickly shut the door.

My father, from his vantage point on the stairs, was able to have a good look at the roughly attired gentleman before the door was closed so abruptly. This tramp looked like he had not seen a bath for a year and wore a crumpled, dirty, soaking wet old trench coat. The buttons were long gone so to keep out the weather, it was tied around the waist with coarse string.

At the neckline was a scarf and below the coat ragged trousers were tucked into thick woolen socks with holes in them. Over the socks were well worn work-men's boots long past their sell-by date. The laces were gone and again the boots were tied with string. On his head the tramp had a greasy rain soaked flat cap. Bits of hair stuck out at each side.

My father reached the bottom of the stairs as Granny Kildysart was about to go back to the kitchen. "That was a very un-Christian thing to do on a night like this," he said to his mother.

With her hand still on the door knob she turned, "What do you mean? she asked.

"That man looked like he had not eaten all day" said daddy. "How would you like to be turned out on a night like this? I think you should call him back and make him a cup of tea!"

Since it was her son's house and she did not relish the thought of a journey back to County Clare that night, she reluctantly opened the door and called the tramp back. My father stood and watched as she invited the tramp in to warm himself by the fire and have a cup of tea.

The living room was warm and inviting with the fire blazing away in the hearth. Chairs were drawn up to the heat and Granny Kildysart turned to go to the kitchen and put the kettle on for a pot of tea. As she reached the door my father called to her, "This man looks hungry" and turning to the man he said, "I am sure you could eat a plate of rashers and eggs". The tramp nodded and twisted his cap in his hands. "You better cook a few sausages,” said my father, “and if we have any black & white pudding, do some of that as well.”

The men talked while Granny Kildysart set about preparing the food in the kitchen. They could hear her banging about the pans. Soon the house filled with the aroma of the cooking bacon. Granny appeared, to set a place at the table.

Ten minutes later she was back with a tray and the tramp was invited to take his place at the table. The food was placed before him and he was told to tuck in. Tea was poured and daddy and his mother had yet another cup to keep him company.

Granny Kildysart noticed that the men were getting on well and the tramp seemed to be familiar with the names of family members. Soon the plate of food was cleared and the tramp, who was feeling rather warm, undid the string of the coat. Daddy invited him to take it off, which he did. The scarf was removed as well and he brushed his hair back in place. It was only then that Granny Kildysart realised that a trick had been played on her.

The man was no tramp; he was in fact Richard, a brother of my mother's! Richard was full of fun and always up to mischief. Granny Kildysart was not known for her sense of humour so his arriving as a tramp was a little more acceptable than the summer night he came wearing a bright yellow dress, stockings and sandals topped off with a headscarf, and bright red lipstick.

Is it any wondered I turned out the way I am now?

We, like everyone else, had two grandmothers. They were both known as Granny. They also had the same surname, so we needed a way to differentiate between them. Mammy's mother lived in Dublin and we saw her couple of times a week. Daddy's mother lived in Kildysart, County Clare, so she became Granny Kildysart.

Richard was a great favourite in our house when we were growing up. Alas, he died in 1966, aged 44 while waiting for surgery to replace two heart valves, surgery that is so matter of fact nowadays.

At that time, surgery to replace valves was unheard of in Ireland. In fact, the only place capable of carrying out the operation was Guy's Hospital in London. There was only one team of surgeons and staff qualified to carry it out, so only one patient per month was operated on. There were 11 operations in the year and during the month of August the whole team went on annual leave.

Richard was scheduled for July and was actually over in Guy's. The June patient had a relapse so Richard's operation was put off until September. My aunt brought him home but he went downhill fast. She managed to take him back to London for the beginning of September, but alas he died on 11th before he reached the operating theatre.

Posted by Ronni Bennett at 02:30 AM | Permalink | Email this post


Dear Grannymar,

I loved this story. I heard it before on your podcast. Can anyone go to your blog and hear your voice telling this tale? Are podcasts like regular blogs that you can call up again and again?
Let us know if that can be done because hearing the story is a great treat.

Yes Nancy,

Anyone can listen to my Podcasts. They are quite short.

This particular one 'The Caller' is available here http://www.grannymar.com/blog/?p=216

It is in mp3 format so you can listen on the blog or download it to an mp3 player and listen at your leisure.

That's a good story! What did Granny say when she realized who the "tramp" was?

Kenju I think Granny K was far to embarrassed to say anything.

She joined in the chatter and fun with the men folk before going to clear up the dishes.

Women’s Lib was never heard of in our house.

Here's a story to remind you the clothes do not make the man.

Dorothy from grammology

Very true Dorothy!

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