On some Sundays you went for high tea with great Nan Seeley and you sat around a big table with bread and butter and tomatoes and celery in tall glass containers and lettuce and bowls of whelks and shrimps and winkles and other seafood and the big fruit cake and white plates and napkins and glasses and a jug of water and great uncle told the tall tales or jokes and gran said not in front of the little ones o they’ll not understand great uncle said and off he’d reel and you sat taking the bread and butter and slice of ham and tomato and looked at great gran on the settee with her shawl

and grey hair and looking weary and tired and eyes closed and your mother said eat up and don’t waste do you want some winkles? great aunt asked (winkles) you remembered what the other boys said in junior school (are what boys have in their trousers and girls have clams said one of the bigger boys with a snigger seen that fat girl in the lavatory) winkles? great aunt asked again no thank you you said such a well mannered boy gran said not like some these days said great uncle pinning out a winkle with a pin you ate the bread and butter and ham and watched your old man with his thin moustache

sipping his tea and holding a cheese and watercress sandwich and you saw great gran with eyes closed on the settee her head to one side granddad silent like an undertaker gazing at the table cloth holding his cup and saucer sipping the tea and you watched great aunt breaking up a shrimp pulling off the head and tail so I said to her she said there’s no smoke without fire and great uncle said cross talking over her there were these two sailors and the girl with a lisp and hush hush gran said not in front

of the young ones and you wondered what a girl did with a lisp and why the two sailors knew her and your old man lit a cigarette and there was a howl of laughter as the two sailor and girl with a lisp caused guffaws and even gran double over and granddad said nothing but sipped his tea and you heard the big grandfather clock go tick tock tick tock and the room smelt of celery and cigarette smoke and still laughter from the sailor’s joke.

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