Wednesday, 20 July 2011

The Gallery - Vintage

I've touched on this story before,but for this week's theme of Vintage on The Gallery, I thought I would tell you the story of how I came to own probably the oldest thing that I possess.

When we were children, we had a few neighbours that we were quite close to. One of them was called Doll (short for Doris) who lived a few doors down the hill from us. She had married quite late in life and so didn't have children. She kind of adopted us (and we he) because my maternal grandmother died before I was born and my mum wasn't close to her dad. We used to visit them quite regularly, even as small children.

Her husband died when I was quite young (probably around the age my children are now) and a short while later, she moved her sister Bid in to live with her. She had been an invalid all her life and had problems with her sight. They had famous friends - Bid had met Jean Metcalfe when she was in hospital once and Jean was making a radio programme. You might not have heard of her - but her husband was Cliff Michelmore the television presenter and they would often invite her to stay at their home in Reigate.

Everybody in the family had regular times to go and visit them - and they would make us tea, give us biscuits and chat away. Doll would always say how tall we were growing although I think she did shrink as she developed a bit of a stoop in later life even tho she was never tall. It was a very regular topic of conversation anyway. They were both lovely, lovely women who always cooed over us. Doll was extremely talkative so an hour down there could easily turn into an hour and a half - made worse by the fact they had they permanently set their clocks at least a quarter of an hour behind so it was always hard to work out the correct time. But they were cheerful and visiting them, even as a child, was always a joy.

As we grew older, they loved hearing about the things we were doing. And then, when I was in my late teens, they inherited some money from a cousin in Canada. They didn't really know what to do for it as they didn't want for much but led fairly simple lives. They decorated and had a few bits of work done, then didn't know what to do with the rest. In the end, they gave some of it to us. They gave us each of us some money and some more to my my parents. I remember I bought my second car with the money they gave me as the first one was old when I bought it and not looking reliable to survive trips up the motorway to University.

Even after we left home, we'd still visit regularly when visiting. My mum kept an eye on them but they continued to live independently. Then, one day, Mum found Doll dead on the floor. It was Valentine's Day. On the day of her funeral, I remember my sister finding a load of money in the house - just piles of notes as well as bonds and other things. The stereotype of older people hiding their cash under the mattress was almost true.

After she died, Bid insisted that we all take a piece of her jewellery and I chose this ring. I still wear it on my right ring finger to this day. A few months later, my sister took the ring she had chosen to be valued, and was told £600. I decided to get mine valued for insurance purposes, took it to a jeweller and they told me mine was worth more than that. Obviously, that's not why I chose it but I was shocked. The jeweller said it was irreplaceable really as nothing like it existed so a replacement would have to be specially made. And there I am with it on my finger every day.

That ring is a part of me now. I've worn it for around 15 years and sometimes, I don't give much thought to its origin. Occasionally, I will look at it, and smile as I remember the woman who was a grandmother to me in every way except the small matter of actually being related. She would have been a great mother and a fantastic grandmother had she been able to have children. She enriched our childhoods without a doubt. We were the familyshe perhaps should have had.

And for that reason, I consider myself very lucky. And that is why that ring is my most treasured possession.
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