Nanna’s house by Zoë Wilkinson

Nanna’s house


It’s different in my dreams.

A place of forgotten corners, antiques and spider webs. “Oh dear, now where did (you) hide the silverware?

A dark wooden dresser half shy, displays blue and white china. If you look closely enough, you can see tiny fractures and chipped edges. The kettle whistles, chirpily high-pitched from the kitchen.

I reach in a cupboard for Marmite, only to find homemade damson jam. Nothing is quite what it says on the tin. A post-war larder. Dusty supplies. Cans dating back a decade. Only us city people seem concerned with use-by-dates.

Charred pans and trays the AGA has consumed in its fiery cavern. Many years of baking scones and Eve’s (apple) Pudding. 

Waste not, want not.

The Lord is my shepherd, I shall not want.”


Poppa was a keen sailor and maker of isotopes.

Relocating from a low-beamed Tudor cottage, the name of the house, ‘The Moorings’ somehow seemed apt for new adventures.

I remember him patiently building a 40ft sailing boat in the front garden. Towering over the cars in the driveway – a perpetual reminder of the unfinished. He seemed to spend far too much time on it, which unnerved my Grandmother. Only to sail under grey English skies – she would have loved to have explored the world.

I remember him tall and slim, with an almost Medieval aquiline nose, and favourite tweed jacket. His familiar loping, long-legged gait. Something that made him very recognisable, even when approaching from far away. 

While the house was dark and sleeping, he’d rise early, stirring porridge in the silent kitchen. Made the old-fashioned way with a pinch of salt and served with a dollop of red jam, (if we were lucky).

The Edmunds were proud of their long, flat runner beans. I remember them now, all bright green and stringy yet tender, dripping with black pepper and copious amounts of I can’t believe it’s not butter.

The water tastes softer here compared to London. “Is this glass clean?”, “Well, it’s been in the dishwasher!

So pleased you’re staying over. I got rid of the spider for you. You should sleep well tonight.”

Plumping a feather pillow in haste, she strides purposefully past a gilt-framed portrait of her younger self, hanging on the dark panels of the living room: an elegant figure draped in a shawl, dark blue eyes and soft cheekbones crowned with blonde curls. “I never really looked like that when I was young.”

Hot water bottle, half-finished drawings, some stencil work, homemade curtains and a wholesome woollen blanket with blue ribbon edging.

The Lord is my shepherd, I shall not want.”

Oil paintings. Bookshelves heaving with the History of Art: “I’m lucky really, I never feel bored. There’s always so much to learn and think about, don’t you find?”

Her young-looking legs reclined “Now, tell me (dear), what have you’ve been up to..?”


On entering St. Paul’s, I light two candles for you. They flicker side by side, almost reassuringly. Saying a prayer under my breath, I hear you, almost indignantly – “no, bless you!”

The Lord is my shepherd, I shall not want.”

I picture you evening time, light fading. Standing on the porch framed by the two pine trees that leaned over creating an arch on the pathway, waving us goodbye, as we get in the car to drive back to London.

‘The Moorings’ no longer exists, bulldozed to build a larger one, unnamed. All shiny and ‘modern’ and impossibly high. Belonging to no particular architectural vernacular, its gabled roof windows seeing further than ever before over the Kent hedgerows and patchwork fields beyond.

“Come and visit us again soon, you don’t come often enough.”


Zoë Wilkinson is currently public relations and development manager at Open Space. Holding a BA Hons. in History of Art & Architecture from The University of Manchester, Zoë has collaborated on a number of international cultural projects, having started her career in the press and editorial offices of the La Biennale di Venezia, Royal Institute of British Architects and Caro Communications. Recent projects include freelance work on the Erik Madigan-Heck: Old Futures selling exhibition, Sotheby’s London and the co-curation of Below Stairs alongside Rachael Barraclough at the Sir John Soane’s Museum featuring a commission by Paul Cocksedge titled Soane’s Light.