We had our carpets re-laid this week, so to take advantage of taking everything out of the bedrooms and putting everything back in again, I’m sorting out my paperwork.
I found a notebook full of scribbles, stories and writing exercises. Some are pretty good, some awful. Here are some memories of my Mum’s Mum. My Nanny.
Full of laughter, calling out ‘Yoo-hoo!’ as she walked through the front door. She always wore jewellery even if only plastic beads and clip on earrings, but always colour co-ordinated with her outfit. When I was tiny, her hair was an ever-changing array of colours, she had gone grey at 15, over the years, she’d probably used enough dye to sink a battleship. To mix metaphors, when I see her in my mind’s eye, I smell her first. Her face powder, imperial leather soap, then feel her soft skin and see her warm smile.
She wasn’t the youngest or the oldest of her siblings, but she was the most popular. She had a wicked sense of the ridiculous, was always ready to help and gathered people around her with her sweet nature. During the Second World War, she drove lorries, and although she didn’t drive very often when we were small children, when she did, their little car was manhandled around corners in the same way, my brother and I giggling with laughter as we careered into each other on the back seat.
Shy around, nervous and scared of her pig of her husband, nevertheless, she made the best of what she had. Keeping the house clean, tending the garden and cooking, with somewhat terrible results at times. I have always loved colouring in, and would use to colour in doilies that she would then lay out for high-tea, her cucumber sandwiches and cakes were lovely, but burnt toast would often be served at breakfast. Inedible, unidentifiable charred bits of meat on our plates, or ‘quiche lorraine’ with everything other than the traditional ingredients in it, meal times could be perilous.
Nanny would draw and paint birthday cards, lick paper chains with us at Christmas until our tongues dried out, let us stir the fruit into her cakes, laugh at us as we tried to turn cartwheels on the lawn. She made me sandwiches without butter when my stomach rebelled against eating it, and after having banana custard pudding to the point I still now can’t eat the two things in the same mouthful, would ladle me a bowl of custard and hand me a banana to eat separately.
I remember standing in their spare room rubbing Nivea into my chapped face one bitterly cold winter when I was staying with them for the weekend. I remember her rubbing sun lotion into my skin on the beach, her paddling in the sea, her dress tucked into her knickers. Sneaking out of bed to watch Geoff Hamilton on Gardner’s World, I still love garden programmes and centres, (even though I have got a totally brown thumb).
I miss the warm hugs and unconditional love she gave my brother and I. I miss her giggle, her guffaw and her chuckles. I miss her winks over the teapot and the high-teas on weekend afternoons. I sit on the train writing this trying not to cry and failing. I miss her so much and would love to see her again. She passed away when I was 14 years old. I’ve lived longer without her in my life now as I am 33, than she was physically here, but the mark on my heart she left is indelible.