Archive for October, 2011


When I recently became a grandma for the fourth time, I started to think about the differences and similarities, with my granny. I was her first grandchild and made her a granny at the age of 46, I first became a grandma the day after my 50th birthday, so we were both relatively young. We each had four children: she had three girls and a boy, I had three boys and a girl.

There the similarities end, she was abandoned by her husband, for another woman, and had to bring her family up alone. This was before the generous benefit system we have now and meant she, and her daughters when they were old enough, had to work in the local cotton mill. I can remember seeing her walking home with lint covering her coat and her rollers covered with a scarf. The heat of a day in the mill set the curls perfectly. She would get in from work and, coat still on, start peeling earth covered potatoes from a hessian bag. Potatoes, carrots and onions would be boiled up and, if there was enough money, some meat, mince, neck chops or stewing beef would be added too. It tasted good to me when I ate there. Another of my favourites was boiled floury potatoes with salt and a cold slice of butter that would slide off as it melted. We would often eat this sat on her sofa watching rugby league on World of Sport, it was usually a Saturday when I went to visit. After we’d eaten she’d smoke a Park Drive, and we’d sit in the fuggy room watching the pristine white shorts of the rugby players get ever muddier until she said they looked like they’d got dirty nappies on. For some reason I thought that was hilarious, but I was only seven at the time. When there was nothing on the tv, she’d tell me stories, I always begged her to tell me about when she was young and about her mother and what my mum got up to as a little girl – especially the naughty things! She was very proud of the fact that she was awarded with a medal for never having missed a day at school. Not a single day off until she left at 14 to work in the mill.

Sometimes in the summer holidays, I was allowed to stay overnight. The spare bed had a metal frame and there was only Lino on the floor, not carpet, like I had in my bedroom at home. I enjoyed staying there, escaping from my brother and sister, I felt like an only child again. She let me stay up past my bedtime and sent me to the chip shop for our supper. Duly despatched with a large pudding basin, I was instructed for it to be filled with a ‘mixture, with soup on’. This culinary delight was chips and mushy peas, with the juice spooned over the top. We would eat this feast with slices of white bread and butter to soak up the juices, the butter dripping down our chins and fingers.

I always seemed to wake up early there, it was very light on summer mornings with the thin bedroom curtains, and I would sneak downstairs to get my breakfast. Granny didn’t have a fridge so she had sterilised milk in a tall glass bottle, with a frilly metal cap that needed a bottle opener to remove. This meant that my breakfast cornflakes tasted completely different than the ones I had at home with sugar and chilled pasteurised milk on them.

My granny didn’t go out to socialise, but she did love family get togethers, when she would enjoy a glass or two of stout and insisted that we sang ancient music hall songs. I can still remember most of the words thanks to the repeated singing of them over the years. She didn’t exercise for recreation either, I expect working on her feet all day in the mill and looking after my two aunties and my uncle was quite enough. She had none of the labour saving devices that I take for granted and wouldn’t have run anywhere, unless it was for a bus, or the house was on fire!

My granny didn’t do anything special, she couldn’t afford to spend a lot of money on us, but I still have happy memories. The only slightly negative one is when she asked me if I’d like a ‘cakey’ after my tea. I was envisaging some sponge and cream confection, perhaps with crunchy sugar on top. When she emerged from the kitchen with the much anticipated delicacy, I was dismayed to see that it was just a jam sandwich, white bread and strawberry jam. But given that she would defend me against anyone, tell me stories anytime I asked, let me do her hair and, remove her dentures when I was there (they looked too even and white and artificial and I found them a bit scary), it seemed churlish to complain.

When I think about my memories of my grandmother, I wonder what memories my grandchildren will have of me and how I can make them special. Hopefully I’ll do similar things for them, tell them stories about my childhood and what their parents were like when they were children, let them brush my hair and stick up for them if necessary, but taking my teeth out won’t be one of them as luckily I have a perfectly good set that are all my own!


Rohan at the red park