My gran was a proper picture-book gran. She put rollers in her hair at night and wore a pinny. She wouldn’t go out without a hat, and had a brooch on her coat. She had a shopping trolley. She knew everyone who walked down her road, and would wave to them from the window. She fetched her neighbours’ pensions and walked their dogs. Skippy, the next door’s dog, always had a plastic bag on his bad leg, so he rustled.
Everything was an adventure with my gran. We always sat on the top deck at the front of the bus, where I could look down a viewing hole down to the top of the driver’s head. She did the cleaning for a local doctor, and she would let me ‘mop’ his kitchen floor. There were a lot of bubbles.
We fed the birds every morning. Gran showed me how to crumble up stale bread, and she would add bacon rind. I would scatter the mixture on the stone flags outside, and we would sit on the kitchen window-sill, watching the sparrows.
Gran always let me cook with her. She had these ancient misshapen tablespoons, and I would press the back of the tablespoon into the dry flour, fascinated by the smooth shape it left. She used to add an extra egg when we made Yorkshire puddings, so that they would rise up out of the oven. She told me it was me, that I was magic. There were pancakes, egg-custards, almond tarts, jam tarts, poached eggs, and crinkle-cut chips, with a special cutter. There was a meat-mincer, which had to be assembled and screwed onto the table. I got to turn the handle. The leftover roast beef would go into it to make cottage pie. Every kitchen tool gran had was well-worn, rounded and polished at the edges with use.
My first memory of gardening was with my gran. I would water her pansies and her aubretia with a little watering can.
My gran made time to play. We played fish-and-chip shops with dolly-pegs and newspaper. She showed me how to wrap them properly. We played buses, and I was the conductor. She taught me how to knit (holey) scarves. We played card-games and dominos, betting with a little purse of half-pennies.
When we did the weekly shopping, we went with a list to the corner shop, and the shopkeeper directed us, as we took packets and tins from the shelves. On the way home, I was allowed to walk along the top of the garden wall of a neighbour, ‘Robin’s Wall’. Mrs Robinson would duly bang on the window and shake her fist, and I would squeal in delight and jump down.
My gran died twenty years ago, but she is still with me. My instant recognition of a blue-tit, even from the corner of my eye, comes from her. When I’m cutting out biscuits and I peel back the fluted edge of pastry, I am transported back into her kitchen. In every garden I have had, I have planted pansies, aubretia and hydrangea, because that’s what Gran had in her garden. This winter I found a clematis called ‘Freda’, her name, and have planted it along the fence in the allotment.
You always make a difference, by being with a child, giving them your time. That gets tucked away inside of them forever, and is never forgotten. Thank you, Gran.
Who gave you their time when you were little? What reminds you of them?