Wednesday, 14 May 2008

Grannies

Snitched from our local Church Newsletter:
The best vitamin for a Christian is B1
Under the same management fr over 2000 years
Don't give up on yourself; even Moses was once a basket case.
What was Noah's wife's name? Joan of Ark
Lead me not into temptation, I can find the way myself
The things that com to those who wait might be the things left behind by the people who got there first
Accept that some days you're the pigeon and some days you're the statue
Always keep your words soft and sweet, just in case you have to eat them
If you lend somebody £20 then never see that person again........it was probably worth it
My next bit has nothing whatever to do with the above. I'm going to tell you about my grandmas and grandpas, with whom I was unusually well endowed. Apologies to anyone looking in from my former blog as you already read most of this.

There were three grandmas, officially: Big Grandma, Little Grandma and Auntie Gran. Big Grandma was mum's mum, Little Grandma was dad's mum and Auntie Gran was the woman mum's dad got married to in the 1950's sometime. Are you with me so far?

I had two Grandfathers: Grandad was mum's dad and Grandpa was dad's dad. As Grandpa died in 1953, we never knew him and he only knew two-thirds of us! OK? We didn't actually know we had Grandad until not long before Big Grandma (keep up!) died in the 1970's. That was because he ceased to exist once he left home in the '30's. Now there is a man I would like to have known much better. I mean, for 40 years (more or less) he had been somewhere. done something. He lived and breathed, ate and drank and was the father of 3 children. So many questions I would have had for him. He divorced Big Grandma (or maybe the other way round) at a time when divorce was not a usual solution to the marital troubles of the working class. As far as I know he didn't see his three children. He just....disappeared, leaving his family in Erdington while he went off to live in Smethwick. Well, that's where he fetched up at anyway!
Grandpa - I would have adored him I think. Apparently he was like my dad, but with hair. He was from Co. Durham, like Little Grandma, and it was those two who provided my first eye-opener when I started on a bit of family history: they were married in June 1924, Dad was born in November 1924. You don't need a degree in doing sums to work that one out! He came further south during the Depression. I don't know if he was one of the Jarrow marchers but he could have been. I'll never know now.
Big Grandma was from Birmingham and I do remember her very well. She used sometimes to come up and see us and for us little kids it was always a real occasion. I could always tell as soon as I got home from school whether she had arrived because she always smelled of trains. To this day I associate her with the smell of steam trains.
As her name implies she was a big woman, not in height but in girth, and I was fascinated by her corsets. They were a terrifying pink contraption with laces up the side and whalebone stays. It used to take her ages to put these on in a morning but it was compulsive viewing! Good job she shared a room (and bed) with my sis and me on these visits or I might never have witnessed such a performance. How she did up those laces on her own I have no idea, then there were the hooks and eyes - priceless! She used to wear those pink knickers with the legs that were elesticated just above the knee and when she put her dress on she used to look like a well stuffed sausage. I used to wonder why grown-ups remarked about her 'harvest' dress, now I know: 'All is safely gathered in'!!! And, now I think of it, she was probably younger than I am now (50's). How times do change.
Little Grandma used to come on the train to visit but for some reason the smell didn't cling to her. She was a little thin woman and it is alleged that I look like her. I've never been able to see it myself. I'm not thin for a start. Maybe I don't want to because she was no oil painting! I always remember though at my dad's brother's wedding in 1965 - it was just a few days after Little Grandma died actually - all the old northern aunties at the wedding reception with their "Disn't she lewk leek ower Bella" which, for our friends across the Pond, is the closest I can get to writing a Durham accent!
Where the corsets and train smell were what I associated with Big Grandma, I associated wigs and mothballs with Little Grandma. Yes, NHS wigs. They used to be horrible at one time and very distinctive. Do you remember? She had had some kind of tumour on her head I think. She had a big bald patch just left of centre (sounds political!) and wore one of these wigs all the time. She always looked as if she spent hours every day finger-waving her hair. And she always smelled of mothballs. Her clothes, her house. her furniture, everything. She had a 'thing' about anything getting moth-eaten. Maybe that's why I am so scared of moths - I thought they were going to eat me - LOL! She was the only person I knew who had pierced ears. Well, let me clarify - her ear-rings were stuck through her ear lobes. She couldn't bear to do it herself so my mum did this terrible stabbing every morning. There would sit little grandma wearing her nightie, no wig and no teeth while mum stabbed her ears.
Auntie Gran I knew - and know - nothing about, except that her name wasn't to be mentioned when Big Grandma was around. Fortunately, we didn't know what her name was so we couldn't mention it! We were in our teens when we met her and unfortunately, after Grandad died, she was banished again. She's gone too now but I would have liked to know her just a bit.
Finally, my surrogate Gran - Old Helen. She lived in our street when we were little and was commonly known as 'the Merry Widow'. Everyone said her husband 'did away' with himself and us kids were forbidden to have anything to do with her. He didn't, but anyway. She used to have lots of German visitors - at a time when emotions still ran high following WW2. It was the early '70's before I got to know her. We would spend hours talking (and drinking and smoking!!) and I think she was largely responsible for the continuance of the thirst for knowledge which I had always had but which might otherwise have died from starvation. She always described herself as a 'mine of useless information' and so she was and I am proud to say she passed some of it to me. It'll come in handy one day! She would have been 100 years old this year but died 7 years ago.
Enough!
Love, Angie

6 comments:

Raquel said...

Angie, you are such a treasure! I had only 3 grans - My dad's mom, my mom's mom and dad's mom's mom!! Great-grandma died when I was about 6 , I remember her funeral, the first I ever attended. It has been almost 10 years since my last grandma died. I miss them all. Thanks for a lovely memory.

Angie said...

Thank you Raquel. You are so kind. I think my blog will be mainly about remeniscences of various sorts. I have been bereft of all Grans since about the early '80's. Grandmas probably thought that grandpas had been enjoying themselves on their own in Heaven for long enough! Is this comment box the right place to leave a 'comment on a comment'? I do like to acknowledge comments but i can't see any other way to do that on here. I hope you'll keep reading me. It's great making a new friend.

Marie said...

Angie, You do have such a colourful history and I DO love reading about it again and again! To a gal that grew up in a different country it all seems very exotic and wonderfully fascinating to me! Keep those reminisences coming!! I can't get enough of them! You have such a wonderful way of putting them down for us to read as well. Now, THAT, my dear is talent!

Hannah said...

Hi Angie
Thanks so much for your lovely post on my blog - I love the sugar flowers on your blog so far and can't wait to see more! They are soooo good. I have been meaning to do a proper sugar flower course in so long but just haven't found the time so I am mightly envious of your wonderful talent - they look so real.
Hope that you are settling well in the UK - you will need to invest in a good umbrella!!!
Hannah xxx
www.hannahscountrykitchen.blogspot.com

Kath said...

Hi Angie yes I remember reading this before.I never had the pleasure of knowing my Grandma and Grandads,they had left this world before I was born,All four of them dyeing very young indeed.I do hope my Grandchildren write about me though as you have done when I am a gonna lol!!I wonder what they will have to say.Heeeeeeeee!!!
Take Care God Bless Kath astoriasand.

Pamela said...

OK, I've started reading through your blog from the beginning as I said I would and I am rolling on the floor laughing at this post! I love your "keep up!" comment - family relationships can sometimes get a bit confusing, can't they, although yours aren't nearly as confusing as our children's generation will be what with all the multiple marriages, or lack of marriages. Anyway, I just wanted to say that this line reminded me of my Gran SO much - "She used to wear those pink knickers with the legs that were elesticated just above the knee" - she wore those knickers as well and I could never figure out why they had to be so long, or so pink!

What a great post, Angie, can't wait to read on!