On Tuesday we said our final goodbyes to my wonderful Gran. My Dad’s Mum was the last of my Grands. She hadn’t been very well for a long time and each time she was ill she didn’t bounce back as well. But the thing was that she always bounced back. And then she didn’t. As a family we were lucky that all those who could and wanted to were able to say goodbye to her. Gran had someone by her side constantly through those last few days and she died holding my Dad’s hand as he retold stories of her youth. She was surrounded by love.
It is funny how someone is always in your life but in childhood ignorance you forget that they had a life before they were your Grandparent. But Gran certainly had a lot of life in her 91 years. I loved hearing her stories.
She was born and raised in a little village in Nottinghamshire called Gonalston. I loved hearing her stories about life before and during the war. Her Dad chauffeured for a local family. Gran would tell us about how she loved taking trips in the car when her Dad could use it with his family. Gran had a sister and brother, Ruth and Tom, and she had 2 step brothers Cyril and Marriot. She talked of all her family with such love and fondness. I loved visiting her brother Tom and his wife Nora at his stud farm with her, even in their 80s they were so lovely together. Gran would tell me tales about going on the back of Tom’s motorcycle when she was younger, she loved it!
Occasionally I think Gran would forget that I was her Granddaughter and she would tell me tales of her getting really drunk at the local pub and how she would cycle home along the country lanes where she would sometimes fall into the dykes as she wobbled off the road! She told us of how the local landlady would give her an extra gin and orange whenever she ordered from the bar. She had tales about dancing the night away with the military personnel from the nearby Air base. She would tell us how she met a handsome airman who she had been to primary school with years early, they courted for 2 years and fell in love and that handsome chap was my Granddad. I loved looking at their beautiful wedding photographs. Her dress was just beautiful and she radiated happiness and love and my Granddad looked absolutely smitten.
Married life for Gran and Granddad meant moving around a lot as Granddad was in the RAF, it also meant periods of time being part. He was posted to Singapore, Jordan, Iraq and Malta to name a few. Gran joined him in Iraq where they lived for a year. Gran and their 3 children also went to Malta to live for 2 and a half years (before my Uncle Matey was born). As a family we went to Malta a few years ago and it was lovely for Dad to show us a few things that he remembered. One of my favourite stories as a child (but it is more harrowing now that I am a mother) was of when they lived in Malta. My Gran told her children not to go too far out in the sea in their rubber rings. My Uncle Graham listened to Gran and stayed on the beach playing in the sand probably, knowing him, dreaming of scoring the winning goal for England. My Dad and my Auntie Karen however went into the sea and went too far out and were taken off by the current. The current around Malta is very strong and they didn’t stand a chance to swim against it. They started to cry and shout and my Granddad and his friend Jim swam to them to help. My Granddad eventually caught up with Karen and friend-of-the-family Jim got Dad and dragged them back to shore. The rocks around the shore really hurt both men and they both suffered really bad cuts, grazes and wounds to their legs. Recently I learnt from my Dad and neither of his parents swam after this happened! Like I said, as a child this was a cautionary tale about listening to your parents and a heroic tales of my Granddad and his bravery. But looking at it with my eyes now all I can see is my frantic Gran on that beach watching this horrific scene and not being able to help!
When they returned from Malta they had another baby, my wonderfully crazy Uncle and Godfather Andrew. Gran and the children settled back in the UK but my Granddad was still being posted here, there and everywhere. Gran had to look after 4 children on her own whilst looking after a house too, I have no idea how she did it!! The family still moved around which must have been hard for my Gran. She was such a social person who loved being surrounded by people so leaving friends and having to make new friends all the time must have been tough.
They ended up in Salisbury which is the first house of theirs that I remember. That house had loads of great memories for me. We had wonderful picnics in the garden, family meals around the table, the cow bells in the hall, playing with a toy steam train in the kitchen, Candy the oldest cat in the whole world who had lost her tail after following my Dad to his bus one day, an Easter egg hunt one year and laughter, mostly I remember my Gran’s laughter. She had the naughtiest laugh and when something tickled her she would really giggle which would roll into a bell laugh. I remember locking myself in the outside loo by mistake and Gran gently mocking me by singing a song about getting stuck in the lavatory. She would let me mess around in the kitchen with her. We had many a happy time there.
Gran and Granddad moved to Sleaford to be closer to the rest of the family after Granddad retired. And again, we loved visiting them. I went to stay with them a few times with my cousins. We had so much fun. I remember one year that Gran just couldn’t get her head around me and Alec being vegetarians and kept offering us lamb or a bit of ham. Me and Shona surprised her by booking for her to have her ears pierced but she decided that she didn’t want to. In Sleaford she was diagnosed with Coeliac disease. I loved baking cakes and treats for her and I did my GCSE food technology project on gluten free foods. Baking and making things for her really helped me to become a more inventive and creative baker.
After Granddad died she moved to Ashby to be closer to my parents which was good as I got to see her more. She was always so happy when we popped into see her for a cup of tea. She would always like to hear what we had been up to. She lived in Ashby for the last 20 years of her life. She kept in touch with friends and family by writing letters and on the phone. She loved receiving letters and I would try to write to her when I could and I tried to call a few times a week. I wish I had visited more, written more and called more, but I think you always wish that you had done more! Gran taught me that importance of family and keeping in touch with the people you love.
I loved going to see my Gran. I loved visiting my Grandparents in Salisbury when I was little, I loved staying with them in Sleaford and I loved popping in to see her when she lived in Ashby. She was great to talk. She would tell great stories and laugh with you. She was a really good cook. Her coconut and cherry scones were my favourites and she made a great trifle, even though I would scrape off the cold custard (yuk). I will miss talking to her, her laugh and her stories. She loved her family and she loved getting everyone together. I really hope my family keeps having get togethers without her as it would be such a shame not too. The last family get together was for her birthday just before Christmas and we had a lovely day. The highlight was my poor Gran drinking her martini and lemonade a lot slower than usual. My Dad asked her what was wrong with it and she said that it was too strong. He popped it back to the kitchen to add some more lemonade to it. After a little while longer she quietly said that it was still really strong so Dad tried it and pretty much spat it out again spluttering… as it turns out my Mum (inexplicably) decanted some gin into a lemonade bottle and that was what my Dad was adding to Gran’s martini!! Bless her!!
I was incredibly lucky to have her in my life as long as I did, I am so thankful that all my children got to meet her. 91 years is a long time but no time is ever long enough. There are so many things that I want to ask that I forgot to and so many things that will happen that she will miss. I have found myself at a bit of a loss a number of times since she died and I thought “oh I’ll give Gran a ring” and then it hits that I can’t anymore. I really will miss her. Gran’s Dad used to call her “My little Gem” and so a lot of the family call her Gem and she really was a gem. Thank you for everything Gran, all my love.
Thanks for reading