Following on from reading #TheGrantidote on Twitter yesterday, I woke early today and wrote about my Gran.
Selina. My grandmother. Gran. Born in 1910, 1 of 8 children. She started work in 1924 as a nursery maid. Then;
Worked below stairs for many years.
Married her childhood sweetheart.
Had a son (my father) and spoilt him rotten.
After losing one of her sisters, she took in her niece to raise as a daughter - a sister for my dad.
Christened Selina, she was Aunt Lena to so many people.
Gran worked several jobs at once pretty much all her life.
Amongst other jobs, Gran was a cook, cleaner, maid and eventually an exceptional waitress; Head Waitress, in fact, at a few establishments - think Mayoral Banquets & civic receptions. She seriously knew her stuff and trained many waitresses herself. When I was a child, wherever we went for Sunday dinner as a family, we’d be served by women who, at some point during the meal, would approach Gran, “Is it Selina? Oh, I’d better watch my step clearing these plates - I used to be terrified of you!”
Sixty-five-year-old women terrified of an 85yr old peer! I guess she was a hard task-master at waitressing school…
Gran spent any free time dancing with her husband. They danced a lot, they loved it.
Gran reluctantly retired from work at 78, took up swimming and got her 100metre badge the same week as me, when I was 8 or 9.
Gran looked after friends & family well into her 80s & 90s, always inviting folk round for ‘a bit of dinner’. If you dropped in, you’d always find family members at her house - it was a central calling point. The kitchen table would be groaning with a humble fare of pork pies, a ‘nice bit of ham’, bread & butter and, of course, jelly for the kids.
‘Eat as much of that as you like duck, it’s only coloured water’, she’d say.
Always a starched napkin, mind you.
Gran lived in her own home virtually her whole life and it was always spotless. Fireplace brasses were cleaned every week.
That’s every week.
There were always sweets on hand – Gran had a bit of a sweet tooth. If you stayed on till evening you’d discover she kept a bottle of Baileys under the stairs for a nightcap too.
I think of my Gran often. She seemed to enjoy the good things in life - sunny days, sugar in tea, gambling away all her 2ps on the seafront arcades with a smile on her face. I try to approach life as positively as she did. Also: if in doubt, work really hard. I’ve fallen back on this a few times.
Gran also taught me that applying Oil of Olay every day was very beneficial, but I’m not sure that’s really a life lesson…
Gran wasn’t a teacher but instead led by example. Always working, never stood still. If all else fails, she told me to ‘keep smilin duck’, along with a playful pat on the cheek. It helps me.
When my Gran was 97, my father finally found an old folks’ home worthy of her and she moved in. A year later, in 2008, having met some of her great grandchildren and shortly after reassuring us all with her emphatic catchphrase, ‘I’m FINE!’, she passed away.
She’s greatly missed.