I remember 13th December 1984 with more detail than I should. I went to school, I came home, I did some ironing for some reason that I can’t fathom. I found myself singing that horrendous St Winifred’s School Choir song “There’s no-one quite like Grandma”. That’s not a sign of my awful musical taste, but an indication of who was on my mind that day. My Grandma was seriously ill in hospital 130 miles away in Inverness. I hoped to be able to see her on the following Saturday.
It wasn’t to be. She actually passed away that day. Losing her was my first encounter with raw, all-consuming grief. At every milestone since, I have missed her so much.
When I was little, Saturdays, sometimes all weekend, were almost always spent at her house. They were always filled with love and laughter. I felt happy sitting at her kitchen table eating Heinz chocolate pudding or egg custard or drinking tea out of my mug with Dougal from the Magic Roundabout on it.
Grandma was a character. She was dramatic, tempestuous and, to be honest, a bit mercurial, although I never saw that side of her. She was always lovely with me and fantastic fun. She certainly knew how to make me laugh. She always encouraged me to use my imagination. It was clear that I had not inherited her amazing artistic talent, but she gave me pencil and paper and encouraged me to write stories.
There are things I will always associate with her. The smell of sun tan oil, with which she basted herself on sunny days, cigarette smoke, Fairy Snow. From her I learned about how to work a Twin Tub washing machine so when I had to use my mother-in-law’s years later I knew what to do. And then there were the pigs with which she was obsessed. China ones, glass ones, metal ones (including a metal one with suckling piglets), soft pyjama cases (again with suckling piglets, the pig paper on which she wrote to me in her beautiful handwriting
She was a great amateur actress, and had been involved with The Florians in Inverness for years. As a 6 year old, I remember having to run up and down stairs to get all breathless so she could record my voice to be a ghostly soundtrack in a production of Blithe Spirit. A few years before she died, they did Christopher Fry’s The Lady’s not for Burning. As a committed Tory, she actually contacted Downing Street to see if they would allow her to promote it with a poster of Mrs Thatcher saying “What I meant to say was go and see The Lady’s not for Burning”. Obviously they weren’t allowed, but nothing ventured nothing gained.
It’s therefore particularly fitting that her great-grandchild takes to the stage in a professional production for the first time in about half an hour’s time, playing Thomas the Herald in the production of Cinderella at Howden Park Centre in Livingston. I will be there, bursting with pride and remembering the wonderful woman who left us far too soon. How I wish I was taking my 94 year old Grandma with me.