this morning has me reminiscing about my grandparents
and trying to remember what I knew about them.
Mum's mum, Jessica (pictured here with my Uncle Lindsay)
was crippled with rheumetoid arthritis by the time I entered life.
I never saw this woman stand and she died when I was quite young.
The thing I remember most was the carved-wooden backscratcher that used to hang on her wheelchair. It was long with a curved hand at one end.
I think I've had nightmares about that thing.
This is Mum's dad, Sydney. He used to scare me. Although smiling in this photo, I truly have no memory of ever seeing him smile!
He was a train driver. Even though he and Jessica were only children they raised 12 children of their own.
His house always smelled of cucumber sandwiches and he had a beautiful
mantle clock that would chime every quarter-hour.
My dad's family lived a whopping three-hour drive away from us
on Canvey Island. They were made homeless during the flood of 1953, along with my aunt and uncles, and my parents.
My grandparents, Uncle Terry, Uncle Phil and Aunty Betty returned to re-build. My parents moved to Southampton.
Visiting them was always an expedition. Dad would throw us all in the car and we would be off to Nanny and Grandad's driving through the Blackwall Tunnel where Dad would tell us all to duck our heads in case the river above came down as we drove through at top-speed.
This is Dad's dad, Victor...it was only recently I found
out his first name was Nelson.
He lost half of his index finger of his right hand in some machine-related
accident and it would fascinate me to watch him roll his cigarettes with the
stump of that finger.
He always brought us grandkids chocolates when we came to visit. I don't
remember much else about him, but I have nice feelings of those memories.
And last, but certainly not least is Dad's mum May.
She probably wasn't more that 5 feet tall, but
no one messed with May. I can still hear her
yelling "Vic...where the hell are you?" in her strong cockney accent.
She taught me the children's poem:
"Little fly upon the wall,
Ain't you got no clothes at all?
Ain't you got no shimmy-shirt?
Ain't you got no coat and skirt?
Ain't you bloomin' cold?"
I remember going winkling with Nanny on the windy beaches of Canvey Island,
and early morning breakfasts of eggs and bacon and trenchers of the toasted bread we had just fetched from the bakery. She had a rough way of handling you, as if the only way to show you her love was to make you almost cry.
She was only in her sixties when she died, just the year after my Dad
All relationships are important, they form the colours in the tapestry of our lives, so no matter how brief, no matter how few memories, I cherish what I do have of each of these relationships with my grandparents.