Grandparents

Shopkeeping – a family business

Unusually, I didn’t have grandparents

Well obviously I had grandparents, else I wouldn’t exist. It’s complicated

As a child I knew of two grandmothers and one grandfather

Grandmother 1 was known as Gran in hospital. She couldn’t talk, write, walk or even sit up. She’d had a stroke when I was five years old. There was nothing to be done for stroke sufferers. Grandmother 1 was called Annie. She lay in a hospital bed for seventeen years

Annie – Grandmother 1

Grandmother 2 never had children. She was our step grandmother, our dad having lost his mum when he was three years old. His dad remarried, but not until many years later. Grandmother 2 was called Jenny. My strongest memory of her is a collection of porcelain budgies. You read that right

Grandfather was in the RAF when my dad was little. When I knew him, he worked in engineering. When his wife died young their son, my dad, was mainly raised by his grandmother and his “unmarried” aunt – there’s a qualifier we can live without

Grandfather, who should be referred to as Grandfather 1, was called Allan. He was the youngest of a large family, which led to us having numerous second cousins

Allan – Grandfather 1,
and Jenny – Grandmother 2

These are the three known grandparents. Now I’ll move on to the unknowns. Sally and Jack

Sally died young. I can neither remember nor rediscover her cause of death. I do remember being told it could have been easily treated had antibiotics been available. They weren’t. Sally died leaving a three year old child, a widower, and an extended family newly liable for raising a wee boy

Grandmother 3, Sally: a grandmother who never aged

Sally – Grandmother 3 – with her family

Jack was never mentioned. My mother’s family emigrated to Canada when she was an infant. Several aunts, uncles and cousins emigrated together

A few years later, Annie – Grandmother 1 – returned to Scotland with her three children, no husband. Jack, Grandfather 2, stayed in Canada

One Christmas, I was seventeen, all the cards were on my parents’ sideboard. I read them, looked at the pictures, including one from my mum’s Aunt May in Canada

How can I describe my feelings as I read the short note inside? Shock; sadness; anger; distress; almost grief? It went something like this:

“Your dad has been unwell but he’s on the mend”

Your dad. That’s my mother’s father. My grandfather. Grandfather 2

No-one ever said he was dead. I had simply assumed. I grew up unaware that I had a living grandparent who had never been acknowledged – had never acknowledged me or my brother

Canadian relatives had visited my family. Had they spoken of Jack in secret? Not mentioned him at all?

Grandfather 2, Jack: a grandfather over whom a curtain had been drawn

One of them is Jack – Grandfather 2

So there it is. I had no grandparents, despite having five

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School subjects

Boiled egg

Do you remember choosing school subjects?

Towards the end of Primary School we were given a form. Columns of Secondary School subjects from which we were to choose

The compulsory subjects had their own columns; then came the fun part…

We ticked our choices in pencil, and were instructed to take it home for a parent’s signature

I have zero idea why I ticked Latin. My mother had a very old Latin dictionary. Maybe I liked the binding?

Food and Nutrition, on the other hand, was a definite, positive tick. I really wanted to cook

So I walked home and showed the form to my parents. The horror! Had I erroneously ticked Arson? Shoplifting?

No, definitely Latin plus Food and Nutrition. But this was a problem

My mother, bless her heart, couldn’t cook. Did you read my posts around Christmas time? She was a clever woman who had won a place at university, before it was usual for working class families. But she definitely couldn’t cook

Why I was told not to tick Latin, I haven’t a clue. But I clearly remember why Food and Nutrition was unticked

“I can teach you to cook” said mum, without irony

At age eleven, I knew this was no more than a fantasy. I wanted to cook actual edible food. It wasn’t going to happen

Years later, when I was working and had a wee flat, I began to learn to cook. I’m still learning

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Automatically Sunshine

Dedicated to Mary Wilson

Do you know what an Austin Cambridge was?

Automatically Sunshine?

This Austin Cambridge was our family car when I was a thirteen year old, awkward teenager

Holding my brand new transistor radio, in the back seat of that car, I was waiting for the ferry and our family holiday. It was a sunny day

The DJ on BBC Radio One introduced The Supremes singing Automatically Sunshine

Now this wasn’t classic Supremes

This wasn’t Diana Ross

This was Mary Wilson, Jean Terrell and Cindy Birdsong

Fin de ciecle Supremes

My life rather changed that day. Sunshine was never again Automatic

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I will tell you more about that summer, and how I changed, in future posts

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Concussion

Scarring from a fall

Scarred for Life

My working life began one week later than planned. Because I fell off a bicycle

I was at a friend’s older brother’s home. He was married, had a Cairn Terrier. There were bicycles in the garden. We borrowed them for the afternoon and rode off to explore the countryside

If you’re thinking Enid Blyton, read on. One afternoon, when I was only sixteen and a half, had devastating consequences on my life

I don’t think I was going fast. There was a small hill. On the downward slope I lost control. Seconds later I opened my eyes on a hospital trolley and said “Where am I?”

I’ve always wished I had said something clever

Seconds had been hours, I’d been taken to the nearest hospital by ambulance. Road gravel (mostly) removed from my knee, hip and forehead. Stitched up. I’d been totally unaware of this, because Concussion

I was sixteen years old. There was no space in a suitable ward so I was allocated a bed in geriatrics with five “ancient” women

That was actually fun. I liked them and they enjoyed having a teenager in the room

So, the stitches…

One or two on my knee, under which a grey layer of road dust still remains

Several on my hip. Lumpy, bumpy, very messy. Not what a teenager wants on her body

But my forehead. I’ve never accepted the scar. It’s stared at me from the mirror for decades. It affected how I wear my hair, the glasses I choose. And I can’t raise my left eyebrow. My face is uneven

A nurse told me there was a mirror on the right hand side of the bathroom, and I might not want to see my face. I understood – my face was a mess – and took her advice

However I was young and had no idea how long my face would be bruised and scraped

Six days into my stay I was asked if I’d like to wash my hair and put on proper clothes. Fed up with lying in bed, I definitely wanted to get dressed

Nobody said my face was still frighteningly destroyed. I thought if they’re suggesting I get dressed, I must be better

So I crossed the ward to the bathroom, didn’t avert my eyes from the mirror, saw my face

Maybe I screamed out loud, maybe not. I certainly screamed inside. Black, blue, red, purple face. Hair still matted with dried blood that hadn’t been washed out because of the stitches

I managed to dress and wash my hair. Then I walked by the mirror without looking

On the morning I was due to leave hospital, eight days after admission, the surgeon who had stitched me up came over. “Never mind, you can get plastic surgery when you’re older”

I hadn’t said a word! Did he think I was going to complain about his terrible patchwork? Sue him? I hadn’t even noticed the twelve stitches within the devastation that was my face

But let me return to the concussion

Concussion has consequences way beyond a hospital stay and terrible stitching. For me the most evident result was a change in my periods. Until the concussion, regular and monthly. Textbook

The concussion happened in May. I didn’t have another period for months. Then they were irregular, unpredictable – for ever

Another issue was the start of my working life. Two weeks and two days after the fall I began my first job. (I hated it, soon moved to a different company. I’ll tell you another time)

Two young people were due to start on the same day. Myself and a young man. My concussion meant I started one week later than him

For five days he was “last in” – office junior

Then I arrived. Excellent! A girl! She can have all the rubbish jobs while the young man can aim high. Sexism 101

And lastly, the scar on my forehead. I cut a fringe. I parted my hair on the right. I chose glasses that don’t draw attention to my eyebrows – remember, I can’t raise the left one

When the pandemic came and I couldn’t get my hair cut, still I worked around the scar. This week I took a huge step and drew my hair right back, scar in full view. No-one seems to have noticed

I could say there’s a lesson in this story. But there really isn’t. I was concussed; I was scarred; I’m still affected by it

But I’m getting better

_________

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Monaural

Lucky me

When you’re told, age nine, how lucky you are, you accept it.

When you question your “luck”, age 50, you feel ungrateful.

When you see an Ear, Nose and Throat consultant for a nosebleed, age 59, and he says he’ll investigate your unilateral hearing loss, you are shocked.

This is the first time in 45 years that a medic has shown any interest.

All that remains in my medical records – all that remains of the hearing tests, appointments with specialists, trips to hospital that took me out of school – is a letter signing me off.

We can’t help. Don’t call us, we’ll call you.

Well I wasn’t lucky.

Overnight I lost all hearing in my left ear. It never came back. My life has been adversely affected by monaural hearing. I’m not lucky.

Every day, every minute, I mitigate for my loss of hearing. Let me show you.

You go out with friends for a meal. It’s a rectangular table with ten chairs, five on each side. Where do you sit?

Beside your partner? Opposite your closest friend? Near someone you feel sorry for? Or simply the seat to which you’re directed? It’s your choice.

At that same table, there are only two chairs I can sit at.

I have never heard stereo.

My world is in mono.

You go to the cinema or theatre. You choose a good seat with the best view.

I choose the seat farthest to the left hand side of the room, whether or not I can see.

You’re outside, someone calls your name. You turn towards their voice and wave.

Wherever a person is shouting from, they’re at my right shoulder. The only way to find the voice is to turn on the spot, round in a circle, till I see them.

Don’t shout me. I’ve no idea where you are.

Stop, look, listen.

I’ll stop and I’ll look. No point listening, as all traffic noise comes from my right hand side. Better that I look again – and again, just in case.

In a new workplace you spend the first few days getting used to the layout and your colleagues.

In addition I have to learn the acoustics of the building, where I hear best, where it’s impossible to listen to speech.

You know that look on a person’s face when you misheard them, and answered the “wrong” question?

That’s me every day. Someone looking at me, judging me for not listening.

I was trying my best. I’ve been trying my best for decades. I’m so exhausted, trying my best.

“What’s your right side?”, people who know of my hearing loss ask. They know I can’t hear as we walk unless they’re on my “good” side.

But no-one ever remembers. Never since age nine has anyone remembered which side to walk at. Yes, on a familiar road, because a habit is formed. Not in a different environment. Because I’m lucky. I can still hear. Because it can’t be that bad, otherwise something would have been done about it.

The truly annoying comments – Oh I know exactly how you feel. My ears often block when I get a cold.

You have absolutely no idea how it feels to have permanent unilateral hearing loss. But hey, I’ll smile as usual and you can feel good about your empathy.

And by the way, my sudden hearing loss was probably caused by measles or mumps. No vaccine back then. We had to catch those diseases.

And some of us were lucky. It could have been so much worse.

Lifelong monaural hearing loss

Jane Eyre

Lockdown Memory 2️⃣

I lost interest after the interrupted wedding.

Everything up till then, captivating. Then downhill all the way. Including “Reader, I married him.” I didn’t even notice the iconic ending when I was twelve. My memory of Jane Eyre is much darker.

The Aunt; the school; the Red Room.

Mainly the Red Room.

Oh, and I adored Blanche. I wanted to be Blanche.

Anyway, the Red Room. I’ve seen films and television adaptations of Jane Eyre. They must’ve depicted it. But the most horrific, the darkest, most troubling Red Room was in my mind.

The Aunt made me angry; the school made my spine tense. But nothing came close to the horror of the Red Room.

Blanche was perfect. I didn’t read the book in the way I would later, as an adult. I read it in pure black and white, as children do. I didn’t see Blanche as opportunistic; I didn’t realise her dislike of Jane came about because she was beggin’ of her, please don’t steal my man.

Blanche was beautiful, as were her clothes. Abusive partner Mr R was used to telling pretty women what to do. We found out what happened to his previous partner once she ceased to be Eye Candy.

The wedding, the brother in law (an actual hero, sticking up for his sister) interested me. Tense and excruciating. Then Jane ran away, and the story ended.

Except it didn’t.

Jane found a family, inherited money, and returned to her abusive boyfriend. Nah! It didn’t work for twelve year old me.

Jane Eyre affected me. I only loved half of it, but that half is perfect.

Thank you for reading my blog. You’ll probably enjoy my Musical Lockdown Memory.

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I Am A Rock

Lockdown memory?
I haven’t a clue what’s on my face!

Lockdown Memory 1️⃣

Imagine a nine year old’s birthday party in the late sixties. What comes to mind?

Jelly and ice cream? Party games? New toys? Sweets? A Paul Simon album?

What did you just read? A Paul Simon album? That doesn’t seem right.

But the nine year old was me, and The Paul Simon Songbook was the soundtrack of my childhood.

“Was it your parents’ album, Anne?”

It’s a reasonable question, and the answer is Partly, yes. They had borrowed it from a friend, and taped it onto our family’s reel to reel recorder. Thereafter it was mine.

So after school I walked home with some friends. It was late November and I was having a birthday party. They weren’t organised, expensive celebrations back then. Basically, school friends came to your house, ate whatever food your mum gave them, played with your toys then went home.

It’s worth mentioning here that I didn’t like many of those “school friends”. I preferred the girls who lived in our street. But the unwritten rule was, invite children who score roughly the same marks in exams as yourself.

So we ate our food, then my school friends wanted my toys. I had a better idea. I fetched the reel to reel tape recorder and played The Paul Simon Songbook.

Probably several times.

My school friends found my toys. They ignored me; I ignored them. Bliss.

The Paul Simon Songbook

This week I heard someone on the radio asking what songs are helping us through lockdown. I’m a cynical woman, so I rolled my eyes.

Later that day while walking Flynn, my Border Terrier, a song was going round and round my head.

“Hiding in my room, safe within my womb, I touch no-one and no-one touches me”

A hundred and one memories of playing my favourite childhood song, “I Am A Rock”, from my favourite childhood album, “The Paul Simon Songbook“, flooded my mind. It was part of me, a little girl who liked her own company, had no confidence, but loved music and lyrics so much.

Years later the album was rereleased as a CD. I bought it.

It’s 2020, we’re in lockdown due to COVID19, and Paul Simon’s youthful lyrics feel meaningful once again.

I might just put it on tomorrow.

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Music Time

15 Year Anniversary

Music Time – Wrist Bells

Fifteen years ago I brought together a group of children and parents, and we sang. I had never put myself in such a scary position in my life. I was prepared to dash home and cry if it went badly.

In my loft I still have the first song sheet notes. Should I fetch them down?

I worked in a playgroup and had observed that every child, whatever their other preferences, loved song time. I had an idea to form a separate group for music.

I bought books about teaching music to under fives, and was really lucky to attend a session organised by the National Youth Choir of Scotland (NYCoS)

Musical instruments for children

The day came, I opened the door, families poured in. We sang, we banged tambourines and shook maracas. It was amazing.

Two months later, rather than finishing as I had expected, I made plans to restart after the summer.

It has been like this for fifteen years. Every June I ask myself, Will anyone come back after the holidays? You always do. It amazes me.

Andy & William love Music Time!

April 2020 was to be a month of celebrating our group’s 15th birthday. Instead it has been a month of sadness and worry because of COVID19. Celebrating has been far from my mind.

Whether Music Time ever starts up again is impossible to guess. Maybe it consisted of a beautifully formed, fifteen year project. Maybe we’ll take up where we left off.

If you have ever been part of the group, I would so love to hear from you in the comments.

If you’re as happy as you can be in current circumstances…

CLAP YOUR HANDS!