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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Macaroni Tuesdays

Macaroni

Every Tuesday morning I brought out my large oven dish, and set about making macaroni cheese

At Kelso High School lunch hour, a posse of teenagers came through my door, ready to eat the lot

I had a rough idea of how many there would be, but made extra to be sure

Now I look at the dish and wonder how long it would take my household to eat its full quota of mac and cheese. Maybe a week?

The teenagers are nearly thirty years old now. I wonder if any of them remember my macaroni

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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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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!