Thursday, 24 October 2019
My granny, who died in 2015, taught me how to play a frenzied, raucous game called Bagatelle (she seemed to like frenzied, raucous games - also being a demon at Racing Demon). She taught me how to open a bottle of wine, and introduced me to a bewildering array of terms coined by her family, many of which she had invented herself. She was someone for whom the preservation of English and its correct usage was of great importance (a value I believe she passed on to me, much to the chagrin of my friends), and yet she also revelled in her own phrases like the "bus conductor" lunch - meaning a lunch where she put out the cheese box (the bus conductor itself, I believe) and various bits and pieces like ham and Marmite (which she called "Mar-meet" for some reason best known to herself) with a loaf of bread, and you helped yourself to what you wanted. She had her idiosyncratic and traditionalist beliefs on "the proper way" to do things, but she was warm, and open, and she valued people. My granny was someone special, and as a young boy, as well as loving her unconditionally, I intuitively knew that she was an unusual, powerful person. She had a fiery spirit, and a gleeful zest for life which seemed quite rare for someone of her age. She outlived two husbands and though she did give up on romantic life after that (despite a few suitors), it didn't dull her enthusiasm to engage with the world and the things she loved - literature, sports, cinema, her family and friends, conversation, Strictly Come Dancing and The Weakest Link, a whisky at six o'cock and a bowl of salted almonds. She relished life, she was thoughtful, kind, and her mind was sharp. I loved talking with her, because unlike many adults I had encountered she was never, ever patronising. She treated me as her equal and took me seriously. I would count down the days to my visits with Granny with great anticipation, for they meant a week of fantastic fun with a caring, energetic, faintly eccentric old soul whom I loved dearly. My first night would always entail fish fingers, pasta and peas, and when I got a little older, a can of stout, cider or ale. She would listen with great care to the most outrageous ramblings of a young child, and give her honest opinion. Of course occasionally I would go overboard and get a "what rubbish!" as a wry grin spread across her face, knowing I was trying to get that very reaction, but she would never, ever dismiss me outright, she listened carefully to my wildest dreams and considered them carefully. I felt completely at ease with her. We watched The Simpsons, James Bond, Woody Allen and Hitchcock movies, and in the newly reopened Rex cinema in her town of Berkhamsted (an event for which she had vociferously campaigned), our old favourite, Some Like it Hot. During a lengthy speech the artistic director of said cinema made, her voice clearly rang out across the auditorium - "what a pill!" I shrank into my seat, hoping nobody would see me. She was my granny, but she was also my friend. I miss her.