Weblog Commenting and Trackback by HaloScan.com rockpool in the kitchen: 04/01/2005 - 05/01/2005

Wednesday, April 27, 2005

The griefs of parents: 1

Granny is sitting in Beloved son's house in Kew; today is mind grandchildren/cook dinner for son and daughter-in-law day - but now one child is at school and the other at nursery and she has their parents' much superior laptop to play on. Blue sky is being slowly covered in white clouds. Apple blossom out, birds singing, grass green. All the cliches. But nice. House very tidy. Not everything descends through generations. The only exception is the room Granny temporarily inhabits upstairs; clobber hauled out of bags and scattered... oh well, never mind. In two days she will bag it all up and return to her tiny flat, currently inhabited by tenants, who will move out for the duration.

Here is the post Granny drafted before she left her island. It's probably the last long one she'll do till the end of next month. But she will keep on thinking - and writing the odd note here.

Granny has written already something of her Dad’s private problems – born by mistake to parents the age of grandparents, brought up in the attics of his parents’ house all by himself, tended by a not very interested housemaid, who had not entered service in order to be a nanny. His parents loved him; but parents then saw their offspring at set times, did not view them as a full time duty. The life, company, social activity of middle-class children like him went on in the nursery. Such life, company, entertainment he altogether lacked. And though, unlike his nursery-reared siblings, he ate lunch with his parents, they were very stiff quiet adult meals. At which he would have been discouraged from making conversation. His father was well over sixty by then and set in his ways. Dad did love his older brothers, in particular he adored the younger of the two, who treated him like a son and brother both, playing with him, and once the war started, drilling him as a soldier, up and down his nursery, broomsticks as rifles. But they were not there very often. Before very long they were both dead.

To his sisters – eleven and thirteen years older - he was a plaything at first. That changed. Towards the end of the first world war the elder, the giddy silly one, considered unreliable by her parents, used to cycle over to nearby airfield - to visit the officers, it goes without saying, not the ordinary airmen – she wasn’t that giddy. Granny’s dad aged ten or so by then was sent on his bicycle as chaperone. It is hard to imagine which of them – sister or little brother – objected to this more. The more sensible younger sister he came to confide in, as he grew up. 'I could tell her about my girlfriends,' he said. 'My mother was too old.'

But neither of them were the kind of companions that nearer in age siblings would have been. He claimed never to have had a friend till he was seven or so and tutored for prep school jointly with the grandson of one of his parents’ friends. When they were not learning Latin, the two were given packed lunches, a little pocket money and despatched to amuse themselves in London, in whatever way the pocket money ran to; not much further than the bus probably. This continued during the holidays, even after he was sent to be brutalised at prep school by a sadist headmaster who liked pretty little boys – for reasons which Dad, an innocent all his life probably never fully understood; and then rather less traumatically to the public school of which he remained so devoted a supporter up to the summer that he died.

His trials at school were more public than the ones resulting from his family background. But not so public as the griefs which he suffered alongside everyone else as a result of one war and another. As he said to Granny, in his eighties, tears rolling down his cheeks. ‘I have some good German friends. But I can’t like the Germans. They killed my brothers in the first world war, my friends in the second.’ Though Granny herself, for obvious reasons, did not experience the first world war and knew the second only as an excuse for midnight junketings and trips to the country – leaving her almost disappointed when it ended - the effects of these griefs permeated her family life far more than she realised. In her late twenties she set a book during the First World War. Though she had to research the details, she did not have to research the atmosphere. The melancholy came welling up from the past, from the pages of all the books her father collected about the history of both wars, from the memory of the black skirts and chokers her grandmother wore and had done her father said ever since the loss of her eldest sons. It permeated the pages she was writing without any effort from her let alone thought. It took her a while realise where it came from.

A further public – yet more personal - grief for her father was that his one great ambition, to go into the army, was thwarted. His mother – a dear he said - would not hear of it, for obvious reasons and he could not, would not disobey that. Of course when the second war came he saw his chance. But alas his job in the House of Commons exempted him, and he was not allowed to gainsay that either. The closest he got to war was Dad’s Army, the Home Guard, on behalf of which he spent dutiful nights on one exercise or another. His nearest approach to a war wound was a mashed thumb, caught in the tailgate of a Home Guard truck – lorry Granny supposes she’d better call it; she remembers – or thinks she remembers - him coming home that morning, pouring blood. Much of the rest of the war he spent touring England looking for billets for Members of Parliament for when they moved the Mother of Parliaments to some safer place than London. (Granny doesn’t know when and if they did.)

Leaving aside the griefs, Granny’s dad’s view of these wars (as of being English – he could not imagine wanting to be anything else, as could not Granny in her youth) was rooted in Victorian mores. He inherited his elder brothers’ Henty books – with titles like ‘With Clive in India.’ Or ‘With Gordon at Khartoum.’ All of which featured some young man/boy keeping his upper lip stiff, his back straight – even if to the wall – his white man’s burden light as a feather – his honour untarnished – if dented by the bullets and spears of some revolting Native – and ended with his spears won, his manhood attained. So on and so forth. About just the kind of idiocy in fact which left Scott dying in a tent – and Oates taking a long time over his walk – while Amundsen who valued the advice and local know-how of ‘ignorant’ ‘natives’ got to the Pole and back safely in much less time. But who, not believing in heroic failure, wasn’t in the English sense ‘manly’.

‘Manly’ was definitely The Word. One Granny’s father believed in. In the light of which she remembers him marching upstairs once, her brother in one hand, cane in the other. Aged ten or so, her brother was to be caned for not ‘being manly’ or ‘keeping ‘a stiff upper lip’ – in other words for having made a fuss about a smallpox vaccination. Even aged seven, Granny thought this outrageous. She was to be seen following the procession upstairs, pounding on her father’s bottom, yelling, ‘you’re not to beat my brother, you’re not to beat him.’ Vainly. The saddest thing of all about this was that her father would have hated the business quite as much as her brother did, let alone her mother. But he believed in it as -his English - fatherly duty. Just as he believed it would have been his duty to fight in both world wars, had he been old enough during the one, or permitted to during the other.

Granny inherited the books, and devoured them all in her turn, looked in tender amazement at the notebooks in which her father as a boy had sketched out his own versions of similar exploits, along with drawings of soldiers and dragons. She fell for the myth of manliness too more or less – and in the less bellicose books she also inherited and read, from the same period, where there were actually sisters – women! – fell for the myth of ‘maidenliness’ they advocated, feeling herself fall well short. Quiet, obedient, thoughtful? With not a filthy thought in her head? Not her. And anyway she wasn’t sufficiently stupid. (‘Be good, sweet maid, and let who will be clever...’ was something clearly endorsed by the public school young men she was brought up to marry, who on meeting her at dances and learning she was at Oxford, fled at the first opportunity. Just as well for her that the last person on earth she wanted to marry was the product of an English public school. Having a father and brother from them was more than enough.)

The manliness and obedience bit, the Englishman right or wrong bit, came hard up against reality during the Suez crisis. Granny’s dad was fervently in favour of it. Granny beginning to think for herself by then, by no means so sure. The Daily Mirror – with the cartoon strips beloved of Granny’s mother- vanished from the house forever when it turned out to be as much against the idiot adventure as Granny’s father was for it. Her mother had to make do with the Daily Express, with Giles and the Gambols, thereafter.

Granny does not know if her dad changed his view of the Suez venture in later years; she’d learned not to discuss such things with him by then. Britain having lost its Empire did not get embroiled in ventures as corrupting, divisive and socially damaging as the Vietnam war - Suez was brief after all and did not leave millions of traumatised veterans. She knew he retained his belief in the superiority of being English – of his preference, even though quite eclectic in his tastes, for what he called ‘good English food.’ (School food, to you.) But she thinks the bellicosity – ‘might is right as long as it is English and Standing Up for St George and Empire’ - lost quite a lot of its force for him as the twentieth century ground to its bloody end.

When George Bush and Tony Blair invaded Iraq, Granny asked her dad what he thought of the venture.

‘I’ve seen too many wars, ‘ he said. And he wept all over again.

Monday, April 25, 2005


Departure day. Granny has had a two hour search for her London keys and her English purse -the one hung on the hooks where keys always hang, the other stowed in the equally appropriate safe; how could she imagine anything so obvious? But now she is ready to go, if reluctant.

Much as she longs for England and her family Granny hates leaving the island and Beloved. Beloved will follow her in 10 days time. The island, rooted to the ocean bed, will have to wait till her return. She will miss the sea. She will not miss the wind, scheduled to last the summer. Good for Trade maybe, bowling the ships along. But not much else. And anyway, not to see an English spring is unthinkable. As is staying away from her grandchildren one minute longer. She may be able to write a little while she is away. One big post is in draft and she will put it up in a day or two.

Meanwhile a thought about the chickens. They are establishing their pecking order now. It is already clear which of the two Mr Handsomes is top cock. The loser is despised by all. He looks depressed, one eye closed, he hangs out on the little ramp leading from house to run all by himself. When the other chickens want to come out of the house, they push past him, regardless. Sometimes he gets pushed off. It's very sad. Beloved has picked him up and felt his crop and says he is still feeding. But the way things are going on he won't even be good to eat. Granny wants to separate him, put him away from his tormenters, feed him up. Beloved says this is the life of the flock and it's a waste of time. Testosterone, Beloved says; the top bird develops more and more, the sad loser less and less. In a flock without a male he says, the top hen develops testosterone too, more and more of it. Powerful, she becomes more powerful thereby. Ad infinitum.

Now this is interesting. Granny reflects on her feared and eccentric headmistress, heading her large flock of women from teaching staff down to the smallest new girl. She also reflects on Mrs Thatcher, top hen, top - honorary- male. She knows that the much deeper voice she developed was partly achieved by voice training, to erradicate the shrillness, the nagging note. But could it also have been a result of ever increasing testosterone? Remember the way she turned her male cabinet into mere hens? Remember her plume, her comb, her wattles? Yes indeed.

Sunday, April 24, 2005

Aha: pictures

This is the very slightly less stupendously ugly 30's house into which Granny's family moved, the same year that the last picture was taken. (To be explained shortly.) It was the first house the family ever owned. Along with all the other pieces of Victorian baggage carried by Granny's father was the one that said 'Never borrow. Owing money is dangerous.' Something like that, anyway. So if you weren't lucky enough to inherit a family mansion - not always an advantage at the time; keeping them up became almost impossible postwar unless you also inherited scads of family money - and not always then - you rented. 'Mortgages' were invented by those friendly society/ building societies, located in the benighted north for the benefit of thrifty working and lower-middle classes. Classified as 'borrowing' they were not, NOT, utilised by southern gentry, like Granny's parents.

By the early 50's though reality had begun to kick in, even for financial, and relatively - in middle class terms - impoverished people like them. In the year of the coronation they vacated their rented 30's house, took out a mortgage and purchased this one. Where they lived until Granny's mother died. You can just see the rose garden in front where her father, a few years later, delivered his ultimatum to her Tribune reading boyfriend.

So to that picture; velvet kneebreaches, sword, tiara and all...... It was taken at 6 o'clock in the morning outside the palace of Westminster on June ?2nd (or was it the 3rd) 1953, the day of the Queen's coronation - and also, coincidentally, the day Edmund Hillary and Sherpa Tensing climbed Everest, for the first time. A happy coincidence possibly. Or maybe not. (Neither of the pair were English, in spite of an Englishman, John Hunt, having led the expedition. This fact was not emphasized in the triumphant reports.) As a result of his clerk's job in the House of Commons, Granny's dad, along with his colleagues, was required to act as an usher inside Westminster Abbey, hences the kneebreaches and the sword. 'Usher' was, he said, afterwards, a grand word for lavatory attendent; he spent most of the day escorting ermine-clad elderly peers with prostrate problems to the loo. Even had he known how to use his sword it would not have availed him much in such a duty; unless they'd gone out in herds perhaps, when he could have used it to prod them like cattle? Dream on.

Granny's mother, meanwhile, as his wife, was given a seat in the Abbey. The downside of which was having to present herself along with him - she was no more an early-morning person than Granny. This was why she stood there in that picture, at 6 a.m, clad in her one and only evening dress (New Look you may or may not have noticed) and the hideous family tiara, kept normally in a bank vault - where it is still as far as Granny knows: the uses of a tiara these days, are limited. Thus she did see Queen without crown, but with large train of attendents processing up the aisle past her, did see her again a few hours later, escorted back down it, crown and all. She did hear the miked voices of the priests, the Archbishop, the thin small voice of the Queen, sounding pretty much like Celia Johnson in 'Brief Encounter' as she made her vows, she did hear the great shouts of Vivat Regina, the soaring notes of Zadok the Priest fly up into the abbey roof above her. But given the large screen between nave and chancel - only the ultra-privileged sat there - she saw nothing of the procedures in front of the altar. For that she had to wait for the film just like the rest of us. (The special blue velvet stools on which she and Granny's father knelt at appropriate moments remained the property thereafter of those who used them. They kicked around the family house for years. It's possible Granny's brother still has them.)

As for Granny and her siblings; as the family of an employee of the House of Commons, they were given seats in a specially erected stand outside New Palace Yard. Escorted by an obliging neighbour - not unnaturally she jumped at the chance - they watched the processions go past, before the Queen was crowned and after. The Queen of course was in her golden coach, much like Cinderella's coach in the pictures, Granny thought - though Cinderella's headgear was prettier. But that was the only part of the procession just as it should have been.

It rained non-stop. The big black busbies of the soldiers had to be covered, so did their scarlet uniforms. All the royals, all the foreign notables, went past hidden inside their carriages, reluctant to ruin their finery by opening up the covers. All except the Queen of Tonga, of course, adored by the British forever after. How the British do love 'a good sport' even if fat, black and a 'native' . Granny did wonder who dried out the Queen of Tonga thereafter. Granny's Dad? But actually she may only have been so rash as to soak herself on the way back from the Abbey. Granny doesn't remember.

She did write a piece for the school magazine about the adventure. She only remembers one sentence from it; about the new silver carriages on the underground train they took from Charing Cross station to Westminster. 'They seemed right for the day,' she wrote. Something she remembers whenever she rides on one now, dull, not shiny, dented, covered in the shadows of ill-rubbed-off graffiti.

PS. The first post about her parent's griefs is almost ready. Granny will post it later today or tomorrow before she leaves for Blighty. Can you wait?


Saturday, April 23, 2005

Sex and the single silk worm

Granny's still working on her parents. In betweenwhiles a small story about eldest granddaughter.

Like all children of her generation she's skilled on a computer; is allowed by her parents to spend half an hour a day on the family machine. (And no, it is not in her bedroom. Absolutely not.) One day recently she went up to have her session - the computer sits in her parents' shared workroom at the top of the three storied house. Only to come tearing downstairs suddenly pink-cheeked, demanding to be taken to the park on her bicycle - as she is not usually by choice a physically energetic child this was very unusual. Her parents were baffled.

When they used the computer later the answer to the mystery was obvious. Those things that appear like maggots when one bluebottle has landed popped up all over the place. Evidently their Gorgeous Daughter had googled SEX and got more than she bargained for. Beloved daughter said; I was expecting these problems in due course; but not at eight.'

Where was 'parental control' you might ask? Well, leaving aside her mother's belief stated above, Beloved Son-in-Law pointed out that if you impose this it disables all kinds of quite innocent and useful sites at the same time - he preferred to deal with the problem locally as far as he could. He proceeded to do so. Now if you put SEX into their Google it comes up with such gems as 'gender selection in fruit flies.' Or 'sex ratios in rabbits.' Granny is making these up of course. But you get the picture.

When Granny was eight she didn't know the word sex in any context other, just possibly, than that of telling the gender of her dog's puppies. Her parents meanwhile knew as little about such knotty problems as 'gender selection in fruit flies' - let alone 'ex ratios in rabbits.' Science was - and remained - as closed a book to them as sex was - but not for ever -to their daughters.

They did know on the other hand about silkworms. Granny has not a clue herself as to what whim led her mother to decide that her children needed to know about the life cycle of the butterfly/moth genus. Or quite how she managed to persuade the nearest silkworm farm - the onlyEnglish silkworm farm of which Granny knows - the one that still produces silk for royal wedding-dresses - to provide her with some eggs. Or how she managed to pick them up even - this was just after the war; there was still no petrol for their car. But she did manage all of it. As she also managed to browbeat the owners of the only local mulberry tree into letting her pick mulberry leaves to feed them on.

It only lasted a year or so, till the time, more or less, that the family moved to the stupendously ugly but much more comfortable thirties house in which they lived for the next six years. But Granny remembers it all as wondrous. Though it taught her nothing about sex - it wasn't intended to - the life-cycle of the silkworm moth sits deep in her soul somewhere. Some time she might try to describe it. But just now she has to take Feline Houdini to the vet to get 'sus protecciones.' In other words his yearly jabs. Cheers

Here is a small postscript added later: driving down south to the vet, loudly protesting Feline Houdini beside her, granny found herself reflecting; that her eight year old innocence was infinitely preferable to Beloved Granddaughter's so rudely disrupted one. She would not have wished that on any grandchild of hers - or anyone else's. Why does not Google, she wonders, prevent such sites appearing instantly to anyone? For those desperately in need of them - poor things - there would always be some way round it. Or is she just being naive?

Driving back north, Feline Houdini protesting loudly as ever, she reflected further on the fact that it was hot down there in the south, also seething with tourists. The price of her disdain for the latter, her somewhat guilty ambivalence towards her holidaying compatriots - their carefully chosen pastel holiday outfits, their peeling skin, the over-exposed, over-endowed flesh - is living up here with the wind; and with - at this time of year - the frequently immovable cloud cap above their heads. It is infinitely more beautiful in these parts, for sure. She doesn't really regret it, even while throwing on the sweaters. But she does sometimes wonder about the way she sees her fellow Brits, she really does - though she doesn't think she's alone in it.

After writing which she looks out of the window and sees the sky is blue and the sun has at last come out. She's off!


Friday, April 22, 2005


No: you are not seeing things. Granny's dad IS wearing kneebreeches and that IS a sword by his side. (Granny doubts if he had a clue how to use it.) Granny's mother IS wearing a tiara. Why? AHA. In this post - till the next maybe - Granny will not even reveal the date - it might give things away. All she will tell you is that his very much less formal attire that can be glimpsed in the fragment of photo alongside had been donned for painting scenery for the local amateur dramatic society. For the rest: AHA again. WAIT AND SEE.

Attic Woman aka the first Mrs R , latches on to words sometimes and then brings them up again and again. On Granny’s visit to her yesterday she said ‘It’s a triangle.’ She kept on saying it in one context or another, making clear that what she meant was the three of them, the first and second Mrs R and their Beloved. She seemed alright about it. 'I don't mind,' she said, Granny told her the story of her headmistress from the last post. Mrs R laughed furiously and then said ‘triangle’ again. And she and Granny held hands for a bit until the sun went in and it was time for her to be wheeled home.

Emotional triangles; yes. Granny has experienced one or two, who hasn't. Two women, one man. Two men, one woman. Not till she was an adult though – sometimes wishing she wasn’t - these are always uncomfortable and often painful situations. ‘There were always three in our marriage.’ Guess who said THAT’ Or more or less; granny is not going to chase up the original. But she imagines such triangles can be as uncomfortable and painful when polygamy is permitted rather than implicit. Her parents were, contrariwise, fiercely monogamous. When her dad remarried after her mother’s death, it stayed that way. Weeping after Granny’s stepmother’s death he said he felt bad about having stayed more devoted to his first wife. But he was a much better husband to his second wife than her first had been. She loved him dearly, he loved her too in his way and they spent twenty happy years together. Her death devastated him.

At his 75th birthday party – stepmother was too far up the table to hear, the naughty doctor’s wife leaned across to a startled Granny and said ‘I always felt sorry for you children. Your parents were so ridiculously over in love.’

This was the first time it had occurred to Granny that her parents’ mutual adoration could have been a problem. The moment she thought about it though, she began to understand what the doctor’s wife had meant.

In one sense her parents’ devotion was beautiful to be around and she’s still grateful for it. One of her friends – daughter of a far from devoted couple – claimed never to have forgotten the morning she and Granny came down to breakfast and innocently ate the bowl of wild strawberries Granny’s dad had picked especially for his wife; the fury that followed. (As the same friend has also not forgotten the time she was offered a drink and asked for whisky. Granny’s dad frowned at this – but because she was a visitor complied. Not so when Granny did likewise. Shouting ‘No daughter of mine’ etc, he handed over a glass of sherry. Young women it seemed – even older ones like Granny’s mother – drank sherry; or at the very most pink gin. Whisky was for men. Or grandmothers. Only later did Granny learn that her grandmother, his mother, kept a flask of whisky in her handbag and added goodly drams to her milkless cuppas.)

The doctor's wife comment did, however, make Granny realise the extent to which none of her parent’s four children existed in their own right. They were more an extension of the great love between them – an attempt by each of them to make up to the other for their own damaged childhoods. Granny and her siblings lived on their behalf the happily childish lives not given them: protected from the world the way they weren’t, despite a mutually abiding innocence.

The fifties were a time, anyway, when many middle-class adults tried desperately to put the horrors of the war behind the themselves and still more their young. Whispers of the worst horrors – Auschwitz, Belsen, Nagasaki - crept in; but still middle-class childhood was as enclosed as a hen-run, with anodyne children’s books to match. Even the war memoirs and stories that filled their houses like most and were read avidly by Granny were as remote as fairy-tales; gave her nightmares for a day or two, then vanished into the never-really-was, or at least could- never - happen-again. Much like the Dennis Wheatley stories of devil worship which she devoured (secretly) at the same time. She and her siblings remained wrapped in deep, terrifying innocence, even after they came across – as Granny did - such headlines as ‘H-Bomb exploded’ in the school common-room copy of the Times. Though she never felt wholly easy therefter, the innocence lived on.

It was pure Enid Blyton– there they were roaming freely across the countryside during the holidays just like the Famous Five - complete with dog if not the lurking crooks all ready to be foiled. In termtime – after the age of twelve for the girls – eight for their more unfortunate brother -they departed to boarding-school, their versions of St Clare's or Malory Towers. (Better than the descendents of Tom Brown's Rugby as suffered by the boys, for sure.) This greatly grieved Granny’s mother. She hated it every time - confessed later that she cried for two days. But because it was good for her children - she thought – she accepted it. Even despite the heart-breaking letters that arrived from her eight-year old son when he first went away. ‘I am homsick and lonly. Let me com home.’

But he had to learn to be an Englishman, she knew - Granny’s dad believed it so she had to -away from the softening influence of his mother. The theory in general was that children went to boarding-school to learn how to be independent. But actually all they did was learn how to survive in boarding-school. Not a good training for real life, if sometimes enjoyable at the time. (Granny’s dad taken in his nineties to watch his old school play another one at cricket reported with pride. ‘We won.’ Even though by now the school in question contained as little of him and what he’d experienced in it as his endless regenerating – and by now withering away - skin and flesh and bone contained of his thirteen to eighteen year old self. Very touching but sad. So you see. )

When Granny and her siblings went their own ways, still more when their lives took turns their parents found difficult to encompass, it was as if they were losing parts of themselves. Granny’s nurse sister said of them on the telephone from Australia only yesterday; ‘They were both so needy.’ Which is one way of putting it. In the version Granny arrived at. aged 22 or so, her very different, madly in love parents were like orphans in a storm, clinging together for comfort. She was observing at the time the way her parents confronted together her mother’s final illness. It was, you could say, ‘heart-warming’ ‘courageous’ etc etc. ‘How brave your parents were..’ she was always hearing. And so they were; in their way. But what it taught her – if this sounds cruel – forgive her –her sisters pretty much took the same lesson – was how NOT to do it. Confronting death is done better as a grown-up. Something the medical system itself discouraged at the time. Granny’s parents were not alone.

What orphaned her parents both - their mini, very English, very middle-class version of the history of the twentieth century she will explain – or try to – in the next post.


Thursday, April 21, 2005

This and that - and four letter words

1. Chooks are growing; and beginning to get over their battery farm reluctance to go outside. They are also ceasing to sound like chicks, peep peep peep, such a funny sound coming out of largish birds. Now their chicken voices have broken - is that what it is? - when Granny ventures inside their house she hears that most comforting and lovely of sounds - it takes her right back to childhood - soft clucks and whoops, and gentle purrings, an ongoing serenade that's like a gentler version of a northern beck over stones; another of the most heavenly sounds in the world. (Not one to be found here. She has to make do with the sea, so don't feel sorry for her.)

2. A new one on Granny. She is wearing an old pair of stretch jeans, a bit too tight for her these days; the zip therefore is inclined to slip. Mr Handsome from Blackburn was sitting in the kitchen when she went in. 'You've got egg on your chin,' he said. Turns out this is the polite northern way of telling someone their fly is open. They are very polite in the north, it seems. Granny who has no problem with four letter Anglo-Saxon for describing physiological functions (she inherited spade calling spade from her mother) finds herself continually shocking him. 'I'd never expect to hear words like that coming out of someone like you,' he says (for 'someone like you' read a) ageing b) posh (in his view, Granny can't help the accent, sorry) c) female.

3. Here's a query arising from a comment she made added to comments yesterday; as to why sex - or rather chastity was such a religious issue - so central to her parents. Deirdre came up with a terrible story about a great aunt sent away when she got pregnant outside wedlock - her parents feeling obliged to move town. And we all know the havoc wrought on young women not so long ago, forced to give up their babies to adoption and never quite getting over it; of those further back confined to lunatic asylums for sexual activity. Granny herself, from those days before the pill and legal abortion, remembers the constant terror of getting pregnant. What walk into the Birth Control clinic without engagement ring and a fairly immediate wedding date? A waste of time. Nor were the likes of Vera Drake inviting. As for breaking the news of an (un) happy event to your parents.. Worse and worse.

It isn't/wasn't sex itself she concludes. It was literally to do with honour - family honour - especially in patrilineal families where legitimacy comes from the male not the female ..If your daughter was unchaste, your wife unfaithful... well.. Though things have slipped a bit when it's the adulterous male makes the fuss about paternity not the rightful husband - look recently at David Blunkett and what turned out to be not 'his little lad.' It hasn't slipped elsewhere, unfortunately. Honour killings make that clear. It's the woman always bears the brunt of it, the worst of the cruelty - even when the cruelty is mainly mockery. (Camilla?) All this may be cliche but not alas anachronism. How she wishes it was.

(But it makes and made good fictional material. There's a novel by Trollope, she remembers, called KEPT IN THE DARK - about a woman who failed to tell her fiance that she'd been engaged to a man before; then jilted him. Something shameful apparently at the time. The force of the verb 'jilted' shows it. No such easy dramas now - except in romance fiction set before the 20th century. As dear Bob, reminded Granny. Actually the Trollope novel was not a good one. She is glad to say.)

Her dad felt some of this loss of honour she is sure, vis a vis his less than virtuous daughters. Her mother may have suffered more from the religious failing but he felt it socially; the rather milk and water version, certainly, if presented with the worst he was unlikely to move towns let alone gather up Granny's brother and advance on his daughter with an axe. But Granny remembers vividly watching him talk to another boyfriend - the one she didn't marry - to their relief - he used to drape himself round their sitting-room reading what were to them red rags, like Tribune. They didn't talk face to face. They were pacing up and down, one in front of the other, amid the rather intricate collection of rosebushes, set out a bit like a sundial, with little grass walkways between and around them, that stood in front of the french window of the 30's house. Both had their hands clasped behind their backs. Both had heads down - they had to watch their step on the narrow paths, to avoid landing in the roses.

Granny couldn't hear what was said; but she knew the subject matter. Boyfriend and Granny were proposing to go on a camping holiday in France - by themselves. This according to her Dad was not to be thought of. 'Suppose you met one of our neighbours?' seems to have been his chief worry, rather than argument - you can see what she means about the milk and water version.

Anyway the upshot of it all was that they went away on holiday in a foursome; with a friend whose boyfriend was studying for the priesthood. Well that was chaperonage enough or so Granny's parents thought. Unfortunately for them - and some more of their illusions - the curate's bride came back pregnant and had to get married in a hurry. The would be curate left Theological College and became an industrial relationships expert.

That holiday was also the end of the relationship. Granny returned to her first love and subsequent not so much later husband who'd started playing hard to get until she went off with someone else (Granny then and now does not believe in unrequited love.) The boyfriend had even less sense of humour than her Dad. When Granny wrote to congratulate him on his engagement a year or two later, a letter came back describing the fiancee in very dispassionate terms. 'I think I can mould her,' it ended. Granny realised she'd had a lucky escape. And that socialism and sexism could be - were - bedfellows.

Granny is off online now to tell more of her family story. Don't wait up. She may be a long time.


Tuesday, April 19, 2005

Sex and the married women

Granny’s mother in later life might seem more solemn, not to say proper, in the previous piece about her than she was really was. Let’s just balance the story a little. She confessed to Granny once that after travelling in Europe she left her suitcase unpacked under the bed for a whole year. It was not a matter of her not being as much a slut at heart as her daughter (slut in the English sense Deirdre…) just that she’d trained herself not to be.

Her two best friends were also far from proper. One was a theatrical agent of sorts, a ugly/ attractive divorcee with a wicked sense of humour, an exceedingly louche laugh and all the signs of a far from conventional lifestyle to which Granny alas was never privy. (Had her mother lived longer she might have learned much more.) The other best friend was the local doctor’s wife, an exceedingly naughty lady, famous for her many affairs, who laughed at everything and everyone, very often in the company of Granny’s mother. The last communication Granny herself had with her, a year or two before she died – she must have been at least 80 at the time - went as follows: ‘My granddaughter H. just asked me if she should sleep with her boyfriend. I told her I’d lost my virginity at fifteen and it never did me any harm.’ Whatever you may think of this advice it gives the flavour of her pretty well.. (The granddaughter not surprisingly adored her.) Granny is eternally sorry that as a result of her father’s fleeing their home village after her mother died, she did not get many chances to pick the old friend’s brains. Had she had done so more over the years she thinks she might have learned a lot about both her parents, some of it possibly surprising. She knows for a fact that both old friends could and did laugh in the nicest way sometimes at Granny’s father. It might have been easier for Granny if she could have learned much earlier to do the same.

These naughty ladies she sees as her mother’s alter egos; containing all of her reigned-in unspent selves. She doubts if she was theirs. She does know that both of them loved her as she loved them; though not as much as she loved Granny’s father, stuffy as he sometimes was. What Granny has to try and understand is why her formerly wild child mother got to be so restrained so very proper in later life (too rigorously so for her own good as housewife and wife and mother) in her behaviour at least - she was not always so proper in what she said. Unlike Granny’s father who went on about the importance of A Sense of Humour (very English this) but didn’t have much of one, her sense of humour was wicked. She was also not afraid of saying exactly what she thought to anyone on earth; many of whom loved her for it; when they were not terrified -she did not suffer fools gladly. She also bewildered them by refusing to join in the social activities of her village contemporaries. (Join the W.I. Me? Not on your nelly.) Even so it was always a mystery to Granny why people should be so nervous of her anything but scary mother. But they were.

Part of her mother's rigour, she suspects, stemmed from her perfectionism. This revealed itself very early. She did not utter a word until she was three, then spoke in complete and perfect sentences. (‘You expect me to talk babytalk? NO WAY. I’ll speak only when I can do it properly. Like you.’) So her marriage and wifedom and parenthood too had to be as perfect as she could make them. Having grown up without a mother from the age of 3, having been passed round successions of unwilling relatives until the good aunt took her and elder sister on, she was not going to endanger her own family in some way. On top of that, she had a genuinely deep religious faith at which Granny marvels to this day, unable to share it. It was not like her Dad’s mostly dutiful churchgoing a matter of accepted and comforting social convention. It was the real thing. Granny has the most painful – perhaps wonderful - certainly touching -memory of her mother saying in the voice of a child the last time she saw her, ‘Now I’ll see Mummy again’. How much Granny still hopes that she was right. But rather fears she wasn’t.

Keeping sex strictly for marriage she saw as a significant religious duty. She believed in it for herself at least as absolutely as she believed in her marriage vows; even while accepting - and at times enjoying - the lapses of her friends. For them she was quite unshockable, if not for her children, whose lapses cut her to the heart. Partly perhaps, remembering her own uncomfortable childhood, she did not want to see as a result yet another generation of unhappy children.

She was not, thank God, as religious as her elder sister. This sister became an Anglican nun, and when she had to leave her convent after getting TB, felt she could only atone for breaking her religious vows by converting to Roman Catholicism; ‘perverting’ Granny’s mother said, who was not above laughing at all this despite her own faith. (The same aunt cut Granny out of her will when her first marriage broke up ‘for breaking her marriage vows.’ This is true.)

In various respects, Granny’s mother was not the least prudish. Whereas Granny’s dad, paled, fled, if caught in anything as decent as his underpants, she used to undress in front of her daughters without a thought. One of the places they could talk to her most easily was while she was lying unconcernedly in her morning bath, even scratching herself in the most intimate way sometimes. And Granny knows for a fact (don’t ask how she knows) that her parents had an extremely active and satisfactory sex life for all that they were very ‘modern’ - for then - in opting for twin beds pushed close together rather than the thoroughly Victorian matrimonial double.

Talk about sex to her daughters though she could not. She could not even explain the use of Tampax when they happened on it in her knicker drawer. And though she took them down the garden, in turn, to explain menstruation (oh the horror! that can’t possibly happen to me!) the only sexual instruction she felt able to give them was via a book thrust surreptitiously at each of them, which explained a lot about rabbits but not much about themselves. With the result that Granny who dropped biology long before the very virginal and embarrassed biology teacher blushingly got that far, received most of her sexual instruction – not always accurate – from better informed and sometimes malicious schoolfriends. (Because of the twin beds, Granny assumed for quite a while thereafter that her parents did this unthinkable thing in the bath. Where else would they ever be naked together?)

Years later, when brought face to face with the fact that this – and probably the other -twin daughter though by no means married were also by no means virginal (by then the twins were 22 – really!) Granny’s ma prevailed on her great friend, Granny’s former headmistress, to invite Granny to tea to discuss it. A formidable, ferociously witty, extremely eccentric, woman, the headmistress loved her mother, partly because unlike all the other parents of her pupils, she had never been the least intimidated by her. (First ever conversation, at their first ever interview: HM to new parent, Granny's ma. ‘You’re late.’ NP to HM. ‘So would you be late if you’d had to do all the things I’ve had to do this morning.’ The HM laughed. …The NP laughed. After that the friendship blossomed. As it also blossomed between her and Granny once she had left school: the headmistress had few pupils who went to university. Had she not bullied Granny’s parents on her behalf, Granny would not have got there either. Continuing friendship was therefore an easy option.)

The invitation to tea availed Granny’s mother little.

Headmistress to much younger friend but supposedly erring ex-pupil,Granny, tortoiseshell cigarette holder poised significantly in her right hand. ‘I hear you’ve been sleeping with your boyfriend.’

G to HM. (Startled. She has not been forewarned.) ‘Er. Yes. I have.’

HM to G. ‘Well I hope it’s alright, darling.’

G to HM. ‘Yes. It’s lovely.’

HM puts her cigarette holder to mouth, takes a puff; takes it out again and smiles at granny -or maybe laughs at her a little. HM to G. ‘Is it? Good. I wouldn’t know, darling. I never did it.’

This conversation reported back made her mother laugh at least. And a few months later Granny and the boyfriend got married so that was alright. Despite the decision to do it in haste – partly so as not to get in the way of her father’s very important (to him) golfing tournament– despite the suspicious way in which the wedding guests consequently eyed Granny’s belly, her first child – Beloved Daughter – arrived, respectably, nearly 18 months later. (By which time alas her mother was dead. But that’s another, much sadder story.)



Granny will put up her mum later. Meantime just to say she slightly maligned this landscape - hills have turned brown again; but there are still flowers - mainly yellow and white on Granny's land. And the arrival of succulents turn it red in patches. All the fig trees have the best crop of leaves ever - and vines have their leaves and the rural landscape has crops flourishing across it - stripes dots swathes of different greens, picked out by the black picon - volcanic granules - laid on all fields where they grow things (it holds moisture very well. The dews can be heavy here, even without rain.) The wind has dropped a bit. Good. The sun continues to prefer the tourist parts of the island. Bad.

A hints of parents. With what scent, smell do you associate yours?

Granny's mother's was definitely her face powder - not quite scented, nor chemical but female in an almost animal way - at the same time intriguingly ersatz, in a thirties way. Her father's was to be found most plainly in his handkerchief drawer - she used to bury her face in the silk ones especially. They provided her with her first experience of full on male. Something she still encounters round Beloved sometimes, and is filled with nostalgia. The powder, though, belongs to another country. Granny prefers a shiny nose herself.

Monday, April 18, 2005

In passing

Granny will be working, offline, on another family piece today. There's a lot she wants to write and only a week to do it in; next Monday she's off for a few weeks, back to the UK and her other life.

So she will write only briefly here, on another grey, windy day, sitting in her dressing-gown and with the heater on beside her. She has spent the weekend wondering whether she should remove the two pieces related to the Rochester family. She wrote very tentatively in the first place; such things are difficult. In the end only did so because urged to by Mr R and because, thinking of the many people in the same difficult place that he was/is she decided that such things should perhaps be discussed, even anonymously as here. No comments on either post she noticed. Does that mean other people think they shouldn't be? She'd be interested to know.

Saturday, April 16, 2005


Granny is cold, dead-headed, and tired. She has not slept well. She has to confess that she and Beloved have an embarrassing little problem - related to their advanced age no doubt. (Granny is ready to swear that in her case it is, honestly, a relatively new problem; her former bedmate of choice never complained about it, at least.) They both snore. Not every night; but often enough.

Now let's say at once that in neither case are these the full-on harrumphing snores that Granny always visualised as strings of sausages when, as a little girl, she heard them emanating from the aged nanny with whom she and her twin shared their night nursery.

She will digress here, briefly; overtaken by a sense of outrage writing these last few words. That it should have been taken for granted that a woman of at least 60 had no absolute right to private space; that she should have been forced to dress and undress every night and every morning watched covertly by two small girls who ought to have been asleep, but weren't, much too fascinated by their dragon guardian's underwear - the voluminous type, in shades of flesh pink, beige or grey, available from the knicker drawers of the Misses Luckin, who ran the draper shop in the village where they lived. (Ugly Miss Luckin, Granny remembers- Nurse Matilda Miss Luckin; knob nose, crooked spine, hair pulled severely back in a tight knot, always in black, but always obliging, always smiling: arsenic and old lace Miss Luckin, all silver hair and pink and white complexion, who looked like Miss Marple- and did indeed play Miss Marple in local Amateur Dramatic Society productions- but who did not smile always, was rather less obliging, and, unlike the plain Miss Luckin, unlike the old nanny, did not look as if she availed herself of the more unglamorous garments to be found in the tiers of wooden knicker drawers behind the counter over which she ruled.)

Back to snores then; not to the snores that little girl Granny saw as sausages echoing all night long, but to Granny's and Beloved's more decorous variety. Beloved's are a light not unpleasant, tenor rumble. Hers - according to him - consist of a little sigh in and little blow out. Even so, in bed alongside each other they keep each other awake. Since Granny only snores lying on her back, Beloved pokes her. 'Turn over,' he hisses. Obligingly she does so. And in doing so wakes up. He goes back to sleep. It is her turn to lie awake, distracted by his rumblings; after a while she resorts to poking him. He moves a little. His snores stop. He wakes up. And she falls asleep till woken again by 'turn over..' And so it goes on all night sometimes. The only cure is for one or both of them to take the local over-the-counter sleeping pills (they shouldn't be; but this is Spain - or rather the piece of Spain technically outside the EEC, meaning anything goes.) Or else for Beloved to heave himself out of bed and retreat to the bed in his workroom downstairs. Not a solution either of them care for.

He did retreat last night; not much more before dawn this time. So GRANNY IS TIRED. And the sun has gone missing again; and the wind rises. And Norton Antivirus has identified a file at risk and then failed to delete it. So a scan has to be done all over again, slowing down her already slow laptop. Growl.

Friday, April 15, 2005


Quick thought after sweet sweet meeting with the first Mrs R, sitting in the sun watching the sea turn multiple white horses. It got quite tearful on both sides. ('Life is so complicated,' she said. 'Families are so complicated. You should write about it.' She can be more than coherent you see, not to say insightful - it's just that she's forgotten it all a moment later. Funny she said this then, though, just after Granny had tried writing it for the first time, when she is still not sure about doing it, despite encouragement from her Beloved. It's difficult being open and honest, when families are involved, when the issues are so sensitive and the ethics so difficult, when everyone concerned is feeling at some level guilty or inadequate or bereft or angry or all of these things together.)

To bring us all down to earth, here's this question. Why are those producing aids for the old, ill and disabled so mealy-mouthed? Mrs R's present wheelchair is called 'Sunrise.' Her old one was 'Breezy.' Not sure what they call incontinence gear - but in the light of that can imagine 'Sweetn'dry.' 'April Showers.' 'The scent of summer.' And so forth. Spades are spades aren't they? Old age definitely is. Sweetening it out of existance makes it all the worse when it comes.


It rained in the night!! quite unannounced by any weather forecast. For tomorrow all the ones granny consults agree on 'windy.' Don't know what they'd call what's been going on the whole week. Breezy? The islands are visible, there was even sun when Granny woke up, though the clouds have now crept back. The landscape has regained that soft blue-grey evanescance of an Atlantic climate. The one it loses all summer under the trade winds.

This has to be brief. Granny will reply to comments later. This morning she is off on her weekly visit to the Attic Woman. Something Jane R was spared. Call it the wonders of modern medicine: that the first Mrs R is not raving just sweet and sad now she is tended by those who know how to do it and fed the right medicines (not the zombifying disabling kinds.) She didn't manage to blind Granny's Mr R, either, though she did very nearly kill him. Granny is all too conscious of those millions of unsupported carers out there who do, very often, fall down dead in the process of attempting to care for their demented or semi-demented nearest and dearest. Luckily Mr R has a daughter who thinks this is not an irrevocable 'duty' let alone 'essential' let alone any sign of virtue. And who evacuated him the moment - after seven years - he seemed unlikely to survive such duty any longer. With the help of the local branch of Age Concern. For whom much thanks. (Give them money everyone, please. You may be grateful yourself in days to come.) Admittedly they passed Mrs Rochester/Beloved on to non-voluntary paid carers, too expensive to be an option in too many cases - where the only solution is a dire 'home' somewhere. Not Mrs R's fate thank goodness. Though the fact that everything is cheaper here does help, it's quite a struggle for her family. But they manage it.

So it is that the first Mrs R lives in her own small home, has a living husband still who visits her regularly. And she has this other Jane - Granny - who has grown unexpectedly fond of her too and actually quite enjoys sitting by the sea with her predecessor, drinking coffee, watching gulls swoop down on the cooks from the seaside restaurants gutting fish, and, on good days, prattling about the past. The first Mrs R may not remember day to day very well but she does remember long ago and likes to be reminded of it.

Life is very strange. It is also a bugger it really is. Ageing is a bugger. Granny is more than conscious that she and Mr R are the lucky ones. For the moment.

Thursday, April 14, 2005

A lady once lunched

Granny once heard A.S Byatt on Desert Island Discs describing the rage in her mother's eyes when she was dying. Granny's mother died angry too. She thinks that all too many in that generation did; emancipation might have beckoned their daughters, but it came too late for them.

Her mother did not even go to to university like Byatt's - though she was ten times brighter than Granny's father who went to Oxford as a matter of course. She suffered from serious asthma -something that has resurfaced in Granny's eldest granddaughter; hers is kept well at bay by what she calls her 'puffers.' No such thing as puffers in the nineteen twenties though. When Granny's mother was fourteen, the long-suffering - in a different way - aunt who brought her up was told by their doctor that another winter in England was likely to kill her niece. Taken out of school she was sent to a finishing school in Switzerland - which expelled her before long as many of her many schools did; she was a terror. Far too young for such an institution - everyone else was 17 plus - she used to creep out of its windows at night to ski with the young instructors. She also freaked out the more innocent teachers by putting Epsom Salts in their chamber pots - causing them much alarm when they took a pee. (Alas, readers, this is not a trick your children or grandchildren or pupils can repeat in the world of the en-suite.)

Over the next few winters, therefore, the aunt herself had to traipse Granny's ma round Switzerland and Italy in order to keep her alive. In consequence, apart from speaking French, German and Italian pretty well, she was deeply uneducated. It didn't occur to anyone, least of all her, to worry about it She was only a girl after all. (This was an attitude that persisted into Granny's childhood; but for the war she and her sisters wouldn't have been sent to school, but educated, or rather uneducated, by a governess along with other nice girls of their background.) Education only a means of getting a job, women didn't need jobs - they expected their husbands to keep them. The husbands, of course, expected it too. Though granny's ma had a job she adored - in an interior decorators - her dad insisted she gave it up on her marriage to him. 'No wife of mine is going to have to work' he said - a statement all the more ironic given how much she did have to work later; even though that - housework - was not considered as such because unpaid. For the time being though, through the last six years of the 30's, she was one of that still not wholly vanished breed 'a lady who lunched.'
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A well-lunched lady wearing a dead animal and clutching a live baby; her very first. (Spot which is which.)

This in itself was far from bad; she read voraciously, had many friends, went to the theatre, to exhibitions. She didn't have to lift a finger round the house; even a Civil Servant like Granny's father could afford a maid - as well as a daily or two, and, after the first baby arrived a nanny and nursery maid. Hard to imagine that at the time even such a household was barely considered adequate. 'If you have only one maid,' enquired Granny's grandfather, 'If you have only one maid, who will answer the door on her day out?' It was like that then for people like them, in those days of what were to Granny throughout her childhood that fabled, unreal time of 'before the war'. Which was to war-time kids like her - and to her mother, who described it often, longingly -truly another country.

She described fairy-tale fruits - bananas - oranges - grapefruit! - nowhere seen by Granny except in greengrocers' posters - as many sweets as you could eat, cream butter, toys of all kinds, your own cas even. (A car stood on chocks without its wheels in Granny's father's garage. But till Granny was seven or so the only car she ever travelled in belonged to the local taxi-drivers; the Messrs Jenner - one fat, one thin; one sour, one jolly.) Most marvellous of all - or so it seemed to her - there were glass balls, her mother said, with figures in them, in which snow began swirling if they were turned upside down. And even more amazing, there were shells from Japan that opened up in water and sprouted flowers. (Such things reappeared, or course, during the fifties. The glass balls were plastic; the flowers all paper. It wasn't till much later that it occurred to Granny that what was now all around her, commonplace enough, was exactly what she'd used to think of as beyond belief. The wonder days - by then she didn't call them that- of 'before the war' had sneaked back.)

When the war came of course, that was the wonder, the fabulous time, for younger unmarried women. The war liberated them. 'Lock up your daughters' was no longer an option for the sternest of parents. Summoned by the war machine to do their duty, unmarried daughters escaped all family shackles, lived away from home, many for the first time, had responsible jobs, affairs; generally made whoopee. Those like granny's mother, already married with young children, did not. Their servants disappeared, one by one, called-up to do much more important things than enabling ladies to lunch. Granny's mother was lucky in one way - she had an aged nanny passed on by her sister-in-law, who helped her with Granny and her sister (fragile infant twins who could not be left for a minute, she needed help with them and their elder brother more than most; to keep the twins alive not least.) Apart from that she and those like her were on their own; catapulted into being what most other women have always had had to be - fulltime house-drudges. With no relief.

So what you might say? Yes - but the women who'd always done it had at least been brought up to it. Middle-class women like my mother who had never so much as boiled an egg started from scratch in the most difficult of circumstances. Food rationed, not to say scarce, they often had to queue for it for hours - there was no meat, not even cheese left for very first meal Granny' mother cooked; a vegetable pie; it took her all morning and left her in tears. Whether the pie was edible, granny does not know.

She had no mechanical aids like food mixers to help her or any other kind of household aids, apart from an ancient, very temperamental, Hoover. (Middle-class American women, many more of them housewives, screamed for and got such aids long before English women did, who had skivvies to do the work.) Like many others she also had to do battle with a recalcitrant kitchen range which had to be relit every morning - fuel was rationed along with everything else. There were no detergents, bleach existed, but not much else, except waxy soap. All this on top of childcare. (One of Granny's mother's friends who had four children under five applied to get some help. When asked by the officer she was appealing to 'What do you do in your spare time Mrs B..?' she drew herself up. 'If I have any spare time I spent it in going to the lavatory.' She did not get her help.) On top of that, where Granny's family lived, just south of London the airraid warnings kept everyone awake half of many nights. The bombers usually passed over their head en route to the city. Sometimes, if there were bombs left over they ditched them locally. Not far away a children's home was hit and many killed. Twice during the war when things got especially bad Granny's dad moved his family to the north. But not for long.

Granny was too young to be scared by this - being hauled out of bed in the middle of the night to be fed fish-paste sandwiches while crouching under the stairs seemed an adventure to her. It's unlikely it seemed like an adventure to her exhausted and frightened mother. In her case too, the whole thing was compounded by a fierce perfectionism which meant the house had to be run as well as it was when there were servants. (No dust on top of anything, no matter how high up. Granny does not to dust the unreachable top of things; or rarely.) Nor could she let herself be seen as any different from her mostly working-class neighbours. If they could scrub their doorsteps every morning, so could she; all four of them. Their rented house, next to the church on a village green was an old coaching inn dating from the early eighteenth century, and had four steps up to the front door. It also had no doors that fitted, floorboards which gaped and no heating. Des Res that it might be thought now, the family fled to a nice thirties pad with heating and an Aga at the first possible opportunity.

Life got easier altogether after the war, despite increased rationing, fuel and petrol shortages. And Granny's mother was luckier than many in having such an adoring husband who believed in helping with the washing-up and breakfast cooking - if not with cleaning or changing nappies, that remained women's work. Desperate to help her out in all ways possible, he also brought her the first washing-machine on the market - he could ill-afford it, the value of civil service salaries had plummeted by then - but he bought it, just the same. As he insisted too she had help from a series of dailies, and up till the arrival of the washing-machine that she used a laundry for the household linen. That machine though did her no favours; not only did it flood from time to time and spin with such noise and frenzy that even bolted down it made the whole house shake, it did not, unlike laundries, iron the sheets. Go to bed in unironed linen?Unthinkable! To her, if not to Granny - who has never ironed a sheet in her life except for guests. Get real! (And she likes cotton ones. Even if hers are always crumpled.)

And still, no matter what, no matter how things eased for her, she kept on driving herself non-stop. There was always something more she felt to be done - and something she usually hated; she even hated cooking, good at it as she was. What she never had a chance to do was explore what she could have done, given the chance. Granny never got the chance to discuss with her mother what she really felt when her daughter - granny - went to Oxford. But to judge by her angry dying, Granny cannot imagine she felt well done by. What had she got out of life? Housework. With or without a frilly apron. No wonder she was angry.

If you want to know about the other women, the ones took the drudgery for granted, read Margaret Forster's Hidden Lives about her mother and grandmother. It doesn't undermine what Granny has said about her mother. Of course, once the middle-classes faced the drudgery they too clamoured so loud that the machines arrived at last. As for those scrubbed white steps: Granny's mother's might have been one kind of badge - 'look I'm not too proud to be one of you' theirs were more badges of survival. 'We may be poor but we have our pride. We do not live in the gutter.' Granny's dirty doorsteps may shout 'I have a life, I have other things to do.' But she'd better not, she thinks, laugh at those scrubbed steps, let alone despise them. What she really has to be she is - is grateful.

More -brief -diversions..

It is HORRIBLE here today. Winter has returned - icy wind at round 30mph and more, howling all night. And still howling. Cloud all over. No sun no islands no rain. Granny has discarded sandals, knee-length pants, is back in fleece, socks, etc. She has a heater in her office, the coldest room in the house - also the noisiest (memo to self, find crevices which winds enter in banshee mode and BLOCK them.) Last night she and Beloved lit the fire again.

So no excuses not to stay in and write then. Yes, she promises, the mostly written piece about her mum will be up shortly. And maybe there'll be another to follow. Meantime here are today's diversions - a jolly little piece about likelihood /danger level of various kinds of human extinction as seen by a number of scientists. If you can't be bothered to get it up, Granny will tell you here and now that the one both most likely and most dangerous to mankind is being taken over by super-robots. (Memo to self - have stern word with Beloved on this one; robots having been his thing when he grew out of animals; he even invented a robot - or rather, a flock of them.)

T'other diversion is piece about Lucien Freud's latest opus - self-portrait with naked lady crouching at his feet. Again, to save you trouble, Tracy Emin's comment sums up the painting and her; 'It isn't me.' But if, like Granny, you revere the man, do read the whole piece. As much as she can see the work is far from misogynist - or if it is, it's no less ironical about him. What pull's he got now - apart from his work? It pulls Granny, for sure. (Preferably not naked, though.) What do you think?

That's it folks.... to SERIOUS work.

Wednesday, April 13, 2005


More ramblings. It is still murky here. No islands appear. The hills and granny's land are no longer green, but yellow. Her land, in particular, all its wild grasses blowing in the rising wind, is yellow. Some of these grasses are wild oats - unsown by granny; more of them are once cultivated now feral barley. The once staple diet on this island, barley was and is ground into a flour called gofio and used in many variations; usually these days it is made of maize, wheat and so forth or mixtures of the above. Nor does it ever any longer consist of mere grass, as resorted to by the poorest in the past. The ever adventurous Beloved does things with gofio sometimes; his versions are better than most. Haute cuisine, it isn't. It makes you realise just how boring food for the poor once was. Think of all those poor Scottish crofters, wrapped in shawls, shoeless even in mid winter - and with not much in their diet beyond oatmeal. At least it was never so cold here. But hard enough.

Anyway: this blog like the last is all diversion tactics. Granny has trawled the internet newspapers, read other blogs and written two posts, All of it to avoid the serious writing; ie getting back to the piece about her mother, for one; trying to dredge out further plot for a new book, for another. The weather does not incline her. Dreary within and dreary without. Well that's her excuse, reader, and she's sticking to it.

Naughty grannies

No; granny isn't offering Granny Porn. Heaven forfend! Merely an article about the granny from Northumberland who got let off with a suspended sentence last week for possessing, using and supplying cannabis to ease her and her friends' various ailments. The article even gives some of her recipes. Useful. Many years ago Granny herself was working with filmmakers so had access to their favourite substance - this was long before coke became the high of choice - but she too did not like smoking the stuff. All she had was a recipe for hash brownies supplied by Gertrude Stein's other half, Alice B. Toklas. Though too innocent then to realise exactly what those two got up to outside kitchen and dining-room (she still can't cope with G Stein's writing either) she did, for a brief while, get up to some nice enough things herself fueled by her own culinary efforts - sometimes more than she bargained for. (Problem was, the stuff was so variable, she couldn't tell in advance exactly how powerful her stash was, which meant she didn't know exactly how much to put in. Or how much to eat. Sometimes she found out the hard way. As did her greedy black pug dog, who got into the store cupboard and proceed to scoff the lot. Ever seen a stoned pug anyone? No. don't even think of it; it was not a pretty sight. Though he seemed no worse for the experience, granny felt so guilty she stopped baking after that.)

Maybe she'd try this granny's other dishes if she had any skunk or other version. Or maybe not. She has no such ailments to excuse her- why shouldn't people like cannabis granny use it? - 'I don't want to get high,' CG says, 'merely to stop aching' (or words to that effect) This granny would bake her spiked cake for a much less virtuous reason, that is to remind herself, just one more time, what 'high' felt like. Not much hope though. Lady with big and little dog did once suggest rearing some plants at the rear of Granny's land. But Beloved was not keen and it never came to anything. Just as well. Spanish jails are to be avoided as much and more than most.

But she does, somewhat, object to all the publicity around the lady merely because she is a granny; if this isn't about ageism what is? The lady may be older than Granny though not by much, but she doesn't need the stereotype, any more than Granny does. Granny is conscious of feeding it by her blog name, just the same. Does this matter? The strange thing is that within her family, on her insistance, she is never called 'granny' - or by any other variant of same. Her grandchildren use their own sometimes charming renderings of her first name. So it is all the more ironic that she spreads herself as 'granny' across the web. In consequence she has even caught herself referring to herself in real life as 'Granny p' - also to Beloved as 'Beloved', and so on; almost forgetting the real names even of her dog and cat. Odd that. (She remembers Petite Anglaise once confessing something very similar.) She knows better in some cases: Mr Handsome remains 'Handsome' on the web and nowhere else. Let's hope she remembers to keep things that way. Offending Mr H would not do at all - Granny and Beloved NEED him.

Tuesday, April 12, 2005


Since yesterday, granny's island has been draped in a desert haze - 'a calima' - coming not from due east as usual but from north east. The wind, which has dropped, mercifully, but is now getting up a bit, is therefore cold. Has the Sahara marched in a northerly direction she wonders? And if so what do its legs and feet look like? Or maybe it just manipulates its belly on both unlikely and invisible muscles much the way the sea rabbit/hare/slug, insinuates its way round the kitchen rockpool's glass sides.

'Muy raro' says friend and cleaner, Nieves, of this phenomenon. She further informs granny that many people are suffering from respiratory problems because of the dust.

Beloved meanwhile has been clipping chook wings. Alas, because they were acquired from a commercial source, some of their beaks have also been clipped somewhat - horrible. He hopes this will not affect their ability to peck at the ground in their free-range state. The surviving cock will have to ensure they have progeny so that the next generation at least will be au natural. As to said cockerels - it has occurred to granny that she and Beloved could supplement their income by staging a cock fight between the two - cockfights are not illegal here - and taking bets on the winner (even more reason to call them Handsome one and two, as opposed to Handsome and Beloved... don't you think, reader?) Or maybe not. Coq au vin might be less profitable but would taste nicer. No free-range blood on this land then, even if the chooks all are. Granny is pleased that these ones at least will have a much better life than their battery-penned siblings back on the commercial ranch.

Tiresome Terrier (it's assumed to be Tiresome Terrier) is in disgrace. She has dug up a neighbour's vines and vegetables in search of lizards. Not a good move among neighbours. Granny is feeling somewhat self-righteous because she has always warned that measures should be taken to keep TT from getting out.... however, contrasting her halo against her Beloved's horns (assuming it is that way round) is not a good exercise for her soul, let alone interesting for anyone to read. If her boyfriend is a TWAT, at least in this matter, so what? He is one no more than she is, is he?

Oh the generosity. the kindness, the modesty of the lady... It also occurs to her to wonder- to be Jungian - could TT function somewhat as her Beloved's anima - even as his alter ego? - does this explain his reluctance to cage her?

Incidentally. Blogger has consented to return to her proper laptap. Her head neck fingers back are the better for it. She has paid Haloscan a princely sum to get comments posted to her email. She has not yet succeeded in getting old comments back, but is working on it. Ditto inserting a referrer code, offered on some other bloggers' sites - maybe this is merely an ego-boosting exercise which could rebound on her - and be the reverse. (ie no referrers.) Um

Monday, April 11, 2005

More geeky stuff

Family now gone. Boo hoo. Granny celebrates by working on template - she has managed to add her links... whoopee. She has, however, entirely failed to reinstate all previous comments, despite detailed assistance from her blogging friend Deirdre. She will have another go tomorrow.

She is not aided in her work 1) by Feline Houdini's continual attempts to sit on her keyboard, 2)by Blogger still refusing to reveal itself on her usual laptop with its nice large screen - its Geeks have solved the SSL problem, evidently it is not that - though it may be another problem they are currently having with some servers; this they haven't solved; nor have they come up with any alterative ideas, despite Granny's pleas. She is having to work on a mini travelling laptop, which is giving her eye ache, back ache and finger ache. Ouch.

Beloved Granddaughter ate but a mouthful of the fish and the spinach she and Beloved cooked. She was pleased with herself just the same and served it all up very nicely. She announced that she too now has a blog - how much she will write in it who knows -but feel free to comment ...

Tomorrow,maybe, Granny will get back to some serious blogging. Otherwise known as writing.

Saturday, April 09, 2005

Geeky stuff

Haloscan commenting and trackback have been added to this blog.

Whoopee, friends - Beloved son-in-law has been to work. Haloscan commenting, will, granny hopes, speed things up. Meantime it has removed all your previous lovely comments; sorry about that, but neither he nor she know how to counter that.

Tomorrow too she will add some links; something else he's taught her....

Holy Hats

Well well. A pope has been buried attended by every breed of Holy Hat - why do religious men of all breeds and denominations, Christian and otherwise, adopt such curious headgear even when they're not sitting in an enormous Roman square alongside a rather plain coffin containing one dead pontiff? A lot of unlikely people shook hands thereafter: the Syrian Prime Minister with an Israeli, an English Prince with Mugabe, accidentally or otherwise. And the very same sinning Prince - who some of the day before's hat would have had flogged at least, while stoning his bride to death - has been married attended by more hats, mostly female this time, some of them feathered. And a horse with the appropriate name of Hedgehopper* has won the Grand National - making up for his failure to hop the final hedge last time round.

Meanwhile, at home on the farm more frills and feathers have arrived. A purplish sea-slug/rabbit with white frills and toppings is now hoovering up the algae in the kitchen rockpool. Granny has ceased to think of him as monstrous; she even finds him pretty, horns, ears and all. And 10 half-grown chooks are making themselves at home in Beloved's especially aqcquired shed. Two of them are male. One has been named after Mr Handsome from Blackburn. Granny suggested naming the other after Beloved until it was pointed out that as soon as they are fully grown, one of them is destined for the pot. Not wishing to cause a diplomatic incident, she has settled for Handsome One and Two instead.

Beloved Granddaughter has just finished devouring her 7th pizza of the week. She is on holiday after all, at least until tomorrow when the Beloveds all go home. The wind is howling already in sympathy. Perhaps the trade winds have arrived already. Better maybe than frost in Bristol, where they are going. Or maybe not.

*Hedgehunter, not Hedgehopper, Granny is informed. But she prefers to stick with 'Hedgehopper.'

Thursday, April 07, 2005

Winds and houses

Weather till today has been impeccable. Last night though it clouded up. Today it has turned to the summer norm - cloud pushed over to this side of the island; clear skies and sun on the other. Granny took BD and BS-i-l to other side to walk so got the sun that way. Beloved and BGD meantime went shopping. They are now are in the kitchen, within earshot, cooking.

Beloved Granddaughter is one of these children who, left to herself, would live on chicken nuggets, cheddar cheese, icecream (ersatz kind) chips, tomato ketchup, chocolate biscuits and NOTHING ELSE. Her parents, via insistance, bribery, carrot sticks, etc, contrive to see her diet is adequate just the same. But she will eat/try nothing new whatever. Granny at her age might have been choosy too; but given rationing didn't get the chance. On the other hand maybe not; she was always greedy. Lugged round Europe on family holidays, while her siblings got car sick and objected to 'foreign food', she stared enthralled out of the car window, and at meals tried virtually everything offered - to the extent of overdoing it at times and throwing-up. (She has fond memories of ham in some delectable reddish French sauce - not so fond memories of the messy and uncomfortable morning after.) She is somewhat puzzled therefore by this extreme conservatism - especially in a child whose visual tastes run to Frida Kahlo, and currently, via her mother's birthday present from Granny, the graphic works of Paula Rego; sophisticated stuff; but then maybe kids need to be childish in one area.

Beloved thinks he sees a way round the food problem. He and the BGD have planned tonight's meal and are going to cook it together, which she is happy to do. There will be a grown-up dinner with candles and napkins, served up by the two cooks. Granny - and her parents- think he is over-optimistic in expecting that she will, even so, eat what she has helped cook. (NOT chicken nuggets etc as above.) Well, we'll see.

Meantime Beloved Daughter is walking over on the far side of the island in the barrancos - ie deep gorges in the hills, running down, in this case, to the sea. These hills - and the cliffs that are just visible from Granny's house in clear weather - are quite other than the volcanoes in the national park behind. They are old old old - they look old - are dry, yellowish even in the wet season. They are very steep. They sit on the land, holding it down with what look like huge paws. The old volcanoes also sit down somewhat. In some lights their craters appear as smooth regular curves above, shadowed hollows below. They have plant cover which greens up in winter and spring. They are also grey, resigned. They say: we have been here a long long time. They are Ozymandias hills.

The newer volcanoes are another thing altogether. Most of us expect landscapes to be old. Mostly landscapes are old; geography and geology talk millennia on the whole. Not here though. Much of this volcanic moonscape is less than 300 years old; these hills erupted on the middle of a fertile plain between 1730 and 1736 - a few more erupted in the 1820's. Far from sitting down in any way they sit up - at times it feels they rise up - will rise higher any minute. In some places their sides are red - the cover on them looks as smooth and moveable as sand, ready to be swept smoother, in different directions, when the wind blows especially fiercely. Their summits and craters are jagged.

The volcanoes, by the way, both old and new provide useful building material. All the older houses like Granny's were built of lava stone - good for keeping in the warmth in winter, the cool in summer. The newer ones are made of breeze-blocks - 'bloques' - like everywhere else these days. The island ones though are different - they contain large amounts of volcanic grit. As the building boom goes on, stacks of bloques are lugged round, all over the island, on large construction trucks . If you are not held up by the straining buttocks of cyclists en route to the airport, you are equally lucky to avoid a straining truck or two spewing out diesel fumes. Bloques are not as efficient as the lava stones though in holding in or keeping out the heat. Nor are modern builders as careful about prevailing winds as the old ones used to be.

Old houses were always - or mostly - one storey, built round a courtyard, with a gate on one side, all the rooms opening onto the courtyard on the others, connected to each other only via the courtyard. Everything went on there. People sat, sheltered from the wind; chickens lived there, goats did. Only the rooms that did not back on the northeast winds had serious windows. In granny's part of the island this meant all the houses sat with their back to the view. As Granny's would have done once upon a time. Unfortunately the English couple who restored it knew better - or thought they did. They lined the northeast side with French windows made of very inadequate wood. Granny and Beloved spent most of their first year here with a percussion orchestra of shaking, banging wood, spending large sums of money in attempts - mostly successful - to silence it, via shutters, smaller windows made of decent and expensive timber; also by pergolas against wind and sun both.

Beautiful daughter has spoken via mobile phone. Granny has to go into the sun to collect her. More anon.

(Beloved grand-daughter likes Ozymandias too.)

Tuesday, April 05, 2005

More winds

One reason the southern island could be a man's one is that not only its winds but its landscape are relentless; old hills - it's the oldest of all the Canary islands - burnt orange and yellow all summer and autumn before the rains come; and in fact not much different in winter and spring. While there've been none of the controls on building styles as here; the coast is a mess - in one place Disneyland gone wild; even in the hills there's a proliferation of different styles, if without the high rise; the land is less well kept up, the older buildings decay, it's like the back end of US redneck - if without the trailer homes.

Are men less affected by this than women? Who knows. I don't. Anyone?

Here because of the ongoing volcanic activity over the millennia, the views shift and change all the time; the lower end of the island is desert reminding Granny of New Mexico except that it's edged by sea. To the north it's flat lava rising to hills. In the centre -and here - patchworks of fields and terracing. Elsewhere sandy stretches flanked by darker cliffs and hills. Between here and the south the amazing moon landscapes of the volcanic park. Most - of the housing is white, and though the controls have lapsed over the last ten years - developer greed rules OK - and many of the newer houses are diddy pastiche versions - much less appropriate to the climate incidentally - of the older ones, nevertheless there is reasonably consistancy. Driving around Granny is constantly overwhelmed, thrilled by the sheer beauty of it - the sweep of land - the shifting of cloud and sun across it; at the moment the proliferations of flowers and grasses by the roadside - and always, expected or unexpected - the sudden glimpses, or far reaching distances of the sea. To the extent that if he is with her, Beloved will not let her drive. 'You're always looking at everything but the road,' he says. Not quite true; Granny has driven the length and breadth of her mindly king(queen) dom without mishap many times. But never mind.

Winds: conventionally East is hot winds all the year around except in winter when it is cold; but always dry and burning. South is warm but pleasanter. Southwest is also warmer but brings rain and gales. West brings showers, but not necessarily; it's less cold than north and also pushes the cloud cover over to the other side of the hills, meaning that this side - unusually - is the sunniest part. North - north-east is chilly. NNE is the prevailing wind - which is why walls/windbreaks round plants and fields are always to the north east. It is also the direction of the trade winds which blow relentlessly - or did blow - from late April through to early September, keeping cloud cover over this part of the island fairly constant at least till mid-late June.

Well that's how it used to be. Things are changing - global warming? Last year the trade winds were quite erratic - this year we'll see. The calima sometimes comes from the south-east, rain has come from there too, and, weirdly from the east .. the Saraha! The southwest has brought warm fine weather. The only thing that doesn't change is that the winds from the north are the chilliest.

A good day today. Islands are invisible though. Calima on its way? Who knows.

Sunday, April 03, 2005


Granny is working on a long post about her mother. But for the moment she is taken up by the arrival of Beloved Daughter, grand-daughter and son-in-law. She is sure anyone out there who bothers to read her will understand if she only writes briefly now and over the next few days. Understand too why she has not yet responded to many of the lovely comments in response to previous posts.

She will just put up one thing - about - what else? - the weather. The wind has gone round to the North-east - meaning it's chillier and also pushes any cloud cover over to this side of Granny's island.As Granny was driving them home from the airport and explaining this, beloved son-in-law commented that people talk as much about the weather here as in England. Of course. This is too an Atlantic island - the weather can as rarely - even less rarely - be predicted. Just the same, though, it's different. Here the state of things is much more governed by the direction of the wind. It's wind - or very occasionally lack of it - which dictates not only hot, cold, cool, warm, wet, dry, planting not planting, but also, very often the populace's states of mind. At certain times of year, in some kinds of wind - too much of it, too unrelenting, week in, week out, people can go mad here. They do go mad. This island has one of the highest rates of suicide in Spain. Granny can understand that.

Wind too is another reason for people not living on the streets as they do in most places this far south. They live in their garages - you rarely see cars in them - or, in the older kinds of houses, in their courtyards, protected from the winds on all four sides. Which is why so many towns and villages appear devoid of life. Why the smart municipal gardens and children's playgrounds with which local politicians attempt to woo ?bribe their electorates are always empty. (Granny has never seen one single person using her local one.)

Things could be worse, though. The lady with the big and little dog told Granny that not only are things no better on the equally windy island to the south, it's the women who kill themselves down there. It's known 'the man's island.' This leaves Granny more than grateful, wind or no wind, that it's the island to its north that she lives on.

Friday, April 01, 2005

On being a slut; or, not scrubbing doorsteps (2)

It's been good here the last few days. The true Calima never materialised, the wind went round to the west, turned gentler and cooler; the sun has been out almost all the time. Summer is here for the moment; with any luck will stay here during Beloved Daughter's visit; she's due on Sunday. Good.

Downside - there always a downside - is that the flies are back. And that the drudge of watering the garden is about to restart. Granny watered her citrus trees last night - still not well-established they were beginning to look sorry for themselves - but are beginning to produce flowers. Lemons this year? With luck, provided the wind doesn't blow them (flowers or small fruit) off at sensitive stage. This happened last year. Really they need more protection - successful citrus trees here either have walls all round or are grown right down in dips. But we do are best,

Granny also planted 3 cabbages; though she appreciates what Montaigne says - that in the middle of planting cabbages would be a good way to die - she's happy to say she survived the exercise. They will need watering tonight too.

Gentle domesticity; something she appreciates more than she did when young. Hard probably to imagine now how little other than domesticity was imagined for females like her then,in her youth. 'When you are grown up and married and have children of your own' - was the only suggestion for a future ever made by either of her parents. (The unwished for alternative of course was to be a splendid - and viriginal - spinster keeping the WI going; all all that. Our parents did not wish that for us; as for life as a far from virginal not to say happy spinster, playing the field. OH NO NO NO.)

In retrospect this belief in Granny's domestic future was particularly strange coming from Granny's mother who had domesticity thrust upon her by the war, LOATHED it, and also understood better than most that granny was a loner, not so easily caged. Presumably being a bit like that and having survived she imagined Granny could too; the answer is granny didn't, well not entirely; at any rate only after making a bargain with herself that domestic minimalism - ie virtual slutdom - was the way to retain something of herself. Oh and by writing, which was luck. (If she'd needed to work outside of the house it would have been harder. All the Oxford Careers Office could say to females approaching graduation was: well Miss X - how about taking a secretarial course? Or - 'you might make a good teacher.' Meanwhile inundating males with invitations to make their fortunes in Unilever, or Shell or Cadbury's. Well actually, thanks no too, but at least they were ASKED.)

So; if the floor needed scrubbing, windows washing, her knickers needed washing and she had a chapter to write; guess which won?

Children of course, could not be so neglected - there was a period in Granny's life with two children under two and a half when she seriously thought her life was over. THIS WAS WHAT IT WAS ALL ABOUT. You procreated and then you died; just like mayflies. Which didn't mean to say she didn't love her children; she adored them. But that's not quite the point. One sad friend alas took the feeling all too literally - when her youngest child was eight she decided her children didn't need her any more and hung herself. This is a story that haunts Granny forever; not least because of her own battles with depression around the same issues. But she survived. By being a slut, up to a point and no further (she can't quite bear a dirty stove; she scrubs it.) All around her had she but known it were other females, working or non-working, with children and without who did the same -we started younger then, had fewer support networks, only discovered the others by accident. All this despite the residual guilt when we picked up our children's reading-books - there was Mum in frilly apron, polishing things. Not to mention all the ads, all the articles in women's magazines telling us how to polish our skirting-boards, put on our makeup for hubby, paint our nails, keep our stockings from wrinkling; so on and so forth. The collective letting out of breath when Katherine Whitehorn wrote her pieces from all the large numbers of middleclass Observer readers could have a blown a bus down the M4. (Had it existed then; it didn't.) Oh the relief. THE RELIEF. Never did a Stanley feel more grateful for his Livingstone than we were for this. Not hundred, not thousands, millions of them.

Why was Katherine Whitehorn not made a dame?

Granny is left with a few residual guilts; out of sheer shame she cleans up for the cleaner always. 'What an earth for?' asks Beloved. 'Because I want her to do real cleaning not clear up after me,' says Granny. Which is partly true; but it is also because still, though a slut at heart, she is not entirely happy to be seen as one. This is one legacy her mother left her. Even if she has never felt obliged like her mother to scrub her doorstep. A dirty doorstep? Who cares about a dirty doorstep? Imagine it!


Granny forgot to add vis a vis last link- need to scroll back to November 24th to get sluts 2 - better still though to scroll still further and get sluts 1 and then retrace footsteps. Blogs do rather get things back to front. I suppose they have to....

On being a slut; or not scrubbing doorsteps (1)

Granny is trying to catch up with herself. (Not least she couldn't sleep last night and ended up staying in bed till 10. )

So this will be brief - and continued later. Meantime to amuse you - and as a taster - she will give the following link to two articles by Katherine Whitehorn in the 60's which liberated us 50's gals brought up to think frilly apron and Brit version of Stepford Wife. (Some examples of sluttery well out-of-date - Granny does not need to hold up her stockings with aspirins - she doesn't wear stockings, hardly tights even; barely possesses a skirt except summer sarongs which don't need stockings. But never mind.) The not scrubbing doorsteps bit will not be clear here either; but later. More reminiscences to follow from an old bat.. aiming for future splendour. Cheers.

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