Thursday, 16 April 2015

My fabulous grandmother

My grandmother is one of my absolute favourite people. She's officially brilliant. Yes, she's old, and yes, she's a little bit creaky nowadays, but she is by far one of the most fascinating and brightest conversationalists I've come across, and at the ripe old age of eighty-six and a half she still has a knife-sharp sense of humour, a sufficiently dirty laugh and seemingly endless amounts of love, tales and time to share. She doesn't suffer fools, and speaks her mind.

It is hard to believe that she was born in the late 1920s; her memory is terrific, and she has regaled me with stories from her childhood, teenage years and adult life so far, gleaned from her fantastic internal diary. She has lost two husbands (very sadly, my dear grandfather Walter, seen here pictured with my grandmother on their wedding day, died in 1955, and then lovely Edwin died of a brain tumour in the 1980s), but has four children (my dad being the eldest), ten grandchildren, and one great-grandson, born last August. She lives alone, in a beautiful spot in East Sussex, and still gets up early to feed her chickens. She has travelled extensively - I think she has visited every continent in the world - and she writes. Beautifully. She has a twinkle in her eye, a light that will not be dimmed, and she just LOVES to laugh.

Every so often, I get the chance to spend some time with her, and we have a whale of a time. She is a social butterfly, and still drives her little Agila. She has a fabulous garden, full of colour, and can bake a mean rock cake. She likes gin, and sherry, and whiskey. She eats proper chocolate and proper butter, and drinks proper coffee. She is a legend.

My grandmother is an inspiration to me because she is really living her life. She always has. When I was little, some of my favourite memories are of being at her house, riding the donkeys (yes, she had three!), running around the garden with my brothers, walking in the woods amongst the bluebells with the dogs, and playing with the puppet theatre she had. She wrote me a poem when I was younger, and I thought I'd share it with you, because when I read it, I can see myself through somebody else's eyes; somebody who loves me.

GRANDDAUGHTER by Alison Vernon

Flies lie on the ledge of the window
nobody opens, sleep-over cushions
cover pages of yesterday's news.
Friday's sweater drapes a chair.
A Coke tin, the Beano, biscuit crumbs -
all props for the room at the end of the house,
where gameboy boxes wait for a player
behind the blank bubble screen.

She walks in on quiet unnoticed feet,
sits at the upright piano (there is dust
on its gilt candelabra) -
and clicks into play mode.
Like bright water bubbling over stones
                       music spills from her fingers,
casting a spell on the pumpkin playroom,
lifting it into a golden concert hall.

Thank you, Ginny. I love you. I hope, when I'm in my eighties, I am as bright, sparkling, funny, loving, creative and inspiring as you are.

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