A break from my own categories for this post on Inspiring relatives for Food 4 Thought. The person from my own family who has inspired me the most is my nan. My maternal grandmother was born in 1920 to a mining family in the north east of England. One of 9 children, they had very little money but were a close knit family. Unfortunately her dad died in an accident when she was just 5. Thankfully some of her brothers and sisters were already old enough for work and this prevented the family from becoming destitute.
In 1930, the family moved south to join two of nan’s sisters who were at the time working in service (as maids). Nan found the adjustment to a new school difficult, especially because she felt that the education at her old school had been better. Soon after she sat an entrance exam to grammar school and passed. Sadly, it was decided (it is not clear who took the decision) that the family wouldn’t be able to afford for her to attend a school 10 or so miles away. This is something she mourned for the rest of her life. But it certainly meant that she championed good education for all of us.
Nan left school at 14 and worked in a factory before meeting and marrying my grandad at 18. He lived next door, lodging there with a lady from up north. He was actually a distant cousin, which has made our family quite interesting. Before my mum was born Grandad was re-conscripted into the army; the second world war broke out a month after mum was born.
My nan was always a really strong and stable influence on my life. She inspired me to study hard and work hard. Encouraging me and my brothers to achieve, to believe in our dreams and become the people we wanted to be. She stood up to my mum on my behalf when she was being unreasonable. Her home was a place to escape 2 younger brothers. She taught me cooking skills, though not how to cook vegetables, she seemed to prefer it turned too mush. One of the ways she inspired was her ability to make money go quite so far. She never had spare cash but still managed to buy presents for everyone at Christmas and for birthdays. My grandad was a bit of a drinker and gambler, and she struggled to take possession of the weekly pay before he spent it. Which made her job even harder.
If nan was a fabulous grandmother she came into her own as a great nan. Her 5 great grandchildren still speak of her fondly (though only 3 of them remember her well. A Sunday lunch at my parents consisted of nan sitting in Wendy houses, pretending to cook, roller skating, reading and colouring. Invariably ending with her sitting with her feet in the bath with all of the children around her.
Her death, shortly before her 80th birthday hit us all hard. Nan had hidden her failing health, arguing with me a couple of months before that she didn’t need a party, she had lived way past three score years and ten! She died in July 1999, shortly before a day time eclipse she had been looking forward to.
As is often the case, it was only when she was gone that we realised the gap in our lives. She had continued to baby sit. She had partied, got a little tipsy and denied her antics. The sack of gifts she brought with her at Christmas were legendary. Only half of them were for family, mostly the children. The rest for her. From her many friends.
Don’t get me wrong, nan had many flaws. She was stubborn and fell out with most of her surviving sisters before they or she died. But she provided us with the encouragement and support often missing from our mum. She adored our children, therefore making my mum jealous. She was loyal and she loved us all dearly and is my inspiration. I miss her to this day.