Hi everyone, and welcome to the first post in Jenny’s Blog! Thank you very much to Jean Wolfe and Ute Wieczorek for inviting me to take part in the Blogging Challenge for International Women’s Day. There are many really inspirational women I could write about, some I admire, some have inspired and helped me, but today I’d like to talk about my gran, on my mum’s side, always known as Granny to myself and my sister but Granma to my children, and we were all very close to her.
Sybil May Clark always hated her first name, and was only ever known as May, never using the name Sybil, as far as I know. Strange, then, that she chose Sybil as my mum’s first name, and mum has never been keen on it either! I think Sybil was a family friend of significance a long time ago.
My gran was always practical and hardworking, with a “get on with things” attitude, and in the war when my mum was little, they had several children to stay with them in Windsor, whom I believe were a type of evacuee. Also, an 11 year old boy, John Dymond, from Mousehole in Cornwall was sent to live with them, through a mutual friend of my gran and his mother. A good few years later, he went on to marry my mum, but that’s another story………
They lived in a small house in Windsor, and there was never any money to spare, but as far as I could tell, all the children were happy, comfortable, and well-looked after by my gran and by my grandad, who was a fireman in the war. It must have been a worrying and dangerous time for them all, but I don’t remember my gran ever complaining about anything, even though she had lost her three brothers in the First World War.
My grandparents eventually took on a fishmongers shop in Eton Wick, and lived in a two-storey flat above the shop. They sold fish and chips as well as fresh fish, and were always popular and busy. I remember a huge (to me, as a little girl), and noisy, machine, which whole potatoes were fed into, and they came out clean and without peel! Fascinating! Then they were rinsed and cut into chips. I have very clear memories of the chiller cabinets with the fresh fish displayed on a bed of clear chipped ice, and my favourite was always the plaice; I loved their shape and the red spots!
Living with them was my great-gran, mum of 9; the three brothers, my gran, and her four sisters, Agnes, Trixie, Edie and Gladys. My great-gran always had long hair below her waist, but would have it in a neat bun during the day. I loved visiting my grandparents, which we did regularly, catching a couple of buses from Winkfield with mum, then Grandad would take us home in the afternoon, in what I think was an Austin 7, and I hated driving over the Windsor Bridge. It was no surprise to me that a few years later they closed the bridge to traffic due to a crack in it.
At Granny’s there was an old gramophone, and I loved playing the old 78’s, with records like “Dem Bones”, “Yellow Rose of Texas”, piano pieces by Winifred Atwell, and many more. I also loved my gran’s dressing table, with three mirrors, and always a bottle of scent, Lily of The Valley fragrance. They had a tortoise in their little back garden, I used to enjoy holding a slice of cucumber for him to eat, and being enthralled by the little bites he took out of it.
They were in a parade of shops, and the Arnolds I think owned either the butchers or the little supermarket, and they had a Corgi dog that I was very find of, I think called Pip. The only thing I wasn’t so keen on was the hard and shiny toilet paper, which we didn’t have at home, but was probably quite luxurious to my gran and grandad.
I also remember they had a little wagtail in the flat, who was never caged. Granny had found him injured and nursed him back to health, and he hadn’t wanted to leave; he was called Dee-Dee.
My great-gran passed away when I was about 8 or 9, and not long afterwards, my grandparents retired and came to live with us in Winkfield for a while. Unfortunately my lovely grandad died way too early, in his 60’s, after suffering from bronchitis and then complications. My gran had been about 18 when they married, and they were always happy together, so she was of course devastated, as was my mum, who idolised her dad.
Granny stayed on with us for a few more years, and always helped with household chores, wearing an apron throughout, and she loved our large garden, with vegetables, apple trees and a pear tree, as well as lots of flowers. She moved into her own little flat in Eton Wick, and my dad would either take us to visit or pick her up to come to us. I remember she always used to use Pond’s Cold Cream on her face, moving onto Oil of Ulay later in life, and she always had lovely clear skin, only becoming wrinkled as she got much older. Granny used to do all the shopping for her immediate neighbours, walking up to the shops and back, even into her 80’s. She was always open-minded and generous-spirited, with never a bad word to say about anyone. When my boys Jonathon and David came along, she loved helping mum look after them when I was at work, and they both adored her.
We lost Granny at the age of 92, but I know she s still with us sometimes, especially when I get a waft of the scent of Lily of The Valley and there is no-one around!