My gran was a phenomenon. I appreciate that probably 100% of people reading this would say the same of their maternal or paternal grandmother, but I firmly believe that my wee granny was something else.
I used to go to her at lunchtime in my early to mid years at primary school, as she lived that wee bit nearer my house and my mum had by that time taken on a part time job. I am the youngest of five and I think the last Eardley she looked after in this way, though my nieces and nephews bearing that name may wish to put me straight.
It was my gran, Kate was her name, who put me off tea for life with her mostly milky, sugar-laden and weak strength brew. Though I suppose giving a six to eight-year-old tea was maybe a bit of an error in the first place. Different times.
I kind of remember her husband, my grandad, who my mum always referred to affectionately as 'my daddy', though don't really recall ever having set eyes on him. In the fog of my memory, his presence to me appears as a man who spent all of his time in bed, in the wee bedroom, with the sliding door in my gran's house. It was always: are we going to gran's? Never grandad's. Though I do have the faintest memory of his voice as my gran, very much the matriarch in charge, bellowed some oath or sometimes even mild profanity to him through the, always closed, sliding door. They tell me though that they cut quite a dash walking out as a young courting couple in the early years of the 20th century.
Although I cannot truly say that I set eyes on him, I did run a regular errand for him with my elder brother. With half a crown in hand, we would run down to the local hostelry to procure his usual couple of screwtop bottles of pale ale, which I understand is now better known as IPA. That was back in the day when the pub had a wee glass window which you would chap and the barman would duly serve weans with whatever was asked, as long as he knew who you were. I would probably have been around six years old so my brother 15, well below the age for purchasing alcohol. We took the previous days empties back, with the deposit offsetting against the price of the beer.
My gran was gregarious, always laughing and generous with the family, but beyond those boundaries, had a reputation for parsimony. So much so, I have it on authority that when the minister came on his regular visit and when she was in the kitchen preparing his tea, he would lob the biggest lump of coal he could find in the scuttle into the meagre fire she had set and that as soon as he left, she would howk it out, to use another time. Turns out she was ahead of her time in managing fuel consumption.
My gran and mum had an intergenerational and long-running competition, the rules of which were unwritten and vague to say the least, however, everyone knew. My mum made brilliant tablet, so good that I found I had many more friends around the time the pot had been out and the richly sweet concoction was firming up in the tray. All the weans from my street chanced their luck for a bit of Wee Mary's tablet.
Not my gran though, her product was altogether different and to be honest, rotten! It was a strange thing, it looked like tablet, but wasn't sweet, it also contained nuts and raisins and I for one dreaded when she brought it over. Wee Kate, we are not a tall family, felt that her produce was far superior to my mum's. Even at a very young age, I knew that I should not get involved in this war of attrition, so duly bit into the non-sweet wares, all the time wishing it was my mum's gorgeous sweet efforts I was devouring. 'That's lovely gran,' I and my siblings parroted. But surely she must have noticed that none of us ever asked for more.
My gran and indeed my mum are long gone now and both still sorely missed. There was a story I thought about telling which was based around my gran and grandad's 'mixed marriage'. But that can keep for another day.
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