Wednesday, July 30, 2014

Granny Smith

There were lots of tourists at the Botanics yesterday and I was intrigued to see that this new feature appeared to be attracting far more attention than any of the rare plants or even the beautiful herbaceous border, which my ghost plans to haunt (benignly) when I'm deceased. It's a wildflower - not really meadow, just a very large, oval flowerbed. Earlier in the summer, there were more poppies - it's been created to mark the centenary of the start of World War 1 - but now it's mainly blue cornflowers and what I think might be corn marigolds and chamomile. It's very pretty, anyway and was much-photographed by many visitors.

I've been typing out my aunt's memories, as dictated to me on our recent Norfolk holiday, and it's been making me think about my grandmother, whom I never really knew. I knew my other grandmother well but as I've previously mentioned, this one left Edinburgh, with my aunt, in 1955 (I think) when I was five. They lived in Cheltenham and then Cambridge and we saw them only every few years.  I asked my aunt what Granny was interested in and she didn't know. Just her family, she thought.

Which seems most unlikely to me, but clearly my aunt hadn't ever really thought about  it and neither had I up till that point. I looked at the family tree that my father spent his retirement compiling, and noticed that Granny's mother had died when Granny was 18. There had been 11 children in the family, though 2 had died in infancy. Another died in 1915, presumably in the war (and I'd never even heard of him). Granny was the third youngest, so things must have been hard when her mother died.

She and my grandfather were married for 10 years before they had children and then they had three within five years (which is odd) so that they were quite old parents - 35 and 45. My father, their eldest child, was in the army for 6 years during the war, which must - now I come to think of it - have been terrible for her. My grandfather died in 1950. And then in the early 1950s, one of her daughters suddenly married someone she hardly knew and went off to be a missionary doctor in Pakistan - home only every 5 years - and the other decided to go down south. So Granny had the choice of living alone near her son and two grandchildren (my brother and me - our house was too small to have her living with us and I don't think my parents would have wanted this anyway) but being parted from her other (unmarried) daughter, or going down south with this daughter. She chose the latter but very soon developed dementia, in her early 70s.

And really it's taken me 64 years to think what it all must have been like for her. Fairly traumatic from time to time, I suppose. Poor Granny.


  1. I may be wrong, but perhaps your grandmother chose to go south because women often lived with a daughter if they had one, rather than a son? There's an old saying, a son is a son till he takes a wife but a daughter is a daughter all your life. That lets me out, I have two sons.

  2. The wild flowers are delightful ( as is little colour coordinated N! ) It's the scale of a huge patch all together that make them special.( I really like blue cornflowers. ) Were the flowers attracting insects too?
    One year here in NZ wild flowers were grown in the median strips on the motorway, which is fine if one was a passenger but not good for the driver to behold. It certainly brightened up a sterile place ...but of course got weedy as happens.
    Our grandparents led a totally different life from the one we now live. Communication and travel were so restrictive for them.

  3. and here you go, making me THINK again!!! when i saw the title of your post, i thought it would be about apples - but your Granny Smith's Life Story is a lot more interesting than apples ... my own nonna lived with her oldest daughter till Corina died, and then lived with my Auntie Mabel till Nonna died ... she might have preferred living with my father, but my mother would have been miserable, so EVERYONE would have been miserable right along with her ... poor Nonna

  4. Ah, such pretty pictures and with little N as a bonus. He looks so big crouched by the tree.

    Do you suppose that maybe life was so hard for our ancestors that they didn't get as attached to their children as we do? Maybe? Sometimes it helps me to think that way since their lives didn't seem to be as easy as ours. My grandmothers both died too young to worry about who would care for them in their old age. Which, I think, is why my parents don't seem to know how this needing care thing is supposed to work. ;-D

  5. Anonymous7:21 pm

    Poor Granny, indeed.

    Little N looks very thoughtful in the first picture, bless him.

  6. I LOVE the wildflowers! When we lived in South Dakota, I planted a huge container of "wildflower" seeds across our front lawn - where a ditch had been dug and no grass was growing. It was not quite as beautiful as your photo, but the neighbors did like it. Just now, I have perennials in a garden around my postbox - maybe I should throw some seeds in there next spring?

    I love thinking about my Grandparents and hearing stories about them. I should do as you have, and write some of the stories down as I get my dad to talk about them - I don't think Dad is long for this world, either...

  7. Beautiful mix of those blue and yellow flowers. Apt background for grandson. There was a similar wildflower bed at the Botanical Gardens in Oxford when I visited there last summer. I like cultivated gardens but wild is my default setting.......
    I also wish I knew more about what went on in my grandmothers' heads, and my mother's. Too late wise, as usual.