A Eulogy

The eldest grandchild’s speech, written for her grandmother’s funeral in June 2016

When Mum asked me if I would like to speak today, it sparked the most wonderful exchange between the four eldest grandchildren (me, Jenny, Andy and Toby) as we recalled lots of lovely things about Grandma.

So, I offer you a multi-sensory experience, as my sister, cousins and I attempt to evoke some of our very happy memories.

I am certainly going to ‘spill the beans’ on some of our adventures, but I have to tell you that a lot of what I’m going to say revolves around food! And it’s there that I will begin.

We all appreciated Grandma’s brilliant cooking and Andy recalls helping to do the washing up afterwards, standing on the kitchen stool.

Grandma once the told the story of answering the door to a man conducting some sort of survey. When asked if she had a dishwasher, she replied that she did.

“What sort?” said the man.
“Human!” replied Grandma.

Jenny remembers going shopping with Grandma in Grimsby, when they visited the coffee bean shop. We all remember the smell of Cleethorpes coffee so well. Do you remember the coffee percolator? Oh….and if you weren’t there at 11 you missed coffee altogether!

There were other lovely smells, too:

· Murray mints from the glovebox, or blackcurrant licorice sweeties from the pantry
· Estee Lauder’s Youth Dew (given her longevity, it obviously worked, didn’t it?)
· Imperial Leather Soap
· The smell of fresh bread from Smith’s the baker (brought home still warm, in a white string bag)
· “Whale” and chips! Wrapped (we like to think) in the previous day’s copy of The Daily Telegraph.

Not forgetting: ready salted crisps at tea time, followed by sherry trifle (she liked sherry!)

You see, I told you this was going to be about food!

Andy remembers Grandma taking Toby for a McDonald’s when Paul and Miranda (his parents) were vegetarian! Classic Grandma: the boss.

This sparked a number of memories in Toby, apart from the clearly excellent McDonald’s trip:

She was determined to keep doing her own cooking even after her eyesight perhaps wasn’t up to it.

In the same vein, she was stoical and insistent on self-sufficiency. In her mid-nineties, we all recall her climbing up the stepladder in Howlett Road to reach something from the top cupboard.

And she went on foot (or on the bus) to the hairdressers – every Thursday morning – for several decades.

Toby says, when he and Max were small, they would go to visit on Tuesdays and there would always be a token platter of small sandwiches followed by the main event – a vast tray of cakes and jellies, possibly washed down with some of Grandpa’s wine gums.

I remember going to pick Toby up from primary school one day. Grandma handed me the car keys and said, “You drive!”. When I asked if I was insured, she just shrugged her shoulders and said, “I don’t know!” I drove anyway…

Even in her later years, Grandma was always up for a walk to the boating lake or the sea front in any weather. Jen says that she was most happy to take her shoes off and walk along the beach with she, Lauren, Zac and. She kept a good pace too!

I also recall Grandma grabbing a skipping rope at the age of 87 to show Amy how to skip.

The wall between Grandma’s and next door is also worth a mention – it was the place to chat to next-door-neighbour, Gladys, and there was often the exchange of a magazine, left there for the other person, beneath a carefully placed block.

(We all enjoyed hearing Gladys’ laughter when she’d been on the sherry!)

Always sunny, the 3 older cousins played horsey with a blanket on the wall for a saddle, and rope for the bridle and stirrups. We also hid in between the back door and the sliding ‘storm door’ when it came to hide and seek. Under the stairs was a good hiding place, too!

Do you remember the time when it must have been Grandma and Grandpa’s Ruby wedding when we all went to Cleethorpes beach during the day?
I remember doing backflips on the sand, assisted by Uncle Barry, then we all returned to Howlett Road later (a bit sunburnt) before a meal at the Kingsway. I think that might have been the occasion when – during the meal – we also got a front row seat for the Cleethorpes Carnival, as it trundled past the window.

There were sounds of Cleethorpes, too:
· The opening of the front porch door (which always stuck) and the sliding to and fro of the storm door at the back
· The doves cooing in the early morning
· And the answering of the telephone with a cheery, “Boncey, Howlett Road!”

Then, finally, some of the visual images that our recollections brought to mind:
· Grandma leaning over the back of the settee to see how Grandpa was getting on with the crossword
· The pale green bathroom suite – very retro!
· Yellow hand-knitted jumpers with horses on the front and Grandma’s beautiful, delicately embroidered pictures

So, to sum up, I hope that these multi-sensory memories from the elder Granchildren will spark some of your own. Indeed, there are so many things we could have said about Grandma – how can anyone even begin to capture a life lived for so long and so well?

Many of the roles she played in her life were supporting roles, as she looked after all of us. But she was, of course, our own “leading lady” who made it all happen and we are all the better for having known her.

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The cycling administrator

A recent job change has afforded me access to two new things: 1) a cycle-to-work scheme and 2) a cycle-to-work route. The latter is pretty important, since it provides me with a safe pathway on which to cycle, as well as a rather splendid semi-rural route. I also get a jolly good workout three times per week, allowing my legs to rest on the other two days.

I have always had a bike – using it on and off – since I was a youngster. The three-wheel trike became a two-wheeler (Halford’s snazzy purple and yellow) with stabilisers. After that, I enjoyed a variety of machines over the years, including a racing bike for a short period and a folding bike (not a great success over bumpy terrain!).

My latest transport is a great joy. With paniers for my belongings, I can get door-to-door within just under half an hour. Of course, I have to change on arrival but my journey leaves me energised for the day ahead and I enjoy the ride. My route is not without its challenges, however. Whilst Warwickshire is not especially hilly, its gentle undulations do provide the occasional challenge. If I fail to gear down in time, I find myself lifting out of my seat and wobbling precariously as I begin the uphill section of my ride. Prior planning is needed! As a dog owner, I am also mindful of those who share my route, as it is a ‘multi-user pathway’. As a result, I am careful to slow down when approaching dog owners, but they always wish me a cheery ‘good morning’ and kindly encourage their canine companions to step aside to let me pass.

The return journey at the end of the day seems to take a little longer, as I become a little more tired. I’m getting faster (and perhaps a little fitter?) so I monitor my progress by what gear I use when riding up the very last slope before getting home.

I wondered, at first, if the novelty would wear off. Admittedly, it’s not Winter yet, so that may provide additional challenges (I am discouraged by a colleague from *ever* cycling when it’s icy). However, I feel compelled to continue, even when it’s wet.

So, we press on and gear up… and feel all the better for it.

 

Freedom for toes

I recently read an article in one of the Sunday magazines, written by its fashion editor, who revealed that she had given up wearing heels. This is a big deal for a woman of fashion. The accompanying picture revealed some very pointy stiletto heels, upon which the writer had no doubt teetered for some time. I call this type of footwear ‘sitting down shoes’.
Well, I’ve got a step further and given up any type of pointy shoe. Let me explain.
My size 5.5 feet are a standard ‘D’ width, but I have a long fourth toe. As a result, a pointy shoe (or even a curved ballet pump) means that my poor toes are crushed. For some time, I have been tolerating the pain, trying to ease the pressure with corn pads or plasters, but to no avail. This weekend, I made a foot-saving decision: all shoes with restrictive fronts have to go.
My daughter and I went shopping. I bought a lovely pair of blue lace-ups in Ecco (like walking on air) and a pair of nubuck slip-ons for the office from Clarks (grey, diagonal strap across the instep). Let’s be clear. These shoes were not cheap. Okay, we’re not talking Jimmy Choos, but I did not get a penny change out of £155 for the two pairs. This is Investment Dressing. I am investing in my long-term podiatric wellbeing, which justifies the outlay. Right?
And, oh! What a difference! I can wriggle my notes. My feet do not throb. I think it’s going to work.
However, dear sisters, what does this mean for the rest of my look from the ankles up? I have resolved to let the shoes take the lead, so I’ll be adapting what I wear to reflect a slightly more funky, sporty style. It’s younger and less formal, but I think I’m going to like it…. Have you ever dressed from the feet up? What guides your sartorial elegance? I am curious! And comfortable.

An English Patient abroad

Yesterday, there was a hullabaloo beach-side at our resort, where a young lady ended up receiving some emergency assistance from the hotel’s first aider.

Imagine how I felt at 09:00 this morning, when the ‘flip-flop’ was on the other foot and it was my return to receive a visit. Let’s just say I had a very poorly night, resulting in the receipt of Imodium; some anti-emetics; and some rehydrating powders.

What was interesting about last night was just how *busy* it is – during an average transition from one day to the next – in a hotel.

First of all, who moves furniture at 02:36? Why do they do this??

There were other human noises, too, and at quite an early hour. Each to their own…

Then, there’s the dawn ‘call to prayer’ which rang out loud and clear at around 05:00. I must have slept through this before, but there it was, just as it should be. We are in Dubai.

Finally, there’s the early bird babies and their ardent carers (one floor down). That grandma really loves her coochie-woochie-bambino/a.

Oh, and there’s me and my poor family, who were awakened several times because of the disturbance I caused. Thanks to the responsiveness of hotel staff, I’m doing all right. Tonight, though, is going to be peaceful… I hope!

The £10 wardrobe

Buying ‘vintage’, ‘pre-loved’ or simply ‘second-hand’ has always been something I’ve loved. Local dress agencies were my starting point, where I discovered one-off pieces at reasonable prices. Then came eBay…

As we entered 2015, I resolved to see if I could proceed through the year by ‘buying nothing new’. That is, I would purchase never-worn items (still with tags on); gently worn; or sale items from previous seasons. I would not, however, buy new from the high street or online. I’ll leave that to my teenager!

eBay is definitely the place to grab a bargain, but could I stock up on essentials for less than £10 a piece?

My most recent successes have included a ‘M*S’ roll neck top (£7.99 but with free postage) and a Phase Eight waterfall cardigan for just £3.20 (plus postage). So far, so good!

Then come the dresses: a Seasalt tunic for £27.99… And another Phase Eight piece for £19.99…

So, I’m not quite there on my ‘£10 per item’ goal but at an average of less than £15 per piece, I’m certainly heading in the right direction. In addition, I’m doing my bit towards a more eco-friendly way of sourcing what I need.

I have stuck to the ‘nothing new’ approach for clothes, but a word about boots…. This year, I *have* bought some new winter boots – from a shop – new – and not at sale price (grrrr!). I would say that boots would be the only caveat to my ‘nothing new’ thriftiness. The reason is that I know I will wear these for many years to come. My last pair fell apart, after having had new soles and heels on several occasions. They cost around £100 and must have been worn 100’s of times. So, at just pennies per wear, I think it’s reasonable to count these as a long term sartorial investment😉. The quest for the £10 wardrobe goes on.

Oaty-licious!

In our house, we love oats: porridge; flapjack; oatcakes; Bircher muesli… Oats are truly our favourite grain.

Inspired by a simple ‘clean and lean’ recipe for oat pancakes, this weekend I enjoyed an oaty-licious cooking experience. Here’s what I made:

First up, the ‘Clean & Lean Pancakes’ from James Duigan’s diet book:

100g rolled oats
200g ricotta/cottage cheese
4 eggs
1 tsp ground cinnamon

100g blueberries
2 tbsp natural yoghurt

Blend all the ingredients in a food processor, until you have a smooth batter (I added a 1/8 cup milk to make the batter have more of a dropping consistency).

Drop spoonfuls of batter into a heavy based pan, lightly greased with coconut oil. Cook on each side for 2-3 minutes; serve topped with blueberries and yoghurt.

Then, a foray into making my own oat flour to produce the ‘Savory Lemon Rosemary Blueberry Bread’ from www.cleaneatingmag.com

This super-healthy loaf is packed with goodness and is tasty too!

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What’s your favourite oat-based dish?

Warm, deep and muted

I have always been fascinated by the impact of colour on both our surroundings and on what we wear. So, I was delighted when I was invited to be a practice client for a trainee at First Impressions this week.

I felt I had already had a pretty good sense of which colours worked best, but I was particularly keen to understand if bright/clear colours would ‘zing’ or if more muted shades would be more flattering.

Make-up free and wearing a hair band to reveal my whole face (without my hair colour to distract), off we went!

My consultant, Vicky, began by draping a series of rainbow hues across my chest and shoulders. By following a careful sequence, we were soon able to discern what my predominant colour attribute was. With a warm undertone to my skin, and brown eyes, I’m better with warm tones instead of cooler ones. So, as an example, I’ll wear gold instead of silver when choosing jewellery.

When considering light vs. dark, although some colours suited me better in a lighter shade, the overall perception of my best depth of colour fell onto the deep side of medium. So, I’m ‘deep’ overall.

Finally, we explored if soft, muted shades were more flattering or if bright spring-like colours were for me. Although I can wear the warm/bright tones, overall those soft, muted shades worked best.

I returned home and took a peak in my wardrobe; would it be ‘out with the old’? Well, yes, one structured jacket in a dark grey could finally be given the eBay treatment. However, lots of things were already in my colour palette. Hoorah!

So, this weekend saw me mixing soft greens with aubergine, which I really enjoyed. From now on, I’ll look especially at what goes next to my face, as this is the most vital ingredient for colour success. I’ll also make sure that my overall look doesn’t have too many sharp contrasts in terms of tone – a great tip from a very worthwhile session!

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