Sunday, 2 June 2019

Five Things My Nan Taught Me

It seems weird to be typing these letters, foreign almost to my fingers as they tap away on my keyboard. My grandmother, i.e the love of my life, my ultimate number one fan, my life advice guru and all round best friend passed away at the age of 95 on May 23rd.
The grief and pain is like nothing I have ever experienced, it has dulled me as a person and my world has become considerably darker without her in it. You ever meet that one person that you look at and think, “thank God I have you”? Well, that was/is my Nan. There never will be another quite like her, and I don’t think I will ever get over losing her.
They say that time is the greatest healer, but I am an impatient individual and here I am tapping my watch to see when this great ‘heal’ will kick in. Will it be like the Big Bang? Or will it be quieter than that, slowly setting in within me until one day I wake up and feel content? I mean I wish I knew, but for now I will keep waiting for that big moment where I get knocked off my feet and say “Christ, I feel okay”.
In a short lived attempt to try and pull myself out of my miserable weekend activity of watching Umbrella Academy and knocking back questionable volumes of orange juice, I have decided to put pen to paper (or fingers to keys if you want to get technical) and draft out the top five things that my nan taught me. Now, there are far more than five obviously, but for the interest of my own self-loathing which is looming imminently, I decided to give you the highlights of my nans pearls of wisdom. This lady survived being bombed out of London, thinking she saw a UFO sighting on her way cycling back home (still TBC on what this actually was) and survived the loss of one of her own children, my dad. So when I say this lady knows things, she knows thing.

1.       Always wear a thermal vest
Now this was very genuine advice my nan gave me when I declared I was moving to Leeds for university, i.e The Great North. I don’t know if my nan ever ventured this far North from her very southern roots, but she was very adamant I would need thermal vests “to keep your poor back warm”. I later found out someone at her day group had told her that the North was very cold, which was why her insistence on my vest wearing intensified tenfold suddenly.
I used to scoff at this and decided this simply “wasn’t cool” so decided to ignore her and instead opted to go out in the depths of winter in Leeds in nothing but a thin jacket and leggings on many an occasion whilst going to uni. I rapidly realised my nan did indeed have a point about it being bloody cold in the North, and my southern bones saluted her when I strolled in to M&S like a lamb to slaughter to go and find some fetching thermal vests to shove on underneath my clothes.

2.       Always show your appreciation to shop staff
My nan used to work in a shop / department store way back when e-commerce was a word which would score you 0 points on a game of Scrabble, and her experiences working in this shop with the way she was treated from customers cemented a very clear stance in her mind on how shop workers should be treated.
If you have an office job and have never suffered the delights of a middle-aged woman waving a faulty item of underwear at you whilst declaring she will tell all her friends how terrible the quality of the clothing is from the store you work in, then I salute you. Well done you, you dodged that bullet. Seriously, I think I may have PTSD from my time working as a sales assistant.
Apparently the moment you work in a shop or supermarket, some individuals see you as lesser to them, and that you are only there to serve their every outrageous whim and need. Your forced smile will be put to the test as you listen to them drone on and on in a monotone voice about how expensive x, y, z is and can’t you do them a discount? No Sandra I cannot, I don’t make the damned prices.
My Nan instilled in all of us that how you treat shop workers is a reflection on you as a person, and I have to say after my brief stint of working in retail – that is the damned truth. Be nice to your servers and your waitresses and your bartenders because they sure as hell aren’t at work on a hot day in Summer to be given a load of abuse by someone who seems to think they’ve suddenly become more important than the Queen herself.

3.       Always have good biscuits in, just in case you get a visitor
Once of my earliest memories as a child was charging in to my Nan and Granddads house after a morning of horse riding, making a firm bee line for the biscuit tin which was always kept in the kitchen cupboard.
My granddad, naturally, would always make sure I got him one out too and would then pretend to have no idea that he wasn’t supposed to be having biscuits: “you mean I can’t have one biscuit? Oh, it will impact my diabetes? I didn’t know”.
No matter how many times over the years we told nan that we had already had a big lunch before heading over, she would still offer us out a selection of biscuits with our cups of tea, asking several times if she couldn’t tempt us with a biscuit or two. Why yes Nan, you can indeed tempt my full stomach with one little biscuit. Or maybe two. Oh, who cares hand me the box.
One thing I did later find out about my nans biscuit offering was this: if you have guests over, always offer them biscuits with their cups of tea. However, always make sure you take out your favourite biscuit before presenting the tin to everyone else so that you still get the best one for yourself.

4.       Be forgiving, even if you don’t want to
This next statement will come as no surprise to anyone who knows me when I say that I do like to hold a grudge. Someone walks in front of me in the street? Hold a grudge.
Someone is mean to my sister? God damnit, I will definitely hold a grudge.
Someone calls my dog a bit plump? I will hold that grudge until I die, even if they have a very strong point that my dog does need to be on a diet.
My nan often told me that forgiveness was better than holding a grudge of any form, as I would often ring her up to complain when things had gone wrong. She would sit silently listening to my (vastly animated) recounting of the horrors of my day, only for her to give me some very calm and wise words to mull over. She was a calming woman, my grandmother.

5.       Always tell people they are your favourite
This is my final thought piece to end on, and it’s because it is my favourite example of my Nan doing what she does best.
For years, nan would always tell me I was her favourite grandchild and I would have a smugness about this which was almost palpable whilst I sauntered around her house – lucky me, I am the chosen one, I am the favourite, watch out cousins because I am here and I am the favourite one so move out your seat I’m here to see Nan.
I would always end our twice weekly phone calls with a “goodbye, love you” and she would reciprocate this. If I was having a bad day, she would always say “remember you’re my favourite” and this could pull me out of any bad mood which life put me in.
Now, imagine my horror when four of us cousins were in her hospital room with her saying goodbye when someone else said the immortal words of “it’s okay – I’m your favourite”. Shock, horror, betrayal. They must have got it wrong; there obviously cannot simply be two favourites, that isn’t how this game of love works.
“Hang on Nan, I’m your favourite?” Came a voice – a voice which wasn’t mine. That meant three of us had been told we were the favourite. The fourth looked around and said, “No, I’m the favourite!”.
The penny (and the ego) dropped – we were all the favourites. All of us, in our own ways were our Nan’s favourite because she loved us all that implicitly and without reproach that she simply couldn’t have loved one of us more over the other.

That’s the thing about my Nan; family always came first for her regardless of the situation. The world was falling down? Family first.
Someone was horrible to me at uni? Family first.
Not got enough seats at the dinner table for the influx of people coming over to sample your roast dinner and treacle sponge? Family first, find extra seats.

It’s not goodbye Nan, it’s simply see you later x