My maternal grandmother (my Nannie) would have been one hundred today.
Her name was Mary and she was the eldest of six children born to William and Ann Hands. Although she was born in Scotland, Mary spent a number of her formative years in Wales, but any relief I felt at realising the letter “L” was missing from the name of her village swiftly disappeared when I tried to pronounce Tanygrisiau (an area of Blaenau Ffestiniog)!
William worked in the stone/granite industry and was accustomed to moving to find work, but the family eventually settled in the small Leicestershire village of Croft, where there was – and still is – a large quarry.
Nannie married my grandfather Leslie Herbert on 4th December 1937 in Coventry Cathedral - the same cathedral that was razed to the ground during the Blitz less than three years later. Nannie returned to Croft during the war and was later rejoined by Grandad and they would spend the rest of their married life at no.1 Kendall’s Avenue.
A couple of days ago, and quite by accident, I noticed that their old house was up for sale. Despite the photos revealing a lot of modernisation, the sight of the bare rooms in which I had enjoyed so many happy times hit me really hard – I felt a strange mixture of sadness and comfort at seeing the inside of the house for the first time in thirteen years. I clearly remembered how the rooms looked way back when, and I only have good memories of my trips to Croft.
Nannie was wonderful: I remember her singing songs with her sister (Auntie) Florence – often in Welsh– but collapsing in fits of giggles before finishing them. I’m led to believe that there was alcohol involved! She also loved to play cards and dominoes and the more you lost, the funnier she found it.
The memories are so strong that even now, small things like the smell of grilled toast or the distant sound of a train (a
freight line was situated close to their house and you would always hear the gentle rumble of trains during the night) take me straight back to the innocence and magic of childhood.
Time finally caught up with Nannie at the end of 2000 (Grandad had passed away the previous year). I miss her and think about her often – as I do all my grandparents – and on this special day, I will be raising a glass to a very special person. Happy birthday Nannie. Love you xxx
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