I’m not really the biggest fan of New Year – partly because on the party animal scale I rank as “boring”, but also because I always remember my grandmother... my Nannie, Mary Herbert who passed away at the end of
Her husband, my grandfather Les had died in February 1999. They were aged 87 and 88 respectively – not a bad (or good, depending on your point of view) advert for the effects of lifelong smoking! I remember at one point, my Grandad smoked a brand called Peter Stuyvesant (no idea if they still exist). In “real life” Stuyvesant was a Dutch-born seven-teenth century colonial governor in America... how proud he would be to know that his work and achievements were immortalised in a packet of cigarettes...
But I digress. Grandad hailed from Coventry, Nannie was born near Edinburgh – the pair married on 4th December 1937 in Coventry Cathedral... the same cathedral that was razed to the ground during the Blitz less than three years later. At the time, Grandad was working seven twelve-hour shifts a week at the Armstrong Whitworth aircraft factory in Baginton – two heavy falls in younger years had resulted in the loss of a kneecap and a permanent limp that prevented him from joining the armed forces. Nannie had left Coventry and was living in the small Leicestershire village of Croft. Grandad later rejoined the family and they remained at no.1 Kendall’s Avenue for the rest of their lives.
I have so many fond memories of trips to Croft. Their home was simply an open house to numerous relatives and I couldn’t wait for the first glimpse of Croft Hill, or the small bus shelter that signalled the turn into Arbor Road... the moment when you knew you’d arrived. It was a modest house, but it was a happy home and I wouldn’t have swapped my trips to Croft for any number of foreign holidays –they were special times... with special people.
Grandad pottered in the garden, pottered in the kitchen, fell asleep while the wrestling was on... and was a magnet to females of every age. I don’t know how he did it, but in my teens, it was a secret I’d have happily paid for! Nannie was wonderful... I remember her singing songs with her sister Florence – 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.
Luckily, my own children were able to visit Croft and get to know their great grandparents, but it is a sad fact that nothing can halt the passage of time. Luckily, I have happy memories of the last time I saw Grandad and Nannie... and 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.
On New Year’s Eve I will raise a glass to you both – as I do every year. God bless you Nannie and Grandad xxx
All my own work... almost.