Saturday, 13 May 2017

#52Stories, Week 18, Grandmothers Part Two

Right then, part two.

My maternal grandmother Elsie Lilian nee Timms, was always known by her given name. To us she was "Big Nana" to differentiate her from Little Nana who was shorter in stature by close to a foot (30cms to those of you who don't remember imperial measurements). She was born in Milverton, Royal Leamington Spa, Warwickshire in 1907. Her father was born in Milverton too and her mother in Wolverhampton, Staffordshire. Two of her grandparents were born in Shropshire, one in Warwickshire and one in Oxfordshire. 

She is the one in the middle

When I was very little they lived at Whakamaru where Grandad worked at the power station. I remember going to stay when my brother was born, and when Mum had her tonsils out. I'm sure there were plenty of other occasions that we stayed too. We would sometimes visit for the weekend if we had a car. I remember once going by bus with Mum and Mark.

Hours of fun playing with that fire hydrant pump thingy

We baked pikelets together, watching for the bubbles so that you knew when to turn them over. We made fruit cake and had a turn stirring so we could make a wish. Nana made cottage pie and we could help mincing the cold meat in the mincer (no health and safety worries then - just "be careful of your fingers"). Rice pudding was a favourite too.

She and Grandad went for a holiday to Australia to see Grandad's brother who lived there, they bought me a baby doll back. I called her Lynnette.

At the Three Sisters, Blue Mountains with Uncle Frank & Auntie Kath

We all went to the airport to say goodbye or welcome home...

She was a knitter, we all had jumpers, cardies and dresses created by her. She crocheted as well and did some needlework. She liked to read - magazines and novels - and enjoyed tv and crosswords.

When I was about 9 they moved to Hamilton after Grandad retired. They bought a new house with no established gardens and Nana made it her own. Many trips were made to garden centres and some plants were even bought by mail order from nurseries too far away to drive.

After we moved to Wellington, we would go back and stay most school holidays and sometimes she came to stay with us. She regularly drove to Auckland to visit with Auntie Anne after they moved from Te Awamutu, and once (maybe twice) drove to Wellington in her trusty Morris Minor to stay with us.

In 1973 she returned to England for a holiday with her sister. It was the first time she had been back since leaving in 1929. It must have been such a contrast to sailing to New Zealand - flying all the way there and back. They toured around England, visited with their brother and had a short tour of Europe as well. She visited me twice when I lived in Australia too.

Paddling at Palm Beach, Sydney

She knew so many nursery rhymes, ones that none of my friends knew and she shared them with Lauren too. She gave her bouncy rides on her foot, like she had for all of us too.

This wheelbarrow was a carriage for us all, and even the next generation

Nana didn't talk about her family a lot, but the bits she shared really grabbed my attention and I think got me hooked on genealogy. I mean one grandfather married twice and the other three times ?! I had never heard of anything like it when I was little.

So, there you have it, on the eve of Mothers' Day, memories of my two Nanas.

Sunday, 7 May 2017

#52Stories, Week 18, Grandmothers Part One

I have two, but I don't think I will ever be one myself. As cool as that could be, it isn't in the life-plan of the only person who can change that outcome. In the first place I am surprised I am a Mum. That certainly was never an aspiration at the top of my list - like it is for many people - so it would be wrong of me to feel that as a Mum it is my right to also be a grandmother. It also isn't my place to influence her decisions. 

So anyway, what are my memories of my two grandmothers ?

They were different, but the same, in many ways. They were both known as Nana. They both drove the same type of car - Morris Minor. At one point they both lived in Hamilton. One was tall, the other was not. One was from a large family, the other was not.

My paternal grandmother Violet Ruth nee Cooper, was always known as Ruth. To us she was "Little Nana" on account of her height and in comparison to our other Nana. She was born in Manakau near Levin in 1896. Both of her parents were born in Marlborough, 2 of her grandparents were born in England and 2 were born in Nelson, New Zealand. I remember visiting her at home in Frankton and being served morning tea in the kitchen. Crackers with slices of tomato, or cheese and tomato. 

She had a great laugh, a hysterical uncontainable giggle that could just get out or control. My Dad has it too. I remember one time sitting at the table, maybe on Dad's knee, having morning tea there. My Uncle Gordon was there too and Nana had over-peppered the tomato. He sneEEZED ! and then sneezed some more. It was pretty explosive, but then Nana and Dad just started to giggle, and giggle and giggle. They couldn't stop. Even Uncle Gordon joined in, after he had recovered from the sneezing. I think it is the first time I remember seeing someone laugh so much that tears rolled down their cheeks. In some photos I have she is in a fit of giggles, or has a mischievous glint in the corner of her eye.

Nana went on some cruise holidays; to the UK and to Fiji. I have postcards (in a box somewhere) which she posted back about her travels, and a little sailor doll from the Flavia. I am sure I remember going on board with Dad to see her cabin on her return from one trip. Imagine that ? It seems so incongruous now that customs didn't stop us. 

Can you spot her in this one taken at Gretna Green ? Look closely - you can see her giggling !

When I was 5 and a 1/2, Nana remarried and moved to the bottom of South Island, near Invercargill. Dad had a reel to reel cassette tape recorder and we used to record "news" on to it and post a reel to Nana in Spar Bush. We visited a couple of times on Christmas holiday trips. What I remember most about those times were the enormous farmhouse kitchen (it was so sunlit), fresh baking, Fluffy the cat who always seemed to have kittens, milk fresh from the cowshed, Tip the sheepdog and the night a bull got into the vege garden and woke us all up.

Later they moved back to Hamilton. There was a wishing well in their front garden, fuschias and a well maintained vege garden at the back as well. 

Excuse the clothes choices - it was the 70's ! be continued