Monday, 23 June 2014
Another One For The Book
This is a photo of me with my maternal grandparents Bert and Ada. Last Friday, 20th June, would have been their wedding anniversary. They were married in 1931, and died, within 11 months of each other, just a few years short of their seventieth anniversary. Nana always said the secret to a good marriage was never to argue about money. Grandad reckoned the key thing was to never contradict your wife, even when she was talking rubbish. And, to be honest, Nana talked a lot of rubbish. I'm rambling on about them now because I've been thinking, over the weekend, about how much they've influenced my writing.
People often assume that your writing is autobiographical. Most of mine isn't. I have led an essentially dull life that nobody in their right mind would want to read about. But Nana and Grandad, unremarkable as they were, have managed to leave behind them a treasury of writing material.
Nana had a saying, whenever anything vaguely amusing happened.
'That's another one for the book,' she would say. I'd love to write that book. It would probably include the time, when my grandad was away serving in WW2, she moved house without consulting him. And the time she 'mended' a deckchair. Grandad sat in it, while she was out shopping. Her inadequate stitching gave way, and he was left stranded in the deckchair frame until an acquaintance came to the back gate, hoping to buy some plants.
Nana was 'a character'. She had a membership card for every bingo hall in town, and most of the ones in Liverpool. At one time, playing bingo was more or less a full time job for her. She was a fan of crosswords too, although she didn't pay much attention to the clues. She preferred to just fill in any word she could think of that fitted. There was always a copy of People's Friend or Woman's Weekly on the arm of her chair. I grew up reading them.
Grandad was quieter, and I wish I'd talked to him more when I was younger. I know stuff about him now that I didn't when he was alive, because he rarely spoke about his early life. I know he was orphaned by the time he married, aged 21, and that an older brother was lost at sea during WW1, aged just 18. I also know something that he almost certainly didn't; that he had a half brother, born when his mother was just a teenager, and a full ten years before her marriage to his father. I wonder what he'd have made of that, had he still been around when the 1911 Census became available to view online.
My Nana told me lots of stories, when I was growing up. She told me about the twins she gave birth to, after a fall downstairs seven months or so into a pregnancy she wasn't even aware of. They lived for ten minutes, and it was another eight years before my mum came along. She told me about the teenage years she spent in domestic service, when her employers tested her by planting coins under the rug. The first time she found them, she stacked them on the mantelpiece. The second time, she glued them down. There never was a third time. She told me a story about Grandad, and how when he was a boy, he knocked his father unconscious when he saw him raise his hand to hit his mother.
All these are just stories waiting to be written. They're nothing special. Every writer, however mundane their family, must have a stock of ideas like this. But thank you, Nana and Grandad, for leaving me yours. I just hope I can do them justice.