This sepia photograph is the earliest picture I have of my maternal grandparents. You might think they are the young couple sitting at the front but in fact they are the two standing behind. According to my mother they had been witnesses at the marriage of their friends.
The women’s hats are quite wonderful, one swathed in what looks like gauze or chiffon and large drooping feathers, and my then there is my grandmother’s, covered in roses so large that she looks like a human rose arbor! (She had a large collection of silky artificial flowers which, years later, she would let me play with. I had a china doll with hard splayed fingers which were perfect for holding a bunch of these flowers. Her hat pins were useful too-they made fantastic swords!)
I am struck too by how like my mother she looks. I wish I knew how old she was and whether her first child had been born.
I love the way my grandmother, looking so young and serious, has placed her arm protectively round her friend while the other hand rests lightly on the young man’s shoulder. I wonder who they were and whether I ever met them.
My grandfather, who I remember as the gentlest of men, looks smart in his suit.I was told had a hard life, starting as a young boy down the mines and then, following a pit accident which left him trapped underground in the dark for hours, suffering from a nervous illness which led to him eventually working in various jobs above ground and never earning enough money. My grandmother must have loved him at the beginning but the lack of money possibly ruined that. I remember him coming home from work, his big boots dirty, sitting in the scullery which was next to the kitchen, drinking his tea. I would sit on a chair, my legs swinging and watch wide eyed as Grandpa poured tea into the saucer, blew on it so that the brown liquid rippled and threatened to flow over the sides and then he would raise it to his lips and drink it noisily. I was not allowed to do this and my grandmother disapproved which was why Grandpa was banned from the kitchen. It was the same at meal times when he was forced to sit out there and enjoy his habit of eating peas from his knife. But despite these habits that my grandmother deplored he was a real gentleman, always kind, and I loved to be with him when he dug the garden and talked to the robin that sometimes sat on his spade. Incidentally, it was my Grandpa who gave me my first teddy who I named Teddums.
My mother adored her father and I shall never forget her howling scream when she was told he had died.I was still at Primary school then and was sent to stay with the wonderful Miss Goddard while she went to the funeral.I shall write about this in another post.
Teddums featured in many of the games my sister and I played, sometimes playing the part of a prince or a king (or a minister when we staged weddings or funerals) although he was never as dashing as Golly, whose noble steed was a handsome, rather stiff , jet black toy poodle -useless for cuddling but perfect as a horse. I know gollies are frowned on now but we loved him, he was so beautifully dressed and gallant and all our dolls adored him!
But back to the photograph and why I have called it Lallie and Grandpa.
The story I was told was that my cousin Philip, as a toddler, couldn’t pronounce the word granny and said Lallie. My grandmother must have liked this and it became the name we all knew her by. I remember being surprised when I discovered that no-one else called their granny by this name.But I am beginning to realise that family history is a slippery thing.My cousin was never told this story. My “memories” are all based on a combination of what I remember and what my mother told me.
I wonder now how much is true.