My name is Annie but I am universally known as Grannie Annie (even at the hairdresser!) I am mother of five and grandmother of six and like, the old Picture Post (remember it?) all human life is there. I am to, let you know what goes on in such a tribe (we are not the Waltons I only discovered a few years ago) Sometimes it will be trite and trivial and sometimes deep and meaningful but all of it will have a ring of truth with maybe a smidgeon of poetic licence.

It all began the weekend we stayed at my daughter’s house and she gave up,her bed for us, she is generous like that and as usual there was a pile of carefully chosen books on the bedside table along with expensive biscuits and a tasteful nosegay as she is a gardener on a large estate.

The second book down grabbed me by its title “How to deal with the death of a parent”.

Her brother is a doctor and I wondered if he had told her to prepare for my death that he knew more about than me. Although quite shocked at her or his preparation it brought my own ostrich like behaviour to my demise and I began to pay some attention to my end. We are of an age when we seem to go to funerals and memorials with monotonous regularity and are often critical of the rituals that accompany the last rite of passage. We now believe that we are rather expert in this last trip of life and realise that with all this knowledge and experience it was time to write our wishes down so that the family will have some idea as to what we want. When a daughter in law had just organised her father’s funeral according to his wishes she had rather bravely asked us what we wanted. I was quick to reply that I had no preferences or wishes as I would not be there at my last party and they could do as they wanted.. But as she pointed out the THEY consisted of five children and it would be out of character if they all agreed. So I have set about my plans for a party that I won’t attend.

Death cafes are popping up all over the country and we have one held in our local bookshop and I quickly joined another dozen or so people, both sexes, who meet and discuss all manner of things – practical and emotional. Death is gradually coming out of the closet and deserves a hearing.

This year my husband and I have been to a funeral or memorial every month at least. We have gone from the sublime woodland burial to the ridiculous over the top cathedral ceremony fir a man who did not believe. Many of the eulogies we have listened to in amazement as they bore no resemblance to the deceased. Why do so many of the deceased become saints. I think I will write my own

I think I have said on this site before that we have downsized and moved to Cheltenham after 23 years in the country where you had to get in the car to buy a pint of milk. Here in Cheltenham I can walk to buy or see anything I could want or need. This is from someone who is so lazy she would drive to the lavatory. Talking of which brings me to,
this week’s rant. After viewing 43 houses we moved to this Georgian gem which is small but perfectly formed. It has three bathrooms but not on the ground floor so,it seemed sensible to anticipate a drop of incontinence and the arrival of a need for the dreaded Tenna Lady so we put in a planning request for a ground floor loo. A surveyor friend had found the ideal space which would not impinge on anything in the house at all. A sweet architect drew some plans and we submitted them to the Planning Office. This is a semi detached house which over the years has ben altered beyond the original builder’s imagination. Three bathrooms have been installed and rooms divided and undivided so it is not in virgin Georgian condition. We could see no problems but after two long visits from the Planning officer we were refused. Why? Because in our basement are some original Georgian steps that are now covered in cheap MDF but cannot be covered disturbed or touched in anyway.

So for the good of our health we tell ourselves we climb stairs to use the facilities and pray that continence may continue.

Twelfth Night.

Have you taken down the withered holly and now tawdry decorations today? I have religiously done this ghastly job on January 6th believing it to be Twelfth Night and that I was appeasing the gods. But this week brought an invitation to a “Twelfth Night Drinks party” but it was for the 5th and thinking that our hosts were suffering from post Xmas excess I rang to be sure. Horror as if these lovely very organised people. Luke make such an error. They said that the 5th had always been Twelfth Night counting the 25th of December being the first day of Christmas. Now I wondered if this mistake of mine explained some of the bad luck that had come my way. Husband suggested Google and sure enough I discovered that I was among a lot of people under this misapprehension of the 6th being IT. It also confirmed that if one failed to denude the house on the right date the decs should be kept up until February and bad luck would lurk about.

Any opinion on this subject? I confess it is all away in our house and it is only the 5th.

Well, are you all ready for the annual agony that is Christmas? Or do you look forward to the family gathering? If you are the Waltons then you will….we are not the Waltons and with five children who have married, reproduced and divorced the numbers have swelled somewhat. This also bound to produce the odd dodgy moment or two. Both sons have two wives, one ex and the other extant. Both have children from each marriage and one has delightful stepchildren.
I can no longer accommodate the whole tribe having downsized to this Georgian gem in Cheltenham and I confess that losing control of the occasion has made me a bit bah humbug. I liked, nay, loved the planning of colour schemes, stockings but only for those who woke up in situ on Christmas mornings, making the vulgar crackers that I have been doing for nigh on 50 years and being in charge if menus even when vegetarians crept into the tribe…funny that they always chose the goose fat roasted potatoes over the buttered new ones. I loved it all even when working full time. Now in this mini house I am reduced to a party of eight which is the maximum I can sleep and seat. No veggies this year so I can at least choose the bird. I think I am unusual in not going wild for turkey, too much like talking to myself (boring) but a lovely goose will serve the eight of us.

I miss the magic of having small children who still believe in the magic of Father Xmas although I traumatised one grandson when I took,him, too young, to Santa’s grotto.
He did not like sitting on a strange and bearded old man closeted in a fake snow scene. Forever after he avoided contact with the man who would deliver his stocking via a chimney. He is 23 now and I apologise to him annually. He won’t be with me this Christmas and I don’t like it.

It has been two weeks since the Cheltenham Literary Festival finished and I have been in deep mourning. I waited, not very patiently, for 23 years to,come to live in this lovely Regency town which is home to numerous festivals. But it was and is the Literary Festival that drew me.

On husband’s retirement we bought a house in very easy walking distance of everywhere but especially the Gardens where most of the activity takes place. Even this old woman who is so,lazy she would drive to the lavatory can amble to all the events. After two weeks of this I am fitter than I could have hoped for.
There is usually one dud event eclipsed by a star lecture but this year was of a vary high standard. But in the last three years of being here and doing £200 worth of tickets I have realised that the interviewer is as if not more important than the interviewee. Nick Robinson was one such when he interviewed Ian Hislop. It was the last of the festival and by a very narrow margin the best. Who wouldn’t want Hislop to dinner?

I am known for putting my foot in it but excelled myself at this year’s festival when I went to a lecture by Maggie o Farrell and commented to my neighbour that there was a dearth of men in the audience. She correctly said it was not surprising as she was a woman’s writer. Then someone came to sit next to me and asked if I minded . I can hear myself saying now”Of course not and how lovely to see a man” “I am a woman”came the reply. I am blushing as I write this. There is no hole big enough to hide in but I think I redeemed myself when after a grovelling apology I said it happened to me regularly on the telephone. We met t two,other venues and she spoke happily to me.

A blissful week in Dorset! I think I said last time that self catering in brochure speak has always seemed to me really meaning SHE COOKS but the honourable husband has kept his side of the bargain (no foreign travel) and takes me to Michelin starred restaurants which are thin on the ground in Dorset but we did have three marvelous meals. The Pig on the Beach at Studland was the best lunch in many a year and the setting is stunning.

We were sad to discover on driving on the only wet day to Bruton that the much praised new art gallery was closed for refurbishment but we discovered a gem of a restaurant. At the Chapel was buzzing with arty types and well worth a visit.

The rented cottage in Corton Denham was by far the best equipped we have ever taken. We are experts at this game (we used to do,it in Europe before the deal) and we have never had such good antique furnishings and luxury en suite bathrooms and a kitchen with every piece of equipment any cook could command. Scales and mixers etc

Now we are back in Cheltenham and the best two weeks of the year begin tomorrow. It is the Literary Festival and my whole reason for begging to downsize to this great town. Tomorrow I start with Ian McEwen, I can’t wait

After forty years my beloved saintly husband has “come out”. He has confessed that he hates all forms of overseas travel….one exception! We have a daughter in Burgundy and she and the wine manage to get him on a ferry.

This man is no control freak so does not stop me from going foreign but is not the same without him. There had to be some sort of pay off so I bargained Morocco for Michelin restaurants. So far he has honoured the bargain but this weekend we head to his favourite county, where he was at Prep School (Dorset) but there seems to be a dearth of gourmet eating….anyone out there know any?

An interesting and challenging week here in Gloucestershire. Another bout of Granny duty but this time with a 23 year old with a troubled history but a very close relationship with this granny. Recovering anorexic but now a successful first degree student at the Royal Academy we are all immensely proud of her fragile recovery. She is a true genius but the line between that and insanity is very thin and she sadly often crosses it. Like she did this week not the old enemy anorexia but a three day binge of bulimia. This mental disease seeps like oil covering most members of the family. We are all touched,tainted and helpless in the mire if this disease. We hope and dome of us pray that this latest surprise episode will pass and normality, whatever that is, will return.

A dinner party here at the weekend was a lovely relief despite the slaving over the stove.

One of the guests was the retired head of the best comprehensive school for miles and released from the confidentiality of his previous post he entertained us all. He had taken this school from dire straits to the pinnacle of success so much do that houses in his catchment area are 20 per cent higher than any other area in the town and many parents were happy to pay over the odds to live there.
His best story which had us in stitches was the one of the boy hauled up for smoking dope on the school,premises. A pretty indignant mother accompanied him and said she didn’t know where he got “that stuff” Quick as a flash he replied “out of your tin”.

Sins of the parents!

This week is looking peaceful in comparison.

After Nice Munich and the traumas in Turkey it seems churlish to,have a moan about a whole week of Grannying but here goes and I apologise if it all sounds trivial and grumpy old womanish.

I am sure I don’t need to say that as the Grannie I adore the child that was with me for a whole week but I am well past my sell by date and she is 12 going on 16 and where is the connect between such a gap. There is a double connect actually. Her parents are one and money is the other! After all we have a common enemy and it is great to,learn things about our own children from theirs! The other of course is money, Grannie’s money can buy indulgences that parents can’t or won’t buy.

But when you have endured and paid for two hours in a noisy trampoline park,faced the Waltzers at a fair,sat through “The secret life of pets” three hours at a crowded lido,and a lot of time and money in Primark and Top Shop the will to live is frail.But she has been collected and I miss her and can’t wait to see her and hear that eternal pinging of the electronic devices.

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