My memories of my maternal grandmother, who died in 1928 when I was twelve, are of a bright, active old lady generally clothed in black garments of lace, ribbons and velvet. She had a determined nature but usually treated me with kindness.
She had a hard life, moving with her husband from Somerset to South Wales as he took fresh work and then, on their return to Somerset took over a public house (‘The Butchers Arms’) before her husband died. This hostelry was noted for its tasty meals of homemade faggots and black pudding with their complements of peas and potatoes expertly prepared by my grandmother for the farmers and other visitors who came into the town at the weekly markets. She finally lived in one of a block of five well-built houses which she had purchased, and could easily be visited as our family lived in the same road.
her first born child, a son, tragically suffered an early death, for after joining the Army in his teens he was posted to India for more than ten years. Upon his return to England he contracted typhoid
and he died in Netley hospital: his heart-broken mother had not seen him since his posting abroad. The arrival of his trunk showed that he had bought presents for all his relations, including shawls for his newly-born niece, my mother’s first child, in 1900.
As a small boy I can remember sitting in grandma’s house watching a large glass jar on the window sill in which she was making what she called ‘bee wine’. The jar was filled with water containing sugar, raisins and yeast. The fascination was provided by the movements, time and time again, of the raisins up and down as the bubbles of gas from the fermentation lifted them up to the top followed by their descent as the bubbles collapsed.
She had little to amuse a child but I did have the choice of two activities. One involved a toy – a remnant from the First World War – where, under a glass lid, a little silvery ball had to be coaxed along a path to the centre hole, marked ‘Berlin’, by carefully avoiding the pitfalls of many other holes en route. The alternative was to play records on her wind-up gramophone, which tended to run down in the middle of a song .
Grandma gave me her gramophone and records before she died, and later on I passed them on to one of my nephews.
As I grew older I became interested in the exploits of our local football team (Yeovil and Petters United) and the Somerset cricket team, so each week I visited my grandmother to read the sports news in our local weekly newspaper, ‘The Western Gazette’. My own parents’ budget did not extend to the relatively expensive Gazette.
On Christmas Day our whole family was invited to have dinner with her, and my main memory is of perennial and unusual (to us) dish of roast goose, the consumption of which seemed to leave my hands and mouth covered with a very fatty gravy.
Another picture of my grandmother which remains in my mind is of her caring for her flowers, particularly of her favourite – asters – in her little piece of garden, and of the small chicken run where she kept bantam hens.