Life With My Grandma: A Nostalgic Look at Growing Up With an Elderly Relative
Grandma was a proud and hard working lady all her life
I am very lucky in that I have only happy memories of my childhood, which was spent surrounded by a loving family and all my pets.
I began thinking about what made my early years so great - and a major factor was my late grandma, Ivy Trigg, who was constantly present in my life from the day I was born until her death in 1991.
This train of thought began after I had been listening to the government's latest Budget speech on the television and hearing how it would affect senior citizens.
I think today pensioners are viewed differently from how they were in my youth. So many terrible stories are in the news about elderly people being burgled, falling victim to distraction crimes, being mugged and living in poverty in their own homes due to the rising cost of living.
I am always hearing, on the news, about how the elderly cost the state so much to support because they now make up a larger portion of society. I think to myself that they should not be viewed as a drain on resources, because many of them have been hard working people all their lives and have paid their taxes and national insurance.
So why should they not be entitled to a comfortable and happy old age when they have paid their dues all their lives?
My grandma certainly belonged to a generation when people worked hard for their livelihood and looked after their families. She worked all her life, up to the age of 74. She never claimed one penny off the state and was a proud and independent lady up to her death at the age of 83.
A seaside landlady who always made her guests feel welcome
Grandma ran a bed and breakfast establishment when she was younger, in an era when seaside holidays were at the height of their popularity in 1950s Blackpool, England.
At the time, my grandad, Frank Trigg, ran his own furniture and upholstery business, Trigg and Oldfield. Sadly, we lost my grandad to stomach cancer and grandma was a widow for many years.
I loved being at grandma's guesthouse
When I was young, mum and dad both worked full-time, mum in an office and dad in a vehicle-building factory, so I stayed at grandma's boarding house, on Queen Victoria Road, during the day. I adored it there! She had an attic which I found fascinating, as I had lots of toys up there and I convinced myself there was a ghost, as it was quite an old house!
I found the idea of a ghost fascinating, although sometimes, I got spooked and would go flying out of the attic as fast as my little legs would carry me! I never told grandma why I was running like the wind through her house. I had a very over-active imagination as a child and thought all sorts of things!
The visitors who stayed at grandma's were usually working class families who wanted a seaside holiday. Some of them returned year after year and became personal friends to my grandma, who kept in touch with them by letter throughout the year.
In particular, one family, the Baileys, who came from Ireland and had four children used to stay every year without exception and at the end of their stay, they would always take me and grandma to the theatre to say thank you for such a lovely holiday.
Trips to the theatre to see many famous comedians
In those days, the late 1960s and early '70s, the summer season saw a large number of the resort's theatres staging shows, not only in the town centre, but also on the piers and the seafront venues.
Some of the most famous comedians of the day, such as Frank Carson, Ken Dodd, Tommy Cooper, Morecambe and Wise and Les Dawson played in Blackpool and grandma took me to see many of them.
A night at the theatre, particularly with the Baileys and my grandma, was always a very exciting occasion for a little girl and something I will never forget.
My grandma's personal favourite was the singer Frankie Vaughan. She had always followed his career, because as a young woman, my grandma had known Frankie's mother and remembered him from being a child and then starting out as a young singer.
He played in Blackpool many times and on every occasion, mum would go to the stage door earlier in the day and hand in a personal letter for Frankie, asking him to dedicate a song to my grandma. He always obliged and during the show would say, "Is my old friend Ivy Trigg in the theatre?"
Of course, grandma would be sitting on the front row and always acted surprised, although in reality she would have been disappointed had we not asked Frankie to sing for her!
It was thrilling to think that the singer, who had starred in the Hollywood film, "Let's Make Love", with Marilyn Monroe, had come to sit on my grandma's chair arm and was crooning a song personally for her! She even had her photograph taken with him for the local newspaper.
Grandma came to live with us as she grew older
While I was still at junior school, my grandma came to live with us.
The boarding house had finally become too much for her and despite mum and dad helping out in the evenings and at weekends, they both had full-time jobs and there was too much work for everyone as grandma grew older.
It worked well for mum, as when I was on school holidays, most times grandma would look after me and I had the time of my life.
We would catch the bus into town to go to the Co-op retail store quite often. Grandma and mum used to collect the books of stamps every time they shopped there (the first customer loyalty scheme, long before the days of Tesco Clubcard and all the other bonus cards that exist today). They would save them up to spend on other items, in particular at Christmas.
I loved going to the Co-op with grandma - they had a fabulous toy department and I would have spent all day in there looking around had she let me! Usually, grandma would buy me a doll or another toy - I loved anything to do with drawing or painting - and on the way back to the bus stop, we would walk through the indoor market. There were lots of stalls selling fresh fruit and veg, cheeses and other fresh food items and grandma always liked to shop at the small, local stalls.
Always lots of home-baked cakes in the house
Grandma was a great cook and she always made my meals and had hot food on the table when mum and dad came in from work.
There were no microwave meals in those days. She made everything from scratch, peeling the potatoes, making pies, cutting and cooking the fresh vegetables and then also making a lovely dessert. We normally had something like treacle sponge and custard, or jam roly-poly.
Grandma also made fabulous cakes and biscuits. She loved baking. I remember her speciality was scones, which were always light and fluffy and eaten with lashings of butter, often when still warm.
She was also very talented at knitting and sewing and she made me many clothes when I was a kid. I always had something new to wear.
Watching the wrestling with grandma terrified me!
One of grandma's favourite pastimes when I was little was watching the wrestling.
I know wrestling is a big thing today, with all the American superstars and dedicated television shows. But back in the 1970s, although it had its stars such as the legendary Mick McManus and Giant Heystacks, it was much more basic and low-key.
Wrestling was always on television on a Saturday afternoon in the days when there were only three channels - BBC1, BBC2 and ITV. This is hard to imagine today, when there are hundreds of channels. But back in the '70s, we were limited for choice. However, grandma would always watch the wrestling on "World of Sport" and would be cheering on her favourites, despite my dad's comments that it was "a fix" and "staged".
Even though grandma knew this was true deep down, she enjoyed the showmanship and the energy.
One year, when we had gone on our annual family holiday to Butlins holiday camp in Pwllheli, Wales, grandma took me to see some live wrestling at a local venue. The stars were grappling in the ring when all of a sudden, they decided to climb over the ropes and begin chasing each other through the crowd, putting on a show! Grandma and I were sitting near the front and I remember feeling scared, thinking two large, burly men were actually having a real fight just yards away from me! I burst into tears!
It took some convincing by grandma to make me realise it was just a show and not actually happening. I don't think I ever shared her fondness of wrestling, to be honest!
Grandma found part-time work - at the age of 64
Throughout her life, grandma had always worked, including in the munitions factories during the Second World War. She had also worked as a seamstress in a factory and had done shop work.
So it came as no surprise when she decided she wanted to take a Saturday job. I guess she was bored and didn't want to fully retire.
I didn't know until many years later that when grandma started applying for jobs, because she was 64 by this time, she told prospective employers she was only 55! This was before the days of computers linking everyone's personal data and making it inevitable that any such lies would be found out straight away.
She took a Saturday job at RHO Hills - which later became Binns - a huge department store in the town centre. How she looked forward to going to work on a Saturday! She would be ready to catch the bus into town by 8am. Conveniently, the bus stop was just over the road from our house. I can see her now, in her court shoes and calf-length, cream, wool coat, walking down the path ready for her day at work. She loved her job and enjoyed meeting the public and helping people with their purchases.
Some time later, she moved to Lewis's - another town centre department store which has now sadly gone - where she worked on the china department.
Mum would often take me shopping in town on a Saturday and we would always pop in to Lewis's to visit grandma. I recall there was a wonderful restaurant on the top floor, with stunning views over the sea and promenade. We sometimes dined there and on a sunny day, it was exhilarating to be so high up and being able to see for miles. The view was stunning when there was a perfect blue sky with the sun sparkling off the lapping waves.
I loved the department stores in the 1970s and early '80s. They were an Aladdin's Cave for me, with everything under one roof, from toys and games to shoes and clothing and - as I began to grow up - records, cosmetics and perfumes and the café where I would go for coffees with my schoolfriends on a Saturday afternoon.
If ever I bought anything in Lewis's, grandma would pop down to meet me in her lunchbreak to use her staff discount card for my purchase.
This was in the days when toasted sandwich makers were the next big thing and a "must" for any kitchen. A male demonstrator on Lewis's ground floor would make hundreds of toasted sandwiches every Saturday, handing them out to passing shoppers in the hope of selling a sandwich maker. Grandma got chatting to him and asked him what happened to all the food that wasn't eaten.
He said it was thrown out, so grandma asked him to save it for her in future.
After that, every week, grandma came home with two or three bags of toasted sandwiches of all varieties - not for us to eat, but because she knew I enjoyed going to fields near our home where the landau horses grazed. Dad used to take me there at the weekend.
So this enabled me to take them bags full of toasted cheese and ham sandwiches - goodness know what their owners would have thought! But they sure seemed to like them!
Grandma had to retire at 74 years old
All good things come to an end, sadly. One Saturday, grandma came home from work very crestfallen. Her boss had summoned her to the office and told her it had come to his attention that she was actually 74 years old!
I think this had come to light because with grandma having lied about her age when she first started working in department stores, pretending to be 55 years old instead of her real age of 64, she was 'officially' approaching mandatory retirement at 65.
After correspondence with the tax office, however, grandma's employer had discovered her real age. He was amazed, as she looked much younger. However, she had to retire immediately, as he explained it was company policy not to employ anyone after the age of 65. So I guess grandma had done well to get away with it for so long!
But I know she always missed her job after she was finally forced to retire.
However, grandma remained very active, walking to the local shops and the new Co-op Hypermarket superstore (the first of its kind in our area) when it opened about 10 minutes' walk from our house. She still enjoyed trips on the bus into town and as a family, we would enjoy days out in the summer during school holidays and also our annual visit to Butlins.
Grandma had a wealth of wisdom and knowledge
One thing about my grandma which I liked was the fact she was very down-to-earth and plain-speaking. There were no frills.
She said what she thought and would prefer to say things to people's faces rather than behind their back.
This attitude has rubbed off on me and I am much the same today.
As she grew older, grandma became increasingly family-oriented and loved spending time with younger members of the clan.
She also loved it when friends came to visit and brought their children, always making sure the kids went home with some pocket money and sweets.
She took great pleasure from giving to others, especially us children, to make sure we were happy and had everything we needed.
My older brother, Eric, had left home by this time and got his own house, but he did not live too far away and visited very often. He used to love coming to see grandma, as they had been very close when he was a child, in the same way that grandma had been close to me.
Grandma often said he would always be her "little grandson" even though a grown man by this time.
Eric used to have a chuckle with her and often fooled around, sitting on her knee, pretending to be a kid again.
Grandma thought it hilarious and always took such great pleasure from having a giggle with her family.
She also had a great wealth of knowledge, as she was approaching 80 years old by this time.
She had lived through some hard times, including growing up in a poor neighbourhood where often the children were barefoot.
Then she had survived the Second World War and the austerity that brought, with my grandad in the RAF and abroad with the troops, so grandma brought up mum and her brother Kenneth alone during that period.
Grandma was our rock up until the end
In her later years, in her 80s, my grandma continued to enjoy family days out, especially to cafes for lunch, where she could sit and watch the world go by and enjoy a pot of tea.
She loved her coal fire - it was the only one left in our house, in the lounge, after we got central heating, as grandma loved it so much.
She enjoyed watching quiz shows, variety shows and comedies on television and having a chat with the neighbours over the garden wall, as she had done all her life.
She always had useful advice for us and drew on her lifetime of knowledge and experience to help me when I was in my teens.
Grandma died at the age of 84 after a short illness. I remember about two months before she passed away, when she had been ill, she called me into her bedroom one day, where she and mum were waiting for me. It was about two months before Christmas, but grandma had decided she wanted me to have my present early. It was a poignant moment, as she had perhaps realised she would not be with us at Christmas, which indeed she wasn't.
She always thought of others first and she gave me a beautiful, gold necklace, which I treasured.
After grandma's death, mum decided to make a small donation to the children's charity Barnardos in her memory, as grandma often spoke of the neighbourhood where she grew up, with children barefoot in the streets because they could not afford shoes. Mum knew grandma would have wanted to help them.
My grandma was a truly wonderful lady and helped make me into the person I am today.