She was a rum bugger, me Mam. Oh, she was!
I love it when me Nan’s stories start this way.
Got me to pinch some clothes from the Rag and Bone man and when he caught me, she slapped me good and proper in front of ’im and said: You better not let me find you doing that again! I was that shocked I couldn’t even cry, she adds with wide eyes.
Ha! A rum bugger my little granny. (That’s what we called my Nanna Joan’s sweet little old Mum. God rest her soul.)
So anyway, me Nan expresses her love through food – by emptying her pantry into our bellies and it’s from these little anecdotes she splashes into our dining table chats that I understand why.
D’ya want a cuppa tea? (Yes please.)
D’ya want a biscuit? (No thanks Nan.)
A piece of fruit? Go on, help yerself - those mandarins are lovely. Just try one. (OK, (after all, there are ‘best grandchild points’ to be won with fruit.))
A bag of Quavers? (No thanks Nan.)
I’m making a pan of broth – are you staying for some? (Always yes, even when running late.)
It’s because she had none. Food I mean. One meal a day at most. When she said meal, she meant ‘butties’. That’s sandwiches to everyone beyond Northern England. As in two slices of bread made a meal of by cutting them into four squares.
Ten kids in the house, we hadn’t eaten at all for a day and a half and our Mam pissed off on a coach trip to Blackpool! Just got on the coach outside our house, she did. Waving to us - smiling! Appy as Larry, she was. Ha! Bye Mam, yeah, have a lovely trip. We’ll just sort ourselves out!
What was yer one meal a day? I said.
Butties. Drippin’ butties, she replied.
Do you know what that is? I ask you. You there. Behind the screen.
How will I put it…
And imagine that instead of oat slop it was the rendered arse cheeks of a bolting bovine.
Mad cow squelch.
Morals of the story:
1. Parenting wasn’t as big as it is now. (Nan’s moral of the story)
2. Be vegetarian. (Mine. But Nan can’t condone it. Unavailable for comment.)