Things aren’t how they used to be

I’ve been thinking a lot about my lovely Gran recently.

Easter Sunday was the fourth anniversary of her funeral and on June 3 she would have been celebrating her 100th Birthday. Very sadly she’s not here to of course but I’ll no doubt raise a forkful of cake in her honour.

In some ways it’s good that Gran departed ‘while she still had all her marbles’, as she used to say. She once told me she had no desire to stick around for a telegram from the Queen if that meant she was no longer able to look after herself, be in her own home etc.

She was a straight talker my Gran. Having lived through some very tough times she told you like it was. She didn’t suffer fools gladly and that was one of the things I loved most about her I think.

It was Gran who first told me she believed I’d make a great writer one day, that she knew I ‘had a book in me.’ Well hopefully the elusive novel will emerge from the various notes I’ve scrawled over the years and half-finished ideas I have rattling around in my head and make her proud.

I hope at least that she was right about the writing thing – not that I’d ever use the label ‘great’ to describe my ramblings. If I can make a couple of people laugh that’s enough for me.

The reason for all this reminiscing is that I’ve also been thinking about how very hard the early years of being a parent must have been for Gran after having her first daughter, my mum.

My granddad left soon after she was born and was fighting in Burma during World War II. He didn’t come back until Mum was nearly four I think and at first was a complete stranger to her.

All this sprang to mind t’other day when I was trying to deal with a whingeing mini-me, a hungry blue-eyed boy, a sink full of dishes, piles of ‘plastic tat’ filling the lounge and several pressing copy deadlines humming dangerously at the back of my mind where I’d tried to stash them until later.

It was one of ‘those’ days where I was feeling a little bit sorry for myself, finding the juggling a little harder than usual – you know what I’m talking about.

I stuck a Night Garden on Beebies with promises to mini-me that she could watch the Wizard of Oz for the 15th time that week straight afterwards, fetched her the iPad and a snack, started heating up an Ella’s Kitchen pouch, called Mum to see if she could help me out the next day with the kids and then poured myself a glass of wine.

Then for some reason Gran popped fully formed into my mind tackling her own pre-school meltdown with what would have been my Mum as a small child.

She didn’t have a TV, was my first thought, and how on earth did she cope without one? In fact she had three kids before she had a television – the very thought makes me need to lie down for a few minutes.

Of course she didn’t have an iPad, or anything like it.

She wouldn’t have been able to afford anything like as many toys as we have now. There was no such thing as organic, pre-made baby and toddler food – she would have made everything from scratch and this while rationing was going on.

She wouldn’t have had much family help with Mum seeing as everyone was probably working.

She lived in Greater London during the war, so while she wasn’t in the heart of the bombing it must have been something that affected her. It must have been terrifying.

She must have had to seriously budget to make money last, she couldn’t have allowed herself many treats and perhaps she couldn’t afford that many for Mum.

She must have felt really isolated at times, scared about Granddad, missing him constantly and just plain lonely.

Perhaps she was desperate to get out to work at that time (she always worked in later years) and felt like she needed something for herself other than being a mum. After all we’ve all been there.

Yes I thought of all this as I sipped my wine and listened to Iggle Piggle jangling on the TV while blue-eyed boy laughed and I counted my blessings.

Because ‘tough’ as I have it on some days, I really don’t have it that tough at all.

Of course if she was here for me tell all this to she’d brush it off and say something like: ‘Pah, I got on with it because I had to and so would you.’

After all this is the woman who when Granddad tragically dropped dead of a heart attack six months after retiring said: ‘I managed without him once, I’ll do it again.’

I miss you Gran.

Property of a shopaholic…

So there I was t’other afternoon watching mini-me fighting with one of her best friends over a plastic car – or wait, was it a plastic monkey or a plastic penguin…

Whatever, it was the usual scenario. In a house rammed full to the gills of shiny toys and new-fangled toddler gadgets, mini-me and her much beloved companions will always, ALWAYS find one tiny piece of plastic tat to start a game of tug of war over.

There’s the: ‘Mummy, I had it first…’, the: ‘Mummy, XXX (fill in with name of one of mini-me’s many friends) isn’t sharing…’, and then invariably the whining starts. At which point my mum friend and I, usually a kindred spirit, will threaten to park them on the dreaded ‘time out step’ if they don’t shut up and stick Beebies and the kettle on, in that order.

Now you’re thinking, but what the hell does this have to do with shopping? Well forgive the illogical leap of thought, but all this got me thinking about my own propensity to covet the property of others.

Of course mine tends to be of the gorgeous coat, bag, cushion or framed print variety, rather than miniature Peppa Pig merchandise, but is toddler grappling over other children’s toys just the start of that very human trait of comparing yourself to others, and their ‘stuff’?

Don’t get me wrong I’ve never been one to count other people’s money, but I am certainly guilty of lusting after anything from coaster sets to cardies – and of course this now includes toys and clothes for the kids.

As hubby sighs, ‘Whenever you go to Shell’s house you come back with a shopping list as long as your arm.’ And he’s got a point.

You see the coveting also extends to other people’s houses. I’m a total sucker for seeing how someone has painted a room, where they bought their curtains from, asking how long it took to put up those shelves or that picture wall, and, ooh, where that lampshade is from.

Probably why I’m addicted to property shows like Location and rather a fan of Kirstie Allsopp (I actually think we’re destined to be great mates some day!).

I love spending an hour a week dissecting another couple’s house search with hubby, heckling at the telly that what they clearly need is some period features and not to buy that ugly house which has lots of space but is in a dodgy neighbourhood.

(By the way Kirstie if you’re reading this, please can you find us the ‘forever home’ – preferably with a walled garden?! I’ve just always wanted one.)

Anyway, getting back to mini-me and that plastic tat, I suddenly realised that perhaps I should be practising what I preach when it comes to our seasoned post-tug of war ‘chat’.

After all if I’m asking my three-year-old why she constantly wants what someone else is playing with, and can’t she be content with her own myriad of toys, perhaps I should be doing the same…

Hmm, still might ask Shell to come round and frame some pictures for me though.