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.


Forget Frozen: The best films to watch with your pre-schooler

Surely one of the nicest things as your child grows older is being able to sit and watch films with them.

Especially when their attention spans reach the stage of enjoying an entire viewing, rather than drawing on the walls at the same time.

Mini-me has only recently attained this level of ‘sitting still-ness’ and with her baby brother now in tow it’s become a bit of a godsend, especially on those rainy or had-too-little-sleep days when getting out and about seems like a monumental effort.

It’s especially lovely of course when you can share films you used to love with them – even when you then get to view them about a hundred times over the coming few weeks!

Current favourites in the Neat Freak household include Disney’s Peter Pan, Annie and Mary Poppins. Mini-me seems to be a particular fan of musicals and likes to perform certain numbers from them in the lounge, although only when singing solo.

‘Just me, Mummy,’ she’ll shriek, in apparent Shirley Bassey diva mode, before launching into her own version of ‘Tomorrow’.

Well in the spirit of such movie madness I thought I’d take a rather self-indulgent trip down memory lane and share a few classic films I remember watching again and again as a kid and am now planning to pass on to mini-me. After all she did introduce me to Frozen.

*The Jungle Book

Home to some of the greatest musical numbers ever in my humble opinion, although obviously not the one with the four vultures who, I’m sure I’m right in this, were modelled on The Beatles?! Mini-me and I love a good old shimmy to Bear Necessities and the ‘Louis Song’. She’s also much braver than I was when I saw this for the first time – I seem to remember being pretty scared of Shere Khan the tiger.

*Meet Me in St Louis

This is a gem that viewers of any age will love, although you need to be a fan of Judy Garland. Some might say this film’s a bit twee – my father-in-law’s idea of torture – but I’m having none of it. It’s such a lovely film to watch on Christmas Eve and I often still soak it up while wrapping presents and singing along to its most famous number, Have Yourself a Merry Little Christmas.

*Santa Claus The Movie

This was never going to be an Oscar contender, but Dudley Moore starring as wayward elf Patch and one of the sisters from Keeping Up Appearances as ‘Mother Christmas’?? Come on, festive film genius! My sister and I absolutely loved this in its mid-1980s heyday.

*The Goonies

I caught this film again fairly recently and had forgotten just how brilliant it is – well Steven Spielberg did come up with the story. The Fratellis are genuinely scary when you first encounter them and what little girl didn’t want to be Andy? ‘Hey You Guys!’

*The Slipper and the Rose

This is definitely one for little girls who want to be Cinderella – so it should be right up mini-me’s street. Not that clear from the title, it’s a musical version of the glass slipper, wicked stepmother yarn. I never particularly bought Richard Chamberlain as the handsome prince, but it’s packed with brilliant British actors from days gone by like Michael Hordern. A bit dated yes, but still brilliant.

*Finding Nemo

Okay so this film was actually only made in 2003, so clearly it’s a kids’ film I love from having watched it as an adult. But who cares, it’s so good! Mini-me has actually already seen this and we agree that it’s right up there as one of our all-time favourites. And if you need another reason the amazing Allison Janney (CJ from the West Wing) provides one of the voices – genius!

*Space Camp

A film with perhaps the most ridiculous premise ever – the idea that a group of ‘all-American teens’ could accidentally end up orbiting the earth due to a technical glitch while spending the summer at space camp. But as a kid you really believed it could happen! Also a young Tate Donovan was hugely, and shamefully, fanciable. Made hubby watch this once – grounds for divorce apparently.