A hundred years ago today my grandmother was born. Her name was Mildred May Pendlebury. Before she married my grandfather, who died before I was born, she was a milliner. She was from Bolton, and she lived in Shipley.
My memory is already not what it was, but I remember that she lived in a semi-detached bungalow, that this was the only bungalow I knew as a child, and that the garden continued from the front, around the side and to the back, and it was also the only three-sided garden I’d ever come across. I remember that when the whole family came to stay and she shared a room with us, I heard the sound of her snoring and thought there was a lion in the room. I remember that sometimes she slept in a chair so that we could all have beds.
I remember that she cooked roast chicken, bacon, chipolatas and gravy for us when we arrived driving up from London, and how good it was to have a dinner with three different kinds of meat in it. I remember that she made flapjacks which she called ‘crunch’ and bought us Lucozade and Ribena to drink. I remember being told how much she spoiled us. I remember that when my father was president of the local Trades Council, she made a big fuss of asking if Mr President would like a cup of tea.
I remember that she used to save up five pence pieces in steradent tins to give to me and my brother when we came to stay. I remember that she would take us to W H Smith to buy toys and books, and we’d count the coins out onto the counter from the tins to pay for them. I remember that after we had been to stay, when we got home we would call her on the telephone, and she would tell us how much she had cried after we left. How much did you cry, granny, we asked? Did the tears reach the ceiling? I had to stand on a chair, she said. I think the first time we left she really did cry.
I remember that she lived up a big hill from where the bus stops were, and that Old Man’s beard grew on the corner of her road. I remember that I got lost coming back to her house once and went back down to the main road and crossed the footbridge to get some sweets from the garage in case I was out a long time. Then I tried hitchhiking. I remember that when she had sciatica, going on the swings on Northcliffe made her feel better.
I remember visiting her house years after she had died and telling the people who lived there now how much I had enjoyed playing there. They had built a new extension onto her kitchen: it diminished the garden. I remember visiting the cemetery where her ashes were buried. There was no marker. In the book that records burials and cremations for the cemetery I turned to the day of her funeral, and there was no record of it. It was what she wanted.