There’s a woman who lives in Derby. She’s 87, has five children and is extremely kind. She’s also rather funny and far too generous for her own good.
Her name is Nana, or Anita if you want to get all formal.
One of my earliest memories is receiving a present. I was about two and a half and this present was pretty much the most amazing present I could have ever imagined. It was a huge doll called Lucy, which Nana had lugged on the train all the way from Derby to Bristol. I still have her now (although she has a little less hair after I decided to practice my hairdressing skills on her as a teenager).
When we were little we used to go to North Wales on holiday. We’d stay in Nana and Dada’s caravan. The whole family would be there, aunties, uncles and cousins, all squeezed into the caravan. And Nana would be at the helm, cooking the fry-up to end all fry-ups, finding a plaster for a scrazed knee, or just sitting and reading a story to us. And always with a naughty sense of humour and a smile on her face.
She baked for England. Lancashire Lemon Fingers were my personal favourites, but she could whip up a mean chocolate torte too. You could never go to Nana’s without getting fed to within an inch of your life.
But a few years ago, my Nana lost someone. He was her companion of sixty odd years and a constant source of irritation and amusement for her. She loved him dearly.
I still miss Dada terribly. I miss how he used to have the telly turned up so loud you could hear it from the end of the garden. I miss his, “What’s for pudding ‘Neet?” as soon as the main course was placed in front of him. I miss how he thought he was being subtle smoking a cigar in the garden, when you could clearly see the smoke curling up from behind the greenhouse – he was fooling nobody.
Since Dada has gone Nana has had a hard time. She has loving family all around her, with her youngest daughter and family just over the road. But she misses Dada. It makes her confused. She forgets words now. She recently gave up baking. She has no one to look after any more. No one to scold or deliberately wind up by saying words like “Bugger”. The house is quiet.
So I was desperately pleased to have Nana there on my wedding day recently. She looked marvelous in a hat and fancy jacket. Just like me, she wore a dress made by her daughter, my mother. She laughed and ate and cried and laughed some more.
It was her 87th birthday on that day. And I clearly remember looking at her after I’d given her some birthday flowers and thinking, blimey, if I have half as much to show for my life when I get to 87 I will be a very happy woman. Five children, ten grandchildren and four great grandchildren. And wives, husbands and partners to boot. That’s some family. All because of Nana.
She started it all. We wouldn’t be here without her…