Lessons from your elders

I always looked up to my grandparents. I was lucky to have great grandparents too but my maternal grandparents meant the world to me. The grandad on that team is still going strong albeit with vascular dementia. On the paternal side I had an old school illiterate feeder of a woman.

The story here is about lessons.

Both grandmothers’ were like an ox. Not in size (albeit that would be quite amusing and leave us to question if our parents were in fact adopted) but simply in their roles. Hugely different roles. Maternal side ran their own very successful business. Paternal was the ever present keeper for my dad. Cook, cleaner, nanny to kids…. my maternal side was equally amazing. Cook, cleaner, nanny during half terms to several grandchildren and also book keeper and general secretary of the family business yet it’s the lessons and advice that stays with me. I can’t begin to tell you all the fond memories I have of those half terms where we cycled for miles around the West Sussex countryside with our grandad only to return to a house that smelt of wholesome home cooked food and cakes. I am sad that our kids do not have those memories but such is life and I don’t do regrets.

So this blog is about things I have learnt from very different sides with different languages and cultures.

Here goes.

Paternal side. Lived into her 90’s named Beatriz who my niece is named after. Had a very difficult and tough upbringing in the north of Portugal where she wasn’t actually registered for the first few years of her life. Married young and disliked talking about him full stop. Moved to Angola around the time of the revolution only to return with diamonds in her knickers to start again. Buried her first child alone the day before my dad was born. Tough times.

Got a temperature? Peel a potato skin and place it flesh down; it will soon go. It works.

Upset tummy? Drink fizzy water preferably not a man made one and one that comes from the ground up. It also works.

Tired? Drink hand dried daisies… which I have to say look akin to camomile?! Who am I to judge and frankly if you read about these herbal teas a lot do have camomile in them, albeit my nighttime tea has lavender?

Don’t leave your child to cry; you wouldn’t leave a dog would you? This is 100% did and agree with.

Go in the sea whenever you can. The salt cures many things. My mantra when away!

Sleep with the baby if it means you can sleep; your husband will have you for years to come so don’t be selfish. I did this and it worked for me.

You don’t need to be able to read and write to cook. She proved this on many an occasion cooking for the hotel staff every day which could see numbers of up to 30. There were always leftovers too!

Drink wine with every meal excluding breakfast. She did and made it in to her 90’s.

Always sit on fresh sand as it helps heal. Please remember she never experienced anything other than the Portuguese beaches where the sand is white and clean like no other so I would not suggested a dark black volcanic variety because I have done this and it burns like hell leaving you to a) knacker your swim wear and b) retreat rapidly to you sun lounger!

Cook for large numbers because you will never feel lonely. She did and she succeeded.

I will always tell your father; she never did especially when it came to mine and my brothers’ motorbike antics and late night pancake cook offs in the hotel kitchen after hours.

Always have bread on the table. No one wants it yet they all eat it! True.

God is watching; this one used to worry me. A lot.

Maternal side. Named Pamela (Pam to all) and grandma 1 to us. Raised by her mother in East Sussex by the sea whilst the war was ending. She grew up with Great Danes and a father who ran successful clubs after the war. She was an avid cyclist and that’s where she met my grandad. Sadly we lost her to cancer.

Always add because you can’t take it out; always referring to cooking. It’s true and albeit I adore salt I try and stick to this every time.

Walk everyday. Fresh air does you good. She did and I do and it clears your mind.

Have a gin and tonic before dinner. She did and I do and both mine and my mothers’ love for the drink comes from her. I can’t imagine a world without gin!

There is never a good time for children but when they come you will manage; everyone does. I agree especially as the first was an almighty surprise. I remember when I found out I was pregnant and she was one of the first people I called. She didn’t shout and didn’t lecture and simply gave me this advice.

Enjoy your children. They will be gone one day. Very very true. I do and did.

A 1.5 kg chicken surrounded by spuds takes about 1.5 hours in the oven. Five or take…. Madness I know but when I went to university I was clueless on the roast side of life. I can’t tell you how many time I reversed charge my grandma so she could call me back and advise what or how to cook it. When she first passed these calls were something I really missed.

Plants can remind you of people. After she died I bought an olive tree (you can google the meaning) and it’s been with me almost 17 years. She’s called Pam too is an ox of a plant and lives outdoors so she can have fresh air.

Learn how to make soup. I can do this with my eyes shut thanks to her and the smells still take me back. I will share her all time go to in my next blog.

The rhythm method works every time …..(yes she said that!) naive after the first baby and Uber paranoid of having another I once asked her what she did all those years ago and this was the explanation she gave!

Women never retire; when I asked what she meant she said do you ever see me stop cooking or ironing?! I will never retire. She had a point…..

Don’t be ashamed to breast feed. I didn’t after that ‘chat’ one day where I was trying to be discreet when I visited them with my eldest. Grandad took himself off to chop logs after not knowing where to look. She told me not to worry as it was his problem not mine. Good advice to a young mum. I feed anywhere and everywhere after that!

The last lesson.

There is never a good time for pets. This is where this blog started last week. Last year by being in the right place at the right time we found out about a dog. We took Doug on and he’s been a delight and a real addition to the house. Then again last week through the powers of Facebook a friend and mentioned about a poor chap needing a home. So today Elmo joins our brood and I know he will he loved by not only the humans but also by his brothers from another mother. It’s taking some dementia dad care and a 200 mile round trip but he’s coming to us.

So this blog is about the lessons that have been passed on. I have many lessons to share but this blog is in their honour and to their maternal instincts without which (not to mention my patient husband) there would be no Doug and no Elmo.

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