Today would have been my Gran’s 91st birthday. She was a real people person, who was full of fun, and never happier than when her home was full of people enjoying themselves. She was the life and soul, and when I was in my early twenties, more than one of my male friends teased my Grandpa that he had competition! She taught me not to take life too seriously, something I forgot for a while a few years back, and she was the first person who taught me that you could break the rules.
When I look back, my grandparents were quite a subversive force in our family. My parents were strict about a lot of things, and it seemed that my grandparents were actively relaxed about most of them!
Take TV for example. In our house it was strictly controlled: no American soap operas, and very little from ITV. At Gran and Grandpa’s we would get ready for bed and then come down for supper in front of Dallas, Dynasty, and Coronation Street: oooooo the scandal! Personally I wish they hadn’t let me watch the film, Pirana at such a young age, but I wasn’t going to admit that at the time.
Food was another battleground between my parents and grandparents. At home we were allowed no more than one chocolate biscuit in any one day. Whereas at our grandparents house we were actively encouraged to eat chocolate biscuits at every opportunity. Even in front of my parents! When I think about the war on sugar that’s raging today, I wonder how us chocolate-biscuit-eating, coke-float-drinking children ever made it past our teens. And that’s before you consider my Gran’s favourite trick of making coke fizz up by dropping sugar cubes into it…
Once in a while my grandparents would come to Edinburgh and take us girls out for lunch. One of their favourite haunts was a bar/lounge that housed a troupe of dancing girls upstairs. Needless to say my Grandpa would disappear for a while, and we would pass the time waiting for him, by playing on the fruit machine with Gran. Illegal for children and thoroughly frowned upon at home. Obviously.
In my last year of school I had a friend who lived in the same town as my grandparents. There were a few times I wanted to go out there, and so I’d go to stay with Gran and Grandpa. They loved it, and would always be waiting up for me, with a drink ready, and dying to hear all about my night. This is not what would happen at home.
I sometimes wonder whether my Gran was just being mischievous by encouraging me and my sisters to break our parents’ rules. Or whether she wanted to show us that there’s more than one way to live your life. That we had choices, and didn’t have to follow a set pattern.
Gran didn’t live to see me jack in the corporate career, but I like to think she would be pleased to see me create something for myself. After all, she was our most vocal advocate when we were growing up. And her attitude was that if something isn’t working for you, get off your bottom and change it. Choices, you see. Choices, and action, and breaking the rules.