My grandma, a woman of considerable character, an impish provocateur, a lady of substance who knew her mind until her final days, slipped quietly away on November 24th. It took us all by surprise that she decided to go so quietly. And decide she surely had, for she had suffered several falls, two small strokes and mild heart failure already this year, yet she hadn't given up in hospital. She had waited until the time was right for her to go, simply and quickly, at the nursing home she had lived in since August.
My mum asked me to say a few words at her funeral, which was scheduled for December 3rd,but the snow in Chelsfield, near Orpington, that town where all trains break down (and all who enter abandon hope) was about 18 inches deep and the town was practically unreachable, so the event was postponed to the 15th.
'A Remembrance of Grandma' was to be my section, after the vicar's introduction and history of her life - which made for some truly incredible listening.
Born on a small island off the coast of Norway in 1913, and raised to go to 'housewife school', she won a prize at said school for her goat-milking skills (the fastest goat-milker in the west... of Norway). In the early 1930s she came to England to work as an au pair for a rich Norwegian shipping magnate's family. By 1939 she had met my grandfather, a bit of a wide boy from Bermondsey, at the Norwegian Sjømannskirken (Seaman's Church) who apparently was a favourite with all the Norwegian girls due to an unparallelled knowledge of London's bus routes, and by 1939 they had a wartime wedding. She was unable to go back to occupied Norway during wartime and had no idea of how her family were for the duration of the war.
Making a life in Orpington in the 1940s as a foreigner must have been hard. Raising 5 daughters on a very tight budget, she excelled in making do and mending, cooking from scratch and tending to fruit and vegetables in her cottage garden. She spent her life mobilised for peace, too, after having been separated from her family by war, and was a vociferous supporter of Amnesty International and the WILPF.
Here are some of my other enduring memories of the fantastic woman I got to know over 28 years.