Got up late again, and Dad had gone to work. Mum was doing her ironing in the dining room and at twelve, she went to “Gino’s” to have her hair done.
For the next four hours, from midday to four o’clock, I sat at the dining room table opposite Nanna Peale who talked to me in an endless flow, all about her past and family.
She told me of her mother, Annie Gledstone (née Tremewan) who was the youngest of thirteen children (she was born in 1869), She had really long grey hair which she referred to as her “pride.” It was hung below her waist and Nanna told me that she would brush it one hundred times every evening before going to bed. One of her childhood pleasures apparently was brushing her mothers hair. All this seemed so far removed from me and the here and now, and I found it hard to believe that the same person I was looking at actually knew all those times and had been good looking once (The same thing I found when I looked at the Queen Mother’s face compared to her in her childhood and twenties). Nanna also told me of her mother’s death (Mum told me in the evening that she had a painful death, crying out for water) in 1933, (she collapsed in Cross Green Road) and when, as her mother lay in her deathbed, she had said that they had “cut all my pride off.” When she questioned her Dad about this later, he said that her hair had been platted, decorated with blue ribbons, and buried with her (“she’s taken it with her” as he said).
She told me other things too, about Philip, Janet’s first husband, about Mum when she was young (her romances etc.), and all in all I was quite fascinated. What a life she’s had. Had six children, only two of which lived to maturity (Kenneth and Audrey), one was still born, two lived two days and Mary was killed in a bicycle accident in 1946 when she was 13. Her husband died when she was 33, after nine years of marriage, on November 18 1938, only a month after her father.
It was all highlighted at teatime, when the Echo arrived. On the front page was a story about a bloke who was killed last night in a car accident after being run through with a piece of steel. He was called Tiffany and apparently Nanna P. knew him quite well because he worked for Kenneth. When she saw this she burst into tears and just at that moment I realised what a pathetic, sad old woman she was. Her life has been miserable one way or another. I felt really sorry for her, and she remained quiet and reticent until she went home at about seven.
Dad and Andrew came home at teatime, and we had meatballs, cabbage and potatoes. Robert rang around then; apparently everything seems to be working out fine about his house and things.
The rest of the evening was conducted in real good humoured way, with not a proper wrong word exchanged anywhere. (Lying swine. Dad at one point told me to stop being “big and clever” when I said that prostitutes were only doing a job). Dad seemed in a real good mood too and I was glad because I like him like that. I think now, everybody is looking forward to the holiday on Saturday (we’re going to stay in a cottage at Gunnerside, near Pateley Bridge).