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LucyGransnet (GNHQ) Thu 11-Aug-16 11:08:53

Grandmothers and their granddaughters

What would your granddaughters tell you if you were to ask them what influence you'd had on their lives? This was what author Jean Swales set out to discover when she packed up her trusty campervan and set out on an adventure to talk to grandmothers and granddaughters across the country.

Jean Swales

Grandmothers and their granddaughters

Posted on: Thu 11-Aug-16 11:08:53


Lead photo

What influence have you had on your granddaughters?

My husband had died three years earlier and I was feeling lost and with a total lack of direction. I also wanted an adventure myself having spent most of my life caring for others, and suddenly I thought "It's your turn now".

But what to do with 'my turn' was the problem.

There were a number of reasons for my decision on how to have my adventure, one being I had become a grandmother myself recently and was just amazed how different child rearing was now compared to when I was a child.

Then I found out that a relative had just married her fiancée on a beach in Barbados wearing a short red wedding dress and no one present except the hotel staff, whereas her grandmother had had a full conventional wedding for 200 people some sixty years earlier. So a seed of an idea settled in my consciousness.

How perfect it would be to travel round the British isles vising places I had not been to before with the intention of finding and interviewing grandmothers and granddaughters to compare their lives as children and learning about the childhood living conditions, including schooling, holidays, hobbies, and later their dreams for the future and of course their relationship with each other.

What was so lovely about these answers was how surprised the grandmothers were to read them.

I eventually found eight grandmothers who were happy to be interviewed and who also had granddaughters who were happy to help me.

The last question I asked the granddaughters was what had they learnt from their grandmothers. I loved the answers, which ranged from "I was very close to my grandmother who visited me regularly when I was in boarding school and my parents were overseas. I have been so very lucky to have her as my grandmother" to "I have learnt from my grandmother how to be very practical and adventurous" to "Grandma is a true matriarch whose strength and example have influenced me in so many ways. Spending time with her as a child has helped shape the way I see the world today".

What was so lovely about these answers was how surprised the grandmothers were to read them.

On a personal note, it has been such a joy to have met these lovely ladies who, although rather nervous to start with, really became excited when looking for photos that I wanted. Also I have learnt so much about this extraordinary country I am lucky to live in.

Jean's book Blossom and Me, which chronicles her journey up and down the country in Blossom, her campervan, is available now from Amazon.

By Jean Swales

Twitter: @Gransnet

Jane10 Thu 11-Aug-16 11:24:17

I was and remain absolutely devoted to my Gran. She died many years ago but I think of her often and am aware of her being a role model for me in my relationship with my DGSs. My other Gran was a real character. I think I appreciate her more now than I did when I was younger! Both terrific ladies in their different ways.

tanith Thu 11-Aug-16 11:45:22

Both my grandmothers died before I was 9 so I really don't have many memories of either of them sadly. I hope I've made and am still making good memories for my own 3 granddaughters.

gillybob Thu 11-Aug-16 11:57:32

My grandma died in September 2015 aged 99. She was one of the most important people in my life and certainly one of the most loved. I looked after her for many years and whilst she could be very challenging I would give anything for her to be still around. When I was a child I spent every moment I could at grandma and grandad's house and would have quite happily lived there permanently if I could. Despite her advanced years I could talk to my grandma about anything at all. She never judged. Just listened and gave her opinion. Often whether I asked for it or not grin

As a grandma of 3 myself, I think I have a massive pair of comfy slippers to fill.

J52 Thu 11-Aug-16 12:06:58

Both my grand mothers died when I was in my late 20s and early 30s. They were 76 and 86 respectively.

They were both very important to me, especially after my parents divorce, when I was 10. My paternal grandmother came to live with us. She was a real Victorian and was very hot on appropriate behaviour. But I remember her very fondly. The other one lived several hundred miles away, but I spent most of my school holidays with her, by the seaside. All wonderful memories in an otherwise turbulent childhood.

I love the fact that I have GDs and can do many fun things with them.

LumpySpacedPrincess Thu 11-Aug-16 12:36:14

My grandma hated me from the day I was born and treated me differently to her other grandchildren. She left me home alone when she took them out, gave my toys away to my cousins and other similarly cruel things. She did apologize when I was in my twenties but the damage had been done by then.

My other gran was rockers though smile

Nannylovesshopping Thu 11-Aug-16 13:53:00

My beloved gran was the only brightness in my childhood.

jinglbellsfrocks Thu 11-Aug-16 13:56:03

My granny taught me how to lay a fire. I have been eternally grateful. And how to do washing in the sink. (she took in washing) smile

jinglbellsfrocks Thu 11-Aug-16 13:57:43

I used to lie in bed sometimes and try to decide who I loved the best - my mother or my gran. (No dad on the scene so granny was the other parent really)

Gagagran Thu 11-Aug-16 14:09:46

Both my grandmothers died befoe I was born but I had two great-aunts who were in loco granentis (if there is such a word!) and I loved them. One, a former school teacher, taught me to read and to knit and the other, who was blind, used to knit bonnets for me as a little girl. Unable to see and without a pattern - amazing!. They were sisters who lived together and had never had children of their own.

Yesterday I was giving DD, DGD (14) and DGS (11) a lift to the train station and DGD said something to which her dear Mum replied "You are getting more like Granny every day" Not sure she meant it as a complement but I was thrilled and said "Oh Good!" All my input over the last 14 years has not been in vain then! grin

Liz46 Thu 11-Aug-16 14:17:05

My grandmother's sister used to look after me every Monday evening and we had a lovely time. It was 'craft evening' and she taught me different things including basket making.

I don't think I ever told her how much I enjoyed it but I expect she knew.

Marmark1 Thu 11-Aug-16 17:05:57

Both mine died when I was very young so don't remember them much.My GDs only 3,but already a character,she haves me in stitches.

KatyK Thu 11-Aug-16 17:58:03

I never knew any of my grandparents and sadly my mum and DH's parents died when our daughter was very small. We have a 16 year old granddaughter who is the light of our lives smile
She is fortunate enough to have two sets of grandparents alive and well. I think it's lovely for her.

Greyduster Thu 11-Aug-16 18:12:07

I never knew my paternal grandmother, but I think the lady I called gran was my mother's step mother, not her real mother. I always got the impression that my mother was somehow an outsider in her family. We certainly didn't have a lot to do with my aunts. Anyway, my grandmother certainly didn't like me very much. Our duty visits were an agony for me. My father would never go near her. We have only one grandson. He is the centre of our universe. He has another grandmother but she never seems to want any contact with this intelligent, handsome, lively little boy. Her loss; more for us!

gettingonabit Thu 11-Aug-16 19:59:49

My gran was 60 when I was born, which was apparently quite old by the standards of the time. She was a staunch Methodist, and teetotal. She had a cup called a Rechobite(?) cup to prove it.

She was a good pastry cook. Despite living very close by, I can't remember having a relationship with her.

She didn't have teeth and I can't remember her smiling, ever. She was cared for by my auntie and mother almost until she died. Towards the end, she unthawed a bit and was frequently found waving a stick at an imaginary figure in her bedroom whilst quoting the bible in Welsh. grin.

Zorro21 Fri 12-Aug-16 11:12:34

Gillybob - your comment is so lovely. My Grandma was like that too. I was always round there.

Pollengran Fri 12-Aug-16 14:00:06

My maternal grandmother was wonderful. I loved her so much, and although she died many years ago I still think of her often.

I try to be like her with my own GC by putting up tents and hammocks in the garden, and growing strawberries for them to pick. She made her own ice cream in the 1950's, and the sun always seemed to shine.

Winter memories include being tucked up with a tartan blanket and a book in front of a roaring fire, with hearty stews and trifle for dinner.

She was a great role model, and I am so glad she was my granny.

Salmo Fri 12-Aug-16 14:30:31

My grandmothers both died before I was born, and my "memories" of them are constructed from photographs and snippets of information I picked up from my parents and great aunts. The person I called Granny - and who acted as such - was in fact my great uncles mother in law. She was lovely, and I treasure her brass kitchen scales, made by a prisoner of war and unlike any I have ever seen.

M0nica Fri 12-Aug-16 14:59:54

I loved my maternal grandmother unconditionally and totally and was at my happiest when I was with her. I was devastated when she died when I was 14.

I didn't really like my paternal grandmother and I am not sure that she was that enthusiastic about me. I was too much like my mother, which did not tell in my favour.

LullyDully Mon 15-Aug-16 09:02:10

Getting on a bit, My grandma was 70 when I was born. We loved each other dearly. I still have handwritten letters from her when she was in her 90s telling me to enjoy life and make the most of it. She grew up in hard Victorian London but had a good life and a happy marriage. I still love her, 96 when she died. I always remember her when I see the old bird lady in Mary Poppins and have a few tears for Annie Eliza..

gettingonabit Mon 15-Aug-16 09:20:09

lully that's lovely.

I wish I'd been more curious about my grandmother's life. She was born in 1900, and would have been young when the Welsh Valleys were at their most productive. She would have witnessed the Diwygiad -the religious revolution that gripped South Wales-and lived through two World Wars. She would have experienced the growth of the Labour Movement and the misery of the Depression.

A very ordinary life in extraordinary times.

Elrel Mon 15-Aug-16 10:19:17

My granny was tiny and sang hymns in the kitchen as she cooked, loved to giggle. During the war she let a friend and me play bombing by taking it in turns to stand on the table and drop wooden bricks while the other sheltered underneath. She taught me to darn socks and to use her Singer sewing machine.

She got on wonderfully with my daughter, who called her Greatie. In the afternoons they watching tv horse racing together and (at 4!) she introduced her to a little taste of port and lemon! No discernible ill effects thank goodness!

On birthdays and Mothering Sunday she was grateful for Sanatogen Tonic Wine and always had 3 or 4 bottles from her son's. They never lasted as long as we expected! I can't remember ever arguing with her, it just didn't occur, she was my beloved Granny. I get on fine with all my GC but as they get older arguments do happen!

Elrel Mon 15-Aug-16 10:21:01

* watching x.

*son's x

M0nica Tue 16-Aug-16 08:05:17

My maternal grandmother and I were two of a kind, I was absolutely at peace when I was with her.

As an awkward child otherwise at odds with the world, all the other adults in my life, however, much they loved me, and they did, thought that I would find life so much easier if I could conform more, which was, again, probably true, but I was happy in my awkwardness and not so in conformity. With my maternal grandmother there was acceptance.

Sheilasue Tue 16-Aug-16 08:57:07

I never knew my Dads Mum she died before I was Mums Mum wasn't a Nan you could get on with she had had a hard life, we were never really made a fuss of and she wasn't one to get close too, sadly. I hope I have been a better grandmother.