Wednesday, September 24, 2008

Granny's Mirror

Over the last few evenings our local BBC news programme, Midlands Today, has been including a feature on how people are coping with the "credit crunch". Last night's item was about buying meat and how people are turning to less costly cuts and old style recipes. It featured some catering college students who were learning to cook with things like mutton, offal and pigs trotters. The presenter also interviewed a local butcher about what kinds of meat he was selling and his customers about what they would be prepared to buy, cook and eat. Most drew the line at pig's trotters. Where is this leading you ask? Well, it was the mention of pig's trotters that sent my mind whirling back to my early childhood and my visits to granny's house. Granny Rose was my paternal grandmother, as opposed to Grandma Florence who was my mother's mother, and she was a sprightly, twinkly, button of a character. Small and neat with little round glasses and a bun full of hair pins. She used to struggle along on her bowed legs - something that, had she been born later, could have been easily corrected in childhood. She would always wear a black dress covered with a wrap around pinafore to protect it against the dust and dirt caused by everday cleaning, cooking and polishing.

I loved Granny's house just as much as I loved Grandma's house. In her parlour or living room she had a huge table, usually set ready for tea when we arrived with her pretty china tea service kept for special occasions. I used to play on the rug in front of the fire whilst she and Mum would chatter and natter. On the back wall were two painted mirrors, her pride and joy apparently, as they were the first things she bought after she was married. One I recall had a piled up bowl of fruit on it the other flowers and a bird. I liked the mirrors but best of all I loved to get into Granny's front or best room with its chandelier dangling in the centre. In the window was a huge table full of family photos and on the opposite wall an upright piano, its top also covered in photos. In the middle of the table was a huge display of waxed flowers under a glass dome. I was always rather fearful of this as it reminded me of a similar dome of flowers that she had pointed out to me once when she took me to the local cemetery to put flowers on grandad's grave. She would always stop at a very small grave halfway up the path and say to me 'That's little Emily, she died young'.

What about the pig's trotters I hear you ask? Well, they were one of Granny's favourite foods and so she always put them on the tea table, along with lots of other food like sliced ham, haslet or tongue, bread and butter, tomatoes, beetroot and celery, tinned fruit in small bowls and little cakes on a stand. My Mum, in her usual fastidious way used to say to me very quietly, 'Don't eat the pig's trotters'. Not that I ever would have done, I thought they looked rather gruesome. One day I asked her why and she said she didn't trust them not to make us ill as Granny 'kept them for too long'.

Granny died at the age of 84 in the early 1960s, not I hasten to add anything to do with the consumption of elderly pig's trotters. As she lay dying her beloved Salvation Army came and played hymns on her front lawn under her bedroom window. After her funeral Mum came to me and said that Granny had left to me and my cousin £50 a piece and we were each to have one of the mirrors; I was to have first choice. I chose the mirror with the bird on it and I still have it even now.

It seems strange to be talking about having meat on the table as we haven't actually eaten it for over twenty years; we don't call ourselves vegetarians, though, as we do eat fish occasionally. I honestly can't remember the last time we ate meat or how we used to cook it but I remember my visits to Granny's house like they were yesterday.


  1. I really enjoyed hearing about your Granny. We called our grandmother "Granny" and sometimes I hesitate to use that name because I rarely hear people (here in Canada) use it other than as joke. For us "Granny" was a term of affection. Occasionally my parents would serve us "tongue" when I was a child and we all dreaded those meals because it did not look even slightly appetizing!


  2. What a wonderful remembrance, Rosie! I so enjoyed it, and I'm with your mother on the elderly pig trotters!

    The image of the Salvation Army band playing for your grandmother as she lay dying is so beautiful! Thanks so much for sharing!

  3. Another lovely reflection on life. Anyone reading you will have been thinking about their own grandmother(s) before reaching the end.

    I only had my maternal grandmother, who I called 'Nanna'. She and Pop (my grandfather) brought me up. She died suddenly one morning, without warning. I was fifteen and getting ready for work and making them a cup of tea before I went off to catch my train, when Pop came into the kitchen and said "She's gone". I knew what he meant.

    That was February 1960, but when I remember it, it is like yesterday. Like you, I have reminders of Pop and Nanna I see every day — a wonderful Victorian chest-of-drawers in our bedroom, which used to be in their bedroom, and an American farmhouse clock in our dining room, which tick-tocked away in the kitchen every day of my life until I moved into my own home when I was 22. And in our kitchen, the First World War Army carving knife which they used for everything and we still use today, albeit only occasionally.

    Thanks Rosie for another wonderful, thought provoking, blog.

    Lots of Love :-) xx

  4. I SO enjoyed reading your story! I had forgotten that they're called "trotters" in UK! (they're simply called "pig's feet" here in the US - and most people's opinion of them is about the same as yours). Reading about your Granny reminded me of my beloved Grandad and our special times together. Thank you.

  5. Lovely post Rosie, My mind when tripping off to a long time ago.


  6. Thanks everyone for your comments - glad you enjoyed reading this post.

    gillian, isn't it strange how terms or ways of speech we have been used to using are turned on their head by younger generations - over here youngsters use 'grandma' or 'grandad'
    now as an insult to older people - it is such a shame.

    pamela - I always drop a few pence into the Salvation Army tins when I see them because of that act of kindness.

    robert, teresa and lois - glad to have brought you all some happy memories - even though they bring sad ones too in their wake.

  7. How wonderful and in detail you descirbe your Granny's house.You must have loved her very much.There can be such a strong connection between a grandmother and granddaughter!i made me go back to my childhood.My grandmother was very important to me.I think about her very often and i can picture her and her little house very clearly.
    The mirror she gave you is so lovely,I believe its a swallow between the flowers?
    Thank you for sharing***