This is a photograph of my grandmother, with my aunt as a baby and my uncle as a toddler. Aren’t the children sweet? I don’t know the date this was taken, but as my aunt is in her early eighties now it must have been some time in the late nineteen-twenties. It was originally sent to my grandfather, who was serving in the British Army in India at the time. He had never seen his new little daughter. In those days air travel was an unimagined luxury. The journey from Delhi took weeks over land and sea, so Grampy only came back every few years.
Gran was born deep in the English countryside, at a time when the greatest excitement was the annual church picnic on the beach at Weston-Super-Mare, twenty miles away. In the early days of the twentieth century, many people never strayed further from home than that. Gran was made of sterner stuff. She went into service, and became a brilliant cook. These days she would be called a chef, but in those far-off times a woman’s place was well and truly in the home. Working allowed her to travel, as a trusted member of her grand employers’ staff. All that had to stop when she got married. Grampy had been brought up as a Barnardo’s Boy in the heart of London, and longed to live in the country. Luckily a house came up for sale not far from where Gran had been born. While Grampy travelled the world with the army, Gran stayed at home making things happen. Living ‘off the strength’ she had to do everything for herself, from buying the house to raising the children. Her family were only a few miles away across the fields, but there were no phones in those days and owning a car was unthinkable. Being on her own so much made her very resourceful. She grew every sort of fruit and vegetable, preserved the produce in every way known to man (and woman!) and kept chickens for eggs. She really could make meals out of next to nothing. Her only failures were cherry jam (jelly), and rabbits. It really irked her that despite all her skills in making other preserves, she could never get cherry jam (jelly) to set. As for the rabbits, they were part of a plan to produce meat during the war, when England was starving. The skins were supposed to have gone to make leather, but the second the children set their eyes on those cute little bunnies, that part of Gran’s war effort didn’t stand a chance.
I feel honoured to have had this inspirational woman as my grandmother. I may not have inherited her bravery, organisational skills or love of housework, but at least she made sure I can feed a family!
Have you had an inspirational woman in your life? What did you learn from her, and what do you hope to pass on to others?
Christina Hollis write Modern Romance for Harlequin Mills and Boon, which appear as Harlequin Presents/Extra in the US. Visit her website at http://www.christinahollis.com, and catch up with her at http:www.christinahollis.blogspot.com and http://www.twitter.com, where she appears as @christinabooks.
Christina’s next book, The Count’s Challenge, is a July release for Harlequin Presents Extra release in the US, and is available online from Harlequin here: http://www.eharlequin.com/storeitem.html?iid=23974 Amazon.com and from many high street stores.