herald

Monday 11 December 2017

remember

you won't find Writer (and granny) muriel bolger knitting and baking cakes. she highlights the changing role of nanas

my life as a modern gran

I grew up with the stereotype of the granny in the corner, a patchwork rug over her knees (made, no doubt, by her own hand), rows of pots of home-made jam in the larder, all with different coloured gingham covers, cut in little points by pinking scissors. She'd most probably made these from off-cuts of fabric that she had left after making a pinny or two.

Such grannies, inevitably, had holy water fonts inside the hall door and the odd statue or two and they wore navy or black. They brought you into the church to light candles for everyone and they always had a collection of medals and scapulars around their necks.

There was something very comforting about those images of sweet little old ladies with grey hair tied back in a bun, serving iced fancies and high, springy sponges to their adored and adoring grandchildren.

All this nostalgia makes me question what my grandchildren will remember of this gran. The hair may be grey underneath, but thanks to the chemists of whatever batch of colour I buy, my crowning glory varies from shades of field mouse brown to auburn and I never wear black.

I was a mum who made everything. Now I've grown up. Been there, done all that and I've no intentions of ever sitting in the corner with my crochet hook. Sewing now is only done out of necessity.

My grandchildren, four boys aged from just over three to about to be 12 and one soon-to-be-two girl, have only ever sported two matinee jackets from my needles.

This nana was a very 'normal for the time' stay-at-home mum, who secretly thought that mothers who worked were neglecting their children, and who had husbands who felt a working wife was a slur on their ability to provide adequately for their families.

This 'norm' had to change out of necessity for me. My early 40s saw me become a single parent. I tend to draw a veil over those years spent co-habiting with three black-clad teenage strangers, all followers of Goth fashion and of The Cure. The stairs carpet quickly became bald in patches from the procession of heavy-duty Doc Martens trundling continuously up and down to the fridge. I just hope I live long enough to see them with teenagers of their own.

I found myself in need of gainful employment and I fell easily into journalism and, even more fortuitously, into travel writing.

As my children left home a whole new world beckoned, a world that was technically work, but which saw me in rainforests, on top of the Twin Towers, on the trading floor in Wall Street, being inspired by the beauty of the Norwegian fjords, the inside of caves and glaciers, to enjoying operas in Sydney, Budapest and Paris.

So this gran will tell the youngsters about adopting an orang utan in Borneo, learning how to identify different types of animal dung on safari while trying to track a white rhino. She'll tell them about the helicopter rides over Table Mountain in South Africa, Australia's Great Barrier Reef and over Niagara and Iguassu Falls in north and south America.

She'll explain that instead of finishing that sweater, she was off doing the samba at Carnival in Rio, boating down the Amazon, bargaining in the souks in Morocco and marlin fishing off Mauritius.



CAREER

Such a lifestyle, I'll tell them, doesn't leave much time for making iced fancies and tall, springy sponge cakes. Such a career saw me flirting on the edge of technology, first with a PC, then my MacBook Pro, my Kindle and of course, my iPhone, which ultimately turned me into the coolest gran around.

Enter another phase in life's changing tapestry --writing books. I dedicated Dublin City of Literature to these same grandchildren, Jackson, Sennan, Cal, Ely and Ivy. When they're older, I'd like to think that some of them may have a copy or two of my novels on their bookshelves or their Kindles when I'm long gone.

Working from home means I can drop everything when they want to visit. I love to see them come -- and go!

Intentions by Muriel Bolger (Hachette) is in bookshops now

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