29. You’ll have had your tea

In the summer, ActorLaddie would pile GrannieBorders into the car with her wheelchairs, the world’s tartan-blanket mountain and a bottle of lemonade.

Then he’d deposit her at the British Polio Fellowship hotel in Worthing, adapted for what she cheerfully called ‘polios’.  She met up with old friends, went on trips and came back to an evening’s entertainment, during the course of which she would treat herself to a wee glass of brandy from the bar topped up with some lemonade from her bottle.  The bar, of course, did have lemonade but they charged for it.  Whereas, as YoungLochinvar pointed out, her lemonade might have been warm and might have been flat but it was cheap.

We told this story to Pamela, the undertaker, in the course of arranging the funeral for next week.  Just so she knew that if we’d forked out for horse-drawn carriages, or the very tasteful coffin inlaid with a reproduction of the Last Supper, GrannieBorders would have never spoken to us again.  We are, after all, talking about the woman who cut out unfranked stamps in order to pritt-stick them onto her Christmas cards.

It’s not that she was mean.  Quite the opposite: she got immense pleasure from giving presents to her friends and, particularly, her grandchildren.  She was just very frugal.  Her young adulthood was during the war and she carried ‘make do and mend’ with her through life.  And her childhood, as the daughter of a dour groom on a Scottish country estate, had few luxuries: even the removal of her tonsils was carried out on the kitchen table.

I wonder what her childhood self would have made of the world GrannieBorders has just left.  Would she, for example, have marvelled at being able to call from a mobile phone to tell her family how her holiday was going?  Or would she, like her older self, be overheard on the answerphone saying “Oh good they’re out.  That’ll save me some money,” before heading off for a brandy and flat, warm lemonade.

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