Lessons Nanan taught me

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Guest blogger Katy White contributes a personal piece about her Nanan.

Nanan, my mother’s mother was born in the summer of 1920. She remembered a time without the NHS and only the skeletons of a basic welfare state. She lived through the whole of a world war in her twenties. A time of ‘waste not want not’ and hording every little bit of string in a tin can for future use. She was studying at Bristol University at the time and was one of the few lucky women who had the opportunity to pursue academic studies into her adult years. Her father fought in World War One and was disgusted by the class differences and hierarchy in the army based entirely on inherited position, not competence nor merit. She saw a Labour government, made up by a sizable proportion of working class members, proudly representing the unions attempt to break down social inequality and provide basic care and support for its people. She was a real deal 1950s housewife, perhaps not the total stereotype but she did spend much of her time cooking, baking and looking after her three daughters. Widowed at too young an age she lived on her own for around forty years, with no complaints. She took a great interest in the natural world and had a deep respect for the environment. She kept herself on the ball with crosswords, newspapers and boggle. She was a down-right socialist. Right into her 90s she remained clued up on the goings on of the world around her and was a member of the Campaign for Nuclear Disarmament (CND). She made no bones about hating those in power in the US. She only moved to a more supported environment after her 90th birthday and although it included a 300 mile journey to a strange place where people didn’t pronounce their T’s she didn’t complain once. Five days before she died she said to me something which I will never forget. Off-handishly she leant over and candidly whispered in my ear “Men need to be put in their place. They have been too long in the ascendency.” – “Damn right Nan!”, I remember thinking. Yet she also had great respect for men, for everyone in fact, and a tongue and cheek lovely relationship with both my dad and brother. She was the strongest person I ever met.

In her name I have decided also to be strong. Not only will I wear her beautiful ring, cardigans and shining pearls of wisdom but I will wear them indignantly and defiantly. I will no longer stand for an incompetent and out of touch Tory government dismantling the NHS and allowing 36 people a week to die from disability. I will not stand for £9,000 fees and further education becoming even more of a finishing school for the wealthy. I will not stand for unforgivable waste and overconsumption that is destroying the planet around us and our future. I will not stand for deep-rooted social inequality in Britain and across the world and a tax cut for the richest. I will not allow white, middle-aged men to implement cuts to welfare, the voluntary sector and education reforms that will put women’s only place back in the home doing chores and childcare. I will learn about and love nature and I will value my mind and my education. I will learn to take things more slowly and appreciate the little things every day. I will proudly admit that US foreign, military hegemony makes me sick and that Obama and his drone attacks deserve more than a good talking to. And boy oh boy, I will not stand for gender inequality, men ruling the world when we all know (in the mighty words of Beyonce) that girls run the world. I will not tolerate the pay gap, horrific pornography, obligatory shaving of every inch of the female body, the objectification of women, rape, sexual abuse, 80% of those trafficked being women, the reduction of the cut off point for abortion to 12 weeks, harder to access contraception, lads mags, page three of the sun, Barbie and only pink toys for girls. No way hosay!

Nanan was probably the wisest person I ever had the pleasure of talking too (well she did have 73 years on me and 34 on my mum). But she was also warm, kind, generous and strong, oh so strong. She was a right laugh. And she loved people really well. And I loved her to bits. So, call me biased, but I think if I and everyone around me, and everyone around them, could take a leaf out of Nanan’s book then the world would be a happier and fairer place.

The picture above illustrates two white flowers. The photo is copywrite to Josephine Tsui. Please do not use without permission.