Nanna Wobble

Posted by Jeni in | 11 May 2018

What is it about sagging arms. My mum, my bubba, me. Sugar gliders, wings of flesh, that hang under the arms and are soft and perfect to play with. My mother had a comfortable, soft set, of two . That is until she got cancer and they removed her lymph nodes. We found out later she need not have had a mastectomy, but hey ho - we did what we were told then. Her lovely soft arm grew big and fat, she wore a sleeve to reduce the swelling, which it never did, but we still had her left arm to play with.

My bubba's were hung bigger, like an old cows udders. She'd had four children, a husband fighting in a secret war somewhere in Egypt and a kitchen table that served as an ironing board, chopping block and central meeting place. Her lovely Nan Flaps, were there for her 8 grandchildren to stroke and flick. She also had one ear which had two lobes, one of her children had pulled on an earring when they were a baby and tore the ear lobe in two. She had no vanity, it didn't matter to her, just something else for us to play with.

My daughter stroked and flapped my mothers arms, you could see the delight in my small daughters face, and the acceptance in my mothers.

Overtime my arms have taken on the female family characteristic. My grandchildren do to me what I did to Bubba Sophie and my daughter did to my mother, and now to me. And so, now everytime I scrub my kitchen table, I think of my grandmother.

I have a very large wooden table in my attic. Made of railway sleepers, bought from a friend when they divorced. It takes three grown men to move it. It's been in Hampstead, Battersea, the piano room, and now my writing room. It is heavy and smells of fancy wax polish I use regularly. But there was a time when it was exiled. Sold to a man in a pine-furniture shop who couldn't understand why I was getting rid of it. I swapped it for a 50's angular wooden hat stand, which lives in the cellar loaded with anoraks, bags and motorbike leggings. A beautiful iron cylindrical Danish stove from Odense, which the old git lights every year, puts a fan in front of to waft the warm air round the cottage, and I clean, using tubes of black grate polish to give it a dull shine, and this 'ere table, in the kitchen, which has my lap top on, a bowl of lemon and limes, another bowl of apples, a little pot of pencils and pens, and a flat slate tile which we stand pepper and salt jars on.

The abandonment of my big sleeping table was so painful that friends from around the world contacted me. Swedish musicians, American writers, Irish poets, all demanded what the hell was I doing getting rid of the table that had seen so many feasts, so much laughter, had witnessed baby changing, political discussions and endless cups of coffee. So sad was I, were we, that I went back to the furniture shop and bought the big table back for 500 quid.

The furniture man was not surprised to see me, he said he wouldn't have been able to get rid of it either. He'd cleaned it up and polished it to perfection. It was a little too sterile but over the years I've got back candle stains and the imprint of hard pressed pens and pencils.

My swapped pine kitchen table, has a long drawer with candles in, always a safe bet to buy me candles for birthdays and anniversaries. We eat and argue by candlelight. It seats a comfortable six, but at a push, we can get 12 round it. I have no idea how we do it, but the piano stool, the adjustable three legged stool, chairs from the shed and the red kick step, are positioned strategically. It does mean that somebody is always sitting lower than the rest, usually me. At my age I prefer to be nearer the floor.

When the the sun comes out the tiled kitchen floor gets a good mopping. I have a system. A mop, an ecological sponge, very hot water, three different types of cleaner and I'm off. I take all the chairs into the sitting room, hoover the kitchen floor and mop and scrub until you can eat off the floor. My Bubba's criteria for keeping a good home.

Before I do the floor I empty the table of detritus, put on the radio and scrub. With a wood cleaner. And that's when I can see my Bubba scrubbing her kitchen table with a hard brush. Two hands, pushing forwards, putting her weight into it. A 'dish cloth' to wipe away the mess. A bucket of water she dipped the scrubbing brush into, and her arms flapping. Her apron wrapped round her belly, her platinum blonde hair up in a scarf. And her insistence that cleanliness was paramount. Not because it was next to Godliness but because living in a slum required extra fastidiousness. Not that she would have used that word, she would have said that the rats, bugs and germs needed to be exterminated. Not a word that hung prettily in the homes of us Jewish refugees.

But my Nan kept a good home. Even though there was no inside toilet, or running water, even though there wasn't enough space to swing a mouse - which was a regular occurence. In my memory there was always a bubbling stew-pot hanging on the range in the tiny kitchen. If my cousins read this they may remember her, and it, differently, but my Bubba had the lungs of a street-seller, the guts of an immigrant and the best bingo wings this side of Minsk.

She would have been proud of my housewifery. Time it was I had a wonderful 'Treasure' called Gaye, but how life changes. Me and the 'oosbind have no disposable income so we do what we do when we need to do it, without the help of Gaye. The Buddhists say cleaning is an exercise in acceptance.

That we benefit from accepting that we have to do things we do not like on occasion, and that by doing them we silence the nagging inner monologue. My Bubba got in there first this morning, not so much a nagging monologue as a fecking great big noisy conversation about our Nanna Wobbles.

I'm off now to marinate some chicken in lime and lemon, Soy sauce, garlic and olive oil. My Bubba would be stoking the stove in readiness.

Jeni Barnett tells of her scrumptious time at Good Food Live in her first audiobook! Download NOW from iTunes

Comments

1. At May 18, 2018 7:09 AM Carol wrote:

I popped by the blog. Hadn’t been for a while. Was greeted with this wonderful imagery. Reminded me of my nan. Real nans of time’s gone by. Just lovely Jennie. X

2. At May 20, 2018 8:56 PM Lyn Misselbrook wrote:

I only remember smells from my faher’s mother - she was big Nan - geraniums mostly, the sound of the old fashioned treadle sewing machine and the smell of strawberries. That was when she looked after me before I went to nursery. I don’t remember cleaning and we didn’t share a home. After I started nursery, we visited my mum’s mother - she was little nan (and she was little) - every Saturday evening and what I principally remember from those visits was the professional wrestling on tv which she loved, leaning forward and shaking her fists at the wrestlers she didnt like and Ted (my step-grandad) checking the racing results in the evening paper & watching the football results after the wrestling.
Visiting big nan (and she was tall) was Sunday morning at the pub half way between our house & her flat, where me and my brother stood outside with the other neighborhood kids drinking pop & eating crisps with twists of salt.
Unlike you, I don’t have memories of cleaning with either of my nans

3. At May 27, 2018 7:29 PM Joe wrote:

Lovely 'nana' words jeni!
My nana has those arms..........she's still alive and kicking!
I'm trying to organise her coming down to East Sussex to see our garden!
Please write about the lightning storms last night, please write about the sunshine and downpour we had the other day!
Please just write!!!

Love, the borowski's!! X

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