After a very interesting talk with a grandparent last week, it got me to thinking, as it often does!

I think we all agree that family breakdown, in all its forms, has increased enormously and continues to rise.

The call as we know goes out all the time for ‘Grandparents Rights’, as you also know, a phrase I dislike intensely.

We talk about the importance of grandparents and the wonderful relationship between a grandchild and a grandparent, but has it always been that way?

If we look back to previous generations how much contact did grandchildren have with their grandparents?

In my own case my maternal grandmother died when I was quite young and so my memories of her are somewhat fuzzy, I remember she was always ill in bed, and that she gave me a little doll called Isobelle which she had knitted the clothes for.

My maternal grandfather was brilliantly funny, he loved cricket and he would spend hours sitting in his garden on a cane chair in a white hat listening to the Test Match on the radio. He also taught me naughty rhymes that I would happily repeat to everyone! As he became older he insisted that my Mum was surrounded by lots of children, and he would chat away to them. I know now that he was suffering from dementia, but it was fine, and it was just grandpa.

My paternal grandparents were a very different kettle of fish. As far as they were concerned it was a case of ‘children should be seen not heard’ and preferably not even heard,  my brother and myself were a bit of a nuisance.

There was never any question that they would look after us, and certainly they didn’t do any child care, in fact it was something that as far as I can tell most of that generation never did.

Certainly there was never any chance of financial help.

Of course there are  some families where everyone helped one another, but I wonder if we are thinking relationships were better in previous generations, when in actual fact they weren’t?


Whilst writing this blog, I asked members of BGSG to write memories of their grandparents, there was an outpouring of love leaping out from the page.

These are their own words, I don’t apologise for the length of this blog because I think and hope you will find these words very moving.

” When I was born only my maternal granny was alive. We were alienated from her by my mother so I only met her in my teens when my siblings & I went to find her. Before then, she sent presents at Christmas ‘with love from Granny’. She was just shocked to see us & very happy. Shortly afterwards she developed dementia. Just glad to have met her & know she had missed us & that we could tell her we’d missed her. I felt cheated of Granny because our parents were as cold as ice. My mum didn’t tell us when she died. We didn’t even know her name which was Mary. Bless her heart. Now I know how she felt.”

“My dads parents died before I was born and my mums father died in the war so only knew my grandmother but she was never a hands on gran and only remember rarely visiting and we all had to be on our best behaviour.”

“Oh gosh memories of my only Nan always wearing a half pinney where she kept her handkerchief . This handkerchief would always make an appearance when she took it out of her pocket and rest it on her lap to peel the skin off of apples before we could eat them, bowls of cold creamed rice pudding sat at her big old fashioned wooden table 2 ornament penguins that always caught my eye sadly, and it sticks in my mind, the many times my Mother made a point of saying how much she didn’t like her so our visits were few.”

“My Maternal Grandmother had some wonderful sayings that should be written down!! I still share some of them with my Mum and it makes her laugh there was 260 miles between us when I was growing up ,but we visited a few times a year .I always felt her love even though she wasn’t a tactile Nan. Paternal GP’s my fondest memory was the postal order for half crown every Christmas and birthday I was one of 17 GC so it must have been expensive for them I thought that when decimalisation was introduced it would go up ,but no they converted it to new money’ 12 & a half p until they died ( I was 14 yrs) I loved my GP’s dearly on both sides even though I didn’t spend lots of time with them I always felt their warmth and it felt safe somehow.”

“My dads parents died before I was born and my mums father died in the war so only knew my grandmother but she was never a hands on gran and only remember rarely visiting and we all had to be on our best behaviour.”

“My grandmother lived on the top floor of our house. I had a very strong bond with her and just remember unconditional love. She was my first port of call when I was upset. We were quite poor so when I ripped my dress, my grandmother mended it before I went home. We did a lot of baking together which I loved. She was always at the window waiving me off to school and welcoming me back. This continued even when I went to work. We had lovely holidays together visiting family. I miss her to this day and thinking of her always brings a smile to my face. Oh, and I always crawled into her bed in the middle of the night when I was frightened and needed comforting. She made sure I was back in my bed before my parents woke up.”

“Loved my Grandad coming to stay he gave us girls two shillings pocket money and we got fizzy pop it was a lovely treat. He would take us to the beach and play for hours. Happy memories that will stay with me forever. ”

“I loved my nana so much, she was amazing. She lost my papa when she was only 50 and was left to bring up my 3 uncles on her own. I remember her suggesting one day that we walked home instead of taking the bus, at the time l thought it was such fun, now l know she couldn’t afford our bus fare, it makes me so sad. I lost her when she was 94, just 3 months before my little GS was born. I’m glad she hasn’t had to endure the pain that the rest of my family has.”

“My maternal grandmother was raised by her Maternal grandmother who was Florence Nightingales first Nurses! Not so much a memory but a fact. My father’s mother was more fun and carefree not sure why must have been their upbringing.”

“My maternal grandmother was university educated – Newham Cambridge at turn of 20th century, but lost her teaching job when she married. However as well as her 3 children she had 8 grandchildren and really appreciated us. She used to look after us in the holidays and really appreciated my naughty cousins. “Have they fallen in the river yet?” She used to make tea with a kettle on the edge of the coal fire and the same toast on a toasting fork. She also took us all on outings, such as to the zoo and theatre.”

“No iPods, u pods or pea pods… So we all talked to each other. Lashings of hot tea and crumpets, and toast on the end of a fork in front of a roaring fire.,Huge, yummy roast potatoes and thick gravy. Happy days.”

“I remember quite vividly as a six-year-old going with my maternal grandmother to buy my first pet. In the pet shop, the assistant opened a door in a large wire cage full of identical black rabbits – a sea of black fur and pointed ears surged forwards, each rabbit competing to be the chosen one. He grabbed the wildly wriggling winner, and placed him firmly into my grandmother’s zip-topped two-handled shopping bag. (I hope she thought to line it with newspaper!) It was thus that we carried Freddie – for that was his name – the half-mile or so back to my grandmother’s house. Isn’t it of such memories that childhoods are made?”

“My memories of my grandparents were baking
We visited every Sunday without fail all in our Sunday best.
We all bonded and had lots of fun and happy memories were made.”

“We got together Sundays for lunch
Went during the week with my mom just to visit
We as teens helped them with house hold chores and were given $5 and tricks
Nothing like now.”

“My own mam wasn’t nice still isn’t but her mam my grandma was my world she too knew her daughter wasn’t a nice person so her and my grandad helped my dad bring me up when I lost her it broke heart iv always encouraged my children to have a great relationship with their grandparents which is why i hurt so bad not being able to see my own grandchildren.”

“I would go to my grandparents house about 6 miles away on my little moped. My nana would milk the cow and bring in fresh milk to make a cup of tea. We would sit in front of the log fire drinking our tea and eating home made biscuits, not saying anything. It was so peaceful and so perfect. At other times I would go with my parents and five brothers who would cause chaos but it didn’t matter because I had had my own special time with them. Miss them so much, especially my grand dad who would always give me butterscotch sweeties, saying don’t tell your nana.”

“My maternal grandparents were wonderful ,when we visited my Nan’s house we four children sat on the sofa and there we stayed till it was time for tea ,always on a laid table a velvet cloth covered by a white linen cloth covered by a plastic cloth ,Nan would cut homemade Victoria sponge and pour our tea into a china cup and saucer from a big old teapot ,then put on the cosy so she and mum might have a second cup,she brushed the crumbs with a little brush and pan  then back on the sofa till it was time to leave. We were always given a pot of home made jam to take home with us. I loved her. The first time we saw television was at my Nan’s which was in her FRONT room, what a treat to be allowed in that room which was normally allowed only xmas day .”

“Loved my Grandad coming to stay …. he gave us girls two shillings pocket money and we got fizzy pop …. it was a lovely treat. He would take us to the beach and play for hours. Happy memories that will stay with me forever.”

“Aww great memories dad took us on a Sunday. long walk there and back. Always baking on the go.gran had lovely snow white hair was tiny and just lovely .Granddad died when I was a toddler but heard lots of lovely things about him.”

“My grandmother lost her mother when she was 2 years old. Went with her three sisters into the Muller Homes in Bristol leaving there at 17 years and going into service. I remember her lovely smile and the smell of Ponds cream she used every day on her face. I spent a lot of my time with her as a child. Warm clean homely home, she cooked on a range type open fire. She was a very caring gentle lady, born around the same time as the Queens mother. She bought me my first lipstick at 15 years old, very pale pink. We were so close. I was the first of the grandchildren. I still see her face smiling, she will always be with me. I’m 69 years old, yet it’s there with me. I could tell you where we bought the lipstick all those years ago.”

“We Iived with my Grandmother…. My Dad’s Mum… until we moved when I was six.She meant everything to me, as my Mum had to go back to work when I was only eleven weeks old. In those days it was common for families in London to share a house. It was an Edwardian town house and it had a basement and railings, with steps leading up to the front door. My Nan lived in the basement and us above. She lived with Johnny who I believed to be my Grandad.He was Nans partner. They were both my entire world. She was a calm and gentle lady.I was her first Grandchild, she was only forty four! She had a handbag full of delights Clarnico mint creams and Merry maids, chocolate covered toffees. She always had a tin of Nivea or sometimes Astral I was always allowed to look through her bag loved it. I can remember her smell, a wonderful fragrance of talc.”

“My Grandad used to say I was his “sunshine and flowers.”

These very personal memories are how it should be.







About Jane

Jane setup Bristol Grandparent Support Group in 2007 after a string of incidents led to the loss of contact with her Grand Daughter.

View all Jane Posts


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