Daily Archives: April 22, 2011

Am I Sane

Good King Conrad had the chore of picking the topic for today.


Part of being sane, is being a little crazy ~ Janet Long

Sanity is a madness put to good use ~ George Santavana

“Is that ‘Mad Granny’ you are talking about?”

This is a question that I often hear Elly ask.  It usually follows some tale I have told about my childhood.

Mad Granny (MG) was my maternal grandmother and I loved the bones of her.  I was not alone, my siblings and all the neighbouring children round about us, loved to see her come and visit too.  She lived off the South Circular Road in Dublin from the day she got married.  She came every Sunday for lunch and stayed until well after the evening meal.  Although she had seven children, ours was the house where she felt most at home. In the latter years she would arrive several times a week and on occasion would stay over night.

MG talked of the ‘coal hole’, although all fuel for the fire was kept in a shed built for that purpose in her back garden.  Mentioning it now, tells me something about myself, and my asking a young Elly to bring me (insert product name) from under the stairs…. The madness runs in families they say!  This house has no stairs and the house I remember MG living in had no coal hole.

The house where MG was born was mid terrace, all the houses were built by her father.  In the street outside there was a circular manhole cover in front of each dwelling.  Once lifted it allowed the coal man to drop the weekly order down into the cellar.

MG was a woman before her time, wearing bright yellows when many women her age wore the widow’s black.  Her Lisle stockings* were frowned upon by my other granny.  She had her troubles in life – found her husband dead in bed one morning – leaving her with a family to educate, yet she did not let her grief overtake and hinder the enjoyment of her grandchildren.  There were with time 27 grandchildren for her to spoil.

My eldest brother was the first of his generation on that side of the family.  A quiet child with a mop of blond curls, he did not like to get his hands dirty.  One summers day MG arrived (so I was told) and the young toddler was sitting in the playpen half way down the garden.  Down she went to say hello and handed him a bar of chocolate.  Leaving him to discover the pleasure of it, she returned to my mother in the kitchen.

The kettle had hardly boiled when she looked out through the window and began to laugh.  My brother was looking at his hands in horror, they were covered in chocolate.  On more careful examination he was covered in the stuff, on his hair, face and all down his front.  MG laughed and laughed.  She had never seen him with a hair out of place or with a speck of dirt on his clothes until that day!

If you were sitting beside her at table, she might tap you on the furthest shoulder and as you turned away to see what the tap was for, she would use her other hand to lift the last treasured bite of a sweetmeat from your plate!  With MG we could not be cross for long.

When we as youngsters had cleared the dining table and were running the hot water to wash the dishes, granny would appear, pushing up her sleeves and donning an apron from the back of the kitchen door.  As she reached the sink she would pause and say “I don’t fancy washing up tonight, will we just chuck them out the window?”

We loved her fun and to this day I miss her.  I only hope I inherited her madness, because if I did, I know I am quite sane and can come to no harm.

* Lisle was a fine, smooth, tightly twisted thread spun from long-stapled cotton. The fabric knitted of this thread was used especially for hosiery and underwear.

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