Author Archives: MMLTOG

Who were you, Kathleen?

Bev PictureToday I am excited to be posting the fourth of the Guest Blogs that I’ll be sharing in the run up to the release of Listening to our Grandmothers in September.  For the guest blogs I have asked a number of wonderful women to reflect on their experiences of Grandmothers or elder women in their lives.  This post, about Kathleen her maternal Grandmother, is by Beverley Glick.  Beverley has been telling stories for a living for more than 30 years – first as a music journalist and pop magazine editor, then as a national newspaper superwoman and now helps individuals and business owners dig for the personal stories that will change their lives and change the world. Beverley and I are working together to launch The Story Party later this year.

Who were you, Kathleen? What were your fondest hopes, your most cherished dreams? How did life treat you? Did it unfold as you wished?

I’ve often pondered these questions, especially when looking at the only photograph I possess of my maternal grandmother. It was taken at my parents’ wedding in 1949 – a formal portrait of both sets of grandparents standing behind the newlyweds. Their expressions do not convey the joy of the occasion.

Kathleen looks stern, stony-faced and much older than her 49 years. There’s a slightly haunted look in her eyes that has always saddened me. But perhaps that’s because I know how her story ended. Less than two years after that photograph was taken, her life was cut short by a brain tumour that was discovered just two weeks before she died.

Shortly afterwards my parents moved to London, lugging a suitcase full of grief and leaving most of their relatives behind in Swansea.

Even at 86, my mum is still angry about what happened to her mother. She has told me many times that Kathleen was an intelligent woman who married beneath her, who could have done so much better for herself, who might have lived longer had her life been less arduous.

Kathleen was born in Deptford, south-east London, in 1900, firstborn of Edwin, a glass bottle packer, and his wife Sophia. She met my Welsh grandfather, Bert, while they were both working at the munitions factory in Woolwich Arsenal during the latter years of the First World War. By all accounts he was a bit of a charmer and persuaded Kathleen to marry him, leaving her nearest and dearest behind to move to South Wales in 1920.

According to my mother, Kathleen lived a life of unrelenting domestic drudgery, raising five children almost single-handedly on a bare minimum of housekeeping money while Bert went to work – and the pub. Like many breadwinners of his generation, he rarely lifted a finger to help.

It seems that Kathleen had no identity beyond being a mother, a wife, a cook, a cleaner and a make-do-and-mender. I imagine a woman whose individuality was as mangled as her laundry, whose life was dominated by duty and obligation.

Even though her youngest daughter – my mother – followed her path and also became a stay-at-home mum, her second granddaughter (my sister came along in 1953 and I was born in 1957, six years after Kathleen died) decided as a teenager that a domestic life was not for her. I wrote in my diary at the age of 18 that the last thing I wanted was to become a housewife.

So you could say that Kathleen’s story, and my mother’s reaction to it, resulted in me rejecting motherhood and valuing freedom, independence and individuality above all else. It’s as if I received the subliminal message that I should question the prevailing wisdom about women getting married and having kids: “Don’t go there – it’s a prison.”

I have enjoyed the luxury of pursuing a career that has enabled me to travel all over the world, and also embarking on a journey of spiritual growth and personal development that would have been unthinkable to women of Kathleen’s generation, whose struggle was about survival and raising a family.

Kathleen may never have allowed herself to hope or to dream, beyond producing healthy children and being a good wife. Perhaps that was her dream. Life didn’t seem to treat her particularly well. Did it unfold as she wished? Who am I to say? Maybe it did – maybe that is exactly what she signed up for.

The most poignant part of the story is that my mother was denied Kathleen’s support, encouragement and wisdom while she was raising her three children. And, of course, that my sister, brother and I never knew her. In fact, I did not experience being cared for by any of my grandparents. My relationship with my dad’s parents and my mum’s father and his second wife (Bert remarried with what was then considered to be indecent haste) was cordial but distant – we only saw them in the summer holidays.

But even though all I have of my maternal grandmother on the physical plane is one photograph and my mother’s stories, I still feel a connection. There is something there on a cellular level, some psychic bond that is in my DNA. And I believe that what she has given me is resilience. Buckets full of it.

So thank you, Kathleen – even though you checked out early, you will never leave my imagination. I’m proud that you were such a great mother. I hope you would have been proud of me, and happy that I have been able to make choices that were never available to you.

A kind, nurturing and stoical lady who gritted her teeth and got on with life – that’s who I think you were, Kathleen.

You can find Beverley at  If you want to be kept updated about the launch of Listening to our Grandmothers please sign up for my mailing list or join the Facebook page here. (edit) (edit)

It’s All in the Words: Reading Our Literary Grandmothers

Today I am excited to be posting the third of the Guest Blogs that I’ll be sharing in the run up to the release of Listening to our Grandmothers in September.  For the guest blogs I have asked a number of wonderful women to reflect on their experiences of Grandmothers or elder women in their lives.  This post is about our literary Grandmothers, is by Rebecca Selman, an English Teacher and a dear friend of mine.

Becky SAs an English secondary school teacher I am inspired by many women writers and their female creations.  Having not been particularly close to my biological grandmothers, I turn instead to my literary grandmothers when reflecting on the wisdom of older women.  What strikes me particularly is the way that many of these writers, both now and in the past, have challenged tradition and defied convention, both through the act of writing and in their own lives.  They encourage me to be who I am to the utmost of my capabilities; to make choices because they are right for me, not because I am expected to make them; and to not fear the censure of others if I am happy with myself.  Whilst there are countless women I could refer to, I am going to confine myself here to just three women whose writing spans centuries and whose lives, whilst very different, are all marked by their refusal to simply adhere to the social norms of the time:  Margery Kempe, Jane Austen and George Eliot.

Margery Kempe (c. 1373-c. 1438):

Margery Kempe is the author of what is thought to be the first autobiography in English, The Book of Margery Kempe.  In her book, which she dictated to a scribe, she tells of her desire to desist from sexual intercourse (not surprising since she had given birth to fourteen children!) and that in preference to it she would rather “have eaten and drunk the ooze and muck in the gutter”.  She tells her husband, John, a few weeks after she has persuaded him to take a mutual vow of chastity, that should he be threatened by a sword-wielding man unless he make love to her, she would “rather see [him] being killed” than that they resume their sexual life again.  Whilst partly sympathising with Margery’s long-suffering husband, I cannot help but admire her outspokenness and her radical belief in her right to use her body as she sees fit.

Another lesson Margery offers us in the 21st century is to lead your life as feels right to you and not worry about what other people think.  A profoundly religious woman who wanted to lead a life of devotion to God without entering a convent – which didn’t sit comfortably with fifteenth-century views of women’s lives – she also unsettled the medieval Church and society with her excessive manifestations of religious piety.  Her tendency to weep loudly at portrayals of the Crucifixion or at the sight of a mother and baby – which reminded her of Mary and Jesus – led to criticism and social ostracism: on pilgrimage in Europe she was abandoned by her fellow pilgrims who found her displays of devotion unbearable.  But none of this stopped her.  Whether or not one is religious, Margery’s refusal to behave as a 15th century woman was expected to, provides us with a positive and liberating template for how we lead our lives nowadays.

Jane Austen (1775-1817)

When I read Pride and Prejudice at the age of 14, Jane Austen became one of my favourite writers.  Whilst some might argue that her romantic plots – which always end with the heroine’s marriage to a man of good financial means – simply perpetuate a myth of feminine dependence on men, I think there is something far more radical going on.  At a time when women mainly married for status and stability, Austen created heroines who were brave enough to reject the sensible choice if love was not involved: Elizabeth Bennet’s rejection of Mr Collins’s proposal in Pride and Prejudice springs to mind.  At the same time Austen knew that the heart could not over-rule the head when it came to romantic matters, and that financial stability was important in a marriage – hence the difficulties portrayed in the “imprudent marriage” of the poverty-stricken parents of Fanny Price in Mansfield Park.

This radical balance between heart and head can be seen in Austen’s own life.  Austen herself never married, and is thought to have rejected the one proposal she received – from a rich family friend, Harris Bigg-Wither, in December 1802 – because she did not love him, even though her family had welcomed the prospect.   In a letter she wrote to her motherless niece, Fanny, Austen imparted this timeless piece of advice:  “Anything is to be preferred or endured rather than marrying without affection”.  Austen, who died at the age of 41, obviously followed this advice and, as a 43 year old woman who is currently single and has neglected to have children – more by chance than by design – I find this advice helpful when told that perhaps I am single because I have set my sights too high or am too fussy; I don’t think Austen would have thought there was anything wrong with that!

George Eliot (1819-1880)

And so to George Eliot, my final choice, the woman who adopted a male pseudonym in order to be taken seriously as a writer.  Eliot’s life was a model of unconventionality and nonconformity: for 24 years she openly lived with George Lewes, who was already married; after his death she married a man 20 years her junior; throughout her life she fought against the limited expectations placed on women authors who were expected to only be able to write light-hearted romantic novels.  Theology, philosophy and politics run throughout Eliot’s novels, alongside realistic and psychologically complex portrayals of characters.

Dorothea Brooke in Middlemarch is probably Eliot’s greatest female creation.  Introduced on the first page as ‘remarkably clever’, she marries first the aged academic clergyman, Causabon, and after his death, his penniless nephew; her choices are criticised by her neighbours in the small Midlands town of Middlemarch.  She is also remarkable for her desire to do good, in a quiet, understated way.  As is noted in the book’s final paragraph:

But the effect of her being on those around her was incalculably diffusive: for the growing good of the world is partly dependent on unhistoric acts; and that things are not so ill with you and me as they might have been, is half owing to the number who lived faithfully a hidden life, and rest in unvisited tombs.

In these words lie also, I think, something else that is so inspiring about these three women writers – and many others that I have not mentioned.  Through their writing, they tell the world of “unhistoric acts” and “hidden lives” of remarkable women which might otherwise remain obscure; they challenge us to ensure that women’s voices are heard loud and clearly down through the ages.

If you want to be kept updated about the launch of Listening to our Grandmothers please sign up for my mailing list or join the Facebook page here.

On Ageing

Life cycle icon 2One of the subjects which I asked all the women I interviewed for Listening to our Grandmothers about was how they have felt about physical ageing?  Not surprisingly they gave a variety of responses.  One of the most interesting responses to that question came from Angela who I had the pleasure of meeting up with, to finalise her chapter, just last week.  When we met we both spoke about our frustration at the fact that Leah Totton who recently won this years Apprentice TV show wants to create a business that makes money from older people altering their natural faces.  Leah explained in her post-apprentice interviews that she would not herself be undergoing the cosmetic procedures she will be offering because the products were not for women of her age (24).  Rather she said they were ‘anti-ageing products’ but that Lord Sugar’s 66 year old face was ‘fine the way it was’.  This leads me to the obvious question, ‘Is it just women whose faces she thinks should be protected from ageing?  Something about all of this feels all wrong to me.  In fact I don’t mind sharing that watching the final of the Apprentice actually made me weep with frustration.

Presumably Sir Alan saw the doubtless enormous potential for profit in selling to women the idea that they somehow need to fundamentally alter the way they are.  Of course it is nothing new to sell women an idealised, unattainable image of themselves as a means of generating profit.  But I do find myself wondering when it actually became ‘ordinary’ to alter our bodies and faces not just with diets and weight loss plans but surgical operations and procedures too.  To me when we buy in to the notion that there is something intrinsically wrong with the way that nature created us we are internalising the idea that there is something fundamentally wrong with the way women are.  That kind of self-criticism just can’t be good for us, not just individually but also collectively and I just long for a world that brings us up to accept, rather than desire to alter, what we fundamentally are.  Angela has a particular take on this as she has been life modelling now for a number of years.  It is interesting to hear from her that being a life model has been incredibly life affirming.  She talks about the positive feedback that images of her have inspired in our interview in Listening to our Grandmothers which will be available here to download soon.  And as I hear such life-affirming stories from the older women whom I have been interviewing I begin to wonder too there is something about the real, interesting, imperfect faces of ageing women that we, as a society, have come in some way to fear?  What might those faces tell us if they were given more opportunity to speak to us? Might they actually help us to create space for more positive, life affirming models of business if only we had the foresight to give them a chance?

If you want to be kept updated about the launch of Listening to our Grandmothers please sign up for my mailing list or join the Facebook page now.


It’s not just about what Granny did in the war…

Today I am excited to be posting the second of the Guest Blogs that I’ll be sharing in the run up to the release of Listening to our Grandmothers in September.  For the guest blogs I have asked a number of wonderful women to reflect on their experiences of Grandmothers or elder women in their lives.  I’m really proud to say that this post, about some of the things that we so often don’t talk about, is by my cousin Stephanie Gunner.  Stephanie who is a writer for LGBT Theatre and you can read more of her articles at

Profile Pic for Blogs (SG)

A friend of mine lamented the loss of the wisdom of elders to me recently, feeling it was a shame that in the modern age, we don’t have the collective reverence for older voices that countless civilisations before us have demonstrated. I agreed it does seem counter-intuitive not to consult with the voices of experience, and together we began to wonder why that tradition has been lost in Western society.

We wondered whether the sexual revolution may have had something to do with it, as younger people’s concerns extended from marriage and family matters to complex questions of sexuality, sexual desire and the struggles of navigating an increasingly multi-faceted romantic landscape. But what is it that stops us asking about these things? An assumption that all of our grandparents are sexually repressed as most of them were married pre-war? I’d argue against that notion, as I suspect it’s more a question of silence than inactivity. Throughout history, sexuality may not have been discussed in polite society but that doesn’t mean it’s not still happening behind closed doors.

The reason I say this is because both of my grandmothers were incredibly vibrant; unconventional figures, who imbued me with a sense of the fun and philosophical in their own respective ways. They also managed to impart a couple of strong influences, albeit indirect ones, on the way I saw myself; my body and my sexuality.

My maternal grandmother, Joan, was a larger than life character, remembered by me for her colourful dresses, frequent travels abroad and her penchant for tipping a little extra sherry in the trifle. From her I learned to make the most of life and opportunities, as well as not to care too much what my body happened to look like. When I was small, I was sitting on her bed one day while she was getting dressed into her swimsuit and I asked her why there was a foam lump in the front of the suit. She told me it was her bra-filler, as she’d had a single mastectomy as a result of breast cancer before I was born. I remember being surprised as I’d never heard of such things before, and it was an early example for me of how our bodies are not all the same. She certainly showed me that difference is nothing to be ashamed of, too. At a subsequent family barbecue to celebrate her birthday she decided to model one of her presents for fun: a long silky nightie. The laughter and cheers as she came outside quipping ‘Are you sitting comfortably?’, showed me how you can be comfortable and happy in your skin despite what your body may have gone through. It’s a lesson that should have been more obvious of course, but as I grew up in a world of teen magazines and airbrushed photos, it was good to have that memory as a counterpoint to prescribed perfection. I learned that our bodies are the stories of our lives and experiences, and we should be proud of all we have survived and accomplished.

My paternal grandmother, Iris, was less outwardly performative but had a spiritual vibrancy that transcended appearances. She described make-up as war paint, gave her cats three names each and had a love of all things Native American. As I grew into a teenager, she wasn’t shy about mentioning boys and relationships, and when I was in my twenties she spoke to me a little about what she saw ahead for me in love. It’s not something I want to go into detail about here, but suffice it to say if she’s right I have a lot to look forward to. A lot of emotional jungle to machete through too of course, don’t we all, but her optimistic outlook is still a source of comfort to me. Also, when I was 18 she gave me a book on sex and horoscopes, confidently telling me at the time that there was nothing shameful about sexual desire and that it is ‘the last thing to go’ as one gets older, and that makes her legendary in my book.

So I would argue it’s not necessarily that we’ve lost access to that voice of the elders; it’s that we have to find new ways to listen, particularly when it comes to sexuality. There doesn’t need to be that disconnect, if we understand that frankness is a style of discourse that may not have been available to our grandmothers as they grew into women. We may never be able to have as candid a discussion about sex with our elders as some of us would like, and many of us will struggle to ask the questions we really want to put to the voices of experience, but I hope this is something that becomes easier as we move forward. It’s naïve to think those older than us have nothing to teach us about love and desire, and as we post-1960s children get older, I hope we continue the discussion around sex and relationships with future generations. The more I remember of my childhood around my grandmothers, the more I realise I was listening and asking questions all along; I just hadn’t worked out how to vocalise them yet.

You can find Stephanie @StephanieGunner or @TheatreLGBT.  If you want to be kept updated about the launch of Listening to our Grandmothers please sign up for my mailing list or join the Facebook page here. (edit)

Who do you think you are?

Last September I posted this on Facebook:

Me and Jules Who do you think you are?

 I trained as an anthropologist and spent a lot of time reading and researching who other people thought they were.

 Somehow in the process I got curious about my own heritage. As a result last weekend I met Jules, my fourth cousin – part of my matrilineal extended family!

 We share an ancestor from Mexico City, Joseph Cassasola who married an English woman called Elizabeth and eventually returned here with their children (our great, great grandparents)

What stories has your family remembered? And which ones have been forgotten?

On reflection I suspect that I was born with a natural urge to explore where I come from.  Of course the answer turns out to be, lots of places.  It also made anthropology an obvious discipline for me.  And I am glad because what I have learnt from the study of it has opened up my mind irrevocably even if, as one of the Grandmothers I interview in the forthcoming book Listening to our Grandmothers points out, the gifts of anthropology can also feel like a burden.

Our heritages are almost always diverse and surprising.   The particular heritage I share with my fourth cousin Jules is traced through my maternal grandmother through her father to his Grandfather.  The main reason I knew of my Mexican ancestor was that my Grandmother’s maiden name was Cassasola, which, though common in Mexico was a rare name in this country in the 1850s.  This makes Joseph, and his wife, Elizabeth fairly easy to trace through birth, marriage and death records, something that Jules has done a great job of!

But as this story illustrates, if I am a little bit Mexican (a 36th I think), I am also a little bit of lots of other things too.  Many of these I don’t have records of.  In fact most of us have probably forgotten as much of our heritage as we have remembered.  Our ancestors and communities, often for good reason, have selected what to pass down to us about who we are.  And it may well be that has been forgotten is often more interesting than what is remembered.

In March this year I gave a talk entitled, Where do you feel at home? In it I explored the different ways that we can relate to and create a sense of being at home somewhere.  This is deeply related of course to who we think we are.  And we have choices here.  In that talk I encouraged my listeners to explore what it would be like to approach life choosing to feel at home everywhere they went.  I suggested that they might do this by focusing on the things that connect us rather than those that make us feel different. A taster of that talk is given in the image below.  I hope to be able to share footage of it here very soon.

where do you feel at home?

In choosing to record the stories of Grandmothers for my forthcoming project and, hopefully, in doing so, encouraging you to listen to the stories of the older women around you one of my main purposes is to deepen your sense of connection to multiple histories.  Be that to the women that biologically came before you or to the deep wisdom women carry and that our society has so often chosen to neglect.  By listening to, recording and sharing stories I have a profound sense that we quite literally make our own herstory.  To stay a part of the Listening to our Grandmothers project please sign up for my mailing list or join the Facebook page here.

My maternal grandmother by Judith Morgan

I’m very excited today to be posting the first of a number of Guest Blogs that I’ll be sharing in the run up to the release of Listening to our Grandmothers in September.  For the guest blogs I have asked a number of wonderful women to reflect on their experiences of Grandmothers or elder women in their lives.  This first post is from the lovely Judith Morgan, an accountant, coach, mentor, blogger and  juicing enthusiast.  This beautiful piece is about Judith’s memories of one of her grandmothers. 


JudithMy maternal grandmother, Grannie Symonds, was a farmer’s wife who was born, married, lived and died in and around Weymouth in Dorset, England. My mother, Daphne, was the youngest of her six children and I was the fourth youngest of her eleven grandchildren.

My earliest memories of Grannie are of her working hard on the farm and to create enormous family gatherings of upwards of 20 people with splendid farmhouse meals, all fresh, all home-grown and home-cooked and all in black and white, like the photographs. My memories are photographic.

Grannie was strong and silent, gentle and kind, accepting, loving and giving. I often went to stay with her without my parents, when a child, and my father found her much easier to love than his own mother. I want to say she was a matriarch but that would definitely be without a capital M. Strong and silent, she was the power behind the throne who commanded love and respect by dint of her admirable personality and stoicism. She died on her 86th birthday, no illness, no fuss.

Both my grandparents, as farmers, were entrepreneurs, the only example I can point to in three generations of my family, apart from myself, so something about their way of life and their work ethic must have rubbed off as I later went on to create my own albeit urban version of that.

The influences Grannie bequeathed to me include a love of church music, she played at the tiny church on her farm and I often played at school and at church as hymns were sung.  She was tall and upright and values driven, as am I.  She made all her own clothes and for her four daughters including their wedding dresses, bridesmaids’ dresses and going away outfits, a skill I inherited too. These are old fashioned women’s skills, church, cooking and sewing. Today, they seem to me to be all the better for being somewhat out of fashion.

She had a special name for me – Jooge – born of my younger brother trying to say my name – Judith – when he was a tiny. She never forgot that and always used it; it allowed me to feel special too.

I am sad I cannot find any photos of her to share with you, Gentle Reader. However I don’t need photos to remember her and now that I think about it I can feel her in my DNA. I did think I might have a recipe in her own handwriting to share but was unable to find that either; my own 58 year-old memory deceiving me. But I do have the recipe itself – it’s very English and I hope you enjoy it.

Grannie’s Salad Dressing

  • I teacup of sugar
  • I teacup of vinegar
  • I teacup of milk
  • 2 oz butter
  • 1 tsp salt
  • 1 tsp mustard
  • I tsp plain flour
  • 1 egg, well beaten

Put all the ingredients in a saucepan and stir until it thickens. Cool before use.

I remember it goes very well with new potatoes and one of those funny 1950s English salads which are all about lettuce, cucumber and tomatoes with nothing fancy or “foreign” in them but, again, this is just a memory of the times in which Grannie Symonds lived and worked and loved and died, England in the 1900s. Grannie S was a woman of her time who kept the home fires burning through two world wars.

It is a wonderful feeling knowing that some of her indomitable spirit lives on in me and I celebrate her by living according to her light.

You can find Judith at or @JudithMorgan.  If you want to be kept updated about the launch of Listening to our Grandmothers please sign up for my mailing list or join the Facebook page here.

So what if you don’t have a grandmother?

So what about if you don’t have a grandmother, at least you don’t have one that you knew?  Or what if your grandmother memories are old and faded and there is little that you remember really at all?

Often we didn’t have or know the physical presence of a grandmother.  Sometimes we don’t even have any stories about the women, our maternal grandmother, in whose belly the egg that made us was first created.

I’ve been wondering about this as I talk to women about their experiences or lack of experiences of their grandmothers.

One thing I am clear about is that the point of the Listening to our Grandmothers project is not to make people who didn’t know or don’t remember their grandmothers feel like something is missing.

In fact, even though it’s called Listening to our Grandmothers, in the book which I will launch in September, one of the interviews is actually with my Mum.  The real impetous of the project is to play a small part in re-writing the fact that there seems to be so little valuing of the stories of older women in our communities and institutions.  It is also to point out that, whether we knew them or not, those that went before us play a part in our heritage, in who we think we are.

An article I read recently called ‘Grandma’s Experiences Leave a Mark on Your Genes‘ reviews research which appears to have shown the impact of the lives our ancestors lived on our very DNA apparently affected how we feel about our lives and treat the people around us. (Be warned this scientific research involves animals). If it is true that our DNA can be impacted upon by events in our ancestors lifetimes, it is surely also that case that the experiences of our own lives can transform negative patterns in our ancestral past and transform our DNA for the next generation.

We know that women’s lives even a generation ago were more restricted that those we live today.  This science seems to suggest that, whether we knew our grandmother or not, any oppression she experienced could be impacting our lives today.  It’s not surprising then that centuries of patriarchy have taken their toll on most of us in some way or other and that often we feel this reality deeply even if it hasn’t been our direct experience in every aspect of our own lives.

We may not be able to get back the stories of the grandmothers we never knew, but here in our present we can make a choice to really listen to the elders in our lives right now.  To our mothers, our aunts, to those we meet as we go about our daily lives and to our grandmothers if we still have them.  We can make the choice to live a life of respect for elders and for the stories of women.  If we can find ways to really listen to each other and to tell our stories I think we will make a difference to the next generation too.  If you want to be kept updated about the launch of Listening to our Grandmothers please sign up for my mailing list or join the Facebook page here.


The Grandmother Spirit

I first started writing about Grandmothers more than 20 years ago.  It was part of a school project.  My paternal Grandmother Margot had a degenerative condition that meant that, though she had some vivid memories of the past she no longer knew who any of us were.  It was too late then for me to ask her some of the questions I ask of the women who I’ve interviewed for my Listening to our Grandmother’s Project but I suppose that it does suggest that a connection to older women and a sense of wanting to understand the women who went before me has been with me for a very long time.

In 1992 I was a teenager. I wrote about a visit to my Grandmother because I wanted to understand what was happening to her. I wanted to put some sense in to the confusion I experienced when we went to visit her.  At the time I wrote:

There is a sense of Growing Down about my grandmother, a sense in which her mind and body are no longer growing, but rather, deteriorating.  Maybe this seems a natural conclusion to life, a slow removal of it. A reversal of its constant growth from birth.  Almost like she is returning to the beginning, to her original state…I would like to think she had passed some of her strength on to me now.  That the ambition and liveliness she once had lives on in me now.  That I am somehow something of her.  As I grow, she declines, my strength is her gift to me.  Her liveliness is not dying, simply moving on.  

IMG_0926Bold thoughts perhaps for a 15 year old, but looking back on them now I’m reminded of the clear sense I had then of the way that life is passed on to us through generations.  Margot died soon after I wrote that and much of what I know about her life has been passed down to me by my Grandfather Ted and my parents.  Amazingly too when Ted died he left us not just her photos, one of which now sits on the side of my desk but also her war time dairies meaning that I do in fact still have, some of her words.

Listening to our Grandmothers is a project that has been coming together for a few years.  As I interviewed women in their 60s and 70s about their lives for a book I’ll be releasing in a few months time I started to develop a sense of how much we need the stories of older women and our connections to them.  Somewhere in the process of hearing and recording all of the stories that were shared with me by the women I spoke with I found a deeper sense of the connectedness to the women who went before us that I want to share and celebrate through this piece of work.  Alice Walker talks about the importance of the ‘Grandmother Spirit’ and this work is all about honouring that.  If you want to be kept updated about the launch of Listening to our Grandmothers please sign up for my mailing list or join the Facebook page here.