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From my grandma's house

Today's post is a little late – I've been travelling back from deepest Cornwall. As some of you may have seen yesterday, I was in St Ives, where my grandma lived for many, many years until she died last year.

The hearty sea air, steep walk to the top of the hill her house is on (and a LOT of brandy) are all what kept her going until 101 years old. So she had a good, long stretch. This weekend, I went to chip in with the vast task of sorting through all her things. Needless to say, there were many mementoes of her that I wanted to keep...

Of course, it was sad to be back in her house, but without her: frowning at me because I hadn't poured a generous enough slug of Courvoisier into her coffee; flirting with/ruthlessly insulting my boyfriends ("You couldn't pull the skin off a rice pudding!" she brilliantly told one, when I was 18); telling me that I really shouldn't wear nail varnish with such stubby nails; that my face was too small for such long hair (she was always right) – or just that she really, really loved me, I liked remembering all that. And it's funny how vivid the memories are when you stumble across things you'd forgotten about, or that you've seen in only one context, or just always really, really loved. I found myself having lots of conversations with my gran as I picked things up and put them in boxes – and as some went in the bin, I asked her to forgive me. I hope she will. But knowing her, she won't.

This is my granny, above, with two of the Dachshunds she owned. She had four in total, I think, the next batch were the children of these two... I think... but this was taken in 1964, and so it was all a bit before my time. She was terrifyingly stylish and always beautiful – and here she's already into her 50s, but looking many years younger.

I also went through her wardrobes, and could picture her in most of thing things hanging in them. Things she hadn't touched for years as she'd become less and less mobile – and unable to find the occasion to wear a tailored Jaegar suit or Burberry raincoat. I'm gutted we're not the same size – or my wardrobe would now be vastly more sophisticated. I took a few things though; some lovely cashmere jumpers and elegant costume jewellery, and hope to re-home the rest somewhere sympathetic.

Among her stuff, I found little love-notes her (third) husband had written her ("You make my eyes boggle" read one). Even into her 80s she had gentlemen callers writing her desperate love poetry dedicated to her curves (still in the right places, even then). On, I think, her 97th birthday, we took her down to the wonderful Porthminster Beach Cafe right underneath the cliff that her house is perched upon. I remember that she used her walking stick more as a flirting aid than a walking aid – and by the time we left, all the eyes of the old chaps in the restaurant were boggling too.

There were many (excellently indiscreet) tales about the men who loved her, including three husbands; two of whom she found very disappointing, and a third she adored, though not as much as the handsome Air Force officer she broke off with in the 1950s because he was 10 years her junior, even though he was, she always said, "the love of my life".

But I digress. I keep many memories, but on top of those here are some of the bits of furniture and household things I brought home to incorporate just a few of those memories physically into my own home...

This is one of those things that is sort of probably awful. But I like to think of my gran's glamour peaking in the era when lamps like this were the deeply fashionable.

She was first an art teacher, and then a full-time artist. She made a living from selling oil paintings of chubby cheeked children on the beaches of Cornwall. Tourists loved them. But her nude sketches, to me, are far more beautiful.
There's something about going through treasured possessions that feels a bit like being in a really brilliant junk shop and having someone saying, "Go on, take anything you like." This giant old-school radio may not even work (I need to check the fuse), but I couldn't resist its analogue charms, nor the wooden casing.

This artist's model isn't anything unique or unusual. I just love it because it was hers and I know she used it all the time. Much like the paint-spattered stool it is standing upon... that's a piece of furniture with a story you can really see. And I like that. It shall become a little side table somewhere.

Yes, it does need rewiring, but come on. It's a beautiful old Anglepoise. I couldn't leave that!

Not collectors' items. Just nice shapes, I thought.

This lovely wooden clock makes me think of it being cocktail o'clock in the days when  my granny and her late husband would dress up and get their friends in for posh canapes, strong drinks and, as my granny used to put it, generally a bit of "swanking about".

Hmm, it was getting on at this point. This classic piece of Hornsea Pottery doesn't even have its cork lid anymore. But it'd make a good vase, no?

Yes. Ahem. And later still... But this is a collectors' item!


  1. Lovely to hear about your Gran she sounds fabulous!!
    Loving that lamp too!

    1. Thank you for the nice message... I reckon the lamp is a keeper too!

  2. What a heartwarming account of your last few days Kate. Sounds like your Grandma rocked! I'm sure she'll approve of the pieces you have taken to help you cherish those wonderful memories of her. Thank you for sharing them with us x

    1. What a lovely message, thank you Debra. I hope she'd approve too, though knowing her she'd have lots to say about where I put them! x

  3. What a lovely post, she sounds like an amazing lady! Reminds me of my own granny who is 99 now, and was a potter. She also has a house full of wonderful things which we are slowly finding homes for - lots of memories attached to all the wierd and wonderful objects.

    1. Thank you for leaving such a nice message. Good to hear of other epic-ly old, supercool grandmothers. Sounds like she must have lots of wonderful things that will be treasured down the generations (I've also got a bracelet my granny gave me years ago, which I have a photo of my great grandmother wearing). I hope yours makes it to 100, my gran's birthday was really special. And you get a card not only from the Queen but also Iain Duncan Smith. We had a good laugh about his motives.