I know it is said of women that they turn into their mothers when they get older but it seems to me that I am turning into my grandmother and my paternal one at that. For a start we have the same name. She was Elizabeth Ellison until she married and then became Elizabeth Gill and I was named after her.
Her family ran a number of pubs in the area. Grandma did better than that, she practically ran Tow Law, the mining village where we lived when I was a child. She was famously late for church but since she was in the choir always walked straight to the front. She was on committees of various organisations and was the kind of housekeeper who had immaculately ordered cupboards. Grandma was a bit of a goer and loved dancing, whereas Grandpa, having been brought up as a Methodist either didn't know how to dance or didn't care to. So she went on her own.
I love dancing. I embarrass my friends by getting up and asking for very raunchy music. I like the sounds to bang off the ceiling and pour down the walls. I look like Grandma, who, alas was not one of the great beauties of her day. Also my cupboards are beginning to be organised and I want to help to run things.
Soroptimists International Durham of which I am a proud member had a tea party at my house last weekend for Water Aid, the wonderful charity which brings clean water to the poorest African countries.
This was the notion of my friend, Barbara who is a long time sorop. as we call ourselves and I think in her last existence must have owned teashops. We planned to have a garden party but the weather was cold and windy.
Above is Barbara wearing a hat and apron. She made these for the waitresses, she also made exquisite meringues, butterfly cakes and she bought or found three tiered cake stands, old fashioned tea sets and different coloured little jugs for the tables.
This is Sandra, standing beside the tombola table in my tiny garden room. She swept the patio, put out tables and chairs into the garden on Thursday and did her waitressing bit on Saturday. She also made hundreds of small sandwiches cut neatly into squares.
The intimacy of the two small rooms ( kitchen apart ) which I have downstairs meant that people had to talk to one another and they certainly did. For six hours they ate wonderful homemade food, drank tea or coffee, chatted and were looked after by the fantastic team of volunteers in the kitchen,washing up and carrying plates of cakes backwards and forwards.
This is Vyvyenne, one of the most dedicated sorops. with her mum who introduced her to the idea.My sitting room, enhanced by Barbara's lovely mum and Margaret, who is not only a soroptimist but works for the British Red Cross.
Margaret who is the best organised person I know and is secretary of S.I.Durham. Margaret is the sort of person who would put her hands into the dyke to stop the water coming out and succeed. On her right is Frances who has been a good friend right from when I joined the sorops.Our president, Maureen, sitting on my Laura Ashley sofa.
Alywn and her daughter. Alwyn I got to know when we had coffee last year at the Botanic Garden.Pat, who looked after me when I joined the sorops. in the same colour outfit as my house which was very tasteful of her and to her left, Kate, past president, and friends.Vera, friend, businesswoman and tireless charity workerHelen and Graham, my friends who live near Shotley Bridge.Liz, Books on Wheels volunteer, expert flower arranger and one of the friends I frequently have coffee with.Joan and Malcolm ( see previous post ) who were celebrating having been married a whole week.
It is said that when my grandma worked at her parents' pub, The Station Hotel at Consett, that she lined the pints up on the bar for the workmen coming in and regaled them with dirty stories. I could hear myself on Saturday telling people what to do and trying to make others laugh. My daughter too is a big organiser, very bossy and funny. Some of that she gets from her paternal grandmother who was another powerful woman. She would imitate other people to make us laugh and I can hear it now in my daughter's voice.
So thank you, Grandma, for my fat cheeks, my love of dancing, my name and my ability to make others laugh. I remember you as an old lady giving me money when I went to see you. Grandma said 'Money's round and meant to go round' and that's what we believe in Soroptimists International. Money is to go round us all and hold off poverty, lack of education and violence against women. We raised almost £400 on Saturday and are planning to do it again next year and you can all wear hats if you want to.