Down means out

Today I’ve been thinking about inheritance. Not, in case you’re wondering, the kind of inheritance which means you don’t need to worry about paying the mortgage, or makes you the proud owner of Great Aunt Bessie’s socks. No, the hand me downs I have been pondering are more along the lines of what you inherit emotionally.

My Grandmama (of underlined thank you letter fame in ‘About the book’) was a MOB of fine standing. With not just three, but four strapping boys to her name, she had both her house, and her hands, full. Together with my Grandfather (think Father Christmas re-incarnate) they lived a slightly bohemian existence, first as school teachers and later on as youth hostel wardens. They also, obviously, lived in different times.

Their 1940s and 1950s boys were left outside in their prams to ‘exercise their lungs’, walked miles across the fields to catch the bus to their school and were banished from the house sometime after breakfast and only allowed back inside when it got dark. With no television, the wireless was the focus of family life, practising ‘Singing Together’ songs a highlight of the week.

Our 2000 and something sons are – in so many ways – being brought up, in another world.

My feeble attempts at ‘controlled crying’ just made me feel ill, if I park a smidgeon further from school than the usual five minute wander, a rebellion ensues, and on the occasions (many) when I do kick the boys out into the garden, I nevertheless want to know exactly where they are and when they’ll be back. And contemplating life without a TV (albeit with appropriate modern-day screen-rationing in force) is like imagining a Devon cream tea without the clotted cream. I know, I know, utterly ridiculous.

Amidst all the differences however, there are elements of ‘Grandmama’ which still survive. And these elements are known in our house as ‘Grandmama’s Rules.’ Thus:
No. 1: No sticks are allowed inside the house. (I have, in a bid to minimise lunacy, extended this to swords and balls and anything which can be ‘brandished’.)
No. 2: No toys at the table. (Or actually, anything that is not there to be eaten or drunk. Anything else will be fiddled with, faffed with or knocked over. All of which distract from the operation of eating.)
No. 3: Down means out. (If you get down from the table, you’ve obviously finished and therefore you leave the kitchen. This is admittedly a little trickier to police in our open-plan abode.)
No. 4: Do not use the towels as hankies. (I have to accede that this has never had to be implemented. The boys refuse to use a hankie – towel or otherwise – and prefer to sniff, incessantly, uselessly and loudly, instead.)

So, in our house – and I know at least one other household where they have adopted many of the above – Grandmama’s legacy lives on. The fantastic thing about the fact that these are her rules – and not mine – is that I am not to blame for banishing fun. And of course, the other fantastic thing is that the rules can be added to, amended or adapted as the situation requires: the perfect answer to every tricky MOB moment.

Surely an emotional inheritance worth its weight in gold.

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