A Liverpool Love Story is based on the stories I heard or was told about my paternal, Liverpool, grandparents Andrew and Hilda Miller (nee Farnan). Grandma was the storyteller which is why her story is written in the first person. My Grandad passed away in 1997 and Grandma just this year. Both the stories were written separately about ten years ago when I was doing my professional writing course. Grandma’s death this year prompted me to dig them out again, rewrite them and put them together.
My Grandad was something of a comedian who loved to play practical jokes to make his friends and family smile but he expressed his love in many ways. He was a great cook and had spotted and bought the cakes and ice creams before anybody else had smelt or heard of them, let alone got as far as thinking of it. He was a talented artist and carpenter, who recycled wood salvaged from skips into tables, rocking horses and book cases. He was also extremely intuitive and kind. When I was 17 and in complete despair over having failed my driving test (again!) he gave me his car keys and let me drive myself to work in his car. This small gift of complete belief and trust is one I’ll never forget.
This is what I said about Grandma at her funeral this year:
When I think of Grandma, I remember how loving she was and how this love manifested itself: in her smile, in her laugh and in her unrelenting efforts to make sure everyone around her was happy. I think Grandma lived by the philosophy that ‘the way to be happy is to make others so.’ Whenever we were with Grandma we were happy. She had a song for every saying, a story for every situation and always threw herself into being a bit silly if she thought it would make us smile. There are songs I only know because she sang them to me, songs about girls that wore red feathers and hulee hulee skirts! I know the story about how she met Grandad off by heart, how his arrival on her doorstep was predicted in the tea leaves and how he had a fight with Billy Griffiths so that he could tell her ‘You are going out with me now!’ I know about how when she was pregnant she thought Aunty Lynda was going to come out of the crease in her tummy and when Dad was born she thought he was covered in the fat from the boiled bacon she’d eaten the night before!
When Shelley and I crept into bed with her in the morning, she made animals and flowers out of her headscarf, immersed us in the Liverpool of her youth and wrapped us in love. When we’d visit she’d take us into the Village, buy us jelly sweets from the dairy and let us snuggle into her fur coat when we were cold. Once home she’d feed us Barra Brith and teach us to throw and catch in the garden. When we were older she was still looking out for us, slathering us with baby lotion when we were sunburnt and making me wash my dirty feet before going out with boys.
When we were sad, her mission would be to cheer us up and she’d be as silly as she could to achieve this. From dancing and singing “I just called to say I love you” as she walked us back along a road in Spain when Shelley was scared of the dark – to putting a bin lid on her head with tin foil antennae to dress up as the Millennium Bug for New Year in 2000. By this point I was way too cool for dressing up but she didn’t care and she got her smile!
Grandma was not just our Grandma she was a Grandma to everyone she met. Alongside Grandad they were a constant of my childhood: always there, always on our side and so easy together as a couple: their love for each other was inspirational. Grandma’s welcome, her kindness and her infectious optimism touched everyone who met her and so many people have their own stories and fond memories of her and of Grandad. She was truly loved and is truly unforgettable.
My grandparents had a life before I was born and this fascinated me. A Liverpool Love Story celebrates their lives and their long and enduring love for each other.