Words for my “Nanny Topping”

My grandmother preferred to be called, “Nanny”…it is a British tradition. I think about her often, now that I am very near the same age she was, when I knew her as a kid. I have often wondered what would I say to her if I had a chance?

This picture captures her very well. She loved her pint of beer, usually Guinness and a rolled cigarette. In this photo I believe she is 71 years old…1972.

The first thing I would do is apologize for not taking her abdominal issues seriously. I always thought she was a fussy eater….. I have her same gut now that I am 62 and frankly it looks good on me. For years, I would plague Nanny Topping with my own ridiculous youthful thoughts on HER tummy. Really. Please tell me I’m kidding. NOPE. She often had a ring of white around her mouth from eating Milk of Magnesia tablets. She really struggled with flatulence….hello. Here I am suffering the same damn thing. I have had gurgling, bloating, pain and now I get it.

Hallelujah. Thank goodness, I finally realize how difficult the bloating and gas was for her. I loved My Nanny Topping. She was often a godsend in my life because she arrived with so much love and understanding. I can remember waking up in the middle of the night, when I had piddled the bed and I blamed her! I was ten. She reassured me that she was absolutely soaked and it had nothing to do with her bladder. OMG did we laugh. In the middle of the night we flipped the mattress and went back to sleep. No judgment from Nanny. She was a bit of a saint but, not perfect….thank goodness. Who is?

One afternoon I wasn’t well and I didn’t want to return to school….we cozied up on the chesterfield and watched Coronation Street instead. What a great moment that was. We just hung out and talked about her life experiences throughout the war years in England. I was in grade five and it was also the year she curled my hair with rags and prepared me for my class photo. I felt loved by Nanny in a way that was simple and my sister Janet has a similar memory – laying on nanny”s lap while she rubbed her head and watched Coronation Street. We all remember sunday roasts and “spotted dog” or “steamed pudding” for dessert this effort was much appreciated.

I have many memories, including me in a high chair (early 1960’s) “The Archers” on the radio, a boiled egg and war stories. There were several moments where the possibility for discussing the bombing of London became possible…a thunderstorm scared her. She once stood by the kitchen sink looking out the window and said to me that the doodle bug would hum its way across the English Channel and then suddenly run out of gas and land on any unsuspecting neighbourhood. She was visibly moved by these experiences.

The history of the V1 flying bomb is astounding really…..”Almost 10,000 V1 flying bombs were targeted at London in 1944, where they caused extensive damage. More than 6,000 people were killed in a few months by the V1s, which were known as “doodlebugs” or “buzz bombs” from the distinctive sounds of their pulse-jets. In September 1944, Germany started firing its second “retaliation weapon,” the V2 rocket, against London. V2s flew on a ballistic arc of more than 50 miles (80 km) in altitude, and hit their targets at more than three times the speed of sound. They were effectively impossible to shoot down.”

I have a vivid memory of her telling me about being evacuated from London during the Blitz, just before her house was blown to pieces. They lost everything.

Nanny and her three children were evacuated into separate homes on the coast of England. Those stories are forever lost, because they weren’t spoken about very much. But, I know she was haunted by her past, and she lost a two year old to diphtheria, and her young husband to a bleeding ulcer. Life was very challenging in those years and I am forever grateful that I do remember and acknowledge some of her pain.

Nanny arrived on a BOA jet once a year and stayed for a year. After her stay, she returned to family in England for a year; before returning to us. When she was around; life was quite different and we didn’t need a babysitter which suited us all very well. All four of us at one time or another fell into the frozen creek in Cedarbrae Park and we all have similar memories….Janet told her she had fallen in a puddle! Nanny let her stay home for the afternoon – she knew she was happy for the company. My brother used to tease Nanny and most often made sure he was home for a cup of tea at the end of a long day at school. And then it was time for Nanny to go back to England.

Photo by Alex Powell on Pexels.com


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