100 Years Young!

Yesterday, my maternal Grandmother, Hanna Gertrude Holm-Petersen Bedford (Gertie) was 100! Here she is with my Uncle John, and my Ma, Ingrid.

Who knew there were so many 100th birthday cards available? Here are a few of Gertie’s cards…

…and here are a few more, and some family photos.

Gertie had a telegram from this woman in a yellow dress.

We decided that 100 candles would be a little too many to blow out…

…but Gertie did have a handsome wine waiter of her own :-)…

…and her two granddaughters.

Gertie Thoughts

My folks are here this weekend and we went up to Alveston to see Gert and Dord (my Grandmother and Uncle). I always find these visits very sad. When I was a kid, trips to ‘Valhalla’ – trips to my my Grandmother’s house were treats indeed. We’d play all day; either by the water or in the water; make reed boats; row (as it boat…) ; and have picnics – all very Famous Five.

And now all the energy has gone – Gertie is 99 and half – living in a nursing home down the road, and my Uncle and the wallpaper are growing old together (although he’s far more active than most people half his age). It’s just that Gertie was always so ALIVE – full of fire and spirit. I feel as if part of me has gone – has withered on the vine.

Memento mori? Or rather ‘what will survive of us is love’?

Good news from Alveston

I am REALLY pleased to be able to report that Gertie (here in her trademark red, with my Uncle John) is a lot better. I hadn’t realised just how upset and tense I was about her, until I felt the huge surge of relief when I saw her this morning. She is still having problems with her grip, which means she can’t eat or drink by herself. However, when I went to leave she gripped my hand so tightly I couldn’t pull it away (and yes, that broke my heart).

My Uncle’s house is outside Alveston village where Gertie is in a nursing home. As it was such a beautiful day we took the river footpath there and back.

The river is deeply meshed into my relationship with Gertie. It was here she taught us to swim; the art of the picnic; how to make reed boats; the sensual delight of swimming naked and then drying your skin in the sun; and how to row a boat.

I love the river path as it is always quiet and seems to be outside time.

This lily bed will be glorious in a few weeks time.

I’m really pleased with the dappled sunlight on the right hand side of this picture. Don’t you wish you were here?

Glorious No More

I went up to Alveston to see Gertie today. The Dr thinks that she’s had another brain stem stroke. This has caused various neurological damage, including impairing her ability to swallow (it takes 26 muscles and 5 brain operations apparently – wow). She didn’t know me when I arrived, the first time that’s ever happened – although she had ‘warmed up’ by the time I left.

She was/is a strange and difficult woman, but always magnificent. As my Dad once said, she should really have been leading a barbarian horde with a sabre between her teeth. It’s dreadful to see her so reduced.

I have been very blessed to have 3 such strong, feisty women as Auntie Joan, Rowan and Gertie in my life. Losing them hurts.

Gertie’s Garden

After the experience of taking Grandpa and Rowan’s house apart, it was reassuring to visit ‘Valhalla’ and find that nothing had really changed in my Grandmother’s garden. It still has lots of little paths…

…odd shaped trees….

…the woodpile we used to hide behind when playing hide and seek, or when we didn’t want to come in to bed.

But best of all the gate that leads down to the landing stage, the boat, and the river.

In amongst the rest of the flowers, I found this tulip. Bravely trying to grow through a hedge. It seemed very symbolic, but I’m not sure of what.