Family life: My melancholy grandfather who I by no means knew; Glenn Miller’s In the Mood; stolen brussels sprouts | Life and magnificence


Snapshot: Mum with Aunt Geth and my grandparents

The little lady on the entrance on this image is my mom, Blenda, who was born in 1920. Behind her are her massive sister Geth, her mom, Blodwyn, and father, William John Hockey, my grandfather, who was referred to as John. I by no means knew my grandfather as a result of he died in 1950, 2 years earlier than I used to be born. He died in Herrison hospital, which was the Dorset County Asylum, the place he spent the final 13 years of his life.

I’ve all the time puzzled about my misplaced grandfather. I see the good-looking man within the photograph, standing so proudly together with his household, and I’m wondering what led to his psychological decline. He was hardly ever spoken of, little question due to the stigma hooked up to psychological sickness. I know that he labored as an insurance coverage agent and I recall being advised that “he just couldn’t cope”.

When my mom died in 2008, I inherited eight letters my grandfather wrote to his household from Herrison hospital between 1934 and 1944. In lovely handwriting, he expresses himself eloquently. He was clearly an clever and educated man. His love for his household and disappointment at his separation from them come by strongly. There is little proof of a disordered thoughts, however his despair and sense of non-public failure are clear. In 1 letter, he asks how Blenda did in her exams, including, “sometimes I feel as though I have sat for an exam in the school of life and have come out a miserable failure. I wonder if I sat again, whether I could yet be successful”.

He reminisces about how Blenda liked to play along with her dolls as a bit of lady, and was all the time singing. He writes “wouldn’t I love to push your bike for you, if ever we go cycling together again”. Sadly, they by no means did. In 1940, he makes knowledgeable feedback concerning the conflict and needs he may contribute to the conflict effort. (By this time, my mom was a nurse working on the army hospital in Gosport.) He describes her letters to him as “like oases in the desert” and writes of “intense feelings of loneliness”. He died from pneumonia and coronary heart illness on 8 April 1950, aged 62.

Herrison hospital closed to sufferers in 1986 and affected person data had been saved at Dorset History Centre. I utilized for my grandfather’s data and obtained 4 A3-sized pages of handwritten medical notes from his admission in April 1936 till his loss of life 13 years later. He was recognized with “melancholia” and is described as profoundly depressed. The notes are very sparse, however there are intervals of enchancment, with descriptions of “a quiet, well-behaved man, much brighter and conversational, a good worker”.

My grandfather doesn’t complain of harsh or merciless remedy. His letters point out outings to the seaside, cricket matches, an annual sports activities day, and journeys to the cinema. He loved arranging flowers. However, there have been no trendy medicine accessible to deal with his melancholy, and after so a few years I think about he turned institutionalised. It could be very unhappy to assume that lately he would most likely have been efficiently handled in the neighborhood.

In 1945, 5 years earlier than he died, his notes report that “he thinks he has been forgotten by everybody”. I wish to assume that remembering him now and honouring his battle goes some method to restoring him to his household.

Catherine Webley

Playlist: Big-band enjoyable for blissful lunchtimes

Watch Glenn Miller: In the Mood

In the Mood by Glenn Miller

As the primary strains of In the Mood start, I’m instantly again in my grandparents’ eating room, aged wherever from about 5 proper up till my late teenagers. My brother and I would go to stick with them a couple of occasions a yr, dropped off by our (as we noticed it) rule-making, housework-focused dad and mom, and left for a blissful few days of board video games, days out and lavish consideration.

We had been all the time allowed to decide on a cassette to hearken to throughout lunch (breakfast being the strict reserve of Terry Wogan, and tea naughtily taken on trays in entrance of the TV – we didn’t care that it was Antiques Roadshow, we liked it) and we’d all the time select a Best of Glenn Miller tape simply because it had In the Mood on it.

As young children, we liked the sudden “Bah Baaah!” of the large band, and as youngsters we merely liked it for the custom and sentiment and slight irony that we had all the time finished it this fashion, and we all the time would do it this fashion. In my grandparents’ eating room we might giggle with Grandma as we stuffed the holes in our potato waffles with peas, and squeal with delight as Grandad walked his fingers throughout the desk, pretending to steal our prized chocolate treats.

Nowadays, a number of years after they’ve each died, In the Mood is a reminder of these fantastic, particular occasions we spent collectively that may by no means be forgotten, and that may by no means get replaced.

Laura Ansbro

We like to eat: Grandma’s stolen brussels sprouts

brussels sprouts

Buttered-up brassicas … brussels sprouts Photograph: abzee/Getty Images/iStockphoto

75g brussels sprouts per individual
Boiling water to cowl
1 pinch of salt
1 small knob of butter
Ground black pepper

Remove the outer leaves. Cut a small cross within the bases to permit the sprouts to prepare dinner evenly. Place in a big saucepan and canopy with boiling water. Boil for 5 minutes till simply tender. Drain properly. Serve with black pepper and melted butter.

My grandmother was hospitable, virtually to a fault. Whenever we visited, we’d discover ourselves inundated with snacks and treats – goodies, crisps, and the ever present bowl of combined nuts on the espresso desk. Holidays at her home had been punctuated by toast browning on the tines of an extended fork, held rigorously above the coals of the fireplace she’d construct each morning. But the meals I most keep in mind her for was brussels sprouts.

Sunday wasn’t Sunday with no roast of some variety. And Grandma by no means disenchanted. Nestled alongside the meat, potatoes, peas and carrots, there would all the time be a pile of boiled sprouts. Dark green, iron-rich and slightly bitter, a small flock of miniature cabbages.

Knowing that children were rarely fond of vegetables basically and sprouts particularly, Grandma would wait till my dad and mom’ backs had been turned. Then, her hand would dart to my plate, catch as lots of the offending brassicas as potential and switch them stealthily to her personal – fast sufficient to keep away from gravy on the most effective tablecloth or seize by my mum. This method, I may keep away from consuming all my greens and nonetheless be allowed pudding. It was an act of care, sacrifice and generosity and I adored her for it, each single time.

There was just one small drawback along with her plan. I’ve all the time liked sprouts. I liked my grandmother extra, although. So I by no means complained, unwilling to look ungrateful or to get her in bother for this minor revolt in opposition to dinner-time etiquette. The mischeivous twinkle in her eye and the furtive cameraderie all the time appeared properly definitely worth the lack of my favorite vegetable.

These days, I favor my sprouts roasted to boiled. But after trimming away the outer leaves, I nonetheless minimize a small cross into the bottom, as a result of it’s what Grandma used to do. And, regardless of the recommendation of superstar cooks, they style higher for it.

Even if nobody is attempting to steal them.

Hannah Stephenson

Guardian Staff from

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