When I was little, my family would gather together at my Nanna’s house. She was a typical matriarch and attracted the fun crowd. She was also a feeder and would cook these amazing spreads for all my cousins, aunts and uncles at our family get-togethers.
My Nanna was also very musical, she played the organ, squeeze box, piano, and she sang. When my dad was young, they moved to Australia for a few years and Nanna had a job playing piano in a bar. Sometimes she’d stand on the bar, sing and play squeeze box. With no formal training, Nanna was an incredibly organic musician, playing by ear and unable to explain anything about what she was doing in technical terms. It just went in her ears and came out of her hands. I think she gave a dollop of that to me, since, although I have studied music, I work most happily by ear and follow the melodies in my mind.
My Dad’s family returned to the UK, life went on and my brother and I came along. Nanna had loads of siblings, nieces and nephews. When the family would all get together, Nanna would play squeeze box and we’d all sit around and sing. My brother, my cousins and I would sit underneath the organ, Nanna would pass round a huge bag of different types of percussion, we’d all take something so we could join in, and everyone would have a big singsong. I recently realised that I’ve been doing that at gigs and events for years, like Nanna had left that to me.
Nanna’s other great love was her garden. She had this enormous camelia in the garden which blooms in the early spring. When I was 16 or so, she became unwell and sadly was bedridden for the last 18 months of her life.
The last time she got out of bed, was to look at this camelia. She passed away one February when it was in full bloom. If you’re not a horticulturist, February isn’t a good time of year to move a camelia, but with dedicated love of my dad, we took it home with us and planted it at our family home. It is usually in bloom on Mother’s Day which is a lovely thing.