Sunday, September 02, 2007


Me and my gran circa 1955.

This post was prompted by the "grandparents" theme at One Deep Breath.

It was twenty years after she died that I finally wrote about her. This poem was first published in Green's Magazine (Canada) and is included in my collection Limbo Time.


Like those others whose grans
were growing old when they were
growing boys, I remember you
for your apple pies and golden pancakes, syrup-laden —
my elder brother often being sent
to bring me home from your bungalow
long after my own tea had grown cold.

That was the time when granddad sat
in the high-backed wooden chair
my mother set fire to when he died —
the sort of chair that claims
a fortune in antique shops today — but
my small, frail gran, I remember you much more
than that gaunt, great man who only sat.

You lived later in our council-house front room,
too weak to climb upstairs, too unsafe
to be left with your diabetes -
twice daily my mother tested your water —
and so that we could take a holiday
my sister and her husband came to stay
while I went with Mum and Dad
to a rented van at Thornwick Bay.

Tomorrow would be Thursday and I'd been promised
a trip on the Yorkshire Belle from Bridlington,
but Wednesday night we learnt that you had died.
That means I won't be able to go on the boat tomorrow!
the first reaction of a saddened twelve-year-old.
Dad attempted logically to explain, but all
unnecessarily - I knew that you deserved the sacrifice.

Twenty years on and I've finally made the trip
round Flamborough Head, past Thornwick Bay,
and back to Bridlington — with my own son
and his gran - his Mum's Mum like you.
Gran! — I never begrudged you dying on that day.
The waves remind me always of you, gran, because
the trip was well worth the waiting for!


and finally a new tanka

Chapel Garth
granddad in his high-back chair
pancakes for tea
before big brother comes
to drag me home


  1. Beautiful, so full of memories, and finally there's happiness in the sadness.

  2. That is beautiful old photo and the poem as well, full of memories. I like that gentle smile on the good-hearted face of your grandmother, and you, I would say you had a mischievous boyish smile on your face. :-)
    I lost my grandmother (from my mother side) four years ago. She was 90 when she passed away but I still miss her. She looked after me and my brother while my parents worked. Practically, she brought me up. She breathe hers last breath in my arms.

  3. Wonderful poem. "gaunt, great man who only sat..." what a line. And "worth the sacrifice..." Yes.

    The tanka is delightful.

    Thanks so much for these.

  4. A glorious tale of loss, acceptance. The details are brilliant and vivid and the photo is just wonderful!

  5. Very moving, well-written poem. The tanka is good too.

  6. Wonderful photo - I enjoyed your poem and tanka too.

  7. Oh, a very heartfelt poem- it really touched me- so full of emotion, it was... your gran looked so beautiful.

  8. I am so glad you shared your "Gran" poem with us -- I love it and how beautifully it is written with such rich details. And it's so great that you got to finally go on the boat trip and that you took your son and his Gran -- lovely ending to the story. I also love your tanka -- really nice!

  9. I love the tanka.
    You were a good looking young man, weren't you? :)

  10. Beautiful, all three. The photo of the two of you is pure delight. The story you weave in your poem, also a delight. The tanka brings so much of my own past to life.

  11. what a loving tribute...really enjoyed reading it. The photo is priceless...what a wonderful looking grandma she was...made me want to hug her...or be hugged by her...or both.

  12. I am glad that you had such a great Gran.

  13. What a lovely poem. My ownnana died in the front room of their own house, she too suffered from diabetis too. I still have the jug she made the gravy in. Nana died in 1970. Would you believe we went to Flamborough Head only a couple of Saturdays ago? Small world eh?
    There are some pictures on my blog of the old and new lighthouse.