My nan is an British 80-year old woman with loud opinions but a lot of love. I write to her on Whatsapp to thank her again for the Downton Abbey DVDs she gave me a few Christmases ago. I’ve almost watched all of it now and every episode reminds me about her and our British heritage. About manners she made sure stuck to us cousins when we were young. ”Remember your p’s and q’s” (p's = please / q's = thank you:s). We partly got the same upbringing as her eight children, the same as her great-grandchildren are now; never take anything for granted, that there isn’t always money, not to waste food, to always help with things no matter what gender, and so on. I thought she was hard on us when we were young, but really she taught us a lot.
She lived in Sweden with the man I call my grandad for the greater part of my growing up. There we learned how to peel potatoes and cut them into fat chips with little knives with black handles. In the forrest we’d pick sorrel to eat with our jacket spuds. She taught us how to sew, if only clothes for our cuddly toys. We had spelling competitions and dance performances. We played accordion duettes and I often saw her watering the plants with cold tea whilst talking to them.
She calls me up on Whatsapp, smiling wide. My whole body is happy to hear that voice, the Britishness, accent and her own made up words that could fit in the film The Big Friendly Giant. We laugh at my helplessness when the water was turned off at mum’s there other day versus the flat she had were everything was run on gas. Talking to a person who has lived through such big shifts in development is so interesting. Then we tried to troubleshoot her tablet that was talking to her while she swore at it for not working.
There are few things that make me feel so content as the fact that I am half-British. It might seem silly and maybe even uncommon, because we speak so unpatriotically in Sweden. But calling that country my home too, being a real tea drinker, crumpet eater and understanding that dry and sarcastic humor. Being completely in on the food norms, eating crisps in my sandwich and knowing a fry up is to be expected. That is safety. When the whole big family are gathered and toast, talk really damn loud, laugh till we cry and eat heaps, I always want to be with them.
To nan, for the family you are the head of.