Into the Mystic – Part 2

From where I am now, it is easy to see the moment of grace that so clearly illuminated the way home.

It was early September 1990, and I had just spent three weeks at the Edinburgh Festival looking for acts for the 1992 NZ International Festival.  I was the Festival’s Deputy Director at the time.

I had to return to London for my flight back to New Zealand, and this provided me with a wonderful opportunity to finally meet my maternal grandmother, Peggy, who was in her early 90’s and lived in a pensioner flat above a Tesco Supermarket in South Croydon. I’d written to her a couple of months before to introduce myself and arrange things.

Not only was this to be the one-and-only time we were to meet – but it was also my first ever visit to London where generations of my mother’s family had spent their lives eking out a living along the east bank of the Thames. Like most East Enders, they were a blended mix of ethnicities and origins – many of whom had be drawn to London to seek their fortunes – but ended up surviving on their wits in some of the most dismal slums to be found anywhere in Europe.

I finally arrived at Nana Peggy’s place in the late afternoon, having left Edinburgh by train earlier in the day.

I made my way up from the street to the roof-top flats, and after a short search, found her door and knocked.  Almost immediately I heard her steps moving swiftly across the floor.  A far from frail voice with a strong cockney accent called out, “Who’s there?”  “It’s Kieron, your Grandson” I responded, trying, not very successfully, to hide the nervousness I was feeling in the pit of my stomach.

After a brief moment, the door opened, and there she was, five foot nothing and full of presence, her long silver-grey hair tied up in a bun at the back. She ushered me inside, stared at me for a moment and then gave me a heartfelt hug.

She reminded me so much of my Mum, yet somehow lighter and less complex.  I had brought her a small gift of an ‘air plant’ glued to a piece of driftwood, which seemed to truly delight her.

Though we had never met, there was no awkwardness and it was like I had always known her.  We talked about so many things… mostly about her growing up, and my Mum as a child. The realities of her life pre-and-post war, the blitz, the death of her husband, my grandfather, and bringing-up two daughters on practically nothing in the East End of London.

How my mother and father met at a roller-skating rink just before the outbreak of WW2.  What a great skater my Dad was – and how my Mum kept falling over on purpose to attract his attention, which totally worked!  And then their rushed, war-time marriage at Tottenham Court Registry Office on the 28th of April 1941.

Dinner that night was traditional ‘Bangers and Mash’ with a simple green salad – just like my Mum used to make – and I remember thinking that maybe the apple didn’t fall that far from the tree after all.

The flow of conversation barely paused over dinner, but as soon as I’d eaten I began to feel extremely tired.  Three weeks at the Edinburgh Festival had taken its toll.  I’d seen fifty-two individual shows during my time there – sometimes up to five a day, often starting at 10am and finishing well after midnight.

Nana noticed I was fading fast and led me to my room saying she would do the after-dinner clean-up.  I was too tired to make any kind of show of protesting, and was deeply grateful for her obvious compassion.

I don’t really remember getting into bed that night.  Exhaustion had taken over and I was obviously on automatic pilot.  One thing for sure though, I went out like a light the moment my head hit the pillow.

Continued… Into the Mystic – Part 3

Share this post

Related articles

Improve your digestion

A healthy digestion and metabolism is key to good health. If these don’t function properly, our health is going to suffer, and that is not

Read More »

Are you ready to make a change?

Do you need help to access the self belief, enthusiasm and passion you need to consistently make empowered choices so that you can be, do or have the things in life and business you most desire