For many years my grandma lived in Corby’s Gilchrist Avenue which was never far away from either of the schools that I attended when growing up. It was to grandmas that I would go for my lunch when mum and dad had to get the train from Kettering to Leicester for another of dad’s medical appointments. It was here that I had first tasted (and loved) oxtail soup, and discovered the delights of holding a slice of bread on the end of a toasting fork in front of black cast iron gas fire in the kitchen. Grandma could also rustle up a mean home made soup, the recipe of which had been handed down generations of Scottish women. Towards the end of the 60’s it was decided amongst the senior members of my family: mum, dad, aunts and uncles: that grandma could no longer cope, purely because of her age and recent medical history, with living on her own, and that an alternative solution had to be found. The answer came in the shape of Rankin House on Studfall Avenue, a warden controlled group of small ‘flats’ that was just around the corner from my grandma’s three daughters: mum, Auntie May and Auntie Betty. I would visit grandma every Friday evening after school where I would be over-fed and over-spoiled, though, to be fair, I used to love talking with her about family history, life and the universe. As my grandma’s life was drawing to a close, she was transferred to St. Mary’s Hospital for elderly patient care on Kettering’s London Road. Incidentally, this is where I had been born in 1955 when the hospital served as the main maternity facility for our region. Grandma had been surrounded by family towards the end of her life but it made me wonder recently how a single elderly person might cope with living on their own in the 21st century without the help, support and comfort of extended family and, moreover, just who would make the decision that that person could no longer cope or might have to be moved. Not only that but moved to where and at what cost? One hears so many horror stories of people that have worked and saved all of their lives only to have said life savings absorbed into the cost of maintenance at the end of life.
Then I began to wonder what happens to one’s ‘thing’s’, the bits and pieces that one collects throughout the years that remind us that we too had skipped, jumped and played with friends. The hundreds of faded photographs, records, books and souvenirs all representative of a life well lived. Things that are so easily destined to be described as bric-a-brac, white elephant, even junk, by strangers, once another stranger decides that a home needs to be cleared. Perhaps this is just the way of the world, though I sometimes think we should give more thought for those who lose everything at a time when everyone has gone.