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An Ingenious Grandmother

I never knew any of my grandparents, but my paternal one was quite exceptional according to the stories about her. She was a true Victorian, bringing up both her boys according to a very strict regime. Lucky enough to have a grand piano, they were obliged to practice for at least an hour daily. And if they showed signs of slowing down or not producing work that was up to standard, she would come round with her ruler and rap their knuckles at the keyboard.

She would equally accept no nonsense in her business affairs, for she was a dressmaker of distinction. While her husband was out on his rounds as an insurance agent, her own clients came and visited the house. She was known for holding up a large piece of material, such as taffeta which would stand by its own weight. And simply cutting the fabric out to size while closely studying the lady in front of her.

She also had a team of girls and young women who would then take the packaged materials to work on at home. In this way, she would start at ten in the morning and finish in the late afternoon before her husband returned.

This was the way in which she managed to run a very efficient household without upsetting her very Victorian husband. All kinds of work on the property was undertaken, using the handsome proceeds of her business, without him being at all aware of how any of it was paid for.

As a man of regular routine who left and returned at unchanging hours this was a situation that suited the whole family as long as it remained inplace and he never personally met any of the people involved. Until one day when she had arranged for some decorating to be done. He was heard unexpectedly walking up the brick path to the front door, so she had to act quickly. Silencing the two workmen, she promptly urged them, protesting, to climb up into the huge teak wardrobe that stood on the landing. And there they stayed until after her husband had left the house again, unaware of all that was happening. 


A memory of Barabara Colley is a parishioner at Holy Trinity Church.  Bolton-le-Sands


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