How to be cool grandparents

cool grandparents

Throughout my childhood, I had cool grandparents. They held a very special place in my heart. They were the foundation of our family and even if we had our ups and downs, they were the unmovable rocks that we could turn to. If one of my grandparents pulled me up on something, it was worse than being told off by mum or dad. These were the people at the top of my pyramid of love and those I never wanted to upset.

Each grandparent offered something different. Nana lived in Waterloo, an Irish immigrant who had been widowed way too early with four young sons to look after. A staunch Catholic, she would grill me every weekend asking if I had been to mass or not. Nana liked to make cupcakes, she measured everything with a cup and always allowed us to lick out the bowl afterwards.

My mother’s parents lived closer to us, grandad was Hungarian with a fascinating history I learned later in life. My grandmother came from a line of teachers, her own father a headmaster at a grammar school and her mother a primary school teacher… maybe moving to education wasn’t so far off of my life journey after all!

These special people, who stood at the sidelines of my childhood and encouraged me at every step, have been fundamental in my life and are a presence I am very keen to encourage in the twin’s life. In fact, I was overjoyed (and a little bit jealous) of them shooting off to County Durham over the summer holidays for a fortnight with Nonna and Grandad.

There was already an incredibly strong connection between the twins and the gramps but spending this special time with them and getting up to so many fabulous activities (Harry Potter castles, Hadrian’s Wall and making pottery) strengthened the bond even more. Reinforcing the idea that grandparents are enormously important in a growing child’s life.

The girls still talk today about their summer holiday antics and are plotting to return next year too. I’m not sure the grandparents know about it yet though!

They think of their grandparents as cool people to be with, they take them to nice places, let them stay up ‘late’, allow them into the kitchen to cook and bake. Their grandparents are full of knowledge – they encourage them to read, to listen, to ask questions and to try new things.

I can honestly say that the girls thrive in their company and it’s so good for them to be with other inspiring adults rather than all the time with us.

How to be cool grandparents

If you are about to become a grandparent I wish you a lifetime of happiness ahead, it’s one very special relationship that keeps on giving. If you’re looking for some top tips on how to be a cool grandparent, I found this fun infographic on Shepherds Friendly that gives some really good ideas to keep in mind as you develop your relationships.

Shepherds Friendly also have an efficient plan for saving for your grandchildren’s future that is worth a read. Take a look at their Young Savers Plan for more information to see if it’s for you.

Grandparents – the pillars of the family

Grandparents are possibly the most important people in a family; they’ve been around enough to know better and they’ve been around enough to know not to tell you so! They are like a comfort blanket or a favourite cuddly toy, something we always go back to for more. We know their arms are always open wide, their kisses are sincere and their hearts are there for us no matter what. Who hasn’t been slipped a sneaky coin in the palm of their hand and looked up to see nanna or grandad wink and put their fingers to their lips, signing a secret between you?

We also know that all grandparents’ time is limited and this is why we should make more of an effort in our daily lives to fit more ‘grandparent’ time in. I speak for myself when I say that too frequently, a week goes by and I haven’t been to see my nan. Not because I don’t want to – I love going there, she always has freshly made cakes and an interesting conversation whilst the twins slowly wreck her house around us. But, because the week slipped me by – shopping, ironing, gardening, twin club, blogging and heaven knows what else. I get to Friday and wonder what on earth I’ve done with all that time?

I don’t know about you but I love listening to their stories. Their time as youngsters was very different to ours, the hardships were greater, the rules sterner and life was harsher. Many have lived through two wars and can remember them vividly. The heartbreak of losing friends, colleagues and family to gunpowder will never leave their bones and is a subject they never tire of talking about.

Recently, I have spoken to a friend who sadly lost her grandad to an aggressive cancer, a man whose mother no longer remembers her past, her friends, her possessions, he is thankful she still recognises him, but for how much longer? A lady whose 90-year-old grandmother is in hospital, her legs swelling beyond belief and the doctors who don’t know what the problem is. And a family member who lost her mother after a 10 year battle against cancer leaving three grandchildren behind and a heartbreak that only time and love will heal.

Our ‘oldies’ bring an anchor to our lives, they are the family encyclopedia. They can reel off every medicine in the pharmacy and know what it’s for and how many times a day it should be taken. They can complete the Daily Telegraph crossword which is genius in itself and they know how to hug a child, dry up tears with a biscuit and when everything in life turns upside down, they are there to help pick up the pieces and put it all back in the right place again.


My grandmother who was 90 last year. Her name is Nona, an unusual name. She is completely independent and loves walking, reading, art and crosswords. She can make a cake to melt any dieting willpower you may harbour. Knit, sew and enjoys spending her time doing puzzles.

Roy, Paul’s dad, will be 80 in September. He is also completely independent, irons his shirts on Saturday morning, adores an all-day breakfast, flies his model aeroplanes that he constructs himself and can brew a proper cuppa.

They keep each other company. Their motto is – Life is too Short and they are living every minute they can to the full. If it were in my power I would have them around for the rest of my days but sadly, that won’t be the case so I must make sure to ‘fit them in’ as frequently as I possibly can because when they’re gone, they’re gone and there will be no coming back.

I know they both read my blog as they both have laptops and are computer savvy so I shall take this opportunity to thank them both for everything they do for us and remind them that I love them both dearly.

You’re only 90 once!

Gracey with her great gran 'Ninnin'

Today ladies and gents is my Nan’s 90th birthday, what an achievement! What an excuse to celebrate. If you stop to do a little maths you’ll see she was born in 1920 in Winsford, Cheshire and her father was a teacher in the local school therefore she has hounded me all my life for correct speech, she’s a stickler for it. It used to make me growl as a child but now I’m grateful for it.

She still lives on her own and is completely independent and her preferred shops are Primark, Lidl and the local charity shops where she will spend many happy hours searching. She always looks perfectly groomed and no one would ever know if she was wearing Chanel or Primark – only she’s proud to brag about her bargains! Oh and she’s mad about bling, has a drawer full of all sorts.

Of course she survives on the ridiculous state pension of £5000 and is the most thrifty person I know. She once called me a wicked child as instead of putting her half eaten Christmas pudding in the already over laden Christmas fridge for her to enjoy later, I threw it in the bin.

Her hand drawn self portrait as a young woman

She keeps her mind active with the Daily Telegraph crossword, reading and recently she has mastered Sudoku. Her pastimes include drawing and painting and had the war not broken out she would have liked to go to college to be a fashion designer. She once wrote to Jimmy Saville about this and blow me, he invited her into his Jim’ll Fix It studios and off she went with a team of experts to have a couple of her pre war designs made up and modelled. They were later displayed in the V&A museum in London for the world to see. We still have the video tape to prove it.

Another of her hobbies that has rubbed off on me over the years is needlework. She doesn’t do so much now as her eyes aren’t as good but her house is crammed with beautifully framed cross stitch, crewel stitch and other craftworks in various mediums.

She also keeps fit by walking. She is quite capable of scaring the life out of us by walking a few miles for a ‘breath of fresh air’. She is active socially too holding a weekly coffee morning with a gang of ladies who sit, chat, drink coffee and eat home-made cakes and biscuits. (See there are good things to look forward to in our later years)

She is the biggest hypochondriac I know, I think she’s on first names with our family doctor and the receptionist recognises her by her voice alone BUT she’s as fit as a fiddle for it, in fact she has had so many operations in her life I don’t think there are many parts of her body that haven’t been tinkered with a surgeon’s knife.

So what does a 90-year-old lady really enjoy? Well, chocolate is high on the list, soft centered ones these days or a bar of Cadbury’s Caramel but she has recently gone without in order to lose a few pounds. She likes a glass of wine and any wine lover will shudder when I tell you she takes it with lemonade and juice added to sweeten it! She’s an excellent cook and can drum some fabulous meals. She liked to travel until recently age prevents her going too far away. She’s getting more and more cynical in her later days and won’t book up holidays in case she’s not around by then but seeing as her own mother my lovely Great nana Bess lived until the ripe old age of 103 I think she can book up don’t you?

So ladies seeing as I come from a very long living background, hope you like reading my blog as I may be around for quite a while yet :)

A World War II romance

Cornel Donner

The tale of when my grandparents met.

Grandad was born into aristocracy in the Austrian-Hungarian Empire around 1920. His family lived in a beautiful house in a town which today is in Romania and the first photos of him are portraits with him wearing what can only be described as ‘girl’s clothes’.

He grew up in a world where he could trace his family back to the 1500’s, where beautiful oil paintings adorned the walls of the dining room and library and maids and gardeners were part of daily life. His father worked for the government as a minister and when he was only 10 the family were posted to New Zealand. It was on this voyage by ship that granddad decided he wanted to have a naval career and at the tender age of 16 he came to Liverpool to fulfill his dream starting as a cadet.

It was whilst working on the ship that he met my grandmother’s father, a very good friend of the captain, and in time he was introduced to Nona my grandmother.

A spark ignited and the courtship began. Of course in those days, you couldn’t just ‘go out’ together there were strict codes of conduct in place to protect a ladies reputation, so afternoon teas and accompanied evening dances and the odd trip to the cinema were moments where they got to know one another. After an acceptable amount of time the pair were betrothed

It was around that time that  an idiot called Hitler decided to get a bit above himself for the second time and war was declared all over Europe.

Granddad, coming from an Eastern block country, even after years in the UK with a proven trusted character had to be thrown into a prisoner of war camp in case he was a spy.

More than a year went by with the couple separated, their lives and marriage on hold but the relationship didn’t wither behind bars, no it thrived by means of letters, and art. My grandmother would draw pictures (she was/is terribly talented and if it hadn’t been for that wretched Hitler bloke she may have become a top designer as was her dream but that’s a different post!)

It was thanks to my great grandfather’s insistence and continued letters to the British government that granddad was finally released from the POW camp and allowed to marry his sweetheart.

Around 1956 there was an uprising in Hungary and luckily my granddad’s parents managed to flee the country just in time with their belongings before the infamous Iron Curtain descended around the Eastern Block. They set up home on the Isle of Wight and lived out the rest of their days in exile.

Granddad was a hard worker. He provided a decent house for his family and later on an apartment in Majorca way before it became trendy but one tiny little blot on his horizon was his family back in Budapest who he hadn’t been able to see for years. Once that Iron curtain came down he could no longer go back for fear of not being allowed back out of Hungary.

It wasn’t until I was in my teens and granddad was about to celebrate his 60th that I cottoned on to the enormity of not seeing your brothers and sisters for so long and it was then that secretly my grandmother had organised for the family to come and stay with us to celebrate his birthday.

I was there when he walked into our hallway expecting a ‘usual’ birthday celebration and down the stairs in front of him walked his brother and his niece with her children and tears welled in his eyes. Tears of joy, of lost time, missed hugs and so much to tell.

Granddad left us in 1998 but his memory lives on in our hearts.

Writing workshop