29 February 2012
My Grandma Eva - Evelyn Nelly Rodgers, nee Hall - born 1904 in Mells, Somerset, pictured here aged 17. I know so much about her, and yet there is so much more I forgot to ask. She had a sweet tooth - a bar of Fry's Chocolate Turkish Delight and a tube of Polo mints were always to be found in her handbag - a fiery temper, a sharp tongue and a quick wit. She delighted in knockabout comedy - Charlie Chaplin, Buster Keaton, The Keystone Cops - but she didn't like to dance. Clothes mattered to her, but she was no seamstress. She taught me to knit.
Here she is aged 20. She was working as a nanny and 'walking out' with my grandpa, Garnet Russell Rodgers. He was a decade older than her, had been apprenticed in the printing trade, joined the Royal Horse Artillery in WW1 - think War Horse - had been badly injured in a shell blast that all but deafened him, and was working as a typesetter for Butler and Tanner of Frome when he met the love of his life.
They married on May 1st 1926 - she carried a huge bouquet of irises and white tulips, her favourite flowers, and wore the ivory silk shoes that she later gave to me - but there was no honeymoon, on May 4th Grandpa Garn joined the General Strike. A year later their first daughter was born. That's baby Evelyn, Eva, her father, and her grandfather - my great-great grandpa - in the photograph below. She was 23. Widowed young hers was a long if sometimes lonely life, and her children, grandchildren - for whom she had to wait a while, her daughters came to motherhood late - and great-grandchildren were her joy. Happily she survived to see my youngest born.
What else do I remember of her? She always sang as she went about her day, hymns and music hall songs. She was thrifty but not penny-pinching. If you wanted her sympathy you'd wait a long time but hand her a crying baby and it would be smiling sweetly within moments. She was a perennial wearer of hats and a dedicated collector of hatpins. The jars and jars of jams and jewel-like jellies on her pantry shelves, and the scrubbed pine table in her kitchen that was perfect for building dens under. Dairylea triangles for Sunday tea, and the ebony and ivory dominoes we were allowed to play with afterwards, lining them up in snaking lines on the linoleum floor and then watching them fall. Harvesting fruit and veg from her potager, a cracked earthenware bowl for the blackcurrants, a green enamelled colander for the peas. Her 'blue' garden of hyacinths, muscari, and lavender. And that she was always knitting.
I think my mother was probably the first to put knitting needles and a ball of wool in my hands but Grandma Eva taught me what knitting was. All those locked together loops could be varied almost infinitely. Change the stitch, change the tension, change the fibre, and see what happens. Play and learn. If today I can know, without thinking, what kind of fabric a yarn 'wants' to be then I owe that to her. I understand spin and ply and ease because of her, and how to wash woollens and protect them from moths. In a way knitsofacto began at her side. I thought it was time you were introduced.
So, who taught you to do the things you enjoy most, I'd love to know. Oh, and don't forget to enter the giveaway will you, details here.