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U3A Writing: Sybil Downs

…She sat on a chair in the corner knitting woollen patches. You never ripped your clothes, or Grandma would use these to patch them. The blankets on the beds looked like patchwork quilts, they had been repaired so often. One day we actually found her patching a patch that was wearing thin!… Sybil Downs recalls her grandmother.

My grandmother was born in 1867. All her family had emigrated to America. I never asked why she didn’t go. She didn’t encourage questions.

She was under five feet tall, and her skirts reached to her ankles. She always wore lots of clothes - a Verdonis vest (expensive thick wool), a corset of course, Directoire knickers, at least two flannel underskirts, thick lisle stockings and then whatever went on top - usually something black.

She sat on a chair in the corner knitting woolen patches. You never ripped your clothes, or Grandma would use these to patch them. The blankets on the beds looked like patchwork quilts, they had been repaired so often. One day we actually found her patching a patch that was wearing thin!

The radio was by her side, but we only listened to the news and Alastair Cook’s Letter from America. Though we were allowed to listen to Children’s Hour while we had our tea.

Grandma had six children, four girls and two boys. The eldest boy was killed at 18 in the First World War. I remember that she and Mother always cried on Armistice Day. Her second son died in India, where he worked, just after the Second World War. The girls all outlasted her.

My Gran always supported the suffragettes and went to their meetings when they came to the market on market day. She drilled it into me that I must ALWAYS vote, and I always have done. She always expected me to do jobs around the house while my brother was allowed to play.


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