Today is Brigid, Imbolc, Candlemas, the 4th birthday of my best friend's daughter and would have been the 101st birthday of my lovely Gran.
Seems a bit early to be celebrating the first day of spring but this date traditionally marks the start of lambing season and the first signs of new growth. We've actually had snow today, unbelievably for London. In fact it's still snowing and outside, London is the most amazing colour - the light from the city is being bounced back and forth between the clouds and the ground and outside everything is a fantastical orange, despite being nearly midnight. Under the snow however we have the shoots of crocuses up already and our cherry and pear trees are in bud... spring is unbelievably nearly here. A time for looking forward to growth in our own lives but for me, a time to look back as well and remember my Gran a little bit.
I was thinking about her all day today and wishing I'd thought before her 100th to make a picture book of some of the great times we've spent together, me and my Gran.
Our first visit alone together was when I was 17 or 18 and after that I stayed many a time with her at her little lake house just the two of us; we would play cards and skinny dip and drink gin and each visit she'd teach me a little more about how to use her massive floor loom, which is now sitting in the attic at the studio waiting for me to string it up again.
We did other things together though, me and my Gran. When I moved back to England in 95, she came out for a visit (she would have been 87) and we spent a week in the Lake District. We got a room in a little B&B and every other day we would have an outing. We took a guided mini-bus tour and I have a great picture of her up by the standing stones at Kendal. We took a boat across Windermere and sat wrapped up and reminiscing about times we had both visited as children. Every other day we would stay in, have our meals delivered, drink sherry and play cards while she rested.
For her 95th, she and I and my parents took the cruise from Vancouver to Alaska and the two of us shared a cabin. Gran, who by that point would convince anyone who didn't know better that she was a complete tea totaller, brought 3 bottles of sherry on board for the week and left nothing but dead soldiers. I may have helped a bit. One night we were reading in bed when she knocked her sherry into the base of her bedside lamp which promptly hissed and started sparking blue flames. I dashed the switch off at the wall and before we called the steward she begged me to clean it up so they wouldn't know she'd been drinking. I obediently sponged down the mess, dried it and we rang for the steward, telling him all wide-eyed that it had just started sparking. He promptly turned it back on to test it and the smell of hot sherry filled the room while the two of us wept with silent laughter and tried not to catch each other's eyes. That same trip we took a helicopter ride - the first one for each of us - and at 95 years old she climbed out of the damn thing and walked on the glacier with her stick.
When she went last year, I was glad for her as she was really ready to move on. She'd lived well, left an amazing legacy of life and laughter and was hopefully at peace with God. Had she lived to today I suspect she would have had some serious words on the matter with whomever was fortunate enough to finally meet her at the pearly gates and take her across to the summerlands and so today I remember her fondly and happily but, nonetheless,with no small measure of loss.