They’ve been blamed for Brexit and when they’re not thought of as bigots, they are ignored or treated with derision. Women of a certain age enter a post-menopausal media blackout. Nans fade away but I’m determined to give a voice to the unsung stories.
My grandmother was an inspiration to me, so much so I’ve written a show about her. Eve was a fascinating woman who hid behind the façade of working class Brummy housewife with a ditsy naivety. She was in fact an eternal student who gained a BTEC foundation degree in her 80s and had a lifelong interest in the esoteric. She learned, like women did, to hide those interests and pursue what she could when she could. They had no money when her children were young, lived through two World Wars and still near the end of her life, she lived each day as if it was a gift and refused to see old age as a curse. I loved her spirit but she was also hilarious in her experimentation. I’ll never forget the day she turned up dressed head to toe in turquoise because ‘David Icke’. Or when her experiments in cooking turned from your everyday quiche with cheese and ham, to sardines and baked beans.
As a woman she was multi-faceted, interested in life, open minded and taught me a lot about being fascinated by diversity instead of threatened by it. But elements of her life frustrated me; constant dieting to make herself more acceptable. Having to sacrifice her needs to look after my Grandad, to the point at which she was pushing him around a supermarket aged 88 with a trolley whilst he was in a wheelchair. Being mugged at the age of 90, but still saying ‘oh well it’s only a handbag’. She was a working class housewife and her dreams and aspirations disappeared along the wayside, but it didn’t stop her and what I remember most about my Nan, she never stopped learning or laughing.
Our media culture is so obsessed with youth and sexual attraction in the young that we aren’t paying enough attention to our history, to the community around us. Nan always said ‘I might look 80 on the outside but I’m still 16 in my head’. We don’t have to stop being young at heart. Our history is told in grandmothers, it only takes one to reach a century, maybe a couple of hundred cover the whole of Christianity. And yet we choose to ignore them, belittle them, tell the lie that they must keep passive and quiet, do as they are told and fade away.
Eve, my grandmother, in her own quiet way, never did as she was told. And in my way by telling her story and asking others to share theirs, I hope we can change that perception and start spreading the real old wives tales.
Stand by your Nan is debuting at Women in Comedy Festival,11pm, Friday 28thOctober at The Castle, Oldham Street. With time and space to share your own granny tales too, tweet @labellaraquella #standbyyournan with your story.