Gran Cis a lovely warm and homely woman was my mother’s step –mother and is mentioned frequently. She lived alone in the ancient two up three down family cottage , my mother’s homeplace ( my grandfather died when I was small). For many years Sunday evenings meant cards with Gran Cis. She had a surprising side too since she read tealeaves, the cards and consulted her crystal ball. ; sometimes she could be persuaded to tell my future, something she did with long portentious pauses and much quiet drama.
I loved the cottage smells…its wainscoting, the bowed floor upstairs, its ancient beams, the sunken floor in the washhouse and I especially loved the drama of a visit to the outside toilet in the dark, flashlight in hand. Gran Cis had a brother Tig who became a tramp. At intervals he appeared with bent cans of food he had begged from the Co-op and lived in the washhouse till he moved on again.
Gran Cis was the daughter of a prosperous farmer and her maiden name was De Ville. She slipped in the occasional French word, always mispronounced. The cottage had no bathroom and if you called and she was washing at the kitchen sink she’d say, ’Oh, you’ve caught me in my ‘disabille.’ She was always invited to our house on special occasions and so was Auntie Sylvia… chalk and cheese. Gran Cis had been the plain one in the family. Her sister Kate had married a factory owner. She modelled herself on a 1950’s movie star with a three quarter length fur coat, bright red lipstick and a cigarette holder( she even had a gap between her front two teeth) . I disliked her . There was another sister we never met and we didn’t meet her bother Tig either but that trip to the outside toilet past the washhouse always had an edge to it.