17 weeks. Unbelievable. I actually thought it was 16 but when I checked it’s 17. The Edinburgh Fringe show I’m rehearsing opens this Friday, 1st August not only that it will be 4 months since I drank alcohol and it would have been my Nana’s 105th birthday. The character I play would have been around 15 years older than my Nana so around my Great Grandmothers age or Nanny as I called her. She was 17 when she had my Nana back in 1909 who was to be the eldest of 6 daughters. My Nana and her next sister shared the same dad and the subsequent 4 all shared another dad. My Nanny born in 1891 was widowed twice by the age of 38 left with 6 daughters aged between 21 and 4. No welfare state. No free health care. No child care. Her first husband died in 1915 during the Great War not as a direct casualty of it but from tuberculosis contracted in service, discharged and died at home.
It fascinates me to think of playing this woman who could have been like my Nanny. In its historical sense it might as well be medieval but in reality it was not all that long ago. 100 years since the start of First World War and in the play we are the start of the second touching on what had gone before only 20 or so years earlier. The loss, courage and tragedy. Now we commemorate that very time now one hundred years on. The play also deals with unemployment after the depression and how it affected in particular the ship building industry. Men turned away at the gates due to lack of work to be faced with the despair and degradation of not being able to provide for their families who were starving. When war comes again the industry booms and young men sign up to give their lives purpose. From one hell to another.
I remember spending Saturday nights with my Nanny and Nana watching the Generation Game and observing the former plough her way through a bag of St Michael Devon Toffees picking the sticky bits off her dental plate when they got stuck. I remember feeling a bit disgusted at eight but now when I think what she lived through and coped with I should have been cleaning her plate for her.
There is much to think about at this time. Particularly one hundred years on from a war that the world prayed for never to happen again. Yet day after day war continues all over the world. It’s very glib of me to talk about such a huge thing safe and sound ( for the moment) in my living room, with my goonie on drinking tea but when I stop to think that every sip I take or letter that I type someone is hurting or dying because of war and it makes me feel very humble.
So with three sleeps till the opening show and I take my hat off to the Dinah’s of this world and to my Nanny , Elizabeth Booth ( nee Adams, nee Reid) for their strength, fortitude, loyalty, spirit and love. Without those women and men we might not be here.
Nighty night x
Ps 120 days