I cycled four miles to take Granny a bunch of buttercups. 'Thanks for the weeds,' she said

"If you could only eat one food for the rest of your life," says Jonathan, "what would you choose?"

"You mean just one type of food?"

"Yup." He mouth-snatches a piece of cheese straight from the cheese knife (a Myerson habit).

"Mashed potato - but I don't know if it's got enough in it nutritionally."

"Forget nutrition, that's not the issue - we don't have to worry about that."

"Definitely mashed potato then."

"I might have known you'd go for that." He sighs as though this confirms some private, depressing theory about me.

"So what would yours be?" I ask him.

"Chaumes," he rocks dangerously back on his chair (another Myerson habit). "It's unbelievably wonderful. Or maybe apricot jam."

"Chaumes? You couldn't! It stinks of feet, it's so rich. I really could eat mashed potato for the rest of my life and not get sick of it."

"You're a sad woman."

"You're a sad man."

"Deathless Wildean riposte - I feel thoroughly humiliated."

He sits there in his shabby moleskins and baggy sweater, legs stretched, tipping his chair. Then, looking around for new mischief, he flicks my angel chimes with a disdainful finger - "Jesus, how long do we have to have this here?"

"They're supposed to be put away with the Christmas decorations," I say.

The angel chimes were a sentimental buy. Three flimsy mock-brass angels hang from a little carousel, which is spun round by the heat of four skinny candles. As they go round, their dangly bits hit two little cymbals - ching-ching, ching-ching.

Granny Pike had angel chimes on her table, with the plastic fake-doily tablecloth. My sisters and I would watch them go round as we ate our Campbell's cream of mushroom, synthetically soft white rolls and Dairylea triangles. Granny Pike had a hiatus hernia, which isn't remotely funny, but for some reason my sisters and I just could not hear those words hiatus and/or hernia - without bursting into uncontrollable giggles.

We'd be eating our lunch and the angel chimes would be going ding-ding. Granny would be talking about Esther Rantzen or the Queen's latest outfit, and then she'd turn to our father and say, "I had a bit of trouble with my hiatus hernia last week," - and that would be it. The harder we tried not to laugh, the worse it was. Our bodies ached, our faces were puce, little, spasmy snorts escaped. Once I nearly wet myself and had to leave the room.

Granny had false teeth and a wig (you could see the black strap if you were shorter than her). We also suspected her of false bosoms, though it may just have been the fortified way in which her bra was structured. And she wore glasses and a hearing-aid.

We were tantalised by the notion that she was almost entirely false. When we occasionally stayed the night, we did our best to stay awake and spy on her - hoping to witness the moment when she removed all her bits. What did she become in the middle of the night? A toothless, hairless stick-person, unable to hear or see? Luckily for her, we never found out. She always went to bed very late - after the Hammer Horror film - and in the morning she always seemed to be miraculously rebuilt.

She'd been a widow for years, and she enjoyed it (she'd abhorred her husband, who seemed to have died just in time). She liked golf and bridge and cocktail biscuits and fur coats that made us sneeze if we stood in the cupboard. She kept Maynard's fruit pastilles in a plastic, pearl-encrusted screw-top jar by her bed. The jar said Helena Rubenstein on it and smelled of ladies' face cream. I remember the crunchy, gritty feeling of the sugar in the thread of the screw-top.

Granny Pike never liked us all that much. Once, I made her a pair of slippers for Christmas, from a pattern in my mother's Golden Hands craft magazine. I made them from an old green velvet cushion cover, cutting out the cardboard templates for the feet and sewing sequins all over so they looked like the princess slippers from Aladdin. Granny gave them back to me because they were too small. Another time, not knowing why, I deliberately picked a rose transfer off one of her "guest soaps" (she had "guest" everything, though she practically never had guests) and she punished me by not speaking to me for what seemed like a very long time. I was six.

At the height of his bitterness about our parents' divorce proceedings, Daddy decided not to see us any more. Granny never contacted us again either. The last time I saw her, I cycled four miles to take her a bunch of buttercups picked in the hedgerows. "Thanks for the weeds," she'd said.

"Why did you buy those angel chimes?" asks Jonathan. "They're so completely tasteless - look at them."

"Piss off," I say. "They're part of my childhood. Granny Pike had them."

"I thought you hated Granny Pike."

I pause. "I loved her angel chimes. They're a good memory. And the kids love them."

"You're an optimistic old thing really, aren't you?" Jonathan says - and I am suddenly at a loss.

I put the chimes away - they dismantle neatly into a flat little cardboard box.

Granny Pike lived to be a very old lady. When she died in a nursing home - barely visited by her son - she hadn't seen us for eight or nine years. But we later heard she'd had photos of us by her bed - pictures of three little girls, frozen in time.

It was a dark, snowy day and we were nearly grown up when a nurse rang from the home. "Mrs Pike has died," she told us. "She thought you'd want to know." It was typical of Granny to be making contact, finally, just as there was no more contact to be had.

Start your day with The Independent, sign up for daily news emails
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
ebooks
ebooksAn introduction to the ground rules of British democracy
Latest stories from i100
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
Independent Dating
and  

By clicking 'Search' you
are agreeing to our
Terms of Use.

iJobs Job Widget
iJobs General

Recruitment Genius: Trainee Vehicle Inspectors / Purchasers

£20000 - £40000 per annum: Recruitment Genius: Trainee Vehicle Inspectors / Pu...

Recruitment Genius: Vehicle Broker / Purchaser

£18000 - £45000 per annum: Recruitment Genius: This is an exciting opportunity...

Recruitment Genius: Sales Executive - OTE £45,000

£18000 - £45000 per annum: Recruitment Genius: A Sales Executive is required t...

Recruitment Genius: Call Centre Manager - OTE £50,000

£25000 - £50000 per annum: Recruitment Genius: This innovative online car purc...

Day In a Page

Greece debt crisis: EU 'family' needs to forgive rather than punish an impoverished state

EU 'family' needs to forgive rather than punish an impoverished state

An outbreak of malaria in Greece four years ago helps us understand the crisis, says Robert Fisk
Gaza, a year on from Operation Protective Edge: The traumatised kibbutz on Israel's front line, still recovering from last summer's war with Hamas

Gaza, a year on from Operation Protective Edge

The traumatised kibbutz on Israel's front line, still recovering from last summer's war with Hamas
How to survive electrical storms: What are the chances of being hit by lightning?

Heavy weather

What are the chances of being hit by lightning?
World Bodypainting Festival 2015: Bizarre and brilliant photos celebrate 'the body as art'

World Bodypainting Festival 2015

Bizarre and brilliant photos celebrate 'the body as art'
alt-j: A private jet, a Mercury Prize and Latitude headliners

Don't call us nerds

Craig Mclean meets alt-j - the math-folk act who are flying high
How to find gold: The Californian badlands, digging out crevasses and sifting sludge

How to find gold

Steve Boggan finds himself in the Californian badlands, digging out crevasses and sifting sludge
Singing accents: From Herman's Hermits and David Bowie to Alesha Dixon

Not born in the USA

Lay off Alesha Dixon: songs sound better in US accents, even our national anthem
10 best balsamic vinegars

10 best balsamic vinegars

Drizzle it over salad, enjoy it with ciabatta, marinate vegetables, or use it to add depth to a sauce - this versatile staple is a cook's best friend
Greece says 'No': A night of huge celebrations in Athens as voters decisively back Tsipras and his anti-austerity stance in historic referendum

Greece referendum

Greeks say 'No' to austerity and plunge Europe into crisis
Ten years after the 7/7 terror attacks, is Britain an altered state?

7/7 bombings anniversary

Ten years after the terror attacks, is Britain an altered state?
Beautiful evening dresses are some of the loveliest Donatella has created

Versace haute couture review

Beautiful evening dresses are some of the loveliest Donatella has ever created
No hope and no jobs, so Gaza's young risk their lives, climb the fence and run for it

No hope and no jobs in Gaza

So the young risk their lives and run for it
Fashion apps: Retailers roll together shopping and social networking for mobile customers

Fashion apps

Retailers roll together shopping and social networking for mobile customers
The Greek referendum exposes a gaping hole at the heart of the European Union – its distinct lack of any genuine popular legitimacy

Gaping hole at the heart of the European Union

Treatment of Greece has shown up a lack of genuine legitimacy
Number of young homeless in Britain 'more than three times the official figures'

'Everything changed when I went to the hostel'

Number of young homeless people in Britain is 'more than three times the official figures'