There was something very romantic and magical about travelling back in time with Granny.
At the age of about ten I remember asking Granny to share stories of ‘The Olden Days’. Stood in the tiny galley kitchen of her Berkshire home, Granny worked through the archives of her memories whilst dunking and poking the steaming washing in the twin tub with a long handled wooden spoon.
Washing days were a major operation at Granny’s house- the twin tub was hauled in to position in the middle of the kitchen, the room filled with steam and the stories my Granny shared took on a dreamy quality in the resulting clouds of air that surrounded us.
One of the Bletchley code breakers, my Granny had a secretive smile when recalling the ‘war years’. She shared stories of her fellow workers including an aristocratic Lady whose facial beauty was legendary but who was ‘cursed with thick black hairs on her legs’ (my granny’s words not mine!). Granny re-lived evenings preparing for tea dances and grand balls where gravy browning was used to colour your legs and drawing a line of kohl down the back gave the illusion of wearing stockings, when large pots of petroleum jelly took pride of place on the dressing table and the jelly was worked on to your eyelashes in place of mascara …. And always, always my Granny would finish the stories with damp eyes – but not from the steam of the washing.
Recalling these memories now as an adult, I feel a connection across time with my Granny and an appreciation of the nostalgia she must have been feeling as she recalled those war days. She was highly intelligent (hence being at Bletchley Park) and had felt valued at that time in using her intelligence. But when the war ended, like many other females of the time, she slotted back in to society’s expectation of her – a stay-at-home wife and mother, running a household, caring for her working husband and hauling the twin tub in to position on wash days with resulting damp eyes.
I wonder – if we could bring Granny back now, what would she think about the women who are leaders and role models in today’s society?
What advice would this intelligent woman give to me, her granddaughter as I juggle the demands of being a Director of my own company with the demands of being a wife, mum, sister, daughter, friend and colleague?
I’m certain Granny would break through the “coding” of society’s expectations of women that exist even today, and I’m certain her advice would echo the feedback I give to my female clients.
“The thing that is holding You back from being The Most Successful – is actually You” she would say. “You have so many opportunities to potentially take advantage of”.
Then she would scroll through her Twitter feed of motivational quotes and Retweet her favourite “Teach your daughter to worry less about fitting into glass slippers and more about shattering glass ceilings”.
“Absolutely lean in” she would say “and realise that your self-belief is your Enigma”.