Here I am wearing my grandmother’s Cornish serpentine beads

After a childhood on a dairy farm on the outskirts of Bodmin moor in Cornwall, My working life began with a training in Occupational therapy 1970 -1973 at St Loyes College of Occupational Therapy, Exeter. Choosing to marry and have a family in my twenties I developed strategies to work and stay at home with the children. First I thought of making things, and be part of a craft group. (See small scar on grown-up daughters nose, when a brace and bit fell across her when as a baby, she was propped on my workbench.) I joined the craft co-operative, ‘Ashdown Artisans’ in East Grinstead in the late seventies. Later I worked on my own, producing items to sell in the tourist market when we lived as a family in Trinidad. Back in the U.K. I went to Art School in Aberdeen at forty. I ran a guest house business, while working on my creative projects. When the children left home I had the chance to reevaluate what I wanted to be involved with. I began writing more, and joined a local writing group at Udny which I really enjoyed. (Thank you Roddy Phillips ) and then to went back to university at Aberdeen part-time, to study creative writing, graduating with an MLitt in 2014. A few years later, I re-evaluated my options when my husband retired. I thought there might be a spark left in my battery at 66 years old, but what to do?

For a year, I mumbled and grumbled to myself. Can I, can’t I? Should I, shouldn’t I? Who is going to do the housework? In the end I applied to do a PhD at the Elphinstone Institute of Aberdeen University, the Ethnology and Folklore department. A department that most fitted in with my pattern of curiosity. My husband happily agreed to take over the domestic duties, or at least have a gin and tonic poured as I arrived home after a hectic day listening to lectures on myth, interviewing techniques or what can be revealed in proverbs. I tried to design a question to answer within a doctoral thesis that would be of long-lasting interest, and be helpful to the world at large. Eventually I settled on looking at my own group of folk: ‘Contemporary grandmothers’, especially those like me, who are travelling the world to visit their grandchildren. Research in Sociology and Psychology points towards the usefulness of family history, so I thought it would be interesting to look at how grandmothers are managing to keep in contact with their faraway families and if and how, they are passing on their family stories.

Let’s make something together.

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