Granny would put two dots
of snuff on her left-hand thumb,
hankie ready in her right hand,
and with two rapid sniffs,
the brown dust disappeared,
inhaled, a satisfying fix
followed by a hefty nose blow.
In the years after World War Two,
when a generation had had enough,
people were entitled to enjoyment
and for Rachel, my Granny Millar,
it was two occasional dots of snuff.
We didn't call him Grandfather or even Grandad. He was Granda, my mother's father. He was a small, slight man but with the work ethic and grit of somebody twice his size. I remember he did the annual wallpapering and decorating in our house, always with a cheery demeanour, the occasional whistle and, every now and then, a song to himself. He had a stammer, quite severe at times, but that made him all the more endearing. He would give opinions and tell stories, sometimes struggling with certain words that simply refused to roll off the tongue. But, and I recall this very clearly, at a family do, he sang the song Nellie Dean and it was beautiful, even to a young kid like me. When he sang this simple little tune, the stammer was dead. Instead, he had the sweet voice of a tenor, unforced and pitch-perfect. "There's an old mill by the stream, Nellie Dean," he sang and, you know, he looked happy and content, a small man but a great Granda.