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Mamma Mia


Good morning lovely people,

1928 was a good year.   

Equal voting rights for women and men, pre-sliced bread, bubble gum, Mickey Mouse, and on the same day that we got Alexander Fleming’s discovery of penicillin, we got Mary Gertrude Hilley; Nonna G.   

From The Queen, the Great Depression, World War 2, the Cold War to Nelson Mandela.
Dior’s “new look” to Mary Quant’s mini skirt.
Aeroplanes became common, every home got a television, wheels were added to luggage, and the internet.  

The odd few aside, a lot of good things happened while Nonna G was on this earth. 

Nonna’s father played for Celtic then opened an ice cream factory. He was one of the first to bring the choc-ice to Scotland. He brought an enrobing machine from America in 1936. The factory was next to the Castle Street Cinema in Glasgow where Nonna G spent her teenage years sneaking into the matinees. Ava Gardener, Greta Garbo, Claudette Colbert were her “influencers”. Hollywood trivia and Catechism were her specialist subjects. Both Grampa Hilley and the glamour of that “Golden Era” trained Nonna G well. At 95 she would do her exercise, touch her toes, always do her hair and makeup, take her car to church and have coffee anywhere she could park. She could hardly see or hear but why would that stop her driving.

Among many memorable moments she heard Gigli sing in 1953 and Maria Callas in 1957, both in Edinburgh thanks to our International Festival.

After a three month honeymoon – and some mothers do ‘ave em – Nonna G had seven children in nine years. I came six years later. 17 grandchildren and 14 great grandchildren were to follow. Business woman, cook, and devout Catholic. Widowed almost 30 years ago, she showed touching loyalty to my father. Life must have been lonely, even for this social butterfly. It seems to be expected that her generation shouldn’t remarry; I’ve given Victor permission, if required. 

Covid brought Nonna G to live with us. At times it was difficult; the generation gap seemed to get bigger as she got older. Our mother became a house guest which brought a different dynamic. Mr.  Rocco for sure is missing his afternoon napping companion and all the sneaky treats. 

I’m not so sure our community values are in a better place than they were throughout Nonna’s best years. Her generation had hardship but boy they loved having a good time. I hope our children can learn from all the mistakes I feel we’ve made and have a better next 95 years.  

Instead of getting the Ryanair flight home to us from Rome on 7 May, Nonna G got the St Peter’s Express to heaven (Vatican first class). Sadly or happily maybe, I feel for the first time in a wee while, I have my mummy back home in my heart.  

Mummy, thank you for teaching me to work hard, for challenging me to be better, for sharing values that have rooted me through my whole life and now route my children. You did a good job Nonna G.  

I’m choosing to remember the mummy that made the best hot toast when I was little and not feeling well, taught me to bake, was a real dancing queen, that loved my husband and my children, loved a party, was always there when I needed her, and left this life as she would have wished. She was also the only person I ever met who wore a second overall to keep her other overall spotless. Not the one that said “not rice pudding again” or that my duck with orange sauce tasted like “cough syrup”. Elnett and sticky hand cream will forever remind me of her.  

Not everyone manages the perfect relationship with their parents or indeed their children. For those who have to care for our elders you have my overflowing respect and my brother and sister in law, my eternal gratitude. Unconditional love sometimes has a filter when the role changes from relationship to responsibility.  

My parents’ wedding song was “I wonder why you keep me waiting, Chamaine” by Mantovani. I’m so glad the wait is over and after years apart they are now together.  

This is dedicated to all our mothers.  

Mummy I will miss you, truly.
Lots of love,

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