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Elenor Eliza Duffin (nee Purser) otherwise known as Grandma, so as to avoid confusion with Nanny (who lived in Scotland), died in 1976 aged 93. I was 20 at the time so I have many memories of her, also she was my only Grandparent that I saw on any regular sort of basis. I never knew my Grandfathers, both having died before I was old enough to remember, and Nanny lived in Scotland so we only got to see her once or twice per year. So Grandma filled the role in my mind of what Grandparents should be like. Sadly she was crippled with dreadful arthritis of the hips so to me Grandparents were very old, and could not walk.  

Now she would have had new hips but such things were not around in the 1970's, or not if you were in your 80's anyway, so the spent her latter years largely confined to a chair.


Eventually the inevitable happened and she had a fall breaking one of her hips, she was of course taken to hospital, where she languished for two years before developing pneumonia and dying.  So much more could have been done for her, even in the 1970's, but it wasn't. These are things that seem so obvious looking back but perhaps it seemed different at the time.  The sad thing is that when she died it was immediately clear that she had plenty of money and could have had a so much more comfortable existence.

Grandma and Grandad bought their house in Neasden, North London, when it was built in 1935. I know this as I have the original receipt from the builder. It cost them £665 and 7 shillings, and no there are no zeros missing, it was £665.00, the seven shillings extra was for a shelf in the kitchen...

Receipt for 32 Lewis Crescent.

So they moved into a brand new house in 1935 and never touched it or did a single thing to it other than a coat of paint from time to time. When she died the house was as it had been built. The only heating was a coal fire in the back-room, this had a back boiler for hot water, so in summer the room was stiflingly hot with a fire, or else with no fire there was no hot water. There was one very basic bathroom and toilet upstairs.

Things could have been so different. She could have easily afforded to have proper heating installed, a downstairs toilet or a stair-lift could have been fitted, they were available, and she could even have got help with the cost, not that she would have needed it.  Sadly she was one of those pensioners who manage to save thousands of pounds out the most basic pension, how ? By never spending a single penny that was not essential.  She never forgot a birthday or Christmas and was as indulgent and generous to her two Grandsons as any Granny, but would she spend anything for her ? Never.

Her Obsession was leaving a good inheritance, my Dad was an only child, born when she was 43 after getting on for 20 years of childless marriage, so he was I suspect somewhat doted on. However he had been successful in the Newspaper Industry and judging from the lifestyle we enjoyed as  children, he was clearly well paid. My point is that whilst an inheritance is a very nice thing to get, he was not exactly depending on it, and would have infinitely preferred that some of her savings were used to improve her own life.

When she died and Mum & dad were clearing the house they found a chest of drawers stuffed full of brand new unworn clothes, all had been given to her as birthday & Christmas presents all put away "for best" whilst she shivered in thin worn out shabby clothes.


She would save as much as possible out of her pension, saved "for a rainy day".  How hard does it have to rain ? being so crippled that every trip for a pee takes half an hour and is dreadfully painful, I would have thought of as raining pretty damn hard.  When she died there were literally thousand of pounds stuffed under mattresses, in the back of drawers, there was cash everywhere.

So my memories of Grandma are of crippled old lady stuck in a chair, living in one room of an otherwise cold dingy house. My other memory is of being astounded when I started to go friends' houses and would occasionally meet one of their Grandparents, some of them looked half the age of Grandma and they could walk!! one or two even drove cars. And so it slowly dawned on me that not all families were the same.

As well as Grandma there was her Brother Uncle George and her Sister Aunt Em.  As you will see, George was a popular name amongst the Pursers, however this one lived in Balham (London, across the Thames from Fulham). So far as I know he never married, though I am not 100% certain about that. I certainly have no recollection of there being an Aunt or any cousins to go with him. About one Sunday per month George would come for the weekend and stay with Grandma. Sadly, for us kids this meant two boring old people we had to be polite to whilst our Sunday afternoon dribbled away. As with Grandma, Uncle George never forgot a single birthday or Christmas. A card would arrive, inside would be a Postal Order for two shillings and sixpence (£0.12p ) and a note. The note never varied, so how much of it can I remember ?

Dear Neil, Herewith find enclosed  a Postal Order to the value of two shillings and sixpence ,with which to buy yourself some small luxury on the occasion of your birthday.

There was more but that is as far as my memory goes.


In the 1950's two shillings and sixpence was a worthwhile amount, so this was actually a generous gift. George had no children of his own but enjoyed indulging his nieces and nephews, he had quite a few and every one would get their Postal Order, without fail.  

Like all of us, Grandma was a product of her time. She was 18 when Queen Victoria died, lived through two World Wars and the Great Depression of the 1930's. Born into London as a horse-drawn city with gas-lights, she saw Concorde fly and men walk on the moon. She lived through enormous change and years of economic uncertainty, her generation were not brought up to indulge themselves.


For her generation if you had a few quid left at the end of the week you did not spend it down the boozer, or buy something to make your own life a bit better, you saved it. Whilst we may wonder how anyone could exist on the basic pension, Grandma and thousands like her, lived very cheaply. They valued the security of knowing that they had money saved, so that they would be able to cope with some sudden disaster. After probably many years of having to eke out one pay packet for 7 days until the next one arrived, the sense of financial security in her old age meant more to her than the absence of central heating.

Other relatives I can remember were Her brother George mentioned previously, her sister Emily, (Aunt Em) and an ancient old dear who lived in Pavenham in Bedfordshire, where the family came from. This was Aunt Jane and was in fact Dad's Great Aunt. 

Aunt Em was married to Steve Hall, they had one son, also called Steve ( just to avoid confusion.) Hall, he with his wife Gwen and adopted son Andrew lived at Wanstead in NE London, we would see them once or twice per year.

These were keenly anticipated visits. Gwen & Steve knew how to enjoy life and were a breath of fresh air compared to life with Mum & Dad.  Steve was a tiny little stick thin guy, a perfect foil for Gwen who was huge in every possible dimension.  She was massively fat, red-faced and massively jolly. Half way up the garden path you would hit the gales of laughter coming from within, this would continue until it was time to go.  Everybody loved Gwen and Gwen loved everybody back.


Sadly you can't be of Gwen's proportions and have any realistic expectation of long life, not unless you are Gwen anyway, Somehow, God only knows how, she made it to 79. Her funeral was a miserable affair, a force of fun and humour had gone from the world, and we all knew it.

Just as an aside,  Steve surprised us all when not all that long after Gwen's death, he let it be known that he was getting married again, it seems he had no taste for living alone.  After a certain amount of parental tut-tutting, even Mum & Dad came around to the idea that his marrying someone a bit younger and fitter was not such a daft idea when viewed in perspective. Gwen was dead and Steve being alone and miserable was not going to change that situation.  At present I have no information as to who his bride was, so watch this space, I will soon find out.  Sadly this lady may have been younger and fitter but that did not stop her falling off her perch after only a couple of years.

This was the point when Steve really did confound us all. Gwen mark 2 was scarcely cold in her box when Steve announced that mark 3 was on the blocks and that they were to be married soon. This they did and so far as  can remember wife 3 saw him out.  However I am not certain about that, and will have to check.

There was also another couple,  Bernard & Aileen who lived in Salisbury.  Not 100% certain if that was Salisbury Wiltshire or Salisbury Rhodesia ! I don't think I ever met them. I have no idea where they fitted into the family , or for that matter if they were family at all.

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