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Hand in glove

Until I was fifteen, I had two Grannies.  My paternal granny was always known as Granny Kim on account of her eponymous, over-stuffed cat which resembled a large tabby cushion and used to lie on the half-landing of her staircase in a sunspot meditating fatly.  Granny had only one arm.  The other was lost in The First World War.  Amputated on account of gangrene, not mislaid.  She was a nurse as so many of the women of her generation were.  She never expected to marry after losing her limb.  With the over-abundance of women to the dreadfully depleted stock of men when peace followed the tragically dubbed ‘war to end all wars’, she rather felt that her fate was dancing with other spinster women and dreaming of a never-to-be love.  However in time, quite some time, she met my Grandfather who had had his vocal chords severed by the village doctor during an emergency traceotomy as a child and from then on could only speak in a whisper – as a point of interest he spoke nine languages fluently in his whisper.  From time to time I remember to contemplate the thanks I owe the physician who, respecting his hippocratic oath, in that moment saved a young boy’s life and by doing so gave me the chance of birth.   Granny Kim used to say that they were two cripples together.  I imagine these days she might be shushed and cautioned against deflowering delicate sensibilities with her candid comment.


Granny Kim (who I have written about before) was irresistibly irreverent.  She had seemingly no filter between what  was in her head and what came out of her mouth.  For example the busty girl tottering down the seafront in tightest of tight, scoopiest of scooped angora sweater must clearly  have heard the shrilly uttered ‘VERY uplifted’ from the neat tweed clad old woman tottering toward her.  And the French neighbour of my own new to motherhood mummy proudly showing off her own newborn to Granny was asked what she had called the child.  ‘James’, replied Madame.  ‘And James was a very small snail’ said Granny.  It’s A A Milne, from ‘The Four Friends’ but the French lady, so my mother reports, was visibly and vividly offended and operated the etiquette of ‘on ne peut plus se voir’ which  as Mel of France Says explains ever eloquently her means ‘one cannot see you any more’ and literally makes the recipient invisible ever after.   My mother wondered if she imagined Granny was calling her sprog a frog.  She wasn’t.  She was saying the first thing that popped into her head.  I have the same tendency.  I try to control it.  I frequently fail.

So what is that preamble about.  Well, with only one arm Granny had a drawer FULL of single gloves kindly donated by countless people over the years who had mislaid it’s pair.  She found it ceaselessly amusing that people never stopped in their surge of waste-not-want-not good heartedness, to think that their gift was only useful if it happened to be the correct glove for Granny’s remaining hand.  Therefore she had a quite magnificent collection of single gloves languishing in tissue paper which she had graciously accepted rather than burst anyone’s bubble of well meant intent.

Which brings me to Grenoble.  Grenoble was, for many years the capital of glove-making in France.  The giants of glove-making made fortunes and the most revered of all was a man named Xavier Jouvin.  He has an entire quartier dedicated to his name – looking over the river it is lovely and there is a large statue of him in the middle of it’s main square.  I have become very fascinated with Xav and found out that he is most revered for having created a form of mass-production of gloves.  He fashioned a machine that could cut up to SIX pairs, six mind you, of identical gloves at one go.  Breathtaking in 1838.  When I leave Grenoble, it will be with a pair of hand-made Grenoblois gloves to remember my time by.

You might recall that I was previously living in a positively palatial apartment  provided by the institute that my husband was doing a tranche of work for in the first 6 months of this year. Amongst other delights it had corinthian columns and  as the time approached to leave it  I seriously considered chaining myself to these pillars and refusing to leave.   I had however, a last-minute change of heart and decided that I would leave quietly and with gratitude for the time we had spent there.  Sugaring pills tends to provide incentive, I find.  My candied pellet is this:  the place we found, the small apartment that is less than a third of the size of the other, is contained in what the French call Un Hôtel Particulier which is in effect a grand residence built as the town house for someone of importance.  Guess who?  Well so far, I know it was one of the great glovemen but I am not able to finitely say which one.  Of course I hope its M. Jouvin Xavier.  I am currently researching more thoroughly but this oasis in the centre of Grenoble has given me the rare chance to live in a very special building that retains much of it’s original fabric.  From the hand painted walls in the entrance hall to the beautiful tiling and ceilings it is wonderful.  I have the luxury of a terrace and a garden and best of all I have a double curved staircase up to the front door which makes me feel that I should be wearing kid gloves and matching slippers with some sort of an empire line Lizzy Bennet dress and bonnet with thick silky ribbons neath my chinny chin chin, at all times.  My quarters are exquisite, dare I say better than the last place  and also retain a cornucopia of original features.  If you would like, I will share the innards of this place I am occupying … I’m happy to  but I never want to overtax with tedium..


PS:  Granny Kim was fond of reciting this poem and peeling with laughter at it’s quite gasping ghastliness.  I had never paid it much heed except to recite it idly and wince when having flashbacks to Granny Kim in her hammock.   Until today, when incubating this post it popped into my head spontaneously and inevitably. I thought I should find out who IS responsible for this vacuous verse.

It was written by a woman called Frances Darwin Cornford.  She was the grand-daughter of the immeasurably brilliant Charles Darwin.  Ironically it seems that the father of evolutionary theory had a somewhat poorly evolved grandchild.  As it turns out

G K Chesterton agreed with me.  Read his wonderfully ascerbic response to this quite appalling effort, please do …

To A Lady Seen From A Train

Frances Darwin Cornford

O why do you walk through the fields in gloves,
Missing so much and so much?
O fat white woman whom nobody loves,
Why do you walk through the fields in gloves,
When the grass is soft as the breast of doves
And shivering sweet to the touch?
O why do you walk through the fields in gloves,
Missing so much and so much

The Fat White Woman Speaks

G K Chesterton

Why do you rush through the field in trains,
Guessing so much and so much?
Why do you flash through the flowery meads,
Fat-head poet that nobody reads;
And why do you know such a frightful lot
About people in gloves and such?
And how the devil can you be sure,
Guessing so much and so much,
How do you know but what someone who loves
Always to see me in nice white gloves
At the end of the field you are rushing by,
Is waiting for his Old Dutch?

And as a bonus because I swiped it for my title, The Smiths belt out ‘Hand in Glove’ in Glasgow on this date (September 25th) 1985 – it fits perfectly, as all good gloves should

166 Comments Post a comment
  1. I meant to say I was so impressed about the way your grandfather was remarkable and learned so many languages. . . They were an amazing couple and you were so blessed to know both of them. 💖💖 What a loving set of grandparents. xo 💐

    October 16, 2017
    • Sadly, I never knew him and Granny died when I was fifteen after several years in nursing care with dementia. But I remember her so clearly. My Grandfather I believe was a very gentle man – I was always told my father was very like him. Very bright with virtually no ego ❤️

      October 16, 2017
      • Oh, so sorry you didn’t know this grandfather, Fi. I guess my late night reading this wasn’t my best! Thank you for sharing this and it makes me glad they had each other and their love story is now “immortal” due to your sharing this. 💞 I am up at my soon to be 89 year old mother’s place, she’s taking an after breakfast nap but trick or treaters will be here at the memory care building after lunch.
        Hope all is beautiful and warm this lovely weekend! xo 🍁 🌾🍂

        October 21, 2017
      • Warm and beautiful today, set to be cold and miserable tomorrow … but that just means I can stay in and do some work which I really do need to so no complaints! I wish you a beauty of a weekend and warm wishes to your mother. Xo

        October 21, 2017
      • Hugs and kisses, hope all is well with you, your girls and any other family.💞 How’s the Bean? xo 💖

        November 13, 2017
      • The Bean is fine. She is on a regime – living in the city she had begun to get a little porky (dont tell her I have told you this) so she is out and hiking every day again and getting rather less in her bowl – she’ll thank me 😉 xo

        November 13, 2017
  2. Grandparents are blessing and having them as we grow older is another blessing. You have a very remarkable granny…in culture we don’t send our grannies to any facility when they are too old enough. We take care of them for as long as they live that’s why we get to really enjoy their presence

    October 16, 2017
    • I much prefer the notion that we should look after our elderly. After all, it is they that nurtured and protected us so why would we not repay them with the same respect and kindness when the time comes? Your culture has it right.

      October 16, 2017
      • You are right Osyth besides we dont want to experience the same thing when we are already too old too …that would be very very sad..

        October 16, 2017
  3. Pan #

    I was in the hospital when you wrote this, seems I’ve missed alot on WP..
    But glad I’m catching up now..

    It’s no wonder you weave the wonderful stories you do.. The rich history of your family and your experiences ! To our benefit, the author in you comes bursting out 💛

    Those two poets 😮 She was offensive and he was certainly offended !

    October 23, 2017
    • I do come from a healthy nest of eccentrics to be sure! Though like all eccentrics they have no idea of their oddness … that’s the beauty of it 😉 I am so glad you are improving and I will be in touch personally. When I am you will understand why I have been rather under the wire lately. So long as my writing NEVER matches hers I will be quite happy! Chesterton had some tangible talent but I get the impression in his verse that he was just in a frenzy of fury – it has a curious scan at the end, I find 🙂

      October 23, 2017
  4. Pan #

    I’d love to know your spin on the end.. The last line is a bit lost on me, even trying to fill in for context.. A slow thinking morning for me or a cultural difference ?

    The line “Fat-head poet that nobody reads.. Made me go 😮 and wondering if they had a past of some sort that didn’t end well..

    Your writing will never turn to that low level of hers..

    I always understand that you have good reason, when not in touch.. You are in my thoughts and prayers for things to mellow out and move forward.. 💛

    October 23, 2017
    • You are one of lifes’ lovelies, my friend – a true and genuine lifer. The reference to ‘my old Dutch’ in Chesterton’s poem is a (now mostly outdated) colloquial way of referring to your wife and was mostly used in London and SE England. There are thoughts that it is short for Duchess but that is debatable. What is certain is that GKC was underlining the fact that the lady in gloves was very loved by her special man. Much news for you and I WILL be in touch when I get a rather pesky project to bed later this week. 🤗

      October 23, 2017
  5. As ever, I am coming somewhat late to this. Your Granny Kim sounds wonderful, in fact both your grandparents do. Her outspokenness greatly resembles that of a great aunt, known as Auntie Gypsy for reasons that escape me, who could say anything to anyone and get away with it because of her charm. Yes, that poem is quite dreadful, but I love G.K.’s riposte! I hope your new apartment will live up to the obvious delights of the old one.

    October 27, 2017
  6. Hi, It’s me again…
    I was talking with a fellow this a.m. that left me with thoughts of the poem written by Frances Darwin Cornford and the response of G K Chesterton.
    I have never believed and still don’t believe that a person could walk through this life with blinders on, not seeing the peripheral influences of another person’s actions, even if they prefer not to.
    This a.m. fellow refused to see beyond what was directly in front of him, not because he couldn’t. Is the payoff his own self worth?
    I think your Granny’s repeated recital delivered a good message and a great influence. This post is on my favorite list.
    Thank You & Take Care

    October 27, 2017
  7. When you said that your granny has no filter, I actually thought of myself. I’m not tactless but I’m very frank and straightforward with people, too. Haha! Beautiful post & photos, dear 🙂

    November 5, 2017
    • Hello Amielle … you are clearly my sort of person – straightforward is so much more real, I feel. Thank you for taking the time to read and comment in such a delightful way and thank you for following my blog – I shall try not to disappoint! 😊

      November 5, 2017
      • Aww, Osyth. :”) I’m pretty sure we’d get along well! Will be waiting for your future posts! 💖

        November 5, 2017
  8. check out my new blog

    November 19, 2017
    • Thank you for following my blog – I hope you will enjoy what I have to offer. In due course, when I am doing my new follower triage (which I do monthly) I will take a look at yours … it is kind of you to point me towards it.

      November 20, 2017
  9. What beautiful images! Your grandma sounds like an absolute hoot – my great grandma is fortunately still with us (93 and still going strong…she refuses to move until she sees me married off :’) ) and is the EXACT same. Zero filter. It makes her absolutely hilarious . . . and a wonderful conversation partner!xx

    November 21, 2017
    • Oh preserve that Granny with all your might …. all hail irreverent old ladies and long may they ride! Thank you so much for your lovely comment and thank you for following my blog. I will try very hard not to disappoint! Xx

      November 21, 2017

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