The rain was still siling down as the taxi pulled up outside Rayners. Lucy guided Nanna Shaz and Nanna Pat out the car and into the pub whilst Mam paid the fare from Chants Ave. They’d been to the funeral of Lucy’s last surviving Great Nanna. Lucy and her sister Gemma took turns to go to such things with Mam whilst the other one looked after their two bains. Neither of them having anyone else to babysit.
Auntie Lynne had saved them all a table by the window which the wet women gathered around, chatting away whilst dripping on the threadbare pub carpet. Uncle Gaz got the round in.
Lucy hadn’t been at a full family gathering since the lockdowns. Yonks ago! To be honest she felt a tad nervous about this wake malarkey, gatherings of the Mams, Aunties and Nannas could get a bit messy. And overwhelming! She hadn’t really known much about her Hessle Road roots, concisely fabled by the celebrant in Great Nanna’s eulogy. Lucy was second generation Bransholme herself and the Hessle Road of the old nannas was a bygone age to her, the family diaspora had flitted to the large Hull council estates generations ago when a lot of the old terraces were demolished.
She smiled at Uncle Gaz and thanked him for the fruit cider.
Gaz was the exception in the family in being an older man still around. The women in the past had mainly lost their menfolk to either world wars or to the sea. Both Lucy’s Mam and Nanna had lost their men because, well basically, their men had just been twats! One way or the other all the women now sat around the table had been brought up fatherless and solely within the extended family matriarchy they all clung to, a vital network when the men were absent. All were mams, nannas, sisters, aunties, great aunties, Lucy had lost track so collectively she endeared them all as ‘the nannas’. Her and her sister followed the female family tradition and were both single mothers. Stuck on bloody repeat!
Great Nanna’s husband had been a trawlerman and was lost at sea when they were both still in their 20’s with two bains to feed, Sharron and Lynne. She’d been a proper, resilient, old school Hessle Roader. Lived and died off Boulevard, knew how to braid fishing nets, worked at the Smales and Marrs fish factories, followed all the fishing superstitions and went on the women’s demonstrations for safer conditions for the men on the Trawlers.
Lucy had been intrigued by her life story and wanted to know more. The old days were now sadly slipping out of memory and Hessle Road now relied on huge painted gable end murals to keep the old fishing community memories alive. In all Lucy’s life she’d only ever known the old fish dock being a retail park.
Once the women were all settled and dried out and done with admiring the service and the big ‘NANNA’ floral tribute from Grahams florists Auntie Lynne opened her handbag and produced a pile of old photos and placed them on the table. Mam and the others had seen them all before so only gave them a cursory skeg but Lucy hadn’t so she sat there quietly devouring the memories whilst the nannas gabbed.
Lucy’s mind drifted off into a pleasant inner monologue as the photos transported her back. There was one of a young Great Nanna with her handsome young husband in his smart 50’s suit and teddy boy hair. Awe there’s Great Grandad, sadly lost at sea, just three days ashore to blow ‘is wages and most of that was done right ‘ere in the trawlermen’s party pub, bless ‘em. Great Nanna once told her women weren’t allowed in the bar in those days. Consigned to men only ships then drinkin’ onshore in men only pubs! short brutal lives! ooh a great one, she’s in’er fish factory white wellies, factory coat and obligatory ‘eadscarf just ‘erm from a shift at Marrs. Mam acknowledged that one with a nod whilst continuing to indulge the old folks reminiscences before the nannas conversation inevitably peaked and descended into familiar ailment chat. Awe one of Mam as a bain watchin’ ‘er nanna braid a fishin’ net on pavement, lovely red brick terraced ‘ouse that, brilliant photo! oh dear ‘ere we go Auntie Lynne’s on ‘er third parnt already!!! A couple more photos. She could see the family resemblance in the bains down the generations. The strong Hessle Road gene. My bain is deffo a chip off the erld block! Nanna Shaz lept up to get a plate of sausage rolls from the buffet. That erld lass is still spritely when there’s scran abou’, luv these tough erld biddies, salt of the earth! She could see in the photos that the family reproductive cycle was to start having bains in their late teens. The mams look serrr young, just kids themselves, adultin’ haha! awww nanna Pat looks sad now, she’s maudlin into ‘er second snerball about the cruel sea, poor owld lass is serr scrawny! Another brilliant photo. Awww likkle bains clompin’ abou’ on rerd in their mams shoes, our bains better be’ave fer Gem today, I’ll text ‘er soon, me and Gem always jugglin’ wi’ bains an’ nannas, oh my god skippinrerps! Shazzers back from minglin’ and chattin’ t’nunty nanna, Mams nipped out fer a fag, aww cute bains in their crappy erld prams, what did they call those erld prams in ‘ull? There was a photo of Big Lil Bilocca leading headscarfed women down a street alongside a very tall policeman. ‘eadscarf’s were deffo in fashion, they’ve all gorrum on, size of that copper though! An arrow drawn on the photo in biro pointed to the back of the march with the word Mam. Wow! great nanna was there, she really did march wi’ big Lil, a bloody revolutionary, luv it!!
Mam came back with a paper plate piled up for her.
Auntie Lynne kept nudging Uncle Gaz to go call cousin Alex and his mate over. She’s upta summat? deffo pissed!! musn’t forget all the brollies are under the table, still bloody serkin’, mmm niiice quiche that. She picked up half a photo. Only young nanna Shaz on it? why? there’s a tiny bit of a man’s shirt showin’? Grandad must ‘ave been cut owt the photo in anger!! She’d never seen a picture of Mams Dad before. Brave men culled by the cruel sea back in the day and our families twats cut owt o’ memory by pairs o’ scissors! there’s always wrong ‘uns mind, oh yeah, tansads, that’s what they called the prams.
Lucy looked up, she had no idea how long she’d been absorbed by the photos. Alex and his mate were stood next to a swaying Auntie Lynne, all three were grinning. Eyup, do I know Alex’s mate? Niiice jacket! The good looking lad in a smart light blue stone island jacket got her attention pretty quick. Snap, wake up!!
‘Budge up Lucy’
The lad put 2 fresh pints down in front of her, a cider for her and a lager for him and squeezed in smiling.
Suddenly she was aware of the situation.
She glanced around the table. The old womenfolk had stopped gabbing and were all nudging each other and staring open gobbed at this handsome young lad.
A sea of smiles cracked through their pale, world weary wrinkled faces.
The hopes of Lucy’s entire maternal ancestry projected itself across the table and over the swiftly discarded photos, a Watersons ballad gently played in the background as they stared at the very apparition of a modern day Hessle Road three day millionaire!
What the actual fuck!!!
Lucy laughed out loud and addressed her family for the first time,
‘What’s this then, an arranged marriage by the fuckin’ nanna cartel?’
‘ere we go!!
She raised her pint to lover boy laughing.
Derek Jennings is a retired Engineer from Hull in East Yorkshire. He writes short stories. Derek has previously written for Football Fanzines and Tenfootcity magazine.
Follow him on twitter @derekjennings17