Meet Nancy. She is 79-years-old and is responsible for teaching her great nieces and nephew bonfire songs, as well as how to bake, and how to fix things with bits of string!
Where do you fit in your family?
I am an Aunt and Great Aunt. (I didn’t ever marry.) I had an older brother and sister but I am the only one still alive.
What do you like to do with your great nieces and nephew?
Listen to their experiences, watch them grow, hear how they view the world, learn from and through them, talk and laugh with them – not all at once because they are much too quick for me when they are all together!
Where did you grow up?
On my parents’ farm on the Kinangop in Kenya, Africa.
What are some things your parents used to say to you when you were young?
There are more ways to kill a cat than choking it with cream.
Manners maketh the man.
There’s Mrs. Do-as-you-would-be-done-by, and then there’s Mrs. Be-done-by-as-you-did.
What occupations have you had?
Shorthand typist in Kenya and West Australia. Farmer in New South Wales and Queensland.
What did you do for fun when you were young?
Horse riding, playing polo, tennis, hockey, Scots dancing, sailing, camping, surfing, reading, sewing, and playing bridge. We had a fantastic life within a small community, and I did more or less what everyone else did.
I smoked and drank as a young adult – only once to the point of being inebriated and I certainly learnt from that – but so did everyone else. Society was ordered, and it never occurred to me to get out and right some of the wrongs. Much too busy having a good time!
What have been the biggest lessons you've learnt?
If you don’t face your fears they will grow bigger each time you back down.
Do the little things every day. They are just as important as the big things. Do two things you dislike on your list before allowing yourself the luxury of doing one thing you do like. Dig your ditches and the rain will come.
What do you like to do in your spare time these days?
Garden. Read. Do cryptic crosswords. Walk. Entertain my family.
What things are most important to you?
My Lord and Saviour Jesus Christ. Then people, chiefly but not only, my family. Living within my means. My health.
What are the best and hardest parts about growing up?
Growing up in and with a family and community that is supportive and encouraging and safe. That’s the best part. Relishing the new and exciting things you learn every day. The world bursts with potential and opportunity!
The hardest part is having to make decisions and choices for yourself unaided by parents, and taking the consequences of the bad ones!
What are the best and hardest parts about growing old?
The best part of old age is finding so much to laugh at that I used to take terribly seriously. Not caring “what other people think”. Also, finally realizing that God does actually have everything under control and I am not solely responsible for changing the world.
The worst part is watching and experiencing bits of oneself wearing out. Sometimes watching younger people make the same mistakes I made and being unable to prevent them is painful...
Do you feel old? What is it like?
My body reminds me that I am no longer able to take it entirely for granted and do what I used to do without care or thought. Mostly I don’t feel old in my mind, until I talk to a young person!
It is also irritating not to be able to remember things properly. It is also funny. There is a lot to laugh at! One learns not to take oneself nearly as seriously as in one’s youth.
What are some of the things you do now that you never thought you would be able to do when you were younger?
I used to despair of ever being able to cook a decent meal, I still don’t particularly enjoy cooking, but surprise myself sometimes when I achieve a successful dinner party.
What is your favourite type of music?
Light classical, light opera, ballet, some popular music. Not hard stuff.
Anne of Green Gables, The Power of One, The Potato Factory, Sarah Dane, Kings in Grass Castles, The Screwtape Letters, The Robe, Rain On The Wind, Dear and Great Physician, African Bush Adventures... I could go on!
What is your most prized possession?
My independence, long may it last!
What is your favourite recipe?
We asked Nancy’s great nieces and nephew what she has taught them...
“Nancy has taught us many principles of baking, cooking and gardening, as well as some terrific songs to sing around the bonfire!”
“She taught me to drive in her ute, and to ride a lawn mower! And generosity - Nancy has definitely taught me that.
Nancy also helped teach me the five vowels - haha! She even made up a song for me…
A E I O U, is good for me and you, I've got a boot and you've got a shoe, A E I O U.”
“She taught me to drive too and how to fix sores and that older people are cool and have pasts as well. I never understood that 'til she started telling me stories of her youth.”