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> > > > In Memory - by Allan Sutherland from the words of Catriona Grant

21 November 2011

Published in memorium, the following sequence of transcription poems tells Catriona Grants life story, before and after a stroke.

I remember the stroke

I remember the stroke. 
That was a big event.
So all the things that happened
before the stroke
were all really important. For
after the stroke,
there was three years
I didn’t know what I was doing. 

Bonhill Primary

My childhood. Well,
I was born in 1953
and em
I don’t remember much
about Bonhill Primary
except the day I couldn’t
get to,
too,
two.             
T.O.
One T double O too,
T em W.O. two. 
I knew that was the number,
but I couldn’t get this to
and the two lined up. 
I remember the teacher, I can see her,
and she was so angry,
you know how angry she was,
I got the belt. 
We still had the belt in our setup. 
So, I mean I still can’t do
I go to the garage, I also want to do..
It is very similar, funny,
but I’ll remember it. 
Anyway, it was a very small class,
yeah, very nice, just about
two hundred yards from my house,
yeah um, from the house,
that’s where we lived.

Vale of Leven Academy

I do remember
more about
than that.  Because we wore,
we had to wear tights,
no, stockings,
there wasn’t anything called tights..

So you had to wear stockings,
but the same time,
as well as wearing stockings,
the skirts were short,
so you spent the whole time
fiddling with your tights. 
Soskings, your stockings. 
It’s all about
nobody could see
you had stockings on. 
A lot of nonsense!

Brother Tom

I had an older brother
whom.. I.. hated. 
Because he was
two years older than me,
Tom McDrummond. 
He is a professor now
in St  Bar
          tho
              lom
                  ews.
In London.  Em
He always got things easily. 
You know when he did his O Levels,
he got A’s when he did his Highers,
he got them so easily,
they were all As. 
I couldn’t stand him. 

After the stroke
he came to me
and he was brilliant. 

So I have changed my mind
about the older brother
because I love him to bits.
He is okay, he is
just the kind of man
I needed at the time. 
So. 

We both played hockey
and there, I think I was nearly at his level,
because he couldn’t do the hockey.
Funny. 
And he went, at twenty-one
very good degree in in..
                       inimmunology
                          Imm-u-nology
So, he is a doctor,
he is in charge of the whole department,
but it isn’t a real doctor,
the kind you or I go to
if we have a sore throat
and whatever,
but he is smashing,
and now he is sixty next birthday.

Our house

It was a very poor background. 
Em lived next to the
MacDougalls Lemonade factory. 
We had quite a big house.
If you can imagine this house,
the front door is ours,
but Auntie Jessie
had the other thing of it. 
In the front, up the stairs
we had our beds. 
It was..a house,
very cold in the winter, yeah.

Dad

Dad was em,
a bit difficult to remember now,
em he worked in the,
I won’t say sanitary department,
but I don’t know it the sanitary,
he did go round different toilets
and then he went to the bins
and he was in charge of the bins
but he was a drinker. 

A lot, very bad at drinking. 
I mean, that’s why
I have sort of put his life
as far back as it can go, because I,
I think his,
it must have been hard for him. 
A friend of mine said,
your Dad had an illness. 
(An illness that
affected his wife and three children!)
I think you could,
but I dunno,
they say it is almost impossible
to stop it,
he was supposed to stop.
‘Oh your Dad is clean,
he has stopped drinking.’ 
Oh no, he was drinking down the big,
he had a garage thing,
he was drinking in the garage
so I hated him,
I really, really did,
yeah. 

But. I don’t,
just don’t talk about him
when I go to see my mother,
Mum. I think he has been dead now
ten years?  Must be ten, eleven years.

Mum

So Mum,
she never had anything
when he was alive. 
She worked in a primary school,
assistant to the primary school head teacher
and em. 
When we go out she’ll say,
oh I don’t want to buy that jacket,
it is thirty pounds. 
I said, Mum, do you have the money
to buy the jacket? 
Because if you have the money,
you should buy it.
Because all I remember
was going round the charity shops,
trying to get something to fit Mum. 
So, she has cupboards full
of nice clothes.
Up yours! 

She doesn’t know I will say that,
I never ever mention him
And em when I am at home. 
Life has changed
when they died.  It did. 
And Mum,
she didn’t divorce him,
because she had nowhere to go. 
I mean, we’re talking about
fifty years ago. 
There was nowhere
she could go,
she was, I was
about thirteen, fourteen,
I was, I said
why don’t you leave him?
She said, where will we go? 
There was nothing,
nowhere we could go,
we would have been lying on the streets. 
So it was very hard.  At least now it is better,
with the em
the woman can say
I am a single woman. 
So, better. 
Yeah.

Golf

Good time,
we had a great time. 
We used to play golf.
We had an enormous green
on the front
and a hole in the middle.
One, two, three, four, five, six, seven, eight. 
Only eight holes.  We used to play
the eight holes to the middle hole. 
It was great. 
I can remember that well.

Exams

The first one was Arith,
                      Riss,
                         Arithmetic,
                            Arissmetic
                                                      A..rith..ma..tic. 
Get it!

I was oh so nervous,
I was so nervous,
I got to school
I was sick,
because I had never ever
done an exam like this,
but I went to the,
in er, couldn’t hold a pencil
was awful em I didn’t do it,
I looked and tried to do it,
but I couldn’t do it
because I was feeling sick,
I was,
couldn’t hold the pencil,
a disaster, I came home,
I cried and cried and cried,
because I came home. 
She said, it is okay
because she can,
if you have failed it
they will put in an appeal. 
Anyway I didn’t fail it. 

And then
we did highers instead of em,
A Levels,
which my children have done. 
Em I was sitting English, History,
French and German. 
That was the year
I was head girl.

PE college

I went to PE college,
it was fantastic. 
You fell in love
when you think back to it
because there we were,
we all started on the same day
we had to buy a very complicated uniform
but by coincidence
I noticed that the shop was in Twickenham,
so when I moved into Twickenham I
ëOh, Len Smith’s!’
They provided I suppose
all the kids
for college in Edinburgh.
Funny. Yeah.
Yeah.  Yeah.
Yeah, the scouts
and the green scouts,
grey scouts,
brown scouts,
It doesn’t seem that long ago! 
But we were not allot..
                   not allowed
boys in the dormitory.

Essay

I was eighteen. 
It was in seventy-one,
seventy-one? 
yeah seventy-one.
To seventy four. 
A lot of nonsense. 
Really a lot of nonsense. 
The girls were up to
all sorts of things. 
I remember the first ever
essay I had to do
was a hockey essay. 
I had to compare one system
with another system
and I left the finished essay on my desk,
it was hand-written
because we didn’t have typewriters
in those days.  And a squoo,
                         squee,
                            squee-rel,
                               squill,
came in and across the top
of my essay
to get at this food that I had,
biscuits I think,
so I gave the essay in
with a lot of footprints
of the squeel and she said,
this is a first,
we have, have never ever
had an essay with a squirrel.

It was funny!

Curriculum

er, so, em
that was I got
a distinction in PE,
em no a distinction in teaching PE,
but that was all we did,
did danced, and hockey,
athletics, nextball, lacrosse,
we covered all the different sports
and it was a really,
really good time,
mm, mm.

International

In the second year,
that was when I went to the,
apply for the em the em
wasn’t the England team,
must be the Great Britain team? 
Because we had some people
from Ireland, Scotland, England,
although the practices were all in England. 
So we had to go em. 

But it was really good fun
to go on an aeroplane
for the first time was amazing. 
I was eighteen, nineteen. Nine?
Yeah nineteen,
em first we went to Israel,
which is something
you couldn’t do now
because my Mam says
Israel is a mess,
they are all fighting
and they don’t know whether,
well we went to Israel
and then we went to Tehran. 
And that was where we did
the gymnastics first
and then dance second. 
Fantastic.

Em, we had sixteen girls,
em, and two,
a gym-nastics tutor and a dance tutor,
can’t remember what their names,
em the gym-nastics was very,
well I thought it was moderin,
it was in those days,
don’t do that kind of gym-nastics,
we had to move,
you did a balance
and then curled up
and then you moved into something else
another balance,
it was for Tehran
it was very modern,
so laughter
because we didn’t do any one-up jumping
and trampet over stop,
none of that
it was all moderin gym-nas tics
and the dance it was moderin dance too.
Like they do at London Contempry,
                             Contem-por-ary
Dance School.  Yeah

So. Yeah. It was ama amazing,
because. I mean a wee nineteen year old girl
getting on an aeroplane,
it was amazing,
it really was, yeah. 

Can’t remember very much about it
because an awful lot of the girls
got Tehran tummy. 
They were very sit
and they had to be injected
because of the sickness was so bad.
So.  I didn’t get sick! 
So Tehran, mm.

Final Year

The thir, the third year at college
was okay, we had to really work hard. 
A long, long, long teaching prat-tis,
                               practice,
                                  tea-ching practice. 
I think it was about five weeks, yeah . 
So after Christmas
I think you had a five week placement
and you got an A,B,C,D. 
I got an A when,
I got a distinction in teaching. 
That was good, yeah. 
And then of course I got married.

He was Gordon Smith,
funny now when I think
about what I might have been like. 
It is funny. 

A mixed hockey team
who came to play against us
and we had a, we had drinks afterwards,
that’s where I met him. 

Simply, I mean, I think about it now,
I don’t think I ever
really loved Gordon
because I didn’t want to go back
to being with my father.

I still played hockey

I still played hockey,
I played in the Kel brun
                   K..A..L..B..U..R..N..A.
                        Kelburn
It was a good team.
Um still played on grass,
because the astroturf now is um quite ,
twenty years I suppose it has been going?
Until then we always played on grass.  Em. 
And, but at the same time I taught P.E.
I was involved in the dance,
so I worked, I say four o’clock to five
with anybody who wanted
to come in the dance association.

Gordon’s House

So then Gordon and I
we moved into a high flat,
there was twelve stories on the flat,
em because that was when he em
was going to build a house em
the flat was about from here
to that across the road em
he was to build a house em
I think it took about nine months

to build the house
and it was beautiful. 
His Mum and Dad stayed next door. 
So, it really was,
I think it’s still there
in Paisley, yeah, a beautiful house,
yeah. Em.  Yeah. 
But I mean what is a house?

John Neilson

So that it em,
so I moved then from Gourock High School,
em no, Columbus,
moved from there to the em John Neilson. 
Now John Nielson in Paisley was nearer my home. 
It used to be in the days of a grammar school
was John Neilson Grammar. 
You applied to get there,
you had to take a exam to get in
and only the A’s were taken. 
Paisley Grammar, John Neilson Grammar
were the two schools that took them,
but the government, the local authority
decided em we were doing away with grammar schools
and you would just take the, em,
the bit round about you like so-called. 

John Neilson was in the Fergr,
                           Fergr,
                              better write it,
                                 F.E.R.G.U.S.L.I.E,
                                     Ferguslie Park... Estate. 
It was awful. 
I mean it really was,
I mean it was according to stis,
                             they were stis,
                                        Sta-tis-tics about it,
it was the second most deprived area in Europe.

Signs of Hardship

I mean, that is why
I did the diploma in guidance. 
Because I,
yes I was teaching P.E.,
but I would take them to P.E.
and these kids had no shoes,
they were coming to school
in plimsolls.  I mean,
I remember a girl,
she had to go to the post office
to get her family alliance, then
so that she didn’t lose it
I got in the P.E. room
and she came back and she got it,
she couldn’t take it home
because her mother had no idea. 
She would buy cigarettes, were all,
(I didn’t smoke
but everybody around me smoked.)
She would buy Birds Eye Dinners. 
Remember Birds Eye Dinners? 
I mean, when you are on family allowance,
you don’t buy Birds Eye Dinners. 
You could buy a pound of mince
and make it,
it really was a hard, hard, life. 

They had em, I remember
we had to take a child who wasn’t well,
so I went with another teacher,
went down to Fergus Park,
so I stop in the road,
there wasn’t a car in sight
to go into the council house. 
The council house was what we call
local development houses,
wasn’t theirs, a council house. 
So um I parked the car
and she said, miss, I think
I will leave him in the car
because you don’t know
what will be left of the car
when you come out of my house. 

So I mean it really
it was a very very good job
because I think it was then
I realised there is poverty in this country. 
There is, it is incredibly porre,
                              pov..
                                 poor.  It is! 
I mean just today
when I was standing
waiting for you coming,
a man picking up cigarette butts. 
I mean what kind of place do we live in,

So that was when I started the coun..
It was like counselling,
I mean I took on board the em,
I think, I can’t remember what year,
I had a whole year,
I was in charge of the whole year,
so very very good, em
but hockey by the gallon so,
eight hockey teams! 
And volleyball teams,
dance teams
and every kind of team,
so it was from there, em
that I moved to Brunel.
Am I going too fast?

Leaving Gordon

I mean, I just up, upped and went. 
Gordon was very nice. 
He was a super guy.  But I knew then
I didn’t love him.  And that was why
I didn’t want to take anything from him,
because he had set the whole thing up from the start,
um, so I did.. I just upped, I said I’m sorry, Gordon,
I was very, very naughty,
I was being seen by a number of other men,
Yeah, very naughty! So.  But.

Yeah.  Well. Teachers.  Mm. 
I mean, I just, Gordon was the first man
I had ever made love to. 
So I was just curious what,
was there a different way of doing it,
I found there was.

So. But I think um
I was a bit of a rebel. 
Uh. So.  Em, but Gordon
I never ever heard from again. 

So I put all the stuff in my car,
he guessed I think
that there was something going on, but,
so that I wouldn’t cause any hardship
I packed the car
and went to the bedsit in Glasgow. 
Very good. Yeah. 

I had it in my mind that I didn’t
hear again from him, maybe I did. 
But my mind said I didn’t. 
Hmm. 
Must have done the divorce papers somehow, yeah. 
Can he do that on his own?
I do not think he can.

One room bedsit.

Fine!  It was fine. Because I,
I had decided that I wanted to live there,
so because I had decided, fine. 
I mean I had a very full life
because there was hockey training,
just the same as my life had always been,
dancing, except I was now a teacher,
the dance school, I did two I think, em
but we trained twice a week,
so there goes two classes dancing
and two hockey sessions,
four sessions a week that is.  I
mean I didn’t feel depressed or,
I don’t think I feel depressed at all. 
I mean, the stroke yes, um,
Yeah, but not then.  Yeah.

Brunel

But I was working to a very high standard. 
I wanted John Neilson to be one of the best schools for P.E. 
And I was really hard working for that.  Em
I decided to leave em
because when I was at college
I had em
I was already going to marry to Gordon
and it was then in the third year
she tells us that you could stay on
and do a degree. 
Em so I discussed it with Gordon
and we decided no,
that I wouldn’t stay on, I don’t know,
very unusual for me not to want,
but um, we left and I got married. 

All these years later, seven years later,
all the people coming in they all had degrees
so I would never ever have got
another pom,
           pon,
              pro-mot-ed post in teaching
unless I had another degree.  So I mean,
I was on my own by then,
I decided to do a masters in Education,
which was what Brunel offered
two days a week, terrific,
and two days teaching at Brunel. 
And that is when I met David. 

So, mm.  Brunel was a very very good job. 
Funny hours, you can imagine. 
Lunch time and after lectures had finished
was my working hours.  So I mean
it wouldn’t appeal to everybody
if I had been married
and had a family with children
I wouldn’t ever have done that job
because we wouldn’t work lunchtime
and after school.  But when I did it,
really did enjoy it,
they had an Astroturf pitch. 
When was that?  Nineteen eighty-two. 
They had a pitch which was As-troturf, As-tro-turf.  Mm.  Mmm. 
So I mean that was, I did everything there too. 
Nextball, badminton, squash, hockey,
I didn’t do lacrosse, because it was a silly game.

David

I met David and he was nineteen. 
And I was twenty-nine. 
Mm. So.  I mean I, I,
I was madly in love with him,
I really was, he, he was really good guy,
the, I went out with him em,
I remember he came to learn to play
squa, squass, squass? 
S..q..u..a.ss. Scro.. 
You get the hang of it. 

He came to our lesson
that I was running. 
So, you have to learn first of all
how to hold the racket,
em, he would play with somebody else,
he said em that I was ‘quite nice’,
I must have been quite nice,
I was slim, em, I was super fit,
so I think he noticed then,
so he signed up for the next one
and the next one and the next one. 
And eventually we started going out. 

Yeah.  Em,
but I wanted to have a baby. 
Mm I em miscarried when I was in,
at thirty-one,
so he would be twenty-one by now,
and it took a long time,
I was thirty-six before I had Ross.
Mm, a long time trying to have a baby. 
But he, there he is twenty-one,
now he is twenty-one and working for BUPA,
He is a very nice.

Miscarriage

I remember,
I went to the bathroom
and it came,
was just blood,
so I went down to use the phone
to phone David and said
I thought I had miscarried,
well I wasn’t talking,
I was crying,
I thought I had miscarried,
it was about two o’clock in the morning,
um so it was a Sunday,
he said phone for an am-bu-lance,
so I dialled nine nine nine
to get an ambulance to come. 
They took me to Reading,
there is a hospital,
I don’t know what the name of it,
maybe Reading Hospital for ..
But I think, she had to,
I had a DNC?
Which is something
to clean out the passage. 
But, um I thought then
this is always being positive,
because I knew than
that I would have to wait
but eventually
I would produce a baby. 

So I did.

They are Ross and Craig.

Between Ross and Craig

Between Ross and Craig
I lost another baby. 
It was a past P..a..t..u,
Patau syndrome baby.  I
remember coming back
on holiday with David
to Mauritius.  And I was
very pregnant when I was going,
em, and I remember
getting up in the morning
and I felt
as if I wasn’t pregnant any more. 

The bump was there,
reduced to about there. 
Because I was thin,
you could see that had happened. 
But I didn’t say anything,
because what could they do,
I mean this was a baby that was
twenty-three weeks old. 

I thought wait until we get back
to England.  Em. But I got in
and pressed the answering machine. 
There was a message from the doctor
at Queen Charlotte’s Hospital
in Shepherd’s Bush. 
(It is no longer, it is now flats.)
He said I had to phone as soon
as I got back
because there was some bad news. 
So em I phoned,
you have to come in because you have to ge,
I mean what you call, he says,
if the baby is alive
he will be dead by the time he comes out,
if the baby is dead, he will..
Anyway, it was Easter,
I remember it being Easter. 

We went to Queen Charlotte’s,
it gave a scan and as I thought,
the baby was dead
but I had to deliver the baby,
so that I did by,
I think drugs of some kind
would make the contractions come again,
anyway, em the baby
he would never have lived. 
He has a cleft palate,
he had wrong numbers of fingers,
wrong numbers of toes, em,
He, I mean his back was away over,
it was em,
I said is this baby going to live?
He said, the longest then
that they had kept a baby alive
was three days, um,
so I thought well,
the baby wasn’t going to live,
one in a million times
of having this kind of baby,
em they offered all kinds of counselling,
and everything else
but it was in Easter weekend,
so I said no,
I think I will be okay,
um, there was Ross
who was desperate to know
where his Mammy was,
and em went home ,
I cried a bit but, I didn’t,
I wasn’t really,
I was sad because the baby had died,
but not really,
because he wouldn’t have lived. 

So um within the usual time limit I
waited and tried to have another,
and then I had Craig!

And then...

On 15th October, 2010, Catriona and I had arranged to meet for a final recording session , where she wanted to talk about her partner Charlotte and the stroke which left her with aphasia. 

On the 14th October, Catriona died suddenly and unexpectedly, following a further stroke.

You have to live life

You have to live life
because you never know
what is round the corner. 

Maybe that is what I have said to myself,
I’m not sure, I don’t know,
I think I was too busy
having a good time.

Last words

I had a friend who played
at Woking hockey club,
   Woking,
                  Woking hockey club,
I thought I’ll go along to play in their summer leagues,
then I met Charlotte.
Mm!
One and a half Craig was.
Terrible!
That was the girl who walked across the grass
and I found myself saying,
ëOh who is that?’
So I was told, oh that is Charlotte Dickinson,
she is from New Zealand,
but I don’t know how long she is staying. 
So that was all I got about her.
And that she is the only woman I have ever been with. 
Mm.  So. 

We have a rest?

Comments

Sarah Playforth

/
22 November 2011

The immense power of the personal imagery in the words Allan has created really hit me; I had planned to read a couple of poems but then I could not stop - my tears were from recognition not pity. Catriona's voice reached deep inside me and I feel as if I have met her myself. This collection should be on school curriculums, it conveys a message that is so wonderfully prosaic yet so profound that "we are all one".

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