Chapter 25: Grandmama
Cass made her way home the next day. She decided to call on her Grandmother, who insisted, even in Cass’ thirties, on being called “Grandmama.” Even at Cass’ public school, she had been mocked mercilessly for this bizarre nom de plume of her Grandmother.
She turned up to her flat in Hampstead, stood for about ten minutes while Grandmama got to the door in a chorus, “Darling I am coming, who is it, I am coming.”
The thirties art deco flat had top notes of cigarettes and coffee. There was also a faint bottom note of whiskey. Her grandmother seemed to have spent 80 years on this diet and was a picture of up right steel, wit and belligerence.
“Oh it is you, Darling” her beautiful lined face cracked into a smile.
“Yes Mama,” Cass stopped herself saying, I did say that over the answering system.
“Come in. Come in, so lovely to see you, coffee?”
“I will make it, you sit down.”
“Cigarette? What time is it?”
“Forget the Coffee, it is whiskey o’clock. Dash of American Dry for me.” Mama never said please or thank you. She conducted her pleasantries with tone. She said it was from growing up “Out East”. Cass was not too sure, this was correct. As she remembered her Grandfather had always said please and thank you.
They sat down and tucked into their drinks. Cass stuck to the coffee.
“What have you been up to my Darling?’
“Not a lot, just work. What about you?” Cass said.
“News, Crime Mysteries and Crosswords, the usual.”
“Do you not want to get out more?”
“I have no desire to be surrounded by old people, they bore me. They just go on about how things used to be. I have enough memories I can inflict on you,” Mama smiled wickedly. “I see you, your sister, mother and father a lot and that is enough for me. You work too hard. You will burn out at this rate.”
“There is not a lot I can do about that, it is just life.”
“Not much of a life. I used to go to such parties when I was your age.”
“I am thirty three, you had Mum and had moved here.”
“Oh yes, you seem younger.” Cass was not too sure it was a criticism or a compliment.
“Tell me about the Parties.”
“My brothers took me to such Parties. Raffles was wonderful. The dresses I wore, even in war time, were beautiful. Sometimes they were made out of old material. I used to go through Vogue and then chose a pattern and have it made. I looked so smart in my Uniform as well. All these soldiers stopped marching and saluted me, can you imagine,” Mama was beautiful still, even in her 80s. But her vain memories always light up her face. “I don’t know why people are so anxious now a days. I blame the InterWeb. Too much information, too much choice. I was shopping last week and it took me over an hour to choose cornflakes. And the bread, it all has nuts in it! My dentures will not take it.”
“You actually eat?” laughed Cass. ” But I think you might be right.”
“I know I am right. I lived through the Depression and the War, Rationing. I was never as anxious as everyone today.”
“I don’t think that War is a good way of getting over anxiety.”
“Of course not, but oddly I never felt more alive than when confronted with the danger and uncertainty,” Mama had a slight manic teenaged glint in her ancient eyes.
“That is just the adrenaline high, like bungee jumping, you did not enjoy it but are relieved and elated to be alive.”
“We are Living in Interesting Times,” Mama said ominously. Cass recognised the reference to the Chinese curse.
“What do you mean?” Cass asked.
Mama sipped elegantly at her mainly whiskey cocktail. She looked at Cass seriously, “Sergey has told me about all the Russians getting their wealth out of Moscow. The same is happening in China. It is the first sign. Get out before you are persecuted, get your things somewhere safe and free, where you can get to quickly. London is safe and that is why they are buying everything.”
“People have always invested in London.”
“Not like this, Darling. You have heard the rhetoric from Putin, he sounds like Hitler. The persecutions of homosexuals, ultra nationalism, expansionism, putting people in prison for singing songs. I hope that it does not happen again, because we are not ready for it. I get so annoyed with theses Liberals who say we do not need weapons. We may not want to use the weapons but we still need them. Just because we British are upstanding, does not mean the rest of the World is.”
“I will just go tell India that we want the Raj back because we did it better?” mocked Cass.
“Don’t be facetious,” smiled Mama warmly. “But this is important, the insecurity is coming back, whether it is a Cold or Hot War. You need to be ready.”