Thursday, 1 December 2011

Gran's Spare Hand

My Gran kept her spare hand in the bread bin...

When I was small I didn't question the fact that one of my grandmothers had a right arm that ended just above her elbow and so wore a prosthetic arm to which various hands could be attached. She had an everyday hand, one for best, a driving hand (that worked with the adapted steering wheel in her car) and odd-looking claw thing which she could hold a knife in - or a crochet hook.

She had bone cancer in her hand when she was in her early fifties and the treatment included amputation of the affected hand and part of her arm. Being a right-hander she then had to relearn how to do everything with her left hand. She was a great cook and baker, and used to have a store cupboard brimming with home-made chutneys, jams and jellies. She also made many of her own clothes and was skilled at embroidery and crochet. She never managed to master one-handed knitting, but could crochet very effectively by using wedging the hook in her 'claw'.

Sadly she died when I was ten, and there are many things that I didn't get chance ask her about. I spent a wonderful few days staying with her on my own in what turned out to be her last summer (although we didn't realise that at the time). I was actually a little scared of her as she stood no nonsense and certainly wasn't given to gushing displays of affection.

So I was thinking of her today as I stood in front of nearly three kilograms of apples preparing to make a batch of spiced apple chutney. I wish I could say that it is an old family recipe that she passed down to me, but it's actually from the BBC Good Food website. I'm sure she didn't end up with quite so much chutney slopped onto the worktop, cooker and over herself but I like to think she would be pleased to see the chutney-making tradition upheld...

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