“Like a Tartar, Mum was,” said Jessie. “A real Tartar. When the drink was in her.”
Jessie said ‘the drink in her’ as if her mother, my grandmother, had been possessed of a spirit other than gin. And Jessie could see it as clear as clear, as though it were yesterday. I thought I could, too: an aging lady, her looks, along with husbands and lovers, all gone – but there she was, holding court in that pub, holding onto what was left. Friday night was always the big night out, because Friday was pay day and the Vic, really the Victoria Public House, was the place to go. And Nanny Evans always came along. According to Lew, my old grandmother would sit in the corner nursing a Guinness. Then, suddenly, she’d be reminded of the vicariousness of her existence and the fragile jollity of her demeanor would implode into a searing jealousy of her daughters and their boyfriends. It was their time.
“And your Nan would sit there drinking and then, for no reason, she’s start in on one of us. For no reason at all,” said Lew, to me. “And God help us when she did. All us boys were fair game.”
Then Saturday morning would roll around and, I was told, she would happily remember nothing.
“You dreaded it, but you had to take it.” Lew sounded regretful, even sympathetic. “Had a hard life though, your Nanny. They all did in those days.”