So speaking of turtles and the things that hold you up… My grandmother Lucy died last week. She had a certain force about her, something commanding and elemental, like gravity. Something that let you know that she was the centre of her own particular universe. I am just a little fragment thrown out there into space. My orbit takes me far away sometimes, but never so far as to be beyond her reach.

Sometimes, I have to admit, her glare was too bright for me. Her opinions, unfiltered as they mostly always were, could burn and her wisdom was best absorbed in small doses. She taught me that a grandmother’s love can be critical, as she corrected my pronunciation (she so preferred rounded East Coast vowels to my flat western tones), my use of cutlery or the way I brushed my hair. She taught me that you can’t hide anything from your family- most memorably by unearthing an illicit bottle of vodka in the process of cleaning out my closet when I was in high school (I should have known better- she always cleaned out my closet when she visited).

She taught me how to find my contrary streak…after all, I think I inherited it from her. She taught me a lot of other things too…fundamental rules for life. Commandments without the God part. You can’t argue with them, because they are as truthful as the sun. Here are some:

•                Christmas presents are more gratifying after breakfast….after the dishes have been washed, dried, put away…and then one at a time, so that that unwrapping becomes a gruelling, day-long ritual which does justice to the money and effort expended in buying them and wrapping them in the first place.

•                Spices should be stored in alphabetical order.

•                A Dustbuster is a household essential.

•                Never, NEVER cross a picket line.

•                A woman’s handbag should always contain chewing gum, a little notepad and pen, and a perfumed handkerchief.

•                To play Scrabble- but not well enough to beat her.

•                That it is almost impossible to like someone whose political views are very different to your own.

•                That you should always make sure your floors are clean before going away on a trip.

Lucy– Lux–the star at the centre of our little world, she casts a very bright light which will shine for a long time. My orbit will always be shaped by her force. Every time I find myself sweeping the floor while the family waits impatiently in the car for me, and every time I correct Jamie when he says “I done it” instead of “I did it”, and when I walk out on strike, as we most likely will this winter in protest against the public spending cuts in the UK, I will think of her and smile and know she has made me what I am.