There’s lovely

One step into my mum’s kitchen and she offers me a glass of wine,

“Or are you still teetotal?” my mum asks.

“A juice for me will be fine, thanks.”

‘Teetotal’ is such an unfashionable word somehow. Hearing it immediately takes me back to being a little girl and spending time in the company of my beloved Welsh grandmother. She was brought up during the early 1900s in a small coal mining town in the valleys of South Wales, where the Welsh chapel stood at the heart of the community and ‘taking the pledge’ was part of chapel culture.

I adored my grandmother. She was a fantastic story-teller, relishing the dramatic and forever humourous. To be honest, a strong, lyrical Welsh accent goes some way to enrich delivery when it comes to performance. She would tell me how she and her (eight?) brothers and sisters would sit at the feet of her father, captivated by the stories he’d read from the Welsh bible and how “diar (gosh), but he was a good man”. I used to love hearing her read in Welsh. What an awesome, dazzling language. I couldn’t understand a word of it.

So my grandmother didn’t drink. Or if she did, she was the type who’d have a sherry at Christmas and act the fool – accidentally on purpose and for the benefit of making us children laugh. She had a sister (one of four, I think) called Olwen who without possessing any of my grandmother’s artifice was just as comical. At my parent’s wedding, Olwen who had never touched a drop of alcohol in her life, was apparently quite bewitched by the deliciousness of the ‘special lemonade’ that was merrily dished out at the reception and proceeded to get fantastically pissed. Nobody had the heart to tell her the lemonade was booze. Olwen was a simple creature.  After spending most of her adult life in service to a school mistress spinster called Miss Butler, she eventually found love and (once Miss Butler had passed away), married a Welsh Chapel minister called Ivor, much to the surprise of everyone it would seem.  The Olwen I knew was elderly and frail and talked a confusing mix of Welsh and English. She taught me to crochet. She had the gift to find the good in any thing and any one but most of all, the nine year old me loved her because she was my grandmother’s older sister, and that was as good a reason as any.

“Yes,” I say to my mum. “I’m still teetotal. Who’d have thought it?!”

It’s quite a blast, truth be told.




16 thoughts on “There’s lovely

    • Thank you Thirsty! It’s always nice to hear from you. I often try but fail to leave a comment on your posts – which is v annoying. I think it’s a wordpress v blogspot thing (and I’m effin’ useless at figuring out web- based, sciency, IT problems out. See, I don’t even use the right terminology!)

  1. I’m not a fan of teetotal either.. It’s sounds very old fashioned/uptight… HOWEVER.. I dislike ‘lush’ ‘wino’ ‘drunk’ and ‘alkie’ more. (And I love the sound of your grandmother!!)

  2. Your story made me think of my grandmas, too!
    One was from England, and the other from Germany.
    The English grandma was the most fun!
    She would bake bread and we could walk around the house holding the loaf of bread and eat it from the inside!

  3. Love the story as well. I dislike the word “sober” as well as teetotal. And being “clean” implies that we were once dirty. Here is how I phrase mine: “No, I don’t drink, and I don’t eat gluten or meat, so I am kind of a health nut.” That way, I lump it all together in a lifestyle choice as opposed to an alcoholic non-choice. ; )

  4. This is such a fantastic recollection. Love the details such as the accents and special lemonade. My grandmother still asks me just about every time I see her if I’m still not drinking. Teetotal is a less common phrase here in the States so it feels almost fashionable. And yes, it is a blast.

  5. That reminded me of my grandmother. Thank you for your lovely post.

    I totally agree the word Teetoal sucks. We should rebrand! Maybe to something like ‘consious’ or ‘free’ or ‘escaped from the pit of alcoholim’ doesn’t quite roll off the tongue though 🙂

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