Wednesday, 31 August 2011


I made this bingo cake to celebrate my grandma, Nora Page. She was glamorous, fun-loving and a bit crackers.
She once claimed it was possible to ride a cow and set about proving it on the Town Moor. She wore jeans well into her 70s (she liked maternity jeans for the elasticated waistband). She impressed everyone by dancing non-stop until 4am at my wedding in Athens - she was 81 at the time - and gave the bishop who'd married us a big wet kiss. For a laugh. 

Like a lot of people, as Grandma grew older her mental faculties started to fail her and she began to forget words.  A conversation became a game of twenty questions. She failed the Alzheimers memory test miserably but was able to laugh about it. "Count backwards from 100 in sevens? Divn't be daft, I couldn't dae that when I was a bairn".

One evening I took her for a drink in her old haunt St Dominic's Club in Shieldfield. As luck would have it, they were playing bingo and Grandma was keen to join in.  She bloody loved bingo. When we were children we'd meet her in Newcastle every Saturday to go shopping, but come 2pm and she'd be off to the bingo hall quick as a plume a smoke. I worried she wouldn't be able to remember the numbers as by now she could no longer read or write, but years of semi-professional bingo training kicked in and she marked two tickets at a time. Just as she was about to fill a line, someone else called house. She shouted back, "You fat c*nt!" I suppose there are some words you just don't forget.

As her dementia worsened, Grandma moved into Cestria House in Jesmond, two doors away from the house where she'd lived  in the 1940s and where my mother was born. Grandma made a lot of friends there, though she sometimes liked to escape. Having learned the code on the front door lock, she slipped out one day, caught a bus into town and headed straight for the lipstick counter in Fenwicks. 

Cestria House was home to Grandma for the last two years of her life. When she suddenly became physically ill they looked after her (and us) with a love and dedication that we will always remember.

To thank them and to mark the second year since Grandma died, I made a cake for the staff and residents to share. There was only one way to decorate it - a bingo ticket. Fans of the game will recognise it as anatomically correct: nine squares by three, each row containing five numbers. The numbers on the cake represent her birthday; the number of her children (cup of tea, number 3) and grandchildren (knock at the door, number 4); the years we were born; and her age when she left us - top of the shop, 90. 

It was lovely to see the photos of Grandma still on the wall at Cestria, pictures of her smiling, dressed as a witch at Halloween, and blowing out the candles on her 90th birthday cake. I hope all the staff and residents at Cestria enjoy the bingo cake and fondly remember Nora Page.

1 comment:

  1. That was a lovely post & such a thoughtful thing to do too (good on you).
    Your grandma sounds like she was quite a character, I think I'd have got on well with her :)