Nina’s Life Lessons

Nina’s life spanned nearly 103 years and in that time she was never short of something to say if she was asked for her opinion. Straight-talking, occasionally blunt, but never intentionally hurtful, Nina told you what she thought – from the inadequacies of the UK Government to the foolishness of modern society not learning lessons from the past.

On keeping secrets: If someone tells you a secret in confidence, keep the secret and you’ll keep the friendship. Nina was always very discrete about her private conversations with others, and the longer she lived, the more she knew about everyone around her. At the ripe old age of 102, she still kept the secrets of those who had confided in her.

On being honest: It’s fine to be straight with people if you have their best intentions at heart. Never intend to be hurtful, but don’t hide the truth if you are asked your opinion. A good example of Nina’s interpretation of this was when speaking to her Grandson – “Andrew, you’re far too fat, you really ought to do something about it!”. To emphasise her point, when it was time (4pm on the dot) for afternoon tea, she brought out a tray adorned with delicious cakes but just gave Andrew a cup of tea whilst everyone else had cake!

On respecting older people: Nina always instructed her grandchildren to realise that older folk were young once and they should never forget that with age comes experience. Times may change, and standards too, but Nina firmly believed that many truths stay relevant. Whilst not always approving of the behaviour of the younger generation, Nina was very understanding of their problems and dilemmas. She was not prudish, but insisted on respect for the older generation.

On good manners: Best illustrated with an anecdote. Nina was returning by taxi from a visit to the hospital. At the time she was 101 years old. As she paid the taxi driver and climbed out of the car, she gave him a parting comment. “I expect you are wondering why I haven’t given you a tip?” The taxi driver responded in the affirmative, to which Nina replied “Here’s a tip. The next time you drive a lady of my age back to her home, the very least you should do is to open the car door for her and escort her to the door. Goodbye.”

On quality: Nina was adamant that you should never accept second rate products or service if you have paid the full price. If you want the best, be prepared to pay for it, and always buy the best quality that you can afford. Nina believed this fervently though she would always appreciate how fortunate she was to be able to buy quality things and never took this for granted. This was evident when Nina felt that Mr Harris, the local butcher, had supplied her with a piece of meat for the Sunday roast that wasn’t up to scratch. She made it her priority on the following Monday morning to visit him. He was visibly stunned when she accosted him in his shop packed with customers and said “Mr Harris. That shoulder of lamb you gave me on Friday was as tough as old boots. You may be able to get away with that with some of your customers, but not with me. I have cooked more lamb than most and that was most certainly not new season lamb”. Needless to say, a vexed and somewhat contrite Mr Harris gave Nina a new joint of meat in recompense.

On opinions: If you have an opinion, then state it. Such was Nina’s strength of opinion, she fell into the habit of saying the word “ridiculous”. Sometimes it was preceded by the word “quite” to emphasise things and followed by “of course” if she wanted to make you feel that there really wasn’t an alternative viewpoint that held any credibility. So, the cost for young people of buying a home trying to get on the property ladder merited a “quite ridiculous….of course”. Similarly, when the MP’s expenses scandal broke, that also merited a “quite ridiculous”. So did the lack of quality television on a Saturday night… Simon Cowell, the X Factor, Ant and Dec…all deemed to be “quite ridiculous”. Nina would add the phrase to all sorts of situations – high prices for food, untrained waitresses in restaurants, houses designed with insufficient gardens for children to play in, lack of manners at the Golf Club, and poor play at the Bridge table.

On recycling: Nina also espoused recycling long before it became the norm. Every jam jar, foil tart case, plastic bag, rubber band and margarine tub was stored away and re-used. When Nina had any food leftovers to freeze, she would utilise these items and religiously label everything so there was no mistaking what any container might hold. This thinking stretched to occasions where family members asked to borrow a plate or a container to take something home. Nina would readily agree to the request, but underneath the container she would place a waterproof label….. please return to Nina Leigh!