Nanny Anna 2
Nanny Anna rifled through the cupboards for biscuits. She tended to stuff them into the back of the cupboard after she’d opened them and forgot about them. It was a sorry collection she assembled on a plate for Kirsten, who looked across and simply shook her head.
‘I’m no eating them, Nanny Anna. They’re rancid.’
‘Well, they do have a bit of growing in them.’ She brushed past Kirsten and flung the biscuits with a jerk of her hand out the back door. ‘The birds like them that way.’
She put the plate in the sink. ‘Bring your tea through.’ She ambled through to the living room. ‘Make yerself at hame.’
‘Does that mean I can stay,’ whooped Kirsten. She sat with her back to the window facing Nanny Anna, clutching her mug of tea.
‘You can always stay, whenever and forever as long as you like.’ Nanny Anna lowered herself onto the couch slowly like the controlled explosion of a high-rise block. ‘My house is your house, literally, it’s in my will, but first there’s yer mother to deal with.’ She smacked her lips and petted Chad, who’d jumped up to join her.
‘Can’t you phone her?’ whined Kirsten.
‘Well, that depends.’
‘Depends on whit?’
‘Whit is it, you’ve done?’
Kirsten shrugged without moving her shoulders, as if the effort wasn’t worth it and sighed. ‘She caught me with my boyfriend.’
‘Having sex,’ she avoided Nanny Anna’s gaze, staring at her collection of painting and drawings and knickknacks such as a glass ballerina on tiptoes her feet painted red as blood and sipping at her tea.
‘I presume it was with a boy.’
‘Nanny Anna!’ Kirsten spluttered her tea.
‘Well, if you’re staying here, there’ll be no sex in my house, unless I’m having it.’ Her gaze stayed fixed on her granddaughter’s face. ‘Promise?’
‘But Nanny Anna…’
‘I’m too old for all the fuss. Your boyfriend can visit, but if you think I’m buttoned up the back I’ll hit him with my walking stick. And it’ll be such a reddy getting a doing aff an old woman, he’ll not be able to tell his mates and he’ll chuck you right away.’
‘He’s not like that Nanny Anna.’
‘He’s already proved he is.’ She held her hand out. ‘Your choice?’
‘Promise,’ Kirsten squeezed her lips together. ‘Didn’t you ever have a boyfriend, when you were my age?’
‘I’d lots of boyfriends, but none of them were your age. But if you’re meaning did I have sex and sleep around, well, no, I didn’t. My granny was really my mother and brought me up to be honest. So I went and said to her that there was this boy I was thinking of sleeping with. And she looked at me. And she said, “You sure?” And I said, “Aye,” and that was it. That’s aw I’m asking you, to be honest.’
‘I will be.’ Kirsten got a bit teary and when she recovered asked, ‘Whit about that time in Greece? Did you have a boyfriend then?’
‘Aye,’ Granny Anna screwed up her face. ‘I did, he was really nice but a bit useless, worrying about stupid things. So I dumped him. Gave him enough money to get hame.’
‘You stayed yerself?’ Kirsten sounded shocked.
Nanny Anna leaned forward, the dog stretching and wiggling its bum, before settling down again, pressed into her midriff. ‘No, I didn’t stay myself. There were people already there that had been there for hundreds of generations. Very nice people. Very warm people. They kept an eye out for me. And when I needed anything I’d just ask for it.’
Kirsten nodded. ‘You speak Greek?’
‘We all speak Greek when we point and smile. It’s a universal language. An Esperanto before Esperanto.’
‘But where did you sleep?’
‘Well,’ Nanny Anna turned away, frowned and rubbed at her eyes. ‘I used to take my sleeping bag and walk away from any towns and find a quiet place to bed down. The only thing I was scared about was spiders. Big spiders. But the funny thing was, there used to be these two big dogs that used to follow me about. I mean, they were working dogs, used to herd sheep. And the old guy, the shepherd, used to get pissed off because he had to climb this steep hill to come and get his dogs back. After about a week of trekking up and down he gave up. He said to the woman in the Tavernier, when I left, I was to leave the dogs with her. And she’d gi’e them back to the shepherd, who wouldn’t have to worry because they wouldn’t run away again. She told me all this through sign language. So it’s possible.’
‘That’s dead nice,’ said Kirsten. ‘And did you leave the dogs?’
‘Course, I did, but not for a while.’ Nanny Anna ruffled Chad’s ears and he growled in appreciation. ‘They werenae my dogs. They’d just borrowed me for a wee while. I sometimes think of going back. The heat would be good for my bones.’
Kirsten put her mug up on the unit and lazed back in the chair with a bemused smile. ‘So, whit did you leave for?’
‘It was just time. You always know when it’s time. But before I went I met this guy, an older guy, with a moustache…’
‘I hate moustaches and beards…’
‘Ah, but this was a proper moustache and he used to wear a hat and play one of those squeezebox things.’ Nanny Anna laughed as she used her hands to try and describe what she meant.
Kirsten, finally, worked out the musical instrument she referred to. ‘An accordion?’
‘Aye, an accordion.’ She shook her head. ‘Phew, he could make the dead dance with that thing. And I used to get a bit of hash off him. Then one day he said to me, in so many words, “This LSD, is it any good?”
‘And I told him, “Aye, but when you take it you need to prepare and treat it as sacred. Nae shite. Nae bad vibes.”
‘“Yeh, yeh,” he said. “I want to try it. I trust you. You show me.”
‘After he took it, he said, “Wow!” And he’d been used to hash, good Moroccan hash, but this was a whole new level. Then I told him I was leaving and he cried. And I told him no to be so daft. We’ll invite a few friends to the beach, play his squeezebox, smoke some hash, drop some acid and live life.
‘That’s whit we did and it was the best ever. The sky was lit like a birthday cake. The two dogs were there by my side the whole night. And after a while I noticed they were dancing to the music. Later on they were dancing wae me and they’d turned into these two big luminous angels about twelve feet tall, wae giant wings. Man, could they dance, but the music was that good, I forgot everything they told me.’
Kirsten’s face glowed and she laughed. ‘Nanny Anna, did you make that whole story up?’
‘I made my whole life up,’ said Nanny Anna. ‘And nobody would believe the half of it.’