It was an absolute pleasure to recently chair an online Q&A session with Edwina Currie, organised by the Cardiff University Conservative Society writes Cllr Amanda Jenner.
The online ‘Zoom’ platform was no barrier to Edwina’s vivacious and engaging conversation. She reminisced of her time as a student, her experiences as a politician and of working with the late Margaret Thatcher (of whom Edwina does a cracking impression). Of course, we couldn’t miss the chance of also chatting about her more recent appearances on reality TV.
With young conservatives attending from across Wales, I took the opportunity to ask Edwina for the advice she’d give to those coming to the end of their academic studies and for any tips she’d have liked her student self to be given.
Thoughtful as ever, Edwina turned to the importance of making the time to be with your grandparents, to hear their stories and memories, and to take on board their advice and experiences. I’m not habitually an emotional person and yet any talk of grandparents unleashes an unruly lump that rises to my throat with a fleeting realisation that I can’t have that one last natter with my Gran.
Edwina’s advice is so, so right.
Giving more thought to her words and how so many of us have been separated from family and grandparents during the COVID-19 pandemic, now more than ever we need to appreciate our family, especially our elder relatives. In this instantaneous and loud world of constant online political division, aggression and scare mongering, I think we all should listen to Edwina. We should regularly snuff out social media, and make time for our family.
For me, the importance of family is absolutely a fundamental value; I think it is for most conservatives. I’m not talking about the more debatable topics on the sanctity of marriage or defined lines of what should constitute a family; I’m talking about ‘family’ in the most basic form. I am talking about the importance of respecting, supporting and just being with those who raised you, and also with those who raised those who raised you.
Memories and stories bind us to our ancestors and our guardians. Memories shape who we are and who we are to become. If we don’t listen and take note, those stories will be gone and then we won’t be able to learn from them. We need to hear those memories so that we know about people’s loves, losses and of the hardships they overcame.
A couple of years before my Gran passed away, I spoke to her at length about her time during the Second World War. Back then I wanted to write a book about it all and so she kindly let me record our conversation. I imagine a fair few G&Ts were involved in the subsequent hours of reminiscing.
At just nineteen years old, my Gran, Barbara Joan, was newly married to John, a Red Cross Paratrooper. She fell pregnant shortly before John was deployed abroad and then the months and year that followed was far too full of heartbreak and tragedy. John was sadly killed during the Battle of Arnhem, and within a few months, Gran’s mother (my Great Grandmother) had a stroke and passed away. Yet through this and her pregnancy, Gran tirelessly worked both in the Army and on her father’s farm and she then bravely brought her young daughter into an upside down world. Her story doesn’t end there and one day I will muster the courage to write it.
Since Gran died, I haven’t been able to re-listen to the recording of our conversation. Even imagining hearing her voice brings that disobedient lump right back. Yet, now, having heard Edwina express the importance of listening to your grandparents, I think the time has come for me to hear Barbara Joan and the tails of her resilience and fortitude once again.
As the American writer, Alex Haley said:
“In every conceivable manner, the family is link to our past, bridge to our future”.
Thank you Edwina for reminding me of this and for your thoughtful counsel.
Amanda Jenner is a Councillor for Powys County Council and was the Conservative Candidate for Ceredigion in 2019