My gran is awesome. She has reached the amazing age of 93 today! As I was baking fairy cakes for her- using the same recipe that she taught me as a little girl- I couldn’t help but think of all the little life lessons she taught me.
Lesson 1. How to bake fairy cakes
There is such simple joy in baking fairy cakes. You don’t need flashy, expensive ingredients. You don’t need hours of time. You can clear your mind, focusing on cracking the eggs and beating the mixture.
And yet, it is not an empty activity, like scrolling through pages of social media or perusing online shopping for things you don’t need. It feels fulfilling.
When your cakes are done, you can decorate them, or not. Share them, or not. But it always feels better to share them.
To my mind, baking fairy cakes is a way of living well. A way that doesn’t cost huge amounts of money. A way that brings people together. A way that is accessible to most.
Lesson 2: Find something to do
My gran would always tell my sister and I to find something to do. It is ridiculous how often I find myself not really doing anything. I spend far too much time scrolling on a computer screen and flicking between TV channels. Sometimes, deliberately doing nothing can be a good thing. But allowing it to happen too often or by accident is a waste of time and, quite often, money.
Simple as it sounds, ‘find something to do’ is such good advice. I have a much more positive mindset when I have used my time deliberately, and especially when that deliberate something has meant avoiding spending mindlessly.
Lesson 3: Sometimes you have to do things that you don’t like
I remember sleeping over at my gran’s house and watching Bedknobs and Broomsticks. In fact, I remember watching it several times! (In case you haven’t seen it, it’s based around 3 children who are evacuated during the second world war, staying with a lady who doesn’t want them around.)
One night after the film had finished, I remember my gran telling me about evacuees that had stayed with her family during the second world war. Against the backdrop of the film, the prospect of having children to stay with you, having more friends, seemed exciting in spite of the circumstances.
I remember asking if it had been fun. I know what I expected the answer to be… a resounding yes. The actual answer?
No. They didn’t want to be there. It was extra mouths to feed. But everyone had to pitch in.
Ouch. Way to burst my bubble. But that response has stayed with me. It’s a reminder that we have to get on and do things we don’t always want to do. It also pops into mind when I perceive something positive about someone’s life; it might not be something that they think of as positive. It may be something they’re enduring for a period of time because it is necessary. It’s also a reminder of how much easier I’ve had it than my parents, grandparents and great grandparents- something I take for granted all too often.
Lesson 4: A trip to the shop
In the summer especially, we’d make a trip to “the shop”. Except it wasn’t a shop. It was the chest freezer in her box room upstairs that always had a block of vanilla ice cream. Do you remember the ones? They were packaged in cardboard, and could be sliced to be sandwiched between two wafers.
Now I think about it, this was an amazing lesson in re-framing. It was no less exciting that going to an actual shop for ice cream. In fact, the ice cream had obviously been bought from a shop. But we felt like we were getting such a treat, and even more so that it came from our own secret shop upstairs.
My house if full of things I have treated myself to in the past. It’s a really good way of looking at the things I already own, as it makes me feel less like I need to buy things all the time. It also means that I use (and enjoy using) the things I already have more often.
Lessons that weren’t about money
Some of the best lessons I have received about money, especially from my gran, weren’t about money at all. Most of them weren’t intended to be lessons, but simply common sense things that apply to life. However, all too often we can forget these lessons.
Perhaps it’s because we have more choice in what we buy and the careers we pursue, because social media causes us to compare more fervently than we have in the past, or because our minds are so full of information that we’re constantly taking in from screens. Whatever the reason, it is good to remember the simple, obvious lessons. The ones that help us live well and contently, without needing to constantly spend.
Whilst it’s been nice to reflect on these things that my gran taught me, I confess this post was mostly to shout about how awesome she is. Please feel free to jump in with valuable life lessons you’ve learned and feel free to shout about the amazing people who have shaped you…