The blogging grandmother and the scarves that tell her story

Emilee Geist

Speaking to Ella over the phone from her student digs in Manchester, where she is in her final year studying graphic design, it’s clear the feeling is entirely mutual. “It has just been the best thing to come out of this lockdown,” she tells me. “It’s been such a positive experience for me as well as her. The bond between us has grown so much stronger. Our family has so many strong women, and she’s always been the head of the family, my idol. Doing this with her has just really solidified that.”

For Ella, what has been abundantly clear is that her generation has much to learn from her granny’s. “A lot of people my age can be quite cynical about things, about politics and everything. And I often find myself thinking what would my granny say? She’d tell me to be positive. She just takes everything in her stride.

“She has that practical mindset of ‘I’m lucky, I take care of myself, and you’ve just got to protect your mind and help other people.’ It’s made me quite emotional seeing how many people she’s reached out to. The sweet thing is, at the very beginning she said if this reaches or helps one person then it’s served its purpose. She just wanted to make other people get up and have a purpose if they were in lockdown alone.”

While older generations who are most at risk from the virus itself have remained optimistic in the face of the pandemic, young people have often floundered. Hazell is sympathetic. “When I think about young people not being able to be at uni, or kids not being able to get their A-levels. I mean it must be tough not to know if you’re going to have a job or not.”

Hazell, who worked as a PA for a whole range of charities over the years, was born shortly before the outbreak of the Second World War, which soon became the backdrop to her childhood in rural Scotland. There was rationing to contend with, and no hot water in the house, but “plenty food” because there was salmon to be fished and grouse. “You learnt to cook with less.”

But she feels her granddaughter’s generation have it much harder than hers did: “Young people have their own, different crises. I’m sorry for young people today. I think they’re really hard hit.”

She hopes that one day Scarf Aid – which weaves deeply personal stories with accounts of historical events – might be seen as a memoir of sorts. Something for the younger generations in her family to take comfort from. “I’m writing a life story, in an odd way. They are really a very unusual historical record.”

“She doesn’t take for granted the life that she’s had,” says Ella. “We went on holiday last year, and my granny and I shared a room, and we just lay in bed in the dark at night going to sleep and she would tell me stories about her life and about when she met my grandpa, and countries they travelled to. I just thought: ‘I’m here with my best friend.’ I’m not going to have her forever, and these moments that we’ve shared are so special.”

Hazell has hundreds more scarves to go through and more stories to go with them. “Somebody today asked me: ‘Are you going to sell your scarves?’ I said: ‘Oh, no!’ Who knows, after Covid, maybe my scarf collection will be a historical thing for the V&A or something? But I suspect my kids will want some of it.”

Her life, she says, has been “nothing remarkable, but full of variety”… “I like telling people how old I am because it encourages others to think life doesn’t stop at 30. 

“I was very depressed when I was 30, I thought it was the end. It’s not. I’ve had a great life.”

What are your favourite memories of your grandparents? Let us know in the comments

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