Flossie was my Grandma's name; it was her actual real first name. It's on her headstone. She never liked it, she said it was a dog's name, but I loved it, and I loved her. She lived on the other side of the Pennines to us. I suppose we went over to see her every three or four weeks. It was always the most wonderful experience, and looking back I wish we had visited even more often, but we had school, mum and dad had work, and there were other things to fit in. Apart from which, Grandma was in good company - her sister lived in the bungalow next door and there were lots of other old ladies and home helps doing the rounds.

It was only after spending a full week at Grandma's when I was about seven or eight that I realised just how busy old ladies were. I saw her as she was each and every day, rather than as I usually saw her on our Sunday visits. The days were filled with visits from neighbours, filling in coupons, looking through catalogues, choosing plaice from the travelling fish man, and listening to stories. It was more typical, however, for Grandma to come over to our house for two or three weeks during the summer holidays. Other kids went to Spain. We spent July watching Wimbledon and war films with Grandma, and playing card games. Everyone loved Flossie. My brother's friends used to come over from across the road at about 10 in the morning and stay until 4. Flossie saved up copper for weeks in advance and set us all up with enough to play Newmarket and other card games.

Just as I was getting old enough to really appreciate how funny Grandma was, and how good a storyteller she was, she died. It happened right at a point when I could have done with some jolly tales from Yorkshire to distract from rather less frilly affairs. Shortly after Grandma died I was going through some letters and came across a couple she had written years before. My brother also found a couple. We read them to each other and couldn't stop laughing. I decided that I would write some new letters, as if they were from Grandma, in the same sort of vein. After a while I had quite a few. I explained the rationale behind them and read them to my Mum. She corpsed herself laughing, and then said "they're very Alan Bennett though aren't they. You know, they're very Victoria Wood". This was a huge compliment, but also a disaster. I rate Alan Bennett and Victoria Wood very highly indeed, but I had hoped to publish these. How could I now if they just sounded like imitations? So I sat there and nursed my disappointment to the sound of my Mum filling me in on some news. I had only been half listening to begin with, but Mum is also a good story teller, and I began to forget about the posthumous letters that I had written on behalf of Grandma and was tuning in to a story that my Mum was telling my partner about a visit to a garden centre. I came in at the following: "The last time we lent John ours we had to buy a new one".

I laughed. Mum said "What?" and I said "nothing, it just made me laugh". Undaunted, she carried on with the story. I discretely found a pen and paper and although I missed some of the detail in the interim, I was able to record the following: "Anyway, we've bought a new one. We've been looking at them for 2 years but we don't fancy our chances. We think it's a dodgy product, but we struggle so much with the hedge on our side we thought that we ought to give it a go. But to be honest we think we might have wasted our money".

Now you either find that entertaining or you don't, but I had already burst into fits before she had finished the last sentence. I said "It's you, you're the muse, it's you not Victoria Wood or Alan Bennett". I spent the rest of the afternoon in hysterics, listening to Mum and Dad's tales and hearing in their voices the story-telling style of their parents.  It was a really dear moment. Their stories were littered with the sort of incidental details and minutiae that create the generally camp style that Bennett and Wood so brilliantly demonstrate. But whilst they are masters of the style, they would be the first to say that they didn't invent it. It is a style that exists in a variety of places, but if we're all honest we know that we're talking particularly about Yorkshire. Or even Lancashire.

And it was only when this penny dropped that I realised just how much a part of my life this style of chatter and observational nonsense accounts for. When I was 13 years old I became a milkman, just at the weekends and school holidays, and spent the next 9 years discussing the weather and helping customers select yoghurts from the farm's ever increasing selection. As I get older I hear my parents' voices in my own, bridging the generational gap with commentary about neighbours and the locale, shops changing their product lines at the most inconvenient moment, accounts of people met on public transport, domestic mishaps, enjoyable diversions and so on. I enjoy writing these letters, and mainly do it for my own private pleasure, but I thought penny numbers might find them as entertaining as I do, so here are a couple of sample letters below. A book of them is in the pipeline:

28th January 2000

Hello love, I got a call from Mrs. Sykes on Wednesday. She said she was winding things up, so could I give her a hand with some curtain poles, so I set the news to record and went round. They were quite natty these poles, washed beech wood with acorn finials. She'd already fetched them off the wall with a springbok rake and was hoping to find new homes for them. She said "Flossie, don't get your hopes up, Tony has already put his name on the poles". Apparently he can use them on his punt, but he won't have any use for the finials, so I ended up taking them. I thought that I could hollow them out and use them as egg cups, but I sat there all last night like Heidi's grandfather getting nowhere, so I've stuck them on the end of my mantelpiece for now. Anyway, after that Mrs. Sykes asked me to witness her will. I said fine, and we made an evening of it. So, her son gets the house and it turns out that she's giving her air raid shelter to the Guides as long as they don't mind the corrugated roof being a bit rusty. She's stipulated that they can move it, which is just as well, because in the event of Tony selling the house I doubt that the new owners would be happy with Baloo poking around the back garden every Wednesday evening. And pretty much everything else goes to Varicose and Vanity, that clinic she goes to. She said "don't worry Flossie, there will be something for you as well". It's in a tin under the sink with my name on it. Well I know what it is because I went in there one time when there was a power-cut looking for her spare fuses. It's two boxes of Neapolitan chocolates, but I played daft. And the final thing was the funeral. She's using Danny's Funerals. "Putting the fun in funeral" their leaflet says. She's chosen the Wurlitzer package with coconut ice buffet. So that'll be that for another few months. I know that she's not happy about where her trowels might end up, so I'm standing by for another re-write any day soon.

Lots of love for now Flossie

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8th February 2000

Hello love, I was supposed to be baking today, but I was fishing around for an 8 inch flan dish, and a saucepan lid turned sideways on and jammed the pan drawer open, so I've just spent the whole morning broddling around with a bamboo cane, and since then I've been looking through brochures for new kitchen units. All I know at this stage is that I shan't be bothering with a cooker hood this time. I only got this one because the salesman was so pushy. Do you remember, Pushy Pushkan I called him, because he looked like a man that my brother knew who was a Ukrainian acrobat. I didn't like him either, not after he secretly swapped the smallest Russian doll of my Aunt's set for that moth. So it's been a bit of a waste of a day but I said I'd write to let you know the size so here I am.  Medium will be fine if you are getting it from the town centre branch but if you are going to the one on the ring road, get small.  They say it's the same item but if you look at the packaging the label is a different shade of blue. Well I had best be going. I'll need to do my baking tomorrow; either that or phone Buckley's. I'm supposed to be baking a Simnel cake without the marzipan. It's for a couple I meet sometimes at the bus stop. It's as a thank you for helping me with a spot the ball competition. It was an accident really. He was reaching into his inside pocket for something, and the bus had to make an emergency stop for a boarder collie, and he nudged me and I put a cross in the wrong position which turned out to be the right position. Anyway, I got £50 out of it, and I could tell by the look on their faces when I told them that they expected something in return, so I hope they like Parma violets.

Bye for now love Flossie