The bottom fell out of my teenage world in January 1990 when I was forced to move home and leave behind the life I knew. However, salvation came from the unlikeliest place; a stoic, thrifty, 4ft 10in, Presbyterian, octogenarian female with hearing problems – my gran.
Moving house is hardly a tragedy but to me at that time it was. Shortly after my 14th birthday in June 1989, my dad announced to the family that he had won a promotion and that we would soon be leaving the seaside town of Troon in favour of a new life, 100 miles away, in inner-city Perth.
I was devastated, as was my elder sister, Susan, and despite everyone telling us we'd make new pals, we were angry at being forced to leave our friends, a crucial part of most teenagers' lives, and the rest of our family. We were both determined not to make a go of it and in the months leading up to the move we were united in a stubborn huff.
On meeting the local talent at our new school, however, my sibling's Dunkirk spirit soon waned, and not long after the move, during a heated exchange over Neighbours and a TV meal, she told me to grow up. I didn't care; I didn't need her anyway. I was soon to find another ally, one with previous war experience.
Before we moved, Gran had made it clear that I could stay with her whenever I liked. So, every holiday and many more weekends besides, from the age of 14, right up until I had my own flat in Glasgow at 19, that is exactly what I did.
Gran and I got on well despite our massive age gap but we didn't really have much in common. I was a gangly, 6ft 2in teenager who liked Talking Heads, De La Soul, the Stone Roses, underage drinking and "having a smoke" with my pals. My wee, stout gran preferred knitting to listening to music, only ever had the occasional sherry and hated smoking. We did share one passion though – watching snooker.
It was Gran who got me into snooker. She would watch most of the big televised tournaments and liked Stephen Hendry the best. I liked Hendry too – he was virtually unstoppable in the 90s – but I really loved Jimmy White and unsuccessfully willed him to win through many a final.
It was a strange set up watching TV with Gran. She sank into her big armchair facing the telly and I pulled a seat in from the other side of the room and faced it towards the screen. In order to hear the box, she plugged in enormous, comical headphones, and the sound booming out of them was so loud I could hear it too.
Now and again her high-pitched voice would scream out: "HENDRY'S GOING TO WIN AGAIN!" She never realised she was shouting.
Most of the time I spent at Gran's house I was either asleep, in a bed about a foot too small for me, or round the kitchen table where we ate our meals and I'd ask her all manner of questions about the war, or Dad when he was a wee boy.
Looking back, I regret treating the place like a hotel but I was young and living it up. Latterly, in my 20s and 30s, I should have visited Gran more because, like many pensioners, she spent most of her final years alone.
Maggie Jane Miller was born into a baker's family in Glenluce, Wigtownshire in 1909. The eldest of nine, she left home as a teenager and worked as a servant in Hillhouse Lodge, the mansion home of a rich quarry owner, near Loans in Ayrshire. The family usually resided in London but they returned to Scotland each year for the racing season. Gran was working for a family in London when the second world war broke out. She married my grandfather, Alexander Murray, during the war and they returned to Ayrshire afterwards. My grandpa took up his old horse and cart milk round and Gran became a cleaner, which she continued to do into her 70s. My grandpa died in the early 1970s, before I was born.
I'm not sure if it was coming from a large family, rationing during the war or trying to keep on top of things with a cleaner's wage that made Gran so thrifty. She only spent £4.50-odd on her shopping each week and she even had a novel way of getting every last bit of tomato sauce out of the bottle. She'd wrap the glass bottle in a dish towel and then slam it hard into the edge of the kitchen table so that the bottom panel of glass fell away from the stem. Then, with a butter knife, she'd scrape the remainder of the sauce from the bottle and into a wee bowl. There were never any shards of glass in the sauce bowl.
Gran's first big health scare came in 2000. I was working in a call centre in Glasgow when I received word she had had a heart attack. I left for the hospital immediately. On arrival, my dad took my sister and me aside and told us that he'd had to sign a form acknowledging the hospital's right to stop administering Gran a costly drug that was thought to be keeping her 90-year-old heart going. We went home and waited. When the phone rang the next morning I answered it expecting the worst, but much to everyone's amazement she had made a full recovery.
I visited her later that day and I'll never forget how angelic she looked lying there in her white gown, her tiny frame propped up by the fluffy pillows. I held her hand and the tears back and we had a good blether.
The next time I visited Gran in hospital, eight years later, she didn't pull through and she died in July 2008 of old age. She was 98 – a year and a month away from her 100th birthday. We joke about how determined she was to receive a letter from the Queen but we all miss her. I for one am glad she lived to hold the eldest of my two sons in her arms. Although I'll never be able to repay her for the support she gave me, I'm determined, if I ever have grandchildren, to spoil them rotten and teach them the joys of watching snooker.
• John blogs at weedaddymcludgie.wordpress.com
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