On a recent visit to see my Grandmother I asked her how she came by her nickname ‘Yogi.’ She told me she couldn’t remember, to which I made some cheeky comment about how memories fade when you’re as old as her. She gave me a faux frown and said something she’s been saying all my life; “You’re not too old for a good hiding you know.” I wonder when exactly I will be too old? Perhaps I should have asked that.

Doris Bradley, aka Yogi

‘Yogi’ and Granddad lived just down the road from us, their bungalow at number 70 Falmouth Road was just a couple of minutes bike ride away. Opening the side gate would always excite their dogs who would bark and bark causing Granddad to bark back at them telling them to be quiet.

There was always candy on offer, it was a treat to go to Yogi & Granddad’s after school. Yogi would get the sweet box down from shelves behind the retractable kitchen table that would pull down from the wall. It was thick and had a pattern like broken glass, I remember sitting around it eating dinner, drawing, making things, and playing cars.

They had a teletext TV, a kind of internet long before the days of the world wide web we know today. You could read the news, find out what was on TV, or go to page 300 on Oracle for the kids section where my siblings and I would do the quizzes.

In the summer we would pick blackberries from their garden that backed onto the London railway line. If I heard a train coming I would rush to the flimsy wire fence and step onto it, swinging back and forth as the train hurtled sometimes sounding its horn.

Yogi had a jar of buttons and things which I used to love turning out and sifting through. Week in week out it was full of the same strange and fascinating treasures from sparkling buttons and big old coins, to sewing thread and thimbles.

Neither Yogi or Granddad were religious but in that jar I found a crucifix. I remember being fascinated by the little man on the cross. I didn’t really know who he was or why he was “sleeping” on the cross, as Yogi told me, I just liked that he was a little man. With the contents of the jar spread before me I remember sitting in the hall and asking Yogi if I could have the little man on the cross. “When I die you can.” She said. I looked back at Jesus and then back at Yogi and asked, as only a child would, “When will that be?” I don’t remember what she answered, I just remember it wasn’t going to be anytime soon.

In the garden of their old place on Falmouth Road Yogi liked to feed the birds. There was a bird table upon which my brother, sister, and I would place bread crumbs and seed packs. In various trees and from various places hung bird feeders full of seeds and goodies that the little birds enjoyed. We even nicknamed a cake she use to make ‘bird seed cake’ on account of the fact it looked so similar to the stuff she used to feed to the birds. That cake was always so filling, I don’t think I ever managed to eat a whole slice.

Bread Pudding reminds me of Yogi. She made a mean Bread Pudding. Packed with Raisons and topped with lashing of sugar (which I think was my addition), her Bread Pudding was, in my opinion, the best in the land. Maybe it’s just my rose tinted memory, but to this day I’ve yet to have a Bread Pudding better than hers.

With bread itself she used to tell me to eat the crusts. “It’ll make your hair curl.” She would say, which was exactly what I didn’t want to happen, so I would leave the crusts safe in the knowledge that I’d be allowed to leave them – more food for the birds!

As I grew up and popped by to see her and Granddad she would always be quick to ask me the same question. “Hows the love life?” She’s asked that same question every single time I saw her since I was a teenager despite the fact I never once gave a straight answer.

On a recent visit to see her I asked her to tell me a little about herself, I told her I wanted to know a little bit about Doris Bradley. “I’m Yogi.” She told me. I explained that I wanted to learn something of the woman she was, some of her stories before she became ‘Yogi.’ She wasn’t forthcoming which might have been disappointing but for the fact that I concluded that no matter what I might learn about Doris Bradley, she would always be ‘Yogi’ to me and she was happy to be just that.

I didn’t want to take her for granted so I tried to make every effort to see her as much as I could. I would send her postcards from wherever I was in the world, perhaps in way to show her that the “naughty boy” she once told me was “bloody hard to love” had grown up, done well for himself, and was now a happy man of the world.

Yogi died today, leaving behind children, grandchildren, and great grandchildren – a legacy I hope she was proud of.

So Long Yogi, or as you might have said “Ta ta.”

Doris Bradley, aka Yogi

So long Granddad