How do you get to live to 92?

For the last about 20 years we’ve been told to call Nana on her birthday because, you know, it might be the last one. Well Agnes has gone around the clock again and has hit 92 -I think I said she was 93 in another post but I forget how old I am sometimes so creative rounding is allowed. 

My Mum went for a visit and sent through these pictures of her kitchen and fridge. This is the weekly fruit ration for a now 92 year old woman who lives on her own and didn’t know anyone was coming to visit. She eats stupid amounts of fruit. I guess when you come from a time where your Christmas present was an orange in a sock, a weekly frolic through the fruit and veg section must be pretty great. She’s super frugal but not when it comes to fruit “it’s an investment in your health, don’t look at the price just buy whatever you want”. 

Lots of plain food- that’s her secret. Put butter on everything not funny sauces where you don’t know what’s in it. Not too much meat (even though she has ham and cheese on toast every day for breakfast). She never drinks glasses of water, non-stop Earl Grey tea all the way. She has an ice-cream every night after dinner and likes a gin and tonic. Never smoked, goes to the doctor for everything and trusts them to make her better. It’s mainly blood pressure and arthritis things nowadays. Her Mum (my great grandmother) was Julia Ann Ryan, an Irish Catholic woman who lived to 91 after having 13 kids and a pretty hard, poor-assed life and not taking any medication so the genes are looking good all in all. Her older sister Barbara Cruickshank is 98. 

Agnes Halloran was born in 1922 and she has never seen the Internet. 

“you don’t want to look at that because there are people acting like animals on there” 

She doesn’t use a microwave because “it will give you cancer”

She doesn’t use a dishwasher because “it takes the patterns off your plates”

Her husband, William Halloran (my mum’s Dad) was a third generation New Zealander which was quite rare back then. He died at 37, leaving her on a farm in Southland with four girls. The only boy Christopher died at 13 months. She’s quite good at dealing with death my Nana “don’t dwell on it. It’s a bugger death and getting old”.  She prays every morning and takes a Lotto ticket every week assured that she’s going to win it and buy all the grandchildren a car. She often asks me what car I want when she wins Lotto with a very serious face. She does crosswords every day because “you don’t want to lose your marbles-that’s how old people have it put over them”. She’s made a funeral plan “so that’s all paid for— it’s one less thing to think about” and various cabinets full of china and trinkets have gradually been replaced with jewellery over the years, partially because she likes wearing it and partially because it’s easier to pass down to her now five daughters. I’ve noticed the jewellery collections all seem to manifest in sets of five.

My grandmother claims her middle name is Therese but my Mum said that’s her sister Irene’s middle name and she always wanted it and she doesn’t have a middle name. She hates her name because she used to get called Ag or Aggie so most people call her Nan which is a bit weird because I call her Nana so it sort of makes her everyone’s Nana. 


She started off as Agnes Manson which was changed from the German Munsen but nobody liked Germans after the war so her father's father changed it. Her father Henry Hunt Manson was in the merchant navy and he was born in New Zealand. 

Technically she was born in Smith Street West Derby, Liverpool. She arrived in Port Chalmers Dunedin at nine months old.  There are various versions of that story but that’s the one I’m going with. I’m still trying to figure out the rumours of the Lambert changed from Lambeth thing that may or may not have been linked to convicts in Newcastle Australia on the other, coal-miner side of the family. Names are hard. 

It’s a very different generation where the criteria for a husband is “so long as he doesn’t belt you and go to the pub every night” and I’m pretty sure the “women are seen and not heard” thing just wouldn’t have worked out for me very well at all. Any glorification of the 50’s housewife is lost on me and it certainly wasn’t the reality for both my mother or her mother as they both worked and raised children while still expected to keep an immaculate house and have baking in the tins and dinner on the table at 5pm. It makes me pleased that women get to live a bit longer so they can have a cup of tea and a sit down after all that running around after everyone else for most of their life. Nana asked me if I was going to put her photo on the Internet and I changed the subject to how great her pants are in the photo (Postie catalogue) so don’t tell her because she’ll have some weird theory she learned on talkback radio about it all.  There aren’t many documented stories in my family and only people like the royal family are worthy of a read in Nana's generation. Commoners like me never told their own stories which is the part of the Internet talkback radio probably won't tell her about while they are busy freaking out about The Facebook ruining children and The Google watching everyone. So don't tell her I wrote this, it's probably easier and maybe someone in another 180 years time might find it useful. And eat more fruit.