This Sunday will mark the 15th anniversary of my Grandad dying. When I think back on it, I am surprised at how long he has been gone for – almost a third of my life, in fact. It seems like only a few days ago.
There are many things that I could write about him, and I probably will. To we children, he was everything you would want from a grandfather – kind, generous and never raised his voice. He clearly loved all of us (he had six grandchildren in all) and we loved him.
Grandad was born and raised on a farm in a tiny village in Shropshire. Life didn’t particularly deal him an even hand – he was born with a large portwine stain which covered the left hand side of his face. As a result, he was also blind in that eye (although it was only recently that I discovered that the two were connected). This never seemed to hinder him, though, and it was many many years before I realised that there was anything particularly different about him.
I was never that clear on how he wound up in London. I know that he met my grandmother, a London girl, in Shropshire when she was there on a holiday during the Second World War. I also know that he and his brother Tom moved to London to help repair bomb damage towards the end of the war (his eyesight having presumably kept him from active service). What I never knew – and will probably never know – is how the two were connected.
What I do know is that Tom returned to the farm, but Grandad stayed on in London, married Gran, started a business and raised a family. They only left in 1988, when he was finally persuaded to retire and move to Banbury. He was 75.
Grandad’s job would best be described nowadays as ‘property maintenance’, but he held himself out as specialising in roofing and fencing. Which is not to say that he didn’t do other things. He had a regular job putting up boards for a local estate agent, and I do recall being with him when he fixed a faulty cistern. When you consider that a good proportion of his working day was spent clambering around above ground level, I am still in awe of the fact that he was still working over a decade beyond retirement age.
When I was very little, I went through a phase of referring to him by his name, Jack. And when I was even littler, he would refer to me as ‘The Jockey’, because I was always being carried in some way by one of my parents. The whole purpose of this site is that I never expect to be asked to write my autobiography. If I was, it would be called ‘Jack & the Jockey’.
I think you will have gathered that I miss him.