There’s No Point Getting Old

This week would’ve seen my Gran’s 90th birthday and that made me think about the things that I might have learned from my grandparents.

I am not sure I took in that much from my Nana. There were occasionally useful things, such as if the roasting tin falls out of the hot oven, don’t try and catch it; or that you can wind up ardent communists by suggesting that the Morning Star must be rubbish because it is only about eight pages long and has no sport in it. I guess that the most significant things I learned from her were that fairness is everything, and that you can eat peanut butter well beyond the stated ‘use by’ date.

I really did learn little from Grandad Bob, as he died when I was 18. This is one of my big regrets, as I have since discovered that one of my few culinary skills involves jointing and boning meat and, as a butcher, there is so much he could have taught me in that respect. I also greatly admire that he became a butcher by accident – he was simply the first boy to get to the shop when they contacted his school and asked for someone – and yet he made it his career and stuck with it until he retired.

From Grandad I learned many things, not all of them ones which my mother would approve of. I can in theory (I have not done it for 25 years, but I still remember the basics) repair a flat roof. I know that, every now and then, a well aimed pound note will get you unexpected results (such as into the owners’ car park on Derby Day). Most of all, though, he taught me a lot about running your own business. Despite being entirely self-employed he would never take on work that he couldn’t do, or commit to doing something within a certain time frame if he knew that he couldn’t. I remember him saying to people “I can’t do impossibilities” and as they seemed to respect his honesty I have adopted that approach myself. (The success and respect he enjoyed is, of course, something I can only dream of.)

Which brings us to Gran. What did I learn from her? To be honest, I am not sure. When I broke my arm, she (having been though the same thing with Grandad less than a decade before) was the most relentlessly enthusiastic about me learning to use it again, and I have her to thank for that, as the only way in which my left arm is inferior to my right is in the angle that it functions at.

The things I remember most, though, are the little tricks of life that she taught me. She had a saying, “There’s no point getting old if you don’t get crafty” and she often surprised me by pointing out that there was a better way of doing something that I was doing.

The one that always sticks in my mind was when I was chopping up vegetables for dinner. I was probably around fifteen or sixteen and was demonstrating the other culinary talent (who knew that there would be two?) that I have – being able to chop things very finely*, when she stopped me and told me to cut much larger pieces. When I queried this, she pointed out that Lisa and Kevin, being young, would insist that they only had a certain number of each vegetable. By making the vegetables as chunky as possible, they would get the same amount of nutrition without a fight over how much they should eat.

Wisdom handed down through the ages is often the safest kind. I hope I have some of my own to impart one day.

*Yes, my only kitchen skills involve knives. I can’t explain it either. I’m quite safe, though. Honest.

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About Richard

Just your less-than-average married father of one
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One Response to There’s No Point Getting Old

  1. Karen says:

    The most important thing I learned from Bob was “don’t eat the sausages”! Amongst many other wonderful things, I learned to pop peas out of pods from Gran and how to punch someone really hard on the arm from Grandad. And from Nana I learned that you help others, no matter how hard things are for you, that you treat everyone with kindness and respect, that you must have high expectations for yourself and your children, that there is more to life than housework, that a windy walk up in the hills is fun even when it’s freezing, and that the sacrifices a mother is prepared to make for the success of her children are just without limits and absolutely worth it. All our grandparents were awesome people, talented and spirited and loving but, although she scared me a lot and often when I was very little, when I think of who has had the biggest impact on the way I see things it’s Nana – she made me a better person.

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