Thursday, 2 May 2013


If I believed in a higher power I might start to think there was a one in one out policy. That the population is aging and growing would prove otherwise but I have often noticed a death in the family around the time a new family member makes themselves known.

My Grandad died this morning.

Rationally this is a good thing. He always told me that should he go “gaga” I was to shoot him. For the last six months or so he has been in an old people’s home and confused. I am not sure he recognised my sister and I when we last went to see him, but being bought up to be polite and an eminent bullshitter he bluffed his way through the visit.

Much as I would like to say I’d fulfilled his wishes I decided against shooting him, I value my freedom too much for that. So his death now, rather than lingering for years more in a retirement home is undoubtedly a good thing.

But it is still very sad.

I have very fond memories of my Grandpa. He was a proper old school country gentleman. Hunting, shooting, fishing, playing bridge and choosing to wear a twine belt rather than a leather one. One Christmas I remember him getting about six belts as presents from various members of the family. He still stuck with the string more commonly used to bind the bails on his farm.

I felt sorry for him at Christmas because it was also his birthday and I vividly remember him telling me one year, as a child, that his sister got more presents than him. This sort of anecdote had a profound effect on an eight year old and was another reason for me wanting a summer rather than a winter baby. My sister and I tried to compensate him for a few years celebrating his half birthdays in mid-June.

He loved to recite us poems as kids. The Jabberwocky was a particular favourite. As was Tweedledum and Tweedledee – though quite what inspired him to recite a poem about the two fat twins from Alice in Wonderland to the wombmate and I eludes me. Another poem he enjoyed reciting I warned him I would read at his funeral – an idea that delighted him:

Grandpa’s fallen down the drain
And cannot scramble up again
Now he’s fallen down the sewer
That’s one Grandpapa the fewer.

I’m not sure that I’ll have the guts.

He’d read us stories. The Saki ones stick in my mind. One very gruesome tale was about a hyena called Esme. The story was horrible but ever since I’ve liked the name Esme which was very near the top of my shortlist for girl’s names until I checked its popularity and realised it had had a massive spike last year thanks to a character in Twilight also having the name. (Also spell check has just suggested the word Semen instead of Esme, which has sealed its fate as a name I won’t use.)

He was a governor at a primary school I attended for a short while and I remember sitting at lunch with a friend one day when the girl next to me snorted with laughter. “Look at that man’s nose” she said pointing at the eminent visitors who were being shown round. Of course it was my Grandfather's large hooter that had set her off. It is odd really that his snozzle had caught her attention when far more impressive was the fact that he had a glass eye as a result of shrapnel in the second world war and wore a monocle as a result.

Once, no doubt having had a lesson about oral history, I tried to draw some tales out of my Grandad starting the conversation with an innocent “You never really talk about the war...” He turned to me (right round as I was on his blindside so it could be quite an effort to look me in the eye), “That” he said “I consider a very great compliment.”

In fact the only war story I remember him telling me was when he was first taken to hospital after his eye-losing injury; he was more exhausted and ill than he’d ever been in his life and slept solidly for almost 24 hours. When he woke the man recuperating in the next bed had drawn a sketch of him with a donkey’s head happily snoring through the day.

He did, as I may have mentioned, have an impressively sized nose.

He, like my Mum – but with a different spelling – was called Francis. Which adds more weight to the idea of naming the little one Ivy Francis. Maybe if she’d shared his birthday Ivy F. would have been a shoe-in.

Whenever I saw him and asked how he was he'd have a stock answer  "I can't think of anything to complain about."

Let's hope that is still the case.


Whenever I write about people I always send them what I am going to write first to check they are ok with it. In this instance I couldn't do that, but I have just checked with my sister's that they were happy this post.

The wombmate added:
"It's funny how we all remember different things, my memories are of the rain poem, collecting mushrooms and being taught to gamble."

And my older sister said:
"Counting cows and playing twenty-one with matchsticks."


  1. I would totally break down trying to read that poem, but I would sort of enjoy it too. I'm sorry for your loss. Your grandfather sounds like he was quite a character.

  2. I am so sorry, so very sorry. What a delightful and adorable and splendid Grandpa he was. My thoughts are with you and your family.

  3. I recently lost my grandmother and it is very thoughts are with you!

  4. What an absolutely lovely tribute to your Grandpa. Make sure your little girl gets to "know" him through you :)

  5. I am so very, very sorry. LOVED this, though, a wonderful tribute.

  6. I'm sorry for your loss. He sounds like a wonderful Grandpa. (Was he the one who sent the inappropriate letter after a loss, or was that your other one?)

    My great-grandmother died 6-7 years back, and her name (Rose) is Gwen's middle name. I look forward to tell Gwen all about Grandma Rose, who was a pretty awesome lady. (And the one who taught me to gamble. What is it with grandparents gambling with their grand children!)

  7. So sorry to hear of this sadness, especially during this happy and exciting time in your life. There can been no greater regret with grandparents that when they're gone you wish you'd known them better or spent more precious time with them. This doesn't seem the case with your Grandfather. Memories of lost loved ones are amazing, I write them down and look at them sometimes, you can forget the little things.. You bring your funny & dry sense of humour to such a sensitive post. I really love your blog.

  8. I'm so sorry for your loss, that poem is so bittersweet and it would be very brave of you to read it. Abiding with you.

  9. I'm so sorry, WFI. This was a wonderful post. At the right moment, the poem could be awesome, but I sure couldn't handle reading it out loud in your situation.

  10. I'm sorry. I've read this post a few times now and it is a lovely tribute to your grandpa. I hope that whether it is at the service or somewhere more private you find the strength to share that little poem for you and him on the day of the funeral.

  11. I am so sorry for your loss. After reading the post, I can picture my Grandpap and your Grandpa sitting around in the afterlife sharing a drink and playing cards.

  12. Wonderful tribute to your grandpa. So very sorry for your loss.

  13. I'm so sorry. It's so hard to lose a grandparent.


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