I should be working right about now. All my enthusiasm has vanished somewhere though. I got back from London Tuesday evening so I expected Wednesday to be a lethargic day. Instead I was quite productive and clearly today is the lazy day. Brief digression aside, I fancied writing about my ‘Grandad’.
My ‘Grandad’ is a man called George. He’s not really my Grandad. He’s my Grandmother’s cousin (which makes him my first cousin twice removed according to Google) but for all intents and purposes, he’s my Grandad. When my Dad was born, he was illegitimate. His father was a soldier in the Second World War and my Grandmother at the age of 21 had a fling with him. It didn’t last and it all gets incredibly complicated and bordering on a film plot. Anyway, for the first 10 or so years of my Dad’s life he didn’t have a Dad. After that, he had a vile man of a stepfather who hardly counted anyhow.
So George filled in the role of a father. From then on, it was always the case of George fulfilling that role. He had his own kids after a while as well as stepkids (one of his sons has the same name as my Dad funnily enough) but my Dad was still up there as the son.
Once I came along, everything carried on in the same way. I saw George as my Grandad and his wife, Glad, as my Grandmother. They were better than the real grandparents anyhow. They lived in a council flat in Paddington and we’d visit loads. George would give us tours around London and Glad would do all the Grandmothery things of making sure my favourite food was always there (I was a very picky eater as a kid) and buying me comics etc. Some of my fondest memories of that time were all based around them. They were brilliant.
As they got older, they decided to move out to Hatfield. The area of Paddington they lived in was getting increasingly rough (think Harry Brown but not quite as bad – although once while we were staying, there was a huge riot with police helicoptors and riot police getting involved!) so they thought it was best to move out while they were still able bodied.
Times changed for us too so we only managed to visit once as a family. Still great though. I managed to visit a couple of years after that with a friend too which was fantastic. That was in 2001 though. Never really got round to it after that despite phoning regularly.
Then 2008 came and my Dad died suddenly. Tore them to bits as well as us. Then 2 months later, Glad died. I didn’t really get a chance to grieve properly for her, I readily accept that. Too much else was going on and I guess my brain couldn’t cope with more loss.
Since then, we’ve been in even more contact with George as he was utterly devoted to her. Finally, this week we got a chance to go visit him.
He’s not changed a bit. He’s older of course and it’s terribly sad sitting in his house talking about my Dad and Glad being no longer here. But he’s just the same.
He’s a truly inspiring character. Inspiring is a term that’s bandied around a lot but he really is. He’s 89 next month and he’s been through a hell of a lot.
He left school at 13 unable to read or write, so once he became an adult he taught himself. He was 17 when the war broke out so fought through all that. He wasn’t at D-Day but he was at what he calls D-Day+1. The story gets murkier then. Effectively for a year after the war, he vanished. No one knows where and he refuses to talk about it. All anyone knows is he came back from France fluent in French. Not fluent like you or I would be but fluent enough that French people say he has a regional accent for the country. He never talks about what happened though, simply deflecting the subject away when anyone asks.
Once he was back in the country, he bluffed his way into a job at the BBC as a studio manager then he went into chaffeuring. To say he’s met a few famous people is an understatement. Bruce Springsteen, The Rolling Stones, Michael Jackson, numerous politicians, Lord Mountbatten, Presidents, Kings, Prince Charles…..it’s a ridiculously long list. They’re just the ones I remember him telling tales of working with or chaffeuring.
He came from an immensely poor background but worked his way up to having had a fantastic life.
He’s 89 next month but still does all his own cooking (he cooked us lunch while we were there and refused to let us help in any way!) and general day to day things. He’s as quick as a whip, knows more about current affairs than most younger people I know. Was talking all about iPads and DAB radios and various other things that I was surprised an 89 year old would be interested in.
He’s great simply put. What I’ve written really goes nowhere near to explaining what a great person he is. I wish he lived nearer so very much.