Many have tried to understand their grandparents; their motives and aspirations, beliefs and skills. It may also be that as many as have succeeded may also have failed in their endeavour. In my own case, it is not easy because my Grandfather died when I was eight years old.
I knew him in what was then considered his old age. He was just 70 when he became seriously ill and passed away. His life was also made shorter by stress brought about by local and national politics and the fact that he had survived World War One, only to be thrown in again – although mercifully not at the “Deep End” – in the 1939-45 conflict.
Grandad left me some gifts. They are very special gifts and I took care to treasure most of them all my life. Curiosity as to the nature of the gifts will find them reflected in those brought to the infant Jesus in the stable, that lonely night so long ago. And yes, I am referring in a sense to Gold, Frankincense and Myrrh.
If we judge people by their occupations, then Grandad was variously in his life and Iron Turner or Apprentice Lathe Operator; Soldier; Gunner; Platelayer; Foreman Platelayer; Clerk of Works.
If we judge people by their education, then Grandad was a scholar until he was 12; then educated at the University of Hard Knocks and Life Itself.
If we judge people by their talents, then Grandad was a musician (cornet, trumpet and violin); he could also play the Simple System Clarinet (and that’s saying something) and he could sing and play a little piano.
Towards the end of his working life, a series of new work rules dictated that he should go back to school and at the age of about 56, he went to Night School to learn Mathematics at ‘O’ Level. His experience could not save him from this for apparently, it was no longer enough to have laid out the sidings to two new Docks “on the floor” and have over 1000 crossings to attend.
He passed the examination and earned a slip of paper from his superiors, addressed to him by his surname only; not even earning the honorific Mr. Somewhat amazingly, the note did start with the word “Dear” and from this, I take leave to assume that he was to some extent, a valued employee.
Oh! – the gifts. Forgive me for I ramble so. The Gold came. When I was 21. It was enough and although I kept it for some time, I found myself financially embarrassed aged 26 and had to withdraw it to give it to somebody else.
There was also potential gold in the form of “Bonds”. Please don’t run away with the notion that I have much, for the bonds are few and of no redeemable value. They are Premium or lottery Bonds and as such, they are worth either nothing or they are worth the potential prize – whatever that is.
The Frankincense? Well he taught me – as he had done many before – to read music; the gamut or scale; love of melody; embouchure and musical phrasing. He saved my left arm when I got a greenstick fracture as a child, by making a compress and a sling from tea-towels and string and cold water. He made the process interesting to by talking to me all the time that I forgot the pain and I hope over the years that I managed to say thank you to him.
He showed me a love of puzzles and patterns. He wrote in my exercise book the pattern of words thus:
and enjoyed watching me aged about six, see the magic appear.
The Myrrh? Well; he left me his quiet and never overt cynicism. I may say in a later blog how he did that – with three tiny recitations from the First World War.
Can we work him out through all this? Do we know what he thought? I don’t know but I think that the answer is probably “Not really”.
But what would I give for an hour to chat with him now? Plenty I am sure. But I am also certain that I see him most places; at the railway; in discussion programmes; in brass band concerts; in theatre pit orchestras; in functional woodwork; but perhaps mostly:- in the mirror.
And I’m glad about that.