11 July 2010

One Year Ago

One year ago today, I was in a pub alongside the Norfolk Broads with a few of my friends, not fully appreciating the world of pain and humiliation I would be facing later in the day as I had to run back and forth in front of a large group of people firing paintball guns at me. It was my Stag Do Weekend. Whilst enjoying a pint of Guinness in the beer garden, I got one of those phone calls that nobody really wants to make or receive. It was my mum letting me know that my grandad had passed away.

We knew his death was imminent, so I’d told her that I wanted to know if anything happened even though I was on my stag do. He’d been ill for some time, almost certainly longer than he would have had us believe, and I’d been reminiscing and making mental notes about the good times I’d spent with him for a while so that I’d be well-prepared for speaking at his funeral. My sister wanted to write a poem and she used the Internet to research the type of thing that people said at funerals. What I said is posted below, with some minor edits, in the hope that it might help anyone looking for inspiration for what sort of thing to say at a funeral, and also so that my fond memories of him will be digitally archived forever.

Grandad John

One of my earliest memories of Grandad was him buying me my first He-Man figure because I’d been brave enough to have my injections. I guess he thought that if I was going to play with dolls or action figures, I should play with the manliest ones available. Having two daughters and a granddaughter, I think he wanted to make sure I didn’t grow up to be a big girl.

I remember that he once saw Nan teaching me how to play patience with a pack of cards and decided that I should learn how to play a real man’s card game, so he started to teach me how to play pontoon. For money. On one side of me, he was telling me how to bet £1 or £10 at a time, and on the other side Nan was whispering in my ear that he really meant 1 pence or 10 pence. I was only about eight years old, so either one would have wiped out my piggy bank anyway.

I must have been about nine or ten years old when he decided to buy me a second-hand chest expander. I think he must have looked at my scrawny body and decided that I needed to get a bit more muscle on my bones so that I could be as strong as He-Man. I tried to use it a few times but quickly came to conclusion that I could never be the weightlifter or wrestler that he once was.

Another sport he continuously tried to get me interested in was football. Quite often he’d ask if I’d seen the match, to which I’d reply that I hadn’t because I wasn’t really interested in it. This probably went on for the last 20 years or more, with him more recently shouting down the phone when I was speaking to Nan, asking if I was watching the match. On a few occasions, when he said there was a good match on, I’d try my best to humour him and ask who was playing. He didn’t always know, he just loved to watch it regardless. Even with his eyes closed! Whenever his eyesight got a bit worse and he struggled to see the players, he’d just go out and buy a bigger TV.

Something else he liked to watch on his big screen was boxing. Knowing how much some of the boxing matches cost to watch, he was extremely proud to tell us all that he’d found a Sky channel where he could watch the match without paying. Little did he know that he’d found the pay-per-view channel and it actually cost him £15 when he clicked the “View” button! (And he wasn’t very pleased when my auntie had to basically tell Sky customer services that he was an old man who didn’t know what he was doing in order to get his money back!)

New technology wasn’t always one of his strong points. Having a TV, video recorder, DVD player, Sky box and CD radio – all of which being clearly labelled on each plug, just like he always did – he bought himself a remote that could control all of them, only to find that when he changed channel on the Sky box, it switched on the CD player. And when he turned down the TV, it turned up the radio. In hindsight, that worked out pretty well for him as he liked to listen to the football or rugby whilst watching the snooker or cricket.

You’re probably aware of modern digital cameras that don’t require films. Well, Grandad was definitely ahead of his time as he’d been taking pictures without any film for years using his many cameras that he’d picked up at car boot sales. Of course, those cameras still needed film.

Everyone knows how he loved scouring flea markets, car boot sales and charity shops for bargains. He was even generous enough to offer his bargains around. Over the years, I’ve gratefully taken away gadgets, torches, tools, etc. To be fair, I’ve also had to turn down shirts, pairs of socks and caps that, well, only a grandad would wear! In fact, before my sister took her boyfriend to meet Nan and Grandad for the first time, she warned him in advance that he might get offered a pair of trainers. Sure enough, my future brother-in-law had barely sat down when Grandad was checking the size of his feet and pulling out a pair of trainers he’d picked up at a bargain price a few weeks earlier.

One thing I definitely have in common with Grandad is my love for food. If his plate was piled high, he was happy. If you gave him a choice of desserts, he’d want both of them in one bowl. If you took him out for some posh pub food, he’d tell you that Morrisons have bigger portions. If you told him the buffet was open, he’d be the first in the queue. Just a few weeks ago, Suzy and I went round to see him at home while he was having his tea. (It was 3 o’clock, so only an hour earlier than usual!) With his plate piled high he gestured to Nan in the kitchen and said, “She keeps giving me these skinny meals!” Even though he was ill, he hadn’t lost his appetite or his sense of humour.

Finally, I’ll leave you with one of his many profound statements:

“I never forget anything... because I never remember it in the first place.”

Well, Grandad, I’ll never need to remember you, because I’ll never forget you.