I have been neglecting my blog so much, recently, that you must surely think I have forgotten about it altogether. I guess life and a general feeling of ennui and also illness, has got in the way and I find that my poor old blog has ended up at the bottom of my ‘to do’ list. And, of course, we all know that ‘to do’ lists are rarely completed…….
So, I thought that I would have a look at last year’s post, just to see if it offered any inspiration ……. and I found this ….
I had already mentally wished a “Happy Birthday” to dear old Grandpa but I thought it may be a good idea to reblog this ……
HAPPY BIRTHDAY, GRANDAD !!
Today would have been my Grandad’s birthday ……
Oh but please don’t worry, its not a day for great sadness…….
No, no, not at all. He died over 36 years ago and now I am able to smile nostalgically and bask in happy memories.
You never forget a loved one, but, eventually, I find that you pass into a calmer, more reflective stage, where you remember the warm glow of having loved and been loved by them; rather than feeling the sharp pain of loss.
I realise that this may not always be the case ….perhaps if one has lost a child or someone has been taken far too early… But, in my dear Grandad’s case, I look back on a life well lived….full of joyful memories and amusing anecdotes.
I remember his kindness ….. taking on 5 grand-children that were, in fact, not his REAL grand-children at all. And yet he loved us every bit as much as if we had been blood relations. He indulged us and ensured that we had all we needed.
He was a great source of fun too. He came from a much gentler, innocent age. The workings of the ‘modern‘ world were often a mystery to him.
For instance …. He had a series of old cars. …… ‘old bangers’ really ! They were all rather delapidated and his driving left a lot to be desired. He learnt to drive on farm-land ….long before a driving test was required ….and he drove on public roads in exactly the same way as he drove his tractor across a ploughed field !
One old Morris Minor had a faulty door handle, so …… for as long as I can remember …..the offending door was tied shut with bright orange baler-twine, which was untied and then tied up again for each passenger.
He dipped his head-lights by turning them off, completely, for a few seconds ….thus plunging the road ahead into darkness ….. and totally confusing on-coming traffic.
And the manual choke was always pulled out …. well, it was somewhere for my Nana to hang her handbag, wasn’t it ?
He had so many quirky ways …..I still picture him, in his shirt-sleeves, with the collar unbuttoned and his warm, buttoned-at-the-neck, flannel vest on show ….standing at the sink in the little scullery ….peeling ‘spuds’ with his old pen-knife. My Nana used to say that she could have done the potatoes in half the time, but he insisted that it was “his job”.
And so, today and every day, I remember my beloved Grandad with a great deal of affection and more than a little amusement. I feel very privileged to have know him and am proud to have been a part of his family.
“Happy Birthday Grandad”
And here is a little story about him that I wrote some time ago ……some of my memories of a special man …………a little bit of nostalgic reminiscence ………..
HALF EATEN HEDGES
My Grandad was not my ‘real’ Grandad …….. not my ‘birth’ relation, as they say nowadays. My Nana was married twice and her second husband was much resented by my Mother. But that is not for now, that is for another day.
To me he was my Grandad, the only one I had ever known and I loved and respected him and mourned him when he passed away.
He was one of four children, born to a relatively wealthy farming family in North Yorkshire. Apparently, when he was 8 yrs old, he had fallen from a cart and broken his arm in a few places. It was set hastily and inexpertly by the local doctor. Infection set in and he almost lost the arm. He was sent every fortnight, at great expense, on his own across the country to Liverpool for treatment and although this saved the limb it was left twisted and his right hand was turned inwards in a sort of immobile ‘claw’ shape. The fingers were set in one position and could not be moved.
Of course, nowadays, he would be registered as disabled and eligible for all sorts of help and benefits, but way back in the early 1900s there was no NHS, no Benefit schemes. You just had to get on with it !
Every brother was given farming land by the parents and my Grandad’s farm was located where Wilton I.C.I now stands. It extended from Lazenby to what was known as the ‘Trunk Road’ between Grangetown and Redcar.
It was a dairy farm and after the cows were milked, the milk was put into huge churns and taken down the lane by horse and cart. There it was left, to be picked up by a truck from Northern Dairies. Next day it was returned; bottled and in heavy metal crates; to be delivered to households round the town by my Grandad and the same horse and cart.
I.C.I Wilton, which had started off in a small field, was expanding rapidly and office buildings and processing plants seemed to pop up overnight and creep ever nearer to the edge of the farm.
Grandad had sold I.C.I quite a few fields, but eventually they made him an offer he couldn’t refuse, the whole farm was sold and my Grandparents bought a large Victorian semi in Grangetown.
Now, at the time, this was a prosperous town, full of life with plenty of work for the menfolk at the thriving Dorman Long Steel Works. Now I’m remembering the mid 1950s when I often used to visit my Grandparents for the weekend. At night I would look out of the window and see the big red glow of the furnaces way in the distance and see shards of light and sparks fly up into the night sky when the workers were tapping the furnaces and the molten liquid was meeting the cold ‘pig’ moulds.
Although the farm was sold, my Grandad was still the Milkman. The only differences being that the horse and cart were kept at a nearby farm on the edge of town and the milk was no longer produced by our cows !
It was now delivered, very early in the morning, to the rear of the house and kept in a purpose-built dairy in the back yard. I can remember laying in bed, blankets up to my ears; hearing the clatter and rattle of the crates and the chatter of the men as they unloaded the days supplies. Meanwhile, Grandad would have left the house even earlier to go up to the field and ‘catch’ the horse and harness it to the cart. Then, a while later, I would hear the ‘clip clop’ of hooves on the cobbled back alley and, once again, the clatter of crates being loaded. This time by my Grandad with his crooked arm.
I have no idea how he managed, I guess he had got used to the situation and, to my shame, as a youngster it never crossed my mind. It was something I was used to and I never thought of the impact it must have had on his life. He always coped and I never heard him complain.
He was not a sentimental man. I suppose farmers can’t always allow themselves that luxury. So, although he cared for and ….I believe loved …….his horse, he had no time for fancy names and every horse he ever owned was called PETER !
Well, the Peter I knew was a marvel. He knew every inch of the huge milk-round and could have walked the route on his own. He knew when to stop and when to start off again and would wait at each place for the designated time. However, this meant that if a customer chatted for too long or needed an extra pint fetching Grandad had to hurry or Peter would just trot off again and be halfway down the street at the next stop.
During the school holidays, my sister Gill and I would often go out ‘on the round’ too. We would jump on and off the cart at the stops and run up and down paths with pints of ‘gold top‘ and bottles of orange juice and Peter would trot off to the next stop with us gaily skipping after calling ” Whoa , whoa “………. which of course he ignored.
A couple of customers always made Grandad a cup of tea and, if we were with him, we went into the cosy homes and were made a fuss of and plied with cocoa and biscuits.
Peter was used to these longer stops and stayed in one place merrily munching the garden hedge till we came out. These generous households could easily be recognised by their half-eaten hedges, which were much shorter and sparser than their neighbour’s neat, uneaten ones !
People loved Peter. They came out with apples and sugar cubes and little children giggled as his soft nose nuzzled their palms to carefully take the crusts of bread they offered.
People loved my Grandad too. They gave him cakes and puddings in muslin cloths and sent magazines to my Nana. She, in turn , used Grandad as a courier to deliver a jar of strawberry jam to the lady at number 6 or take a lovingly knitted matinee coat to Mrs. Brown’s new baby. Births, marriages and deaths were discussed at length and news was carried, along with the odd letter and parcel, from one street to another.
Milk needed to be delivered in all weather. Pouring rain; scorching sun; sleet and snow and howling gales; there would be my Grandad and his trusty Peter.
Grandad, at the crack of dawn; huffing and puffing; lifting heavy crates with his ‘gammy’ arm.
Grandad, trudging up and down garden paths; his weather beaten, furrowed brow like leather and the creases and wrinkles of his berry brown face deep set in a smile.
When the snow and ice was too dangerous for Peter, Grandad did the round in short spells using a two wheeled handcart that carried 6 crates at a time. This meant that he had to return home many times to reload, but he always managed, never missed a day !
Gill and I would sometimes help him , dressed in stout boots and layers of clothes , like two rosy cheeked Inuits. When the round was finished he would let us sit on the empty crates and he would push us back home in the handcart. I realise now that what had been great fun for us must have been hard work for him. But it made us squeal with laughter and that pleased him.
When Gill and I got older we used to help him at weekends by doing what was called the ‘bottom round’ using the two wheeled handcart. He would load it with 6 crates and the two of us set off to deliver the daily pintas to 4 or 5 streets of houses that all had excessively long garden paths !! We had great fun doing this even though it was very physical work. Kids nowadays wouldn’t do it I suppose …… and Health and Safety would have something to say about it anyway; especially as I always let Gill sit on the empty crates while I pushed her home ………….well……..it was tradition !
My dear Grandad worked on, way past retirement age as he didn’t want to ” let anyone down.” But, eventually, he had to give way to the modern world. It was no longer viable to deliver milk with a horse and cart. Northern Dairies had moved into the modern age and now had a fleet of fancy milk floats and a team of white coated, fresh-faced young milkmen.
Grandad was a relic of the past and everything was ” rush rush “. There was no time to linger over a cuppa or let young kiddies feed crusts to the milkman’s horse .
My Grandparents sold up and retired to the country and there are many more stories to tell. But I think part of him always remained on that milk-round. Peter also retired, to spend the rest of his life in lush fields, but, for a while, part of him remained on the round too, in the half eaten hedges dotted here and there .