This post is more for me than anyone else, just for me to get all of this out and written down, after all, this is a lifestyle blog...it's about my life. Yesterday was an emotional one as we said goodbye to my Gramps. For the past couple of weeks I just haven't been able to blog, he and my Nanny used to sit down together and read it, then I'd get a phone call from them quizzing me on everything. Knowing that every blog post I write from now on won't be read by him, is hard. Knowing that he won't have an opinion or have a fact to tell me about where I've been (he knew every place and it's history, and always seemed to have been to most places), is weird.
|Nanny and Gramps with me as a baby|
Since the day I was born he was a huge part of my life. He jangled keys in my face (and all my cousins'...and even my dogs') as a baby to entertain me, told us stories of bears chasing him up trees in Canada (Nanny would tell him to stop 'fibbing'), he'd dance me round the living room to old jazz music on his slipper-covered feet, and taught my cousins and I from young ages the routine to YMCA. We have a video of my 9th birthday party, all my friends dancing to YMCA, and he's standing there in the middle showing us how it's done. I have countless memories of watching episodes of Only Fools and Horses, and hearing Gramps roar with laughter at them, before pointing to the TV and exclaiming whilst in hysterics 'Did ya see that!'.
When I was a toddler he built my cousin and I sledges, and painted them; mine was white and blue, and my cousin's was red and white. For years we have used and loved those sledges every winter whenever there's been the slightest falling of snow, preferring their sturdiness and the knowledge they were made by our grandfather, over the cheap plastic things. Even Dylan loves the sledge!
He ignited my love for wartime history, taking us to countless war museums, telling us his stories of when he was in the Navy, and spending the weekend afternoons watching 'a good war film'. He taught me how to write a formal letter, and he tried to teach me calligraphy...but this didn't work out so well. As children we would spend summers in my grandparents garden, in and out of the paddling pool, giggling and shooting each other with water from the water guns that Gramps bought us, while he and my Nanny sat and watched or did some gardening (Gramps loved his Roses, and everyone used to lose their ankles in the huge gap in-between the paving and the grass). In the evenings we would settle down to watch the TV, hot chocolate and shortbread biscuit in hand, and eventually Gramps would fall asleep snoring and we'd all giggle at him. I have a video of him asleep and snoring...but thought it'd be too mean to put it up ;)
After years of being in the Merchant Navy during the war, and then working for Cunard on the Queen Elizabeth when the war was over, Gramps had a love for the ocean and ships. My grandparents lived on the south-coast, and I have many fond memories of visiting the historic dockyards at Portsmouth, and going on countless boat trips with them. I'll never forget him building sandcastles on the beach with us when the tide was out, he and Nanny making us sand boats, then sitting on his deck chair, handkerchief on head. He wasn't afraid to get down on his hands and knees to be at the same level as us, he was an active grandfather who just wanted to spend as much time with us all as possible, and have a lot of fun on the way.
Gramps would often speak of his time at sea, and his trips back and forth to New York. He loved that city, and would tell us stories of his adventures there. The song New York New York is the song that reminds me of every member of that side of that family. Every Christmas and Mothers Day Gramps used to organize huge family lunches, and then a BBQ and disco at the Golf Club every summer, and by the end, it would be just our family left...we would always finish the night with New York New York, all 18 or so of us lined up, arms linked, kicking in time to the music. I miss those days.
|Nanny's 70th birthday|
|Gramps and his daughter Christine dancing at one of the Golf Club discos|
|My brother, Gramps, Nanny and I, just before my other Grandad's wedding|
Gramps loved Golf, he used to be a member of Goodwood before moving to Littlehampton Golf Club. In the summer when we visited, he and Nanny would take us putting, he was determined to get us interested in golf. My brother had lessons for a while, however I never had any interest in it and remember being bored stiff on this putting green and just used to hit it as hard as I could - sending it flying across the green.
Music. Nanny and Gramps also ignited my love for jazz and swing music, and for the greats. I still remember watching the Glenn Miller Story at their house, and falling in love. I want Little Brown Jug played at my funeral as my coffin's carried out of the church...just because it always makes me so happy. They were devoted grandparents, they attended most of our school plays and band concerts, even spending 3 hours or so on a bus just to get to one that was held on the bandstand at Eastbourne!
We went on holiday with Nanny and Gramps a few times, the most memorable was Mallorca when I was about 10 years old. We had a villa with a roof terrace, and while we were all in the pool, Gramps went up to the roof and thought it would be fun to throw peppermints down to see if we could catch them in our mouths! My brother and I found it hilarious jumping around the pool trying to catch these flying peppermints! We've got a video somewhere. Gramps also had a great love for carnivals and funfairs, whenever there was a funfair or rides of any sort, he was the first to suggest we go on them. I still remember one time when the fair came to Worthing seafront, and I wanted to go on this ride, but you had to have an adult with you, no one else would come on with me so Gramps jumped in and we went whizzing round in these cars bumping into everyone!
My favourite memory of Gramps is at a Portsmouth FC match, it was against Liverpool. We won. At the age of 13 I joined the girls football team at school, it was inevitable really, most of my family members and cousins were boys, my Dad played football, as did my brother, as did my cousins, my uncle, and Gramps was a talent scout for Pompey. As soon as he found out I'd joined, he took me to my first Portsmouth game. I went to many over the years with him, we were lucky enough to get free tickets because of him working for them. I'll never forget him in his flat cap, cravat and overcoat, sitting rugged up in the freezing cold Fratton Park stadium, a huge smile on his face, even when we were losing. He was just happy to be there.
This one particular match it was just Gramps and I, we were sat next to one another, gripping onto our programmes in anticipation as it looked like Pompey were going to score...as we scored the winning goal, the roar from the crowd went up, Gramps and I both jumped up throwing our arms round one another, his face lit up in laughter, and we continued to jump and and down hugging, laughing and shouting out in delight "WE DID IT! WE WON!". It was an FA Cup match, we were through to the next round. We both stood there for ages chanting Play up Pompey along with the rest of the crowds. I'll never forget that day, nor the way his face would crease into that huge laughing smile that could put a smile on everyone around him, and the way he'd introduce me proudly as his grandaughter to everyone he knew.
|Half time at a Portsmouth FC match|
There was an old fashioned sweet-shop in Portsmouth that he used to take us to on the way home from matches. It was filled with tubs of penny sweets, and he'd treat us to a bag. We had sweets everywhere we went with him, and milkshakes too. He and Nanny would always buy us pick n mix from Woolworths, or penny sweets from the paper shop round the corner from their house. Gramps' favourites were 'Snowies', or what the Aussies call 'freckles' - white chocolate drops covered in hundreds and thousands.
He did everything he could to be there for all of his grandchildren, and had such a zest for life that it rubbed off onto all of us. Even at the end when he was so sick, he didn't let it get to him, he didn't let it affect his life, just a few weeks before he died we were out having dinner and he seemed so alive and himself. He was the type of man you thought would live forever - you just couldn't imagine him not being there. Every memory I have of him is a happy one, filled with joy, laughter, and happiness.
|Mother's Day Lunch 2012|
|My 21st birthday family & friends lunch, 2012|
The only bad memory I have of him, is in the last weeks of his life...he lost so much weight that I would hear him speak, but I would turn to look at him...and it wasn't him. It was his voice, but it wasn't him, he looked like a different person, and that was the hardest thing of all about that horrid illness. Hearing the person's voice, but not recognizing them. The only regrets I have are not taking more photos, not going to one last Portsmouth match with him, and the fact he'll never see me get married or have children for him to jangle keys in their faces.
At the funeral yesterday I managed to hold it together for all of 10 minutes, until the hearse arrived and my Nanny grabbed my hand. It was incredibly hard seeing the coffin, and it finally hit me that I'll never see him again. But I'm so proud of the man he was; people came from all over the country and were out the door at the service, his coffin was draped with the Merchant Navy flag, Portsmouth football club sent representatives and flowers for the work he did with them, and Littlehampton Golf Club have had their flag at half mast since the day he died.
He was without a doubt the best grandfather a child could ever have, and I feel incredibly lucky to have had him as mine. And the best thing about him? He was only my step-grandfather, yet he treated all of us the same. He treated me and my brother and cousins the same as his blood grandchildren, no one was left out, no one was left feeling any less special or important. There were no 'steps' in our family, we were all just as important, and he made sure we knew it. He was so special to all of us, he touched so many people, and he'll be deeply missed. I think my Nanny put it perfectly, "Life will never be the same without you".
Rest in Peace Gramps, thank you for everything, love you lots.