I suppose I was fortunate because for the first twenty years of my life I had the privilege of having and knowing all four of my grandparents, five if you include my great grandmother who lived to a wonderful old age. There were boys and girls at school who had one or two missing even when we were quite young so although I didn’t fully appreciate it at the time I was privileged to know them all.
I recall my granddads really well as we lived with them for a while, visited them frequently and every year one or the other of them would come on holiday with us.
This is really unfair I suppose but grandad Ted was always my favourite because he seemed to have a better understanding of children. Going to visit him was always something to look forward to. He was the one that I remember had all of the patience and the unlimited time to spend for hours in the back garden at Cleveleys Avenue playing cricket (it might only have been ten minutes for all I know but my memory tells me that these sporting sessions lasted as long as a test match) or taking me to the brook with a fishing net, or fiddling about on a Norfolk beach in rock pools and flying kites on the beach.
He was about forty-five when I was born and must have had a job but as far as I can recall he was always around when I was a child. He could drive a car and used to take us to Groby Pool near Leicester to feed the ducks or to Bradgate Park to see the deer and he liked football and cricket and was a safe and reliable grandad to be around. He took us on holiday to Lincolnshire and Norfolk and everyone seemed to like him. Granddad Ted died on 17thMay 1975 and it was a shock because it was unexpected and sudden and we were making plans to go on holiday in a month’s time to Devon. He was the first granddad and also the first close relative that I knew to die and I think his funeral was probably the first that I ever attended.
Grandad Ernie was quite different. He was Londoner and worked as a bus conductor on the old London double-decker Routemaster buses operating from the Catford depot in South London. I can still remember him in his dark blue London Transport uniform with his red conductors badge and his leather satchel slung over his shoulder walking home from work in a jaunty sort of way all along Barmerston Road back to the flat my grandparents lived at, at number 50.
Grandad Ernie liked to have a drink (or two) and would always give my dad (who was a hopeless drinker) a headache after a night out and he used to smoke forty Embassy cigarettes a day until the doctor told him to quit or die. He spent a lot of time sitting in his favourite chair watching the horse racing on the TV and didn’t seem to have any particular interest in children.
He was a really nice man but he never quite seemed to have the time for or the understanding of children that granddad Ted used to have. He was generous and kind but just didn’t seem to have the time to spend with us on all of the trivial things that the other one did. He like history and reading and he bought me a book about Winston Churchill shortly after he died and I like to think that perhaps I inherited my own interests here from him. Granddad Ernie died two years after Ted in 1977.