Thinking of my lovely Grandpa, Fred, who was born on this day in 1907. He was a real looker when he was young, slim with blonde wavy hair and a great smile. He came from Devon and met my granny, Molly, when they were both at teacher training college in Lampeter, Wales. When they were courting, he rode around on a big motorbike with Granny in a side car.
I learnt recently that he wouldn’t let Molly learn to drive cos he thought that was a man’s job and she was furious with him! They used to go dancing and won lots of competitions; cigarettes for him and silk stockings for her. I remember when I was a teenager, Fred disparaging discos for the very good reason that you couldn’t, “grab the girl you liked and hold her close like I used to!” Quite right.
When I asked him once why he trained to be a teacher, he told me that growing up where he did he had two choices: to be a farmer or to be a teacher, and he had no interest in farming, so he went to teaching training college. Once he qualified he took a job in Sheffield during the 1930s and it became his home for the rest of his life. He taught maths at a large secondary school, Jordanstone, was a keen bridge player and had a fine tenor voice.
My uncle, John, was born in 1937, and mum came some years later in 1944. Between them they gave Molly and Fred four granddaughters.
My sister and I stayed with Granny and Grandpa a lot growing up as Mum and Dad both worked, so they would often have us during the half-term holidays. And our families were often in Wales together at Easter or at Christmas, in the house in Laws Street, which was then lived in by Granny’s sister, Lil. My sister and I played on the same beaches which my boys do now and slept in the same attic bedroom, with the sun streaming through the Velux windows far too early in the morning. We’d splash Grandpa down by the waves and he would soak us in return, while Granny looked on with an indulgent smile and then he’d buy us an ice-cream if the van was there; our little dog, Lucy, begging for a share.
Fred had a wonderful sense of humour all his life. I clearly remember him playing jokes on me throughout my childhood and roaring with laughter. One of the funniest times was when we were celebrating his 50th wedding anniversary in 1984; I would’ve been 15. The whole family went out for a meal in a smart hotel in Sheffield and were seated round a highly polished wooden table. Being a well brought up girl I asked him politely to pass me the salt. Instead of passing it though, a devilish twinkle lit up his eye and taking aim he slid it expertly across the table and taken aback I just managed to catch it before it tumbled onto the floor!
Well after that ice breaker, everything that could be slid across that table was and it’s a miracle nothing got broken. The men, vying to be the best, of course and everyone laughing as we all reverted to junior school children for the evening.
He was a generous man too. Never letting anyone else pay when we went out to eat, even if it was quite obviously our turn.
One of his pleasures in life was gardening; he had a big vegetable plot at the back of his garden where he cultivated many different plants and he would brew his own wine too. It was pretty good.
Fred used to come with us on our six-week summer holidays to France. Molly came out once, when my parents first purchased the house and was so horrified by having to pretty much camp in a ruin (the house hadn’t been lived in for 40 years), that she never came back. Fred was game though and every year after he’d taken Molly to stay with her sister in Pembroke Dock, he’d drive to our house and then get a lift down to St. Sauveur in our camper van. Mum let him have the passenger seat and she sat on a little seat that Dad fashioned for her out of wood wedged in between the two front seats.
Fred would get stuck in with the renovation and help to plaster, paint, mix cement or whatever else was required. Whenever the heat was getting to him, he’d mix in a little salt with his water and re-hydrate himself. He even came canoeing with us on several occasions down the Drome. And in the evenings he enjoyed the company of whichever family was staying with us and the riotous meals with 10 or more of us seated on the church pews in the kitchen.
He died a week after my cousin, Kate, got married and five months before my own wedding. It fell to my soon to be father-in-law Joe to give me the news as Betty and I returned from wedding dress shopping. Obviously I wept for him. He was the only grandpa I had growing up and a good one.
Happy birthday Fred xxx