I think I must have idolised my grandparents from the moment I was born. My grandfather, John Robert Joseph Griffin, was born on the 6/6/26, fought in WW2, got shell-shocked and hospitalised in Belgium and was a butcher until the day he retired. According to my grandmother, Lillian Court, who was born 30/8/27, my grandfather was quite an ugly kid and she wanted to date his friend instead. But, they got together and had a family of 4, although their first baby, John, died of gastroenteritis at the age of 6 months. I swear that he has been reincarnated into my little girl because they are very similar looking and apparently have the same personalities. My mum was their second child, followed by my aunt and then my uncle.
My mum left my biological father on account of his drinking problem when I was about 5 months old and we went to live with my grandparents after that for a while until my mum got her own place. I always remember having the most wonderful time with my grandparents. My grandad in particular, idolised me and I idolised him. I remember he used to take me everywhere – to the pub, to feed to ducks, walks along the canal banks, to his butchers shop, shopping, to Southport fair. Anywhere I wanted to go, he would take me. He spoiled me and my friends rotten. I would spend summers with them when we lived abroad in Hong Kong and they were always brilliant. I loved their house, their old photos, their old vinyl records (which I really wish I had kept), everything just seemed like an adventure.
Nana and grandad enjoyed good food and good wine and indulged. We often went out for dinners and they quite often used to take me to the Norbreck Castle Hotel in Blackpool for weekends. Blackpool, in all its plastic wealth – a traditional sea side resort with a lot of Victorian influence. Fillagree everywhere and ice cream and rock sold on every corner. I still remember the salt in the air and how much I longed for a hard candy dummy. More often than not, I would be give one.
I remember dancing with my grandad. He used to let me stand on his feet as we waltzed to the old tunes. He had a minor obsession with Liverpool FC and his seasonal ticket to Anfield – a few times I even got to watch the match in his seat when him and my nana went on holiday.
And oh boy, did they love to travel. A LOT. Sometimes twice a year after they retired! They had their normal soujourns to Benidorm but went further afield like Bali, Thailand and other distant lands too. Really very cool.
My nana always wanted to go on a cruise. Sadly, she had to do it without my grandad. He would have loved it. He was quite partial to the glitz and glam of it all. He would have ADORED Dubai. I so wanted him to have visited here to see it all. And to be here for my wedding.
But sadly, after a series of mini strokes, he developed Alzheimer’s and eventually couldn’t walk or talk. We ended up putting him in a nursing home. My grandmother visited every day. Without fail. Now that is love. They are my example of a solid marriage. It is because of them that I want my own marriage to be a success. They were married nearly 50 years. I am sure that they had their ups and downs like we all do, but you work through it. I know that there are situations where marriages simply do not work – like for example, when one partner is abusive. I am sure that my grandad had his moments! Nana always speaks so fondly of him – how he was always the gentleman in every sense of the word.
I still miss him every day.
But nana! She is still going strong! Her hearing has gone a lot and she has developed a major case of osteoporosis but wow, what a woman! After grandad died, she sold the house and moved into sheltered accommodation (funnily enough, in Bootle!). It was the best decision she made. She loves it there. It is tiny, like a box, but wonderful. Very peaceful. I love visiting her there. Its also right next to the bingo so she is set! She is a bloody minded, strong feisty woman and I have such love and admiration for her. She has taught me so much. She can be a bloody nag at times, but as clan leader, I think she is allowed. I have never seen her lose her strength. One of my fondest memories of her is when we had a day trip together to Llandudno in Wales. We walked around for miles, and found a little WW2 museum. I was thrilled as it was going to be a unit that I was to teach my grade 3’s the following year. so I dragged her in and took all kinds of pictures! She bought me a little bulldog teddy which we named Winston after Winston Churchill, so that my students could start a diary of his adventures. We took pictures of him all over Llandudno – on the rides at the pier head; in restaurants; on a donkey; with nana – it was so cool. My students for that year, took turns taking Winston home for the weekend and wrote a diary entry for him. I still have it.
I remember my nana making blackberry and apple wine and pies. She would make us go and pick the blackberries from around the canals and then she would make the most wonderful pies and wine to go with our roast dinner. I loved the fact that she made her own pastry and cakes – she was a real ‘nana’, like right out of a picture book. I remember one time going to play in the local park with my friends Helen and Sarah – and I took a cabbage from the local field to give to her for the dinner. She was livid that I had stolen it, but used it anyway!
My grandparents house was in Lydiate. No. 4, Mayfayre Avenue. They had the same neighbours for years. They were the first to move into the avenue and one of the last to move out. I think that was one of the main attractions of staying with them. They didn’t move. I always knew where they were. It wasn’t a transient community of which you see so much of nowadays. In my life, I have moved living accommodations 19 times. And my family isn’t even in the military! This includes shifting living spaces at dorms, colleges, in HK and even here in Dubai I have moved house 3 times! My grandparents were there. The same house, the same location, the same smells – and what wonderful smells! I loved the smell of the storage loft; my nan’s Mr Sheen furniture polish; her roast dinners; my grandad’s Brut and Old Spice (yes, he wore THOSE and I still love the smell of them today!) and my grandad’s garage with all his tools. Oh my God, the smell of turps and lawnmowers. Even today I can’t get enough of that smell. I always used to love exploring the garden. He used to plant the most wonderful scented roses. And sometimes, he would make me and my nana breakfast in bed – usually dippy eggs with soldiers or a bacon sandwich, or even sometimes a fry up – would bring them upstairs on silver trays with a freshly cut rose in a vase as well.
On valentines day, he would always buy my nana and I the most beautiful cards with a box of chocolates – hers would always be much bigger than mine! What a smart man he was!
Perhaps I will write more later. Remembering can be exhausting!