31 Letters in 31 Days: Letter 23 – Dear Little Grandad

Dear Little Granddad, I’ve stopped calling you Little Grandad now, except for on cards and gift tags. I remember Mum telling me that we called you and Nanna ‘Little’ because Big Nanna and Grandad were taller. It made sense. You also lived one door apart, so it made it easier to say; ‘just popping round to Big Nanna’s’ or whatever. It was a great arrangement when we were kids. You made us all proud to be Metcalfe’s, telling us long, winding tales about your time in the army and then doing conservation work, and drove labour support through our veins. Most of the best times with you have been at carboot sales, when you managed to get a book down from twenty pence to ten. You’d wake us up at 6 sharp with the smell of bacon, the sound of the local radio and you tearing up cereal boxes so we could use the inside bits of cardboard to draw on. We’d be some of the first at the carboot, when the sun was still sucking the dew off the grass, and the ice cream van had yet to arrive. You were the man when it came to recycling and teaching us about the ins and outs of butterflies, trees and your tomato plants. I used to like the noise your walking stick would make on the pavement, when you’d walk us to Hell Wath nature reserve, with garlic sausage sandwiches and buttered tea loaf wrapped in foil. We used to walk past Hell Wath cottage, with its old brick walls and climbing ivy, and I’d say the same thing every time, while holding your spade of a hand. ‘Wish we lived there, then we could come for tea every day.’ The river was always the most exciting thing, after the secret pathways through the shrubbery, only small enough for ‘little kids’ to clamber through. Back then, it was massive, with a little ‘waterfall’ and pools and fish and a great ledge to haul ourselves off and into the water. It was hard for you and Nanna when I was ill. You thought I would eat if you bought and made my favourite foods. I wish it was as easy as that. I wish I could have eaten Nanna’s famous flapjack and chips and Sunday lunches. I felt horrible when I had to decline, year after year after year. I still like it that you ask me questions in German and French and I can never remember how to reply. I still like it that you pick up things from the carboot sales, even if I’m not able to pick them up for months. Your flat cap fits my head now and I am big enough to walk up the stairs without holding onto the banister. But there are things I never want to change, like when you say, as soon as I walk into the hot wonderful smelling kitchen, ‘this is your home, do whatever you want,’ even though every time it’s the same, lovely, age old routine.