31 Letters in 31 Days: Letter 27 – Dear Big Granddad

Dear Big Granddad,

Remember when I used to get up at the crack of dawn, and sit with you in the kitchen, while you got ready for work? We used to watch The Killer Tomatoes on mute, so we didn’t wake Nanna up. You were always shirtless while you had your fag and tea at the breakfast bar. You had loads of blonde chest hair and it used to fascinate me, as did the splodgy tattoo on your arm. Conversation was sparse, but I really enjoyed those peaceful mornings, smoke swirling slowly towards the ceiling, blowing on our tea, watching angry tomatoes ruin the earth. I’ve always wanted to know more about you, your background, and your history. A couple of years back, I took a trip to Pateley Bridge where you are from. Mum showed me where your Mum lived. I was struck with the beauty of the place, nestled in the heart of the North Yorkshire dales. We visited the graveyard where your mother was buried and mum got all emotional, remembering the times she spent running to get her Nanna’s fags. Years and years ago, I remember walking down through the river at Hell Wath, holding Nanna’s hand tightly as we slipped and stumbled our way downstream, trousers rolled up to our knees. You were on the bank, following us, with the food cooler. I wanted you to be holding my other hand.

You would always eat so much bread and butter with your fish and chips, but you were as thin as a rake and strong. I think it was to do with that fact you never, ever stopped working. Always on the go you were, and whenever you were settled down for the night, it would be in the kitchen, with the little telly and the dogs, instead of in the living room with everybody else. This always puzzled me. I used to sleep in your bed when I’d stay, and you would be on the sofa. You had the loudest clock I’d ever heard, and the best selection of The Beano and Dandy. I always slept so well in your comfy bed, but I’d feel sorry for you, and wondered if you minded that I was sleeping there instead of you. I miss you Granddad, now you’re up in the back end of beyond in Scotland. Whenever we come up to visit, I want to talk and talk and talk. But you never have been a big conversationalist. So we just smile a lot and nod instead.