You could be a charmer. All the ladies at work loved you and you were showered with gifts when you retired. But you could also be a man of few words. Whenever I rang your house you would pass the phone over to Mama like it was about to explode. The only time I remember you ringing us was when you needed to borrow a tool from Dad. You simply asked if Alan was there, as if I was a complete stranger. I thought it was a salesman.
The kitchen was your domain. You were always preparing food whilst listening to the radio or watching quiz shows. You made homemade crisps, which we thought was amazing, surely crisps only come in packets?! But you would put them in a fancy glass dish and place them on the trestle tables with a flourish. You were the only person I knew that never had sliced bread. Always a crusty, white loaf, which you cut with an electric bread knife. “How many slices duck? Thick or thin?” I used to like eating at your house, we got bigger portions.
I think of you on the dining room chair at the back of the living room, or popping your head through the kitchen hatch, always ready to interject with a quip or a knowing smile. You had a dry sense of humour, the complete opposite to Mama, and loved all the old greats; Spike Milligan, Tommy Cooper, Morecambe and Wise. Your mind was sharp and you knew something about everything. Current affairs; politics; the latest sports results; the best road to take to get anywhere in the country, there wasn’t anything you couldn’t talk about. You couldn’t resist a gadget and always seemed to have a new TV. Even twenty odd years ago you had a television in pretty much every room.
You were usually found outside in the garden, tending to your tomatoes in the greenhouse, tinkering in the outhouse or fixing things in the garage. Often, you’d be varnishing the somewhat “eclectic” mix of garden ornaments that Mama collected. I always remember the time she made you come around and varnish ours while we were away on holiday. We were amused to discover our stone rabbit and tortoise had developed a better tan than us when we returned home.
You were strong. And independent. You encountered cancer, surgery and even a car knocking you down in your 70s and you just kept going. Playing bowls, cooking, gardening, driving yourself to appointments or popping into Beeston to get your paper and cakes from Birds. We all admired your sheer determination to carry on, whatever life threw at you.
But most of all I think of you as part of a double act. The irreplaceable Ken and Barb. Together for 60 years and now reunited again.
Goodbye Grandpa. We’ll miss you x
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