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WARD'S WORLD: Knowing granddad

By Spalding Today Columnist

I often hear from folk who read this column, which is quite enlightening in many respects, like: knowing that folk are reading it or capable of reading it is quite rewarding (at least seven so far I believe with Pauline in Spalding in the lead with Brian in Long Sutton still not sure, with Ken in Wisbech preferring it to the ‘Beano’, which I believe is no longer available in newsagents but was something to do with gardening or beans to be precise).

However, there are those blissfully unaware it’s a weekly thing - or in some cases it’s been suggested weakly - plus those who wander up to me and inquire on various aspects of the topics raised but regardless of the reply I still seem to disappoint some as being a non-smoker, I am unable to offer them a light for their cigarettes or at the very least, offer them ‘one of mine’ when they produce their empty packet.

John ready for a mission into the unknown (6469164)
John ready for a mission into the unknown (6469164)

It’s not often I do requests, although some suggested are physically impossible I should point out, if my doctor’s advice is anything to go by, but following on from the Armistice Day column I wrote last November to coincide with the Remembrance Day theme, I mentioned my granddad and his part in WW1 and this seems to have stirred assorted people into inquiring about him and so the following might help - I am afraid I don’t know much about anybody else’s granddad so I won’t be writing about them sadly, so it’s mine or none at all.

He was from my dad’s side of the family (the left side if you met him face on) but he was quite inspiring as his masterful way of using his inquiring mind was the stuff of legend, or at the very least gave them something to chunter about in the local working men’s club.

He was an active member of their darts team, as opposed to those who just went along regardless, as they had cheese and pickle rolls after the matches but his strategy was always to avoid the curled up ham and cucumber sarnies as it was the cheese and pickle rolls or nothing.

I went round to see him and Grandma one afternoon but as I entered their living room, there he was - ironing board out as he was ironing one pound notes flat!

Brief history bit: before the current pound coins we have had for many years, a pound note was in circulation but some possible reasons for getting rid of them was they wore out or got creased up, so Granddad did his bit by ironing them.

He explained, as he was laying them out on the dining room table, that by pressing them flat he could get more of them in his wallet, although Grandma said he could reduce them more by turning them into five pound notes. This was countered by him saying that yes, perhaps so, but if he bought anything he would still perhaps get change from a fiver - this was countered by Grandma saying he should buy dearer things (as you do) and then he would not have the trouble and she could have her iron and board back.

I should point out it’s not recommended to iron bank notes these days as they are of some plastic-type substance so might not take too kindly to being pressed - in Granddad’s day he set the iron on the ‘medium’ setting but did not use the steam button, plus being a strong supporter of the Royal family, he always pressed the front of the note with the Queen’s portrait on first, then the backside, forever the gentleman that he was.

We once - just the once - went into one local music shop (there were three such shops in the town then - how times change), armed with a clarinet he had been given by somebody where he worked and from memory I think I was about 11 at the time.

As the assistant came out from behind the curtain at the back of the counter, he drew near and smiled as he asked Granddad, could he help?

So, with a straight face, Granddad asked the assistant if he had ‘any darts that would fit it?’ to which there was stony silence as the poor man’s jaw dropped, and to be honest, he was not alone even in my 11 years on the then planet.

‘I beg your pardon?’ he uttered at Granddad, who stared at him and then turned the clarinet round and then posed a question in response: “To be honest, between ourselves, I am not sure which end they fit in as if it’s the big end it will take a lot of puff to blow it out the thin end.”

The assistant by now has eyeballs swivelling around like ping pong balls and finally spoke: “This is a fine musical clarinet and not a blowpipe...” to which Granddad looks at him, then at the clarinet and back again and spoke those magical words: “Are you sure? - no mistake is there?”

Looking around the shop, granddad leaned over the counter and then said in a sort of low, confidentially-type voice, as if anybody would be eavesdropping, to the assistant: “To be fair, it didn’t come with any instructions so you can understand the uncertainty of just trying it out willy-nilly, if you get my drift.”

He then said, after taking another look at it: “This is the problem today - they tell you nothing and then you have to ask folk.”

He gritted his teeth and looked at me, said ‘ha well’ and out we went.

As we walked away he looked at me and explained that what I had just seen was a classic case of ‘don’t believe everything you hear or see but question everything when possible’ as he winked at me and said: “In life, everything is perhaps not as it seems at first.”

Even today, now quite a few weeks on, I still use this line of thinking.

Another foible of his was ‘if somebody tells you how simple or easy a job is to do, ask them if they have ever done it themselves and if so, can they show you how as there are more know-it-alls about than those who can do the job properly’.

Another gem was when we were in town for whatever reason, as somebody he knew pulled him over to have a word in confidence as he was telling him about something or other but afterwards he came back to me and told me the man he had been speaking to was a very clever and well educated person but sadly to get to those heights, he had bypassed common sense in the process.

He pointed out that by asking him to do something quite mundane or routine as boil a kettle of water would be pointless as he wouldn’t have a clue and not the sort to have with you if you were shipwrecked on a desert island, but he might be handy to help carry wood for a possible fire, assuming anyone had remembered the matches.

I used to wonder as to where did all this stuff come from. Was it a sort of family trait? But I’m glad it never affected me.


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