Spring of '63 Remembered
When I was two years old my parents went on a holiday to Mexico, leaving me with my mother's parents in Scotland. My mother tells me that she was not very happy about this, as they were away for at least a couple of months and stayed in some very interesting places completely unsuitable for a small child. She was quite reluctant to leave me for such a long period, but I think my father must have persuaded her. He was probably aided and abetted in this by his parents and hers, both of whom had lived in India for many years and had been used to lengthy separations.
In fact, my grandfather was the youngest of five siblings and had been sent home from the 'unhealthy' Indian climate at the age of just three, to be looked after by the nuns at the convent where his sisters were at school. From that time onwards he only saw his parents when they came on Home Leave every two years. When he was older he was sent to Stonyhurst, the Jesuit College in Lancashire, to receive his formal education.
He and my grandmother brought up four of their five children in India until, like many of the British out there at the time, they decided to return home permanently in 1946. Although they initially settled in Yorkshire, they gravitated towards their homeland, Scotland. By the time my parents were married and I was born, they were living in Argyll in the Forestry Commission house that all 16 of their grandchildren remember as their home.
That is where the photograph in this picture was taken (probably by my uncle Andrew, who was an RAF photographer based in Cyprus at the time). I had the print made several years ago from a negative that I found somewhere and the quality wasn't brilliant even then, but I like it nonetheless. My grandfather, or "Daddo" as we called him, is wearing his 'Daniel Boone' racoon hat and smiling at me, while I look rather solemnly into the distance. He would have been in his 50s then and I remember him being great fun. He played all sorts of games with me and had a circular tobacco tin that magically flew open when children blew upon it.
Later, when I was a bit older, he would allow me to accompany him on long walks in the forest. Sometimes we would see a Roe Deer bounding away through the dappled light between the trees, or find chanterelle mushrooms to pick, or mark a tree that would be good for firewood. At other times, we would just walk in companionable silence though he always had interesting information to impart. He nearly always had some new interest that he was trying out and on one such occasion he taught me how to dowse for water. We went down and walked back and forth in an area outside the Forestry Commission offices where he worked, in a place where he knew there was water below, to test whether I had 'the knack'. Sure enough, at the appropriate spot, my string and wire contraption dipped downwards with a magnetic pull that I can distinctly recall.
There are certain things that remind me of him still, though he will have been gone 30 years this June. The smell of Wright's Coal Tar soap; the sound of the shipping forecast coming up, muffled, through the bedroom floor in the early morning when he had switched on the radio downstairs: "Rockall, Malin, Hebrides...."; the taste of woodsorrel picked in the woods; the feel of a rough tweed jacket or the clicking sound that a penknife makes when one snaps it shut; the smell of freshly-sawn logs and the fear of making too much noise when there's someone asleep in an armchair!
Sadly, as he grew older and became ill with the kidney problems that were a complication of his diabetes, he had less patience with the many grandchildren that rampaged through his house. My youngest sister has said that she mainly remembers him as a grumpy old man in a chair, which is a great pity. He was a very good-looking man (helped perhaps by the Italian genes on his mother's side) and although he was famous for not suffering fools gladly, he did have a wonderful sense of humour and a wealth of knowledge to impart on a wide variety of subjects. And, he used to slip me 10-shilling notes. But then, I was the first grandchild and I can remember the twinkle in his eye.
This blip was posted in response to Peopletwitcher's babyphoto challenge, which has become quite controversial. It seems that in order not to be suspended by blipcentral, these photos must form part of a larger image and 'have context.'