... I don’t know why; it’s not like it’s his birthday or the anniversary of his passing … he just stepped into my head this morning, and wouldn’t leave!
I guess it’s just one of those random things that happen after you’ve lost someone you love, even if it was nearly four years ago that you lost them and you still miss them.
When I think of him, there’s always one story that springs to mind, and I want to share it because, I don’t know, it's sweet!
My Grandad was a London boy, born and raised in an area on the very eastern edge of London called Forest Gate, and one of his favourite pastimes when he was a boy was to cycle down to the London docks and spend the day wandering around just watching the comings and goings of what was then (the thirties) one of the world’s busiest ports.
He would have seen ships if every shape and size from every seafaring nation on earth; huge hoists and cranes and all sorts of other machines working; cargoes of everything you could imagine – from building materials to live animals and just about everything in between. He would have been surrounded by noises, different languages, colours, and smells … it was heaven on earth for a young boy with a head full of adventures and an enquiring mind.
One day when he was fifteen, he got talking with the crew of a New Zealand registered boat called the Port Jackson, and the captain offered him a job as a deckhand on their boat. It had sailed from New Zealand carrying a live cargo of sheep to England and was due to head back down under only a few days after their conversation to pick up another cargo.
He accepted in an instant, and jumped on his bike to rush home and tell his Mum the good news. He was leaving home to embark on the adventure of a lifetime!
His shocked mother informed him in no uncertain terms, that as his father was dead and his older brother was in prison (least said the better), he was, as the only man in the house of working age, the breadwinner and he wasn’t buggering off round the world for six months at a time thank you very much!
And there his dream died.
It didn’t turn out bad at all. He had a good, long, interesting life; he met my Grandma and they had a healthy, happy marriage spanning 60 years which included four years of separation during the second world war. He had a long and successful career on the London buses, they produced my Dad, and he did get the opportunity to travel throughout Europe and the Middle East (during the war and then later on as a tourist).
But he often spoke about his ‘almost’ adventure, and often suggested that he probably would have liked to settle in New Zealand, had he got the chance to see it. He always thought it looked so beautiful in pictures, and he was thrilled when I got the opportunity to go there in 1997 and again in 2006.
He used to joke that if his older brother hadn't been the family black sheep, I might have been born a kiwi. It was clearly one of the great ‘what if’ moments of his life.
It was also one of the last conversations we had.
There’s no moral to this story; it's not a preach-fest about following your dreams or grasping opportunity or anything like that because we all know, as romantic as that sounds, real life's not always like that.
I just wanted to share a little bit of my Grandad.