Wednesday, 25 April 2012
Granddaddies Little Girl Part 2
So, it’s taken me a bit of time to write this one, due to one thing or another, and it’s taken me a bit of time to think about this very complex man, and group together my memories of him . . .
Granddad Ted was born into a family of birdcage makers in Covent Garden (how romantic does that sound!) and when he was old enough, worked with his father in the market as a green grocer. There were seven children in total, six boys and one girl, and the sense of family camaraderie really always came through. They would go off 'Hopping' in the summer, living in tin huts in the then Garden of England, Kent. Picking hops, singing songs, and eating good food, building up their strength for the harshness of a London winter. . .
I once asked him if he knew his grandparents, and where they had lived. ‘In the house that backed onto ours,’ he said, ‘but we didn’t really see them . . .’
‘Why?’ I had asked.
‘Well my Grandfather pushed my Grandmother down the stairs and killed her, so we just didn’t!’ What a startling revelation and one that I didn’t, and haven’t still, pursued.
In the war, he was still too young to join up initially, but then became a driver in Bletchley, the home of the code breakers.
Soon after the war, he married Betty, and along came two boys, one of them my father. Because of dad’s weak chest, the doctors advised them to move out into the countryside to the fresh air, and so they did, to the new town Hemel Hempstead. He opened up a greengrocer’s shop, with my grandmother doing the floristry side of things that grew and did well.
They soon moved from the town, further out into the countryside, and this homestead is where my main memories of him come into play . . .
He was Pa Larkin – there was always the bulging veg patch, the Sunday lunches and huge spread teas in the afternoon, shared with as many family members as possible . . . Us jumping on him, and him ‘giving us whiskers!’
He was soft hearted, and instead of demanding debts be settled in cash, often took goods in exchange – vans, chickens – you name it. This soft heart extended to animals, and he could never see an animal that was being mistreated . . .
He would go to the horse market in Southall, and buy anything so that the meat man wouldn’t get them . . . every Wednesday he would come back with a couple of new horses, much to my Grandmothers annoyance.
Quite often with these horses came carts, and gigs, and all the tack to go with them . . . this is my favourite memory of him . . . coming to collect us on a Sunday morning, the sound of horses hooves on tarmac signalling his arrival, and us rushing out to jump on to be taken along to the house, and lunch . . . His smiling face as we trotted along, holding all the traffic up, us giggling away . . .
Ill health got to him though, and once whilst fixing a roof, he fell through, and was left hanging for hours – it was that shock that the doctors said lead to his diabetes, but the heart condition was bought on by years of early starts, and post war rich food . . .
They eventually moved out of the homestead, as it became too much for them both, and when my grandmother died (she had always been the healthy one) he became bitter at the world that it had not been him . . .
I will always remember the good times with him, and times we shared with the horses, and in the garden . . . not the broken man he ended up being . . .