My grandad was a strong person too. He was quiet and somewhat reserved, but when I accidentally spilled something on the carpet, for example, all he needed to do was give me a look and that was enough to scare the shit out of me. I called it the “Panda Stare”.
When I was very little my grandad would pick me up above the kitchen table and let me push the light that dangled over it. I used to love doing this. I’d push it back and forth while shouting “Swing, Swing!”. When I got a bit older and a bit too big for him to be picking me up anymore he used to hold my hands and I would stand on his feet. He would walk around the room with me like that for ages because it made me happy.
He took me to watch trains pass by at a bridge just outside of Leeds city centre every Sunday afternoon. He would lift me up, so I could see over the bridge when a train was coming, and I used to gesture with my hand at the trains, miming at them to blow their horn. They always did because what sort of a monster wouldn’t do that for a child?
There was one steam train that came out of Leeds at 3pm on Sundays. We always tried to ensure we were there around that time to see it. It was the only steam train that we knew of that was operational anymore in that area. It was a little green engine that we named “Smokey Joe”. I was obsessed with trains as a child and still enjoy them to this day, and planes. My grandad enjoyed both and talked to me a lot about them growing up, so I learned a lot more about trains and planes and how they work than anything else.
I remember sitting on a plane once going to Ibiza with my Nan and Grandad and I was watching the TV screen onboard. They were about to do their safety spiel and I saw a CGI, animated plane on the screen. It glided majestically across the bottom and did a full 360-degree loop before coming to a stop at the right-hand side of the screen and disappearing. I turned to my grandad, gasped, and exclaimed;
“Our plane isn’t going to do that is it!?”
My grandad turned to me with a smile and said:
“Well, I hope not” and continued browsing the magazine from the chair in front of him. Probably looking at what beer he was going to have. That was a reassuring response.
Grandad bought a lot of Hornby train-sets and trains for me. It was amazing because I would always turn up at my Nan and Grandads house wondering if there would be a new train waiting for me up in the attic. We used to sit up in the attic and set different tracks up and get the trains running. When I was very young I would often call him the “Fat Controller” after the fat controller from Thomas the Tank Engine. I often found myself alone in the attic after calling him that, it was a mystery to me as to why. I was completely oblivious. You probably can’t call the character that anymore, it’s too politically incorrect. Maybe it should be the “Full Figured Controller” now or something.
He was a real character and a bit of a rebel too. He bought me a cannabis lolly from a stall in Ibiza when my nan told him not to (I don’t think it had cannabis in it). He bought me a replica metal Luger pistol and put it in our suitcase for our flight home, even though my Nan told him not to. We went for a walk up a mountain in Ibiza and there was a sign in Spanish. We ignored the sign because Nan and me couldn’t read it. Eventually my Nan wondered what the sign further back said. My Grandad said;
“It said something about not passing this point, dangerous cliff edges and rocks falling … something along those lines”
Nan couldn’t believe that he understood it and just chose to ignore it. I could, because it’s exactly the thing he would do to amuse himself and me and wind Nan up further.
Surely enough, we got around the corner to find a gaping hole in the side of the mountain with a 500-foot drop, so we had to turn back anyway. Grandad wanted to look up there and he was damned if he was going to let any big red warning signs get in his way. You must admire that level of rebelliousness I think. I mean that is pure dedication, risking your life and your family’s life just because you wanted to see what was up there. Curiosity may have killed the cat, but it never seemed to kill him, thankfully. I get the impression he thrived on danger sometimes, like he got a kick out of it. Maybe adrenaline perhaps?