The last great-grandparent

When Jack was born, he had five great-grandparents. That’s five more than I had. But by the time Max was born, only one was still with us. And now, he too has passed away.

Hamish was probably my favourite. He was a sailor, a conscientious objector, a dancer and a fool.

He taught me to sail, a beautiful little sailboat called Sally Brown on the river Deben. By the time he passed it onto us, it was probably the only sailboat without an engine left on the river.

He was teetotal, and wouldn’t even enter the pub.

He didn’t fight in the war, and suffered for it. I would love to have learned more about this time and this choice. The most I heard was “why should I go and kill some foreign johnny I don’t have any disagreement with?” He worked as a manual labourer. He reckoned he could carry a ton of grain.

He did ten long-arm pull-ups each morning until his doctor told him that wasn’t normal for a 75 year old, and that he should probably stop.

He was a fool, a dancer dressed in scraps of many colours in a Morris dancing troupe. I never saw him fool, but I’ve seen a tape. As a tall man, he gave it dignity.

He was the second cousin of Hugh Laurie.

He was a printer, producing flyers and cards on his cast iron manual printing press hidden in his garage. Granny would draw the pictures and cut the lino.

They were married for more than 60years.

As I remember him, he was retired with Granny in Waldringfield, where we keep the boats. They didn’t have a television. They didn’t eat out. They lived by the wind and tide, the Archers, their friends, and that story Hamish would tell about eating turkey stock instead of apple sauce in his porridge.

I miss summers on the boats. The boats are all still there, even little Percy, but we’ve moved away.