Archive Article: 2000/05/19

19 May 2000


GRANDADS age is a mystery. Its been "just turned 70" for the past 20-odd years. Not that he tells people that. His stock response to anyone who asks is: "Mind your own bloody business." Adding, if theyre under 50: "You cheeky whippersnapper."

His names a mystery, too. To his relatives, hes just Grandad. His friends, however, call him Jack, the neighbours call him John and his God-given name – revealed, last Christmas, by his sherry-fuelled niece – is Herbert. Mrs Weston, the sub-postmistress, occasionally refers to him as "Big Boy".

But Grandad isnt big, not any more. Hes thin and wiry – just like his Jack Russell, Chip, which can be constantly found at his feet. Quite a contrast, really, to the 16-stone hunk of a man who used to toss hay bales above head-height with such ease. Quite a contrast to the man who, with skilled and sensuous hands, used to work horses for 15 hours a days.

He doesnt do much work on the farm nowadays. "Ive been demoted to feeding the calves," he complains. "Better speak to the boss," he snaps when feed reps call. "Put your feet up – you deserve a rest," his sons say.

He goes to market once a week and wanders around giving his opinion, whether its wanted or not. Usually its not. But hes always right. The batch of cattle that he dubs "good uns" always end up making the most money. If he says its a "poor sort" then it always ends up with the worse conformation of the batch.

Quiet times see him touring dispersal sales, poking through piles of junk and spending a bob or two. Not that a pension goes far, these days. "I would have liked to get it cheaper," he says of his latest acquisition, a £1 spanner.

Most of Grandads sentences start with either "In my day" or "When I were a lad" and end in a tirade against computers. "What these youngsters need is common sense – not computers." Computers, he points out, wont hoe the sugar beet.

Other pet hates include television, anyone with a college education and Europe. All of it – but especially Germany. Grandad remembers rations, you see. He also remembers Winston Churchill. And, while he cant remember any of his relations names, he can remember the names and birth dates of six generations of pedigree stock.

Grandad lives in the bungalow out the back of the farmhouse. He lives on bread and cheese in the summer, soup in the winter – occasionally even unsticking the roll-your-own fag from his lower lip when doing so. He slurps his soup noisily past his one remaining tooth which sits defiantly in the middle of his mouth like a cricket stump.

Grandad gets up at 4am. "Its years since Ive had a decent nights sleep," he complains to the feed rep, seemingly oblivious to the fact that, if you added together all the time he spends napping in the day, that alone would total six hours.

"Mustnt grumble," he says to the rep. Then adds: "You better speak to the boss, anyway – Ive been demoted to feeding the calves."

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