This pic was taken two years ago. Yesterday, my grandad, 98 years old, passed away. My nan was with him.
There are mixed emotions when someone of such advanced years dies. It’s not like he was cut off in his prime… He was ill and in hospital. We saw him last week, and my comment after was ‘well, he could get over this illness and last another few years, or die in his sleep tonight, you just can’t tell’… as it turns out the latter prediction was much closer.
He was a lovely bloke, who mellowed hugely with age. My ‘nan’ is actually my step-nan – he had two 30+ years marriages in his 98 years. Amazing.
When we were kids he’d get very stressed about us breaking nana’s stuff, and we thought he was being gruff and miserable. Actually, he just adored nana and was genuinely really concerned that if we knocked over a vase or something, it would deeply upset her. Truth was, she wouldn’t have cared much. She just loved being around the family – and the two sides of the family have integrated better than almost any step-family situation I’ve ever come across.
The most striking thing about my grandad’s younger years is that he was a music-nut. He never played an instrument seriously, but for a quite a few years, he’d go into Foyles on Charing Cross Road in his lunch hour (this is back in the 40s/50s), listen to ALL the new releases that week, and buy whatever he liked. No real concern for a particular style, just whatever took his fancy. And he sang. Right up until we saw him last week, in hospital on a drip, unable to keep his false teeth in unaided, he was singing, remembering the words to songs when he forgot just about all else. He knew more of the words to Moon River than I did. He had the deepest voice I’ve ever heard. Made Barry White sound like Barry Gibb.
…so my huge and varied music taste, and the thousands of pounds I’ve spend on CDs, records, tapes and gig-going are probably somewhere down the line his fault. I will be eternally grateful. It’s one obsession I’m more than happy to have inherited from John Barker.
A lovely old bloke, who adored his family and food and real ale and a good laugh and traveling (oops, there’s another inherited obsession!) and cars and friends and walks in the country. He was full of crazy stories, having worked loads of jobs and lived through two world wars (born in 1910!). Stories I haven’t got recorded. I really wish I’d got his stories recorded years ago, before his memory started to slip. If you’ve got elderly grandparents, go and document their stories – they won’t be around for ever!
See ya, grandad – this is how I’ll remember you, smiling out the window.