He isn’t a character. He is a stand-up kind of guy. You know; for those of you who are not from America, that means that he is reliable, takes initiative when he needs to, doesn’t speak out of turn, but will tell you what he thinks if he thinks it will help.
He was a teacher for most of his life. In work and out. And he makes me laugh. He is also a bit of a trickster, or at least has a fast tongue. He is shuffling about upstairs now. And getting in to bed, slowly, with patience like only a wise man can.
Last night he sat and just talked about some of his memories to us. Therapeutic like. For us more than for him I think, though I am sure he enjoyed it. There is a lot of wisdom there, but some tom-foolery too. (His name is Tom, so I guess its fitting). Anyway, he was telling us about how he was selected to become an officer for the Navy during the second world war. He had just proposed to my grandmother (she said at the time she was not ready… and quite right too. Tom was 18 and she a bit younger!) and so Grandpa, who was studying to be a teacher at some university between Cornwall (grandpa is Cornish!) and England, signed up for training.
He said last night that it was not because of my grandmothers pause for thought that he joined up, but because he would have done it anyway… I trust he would have. He said to us that he was teething to go to war, though at other times he has talked about the meaninglessness of it all. He is still sore about the Japanese, though he has forgiven them. Most of his squadron (he trained to be a pilot in the Navy) died over on the other side of the world. But he tells anecdotes about officers from Germany and the UK meeting after the war, remembering, shaking hands, having a drink and perhaps forgiving each other.
So he was in front of this panel. There were Officers from the Navy interviewing new recruits from the college where he was being trained to become a teacher. I imagine some stark, not so well lit room with some wooden paneling on the wall. A long “high table”, behind it some men in uniform, and in front an 18 year old; my grandfather… an 18 year old Grandfather with all the confidence an 18 year can have (an I am sure he had less than my grandfather has now) and the 18 year old, who is not yet married, much less a father or grandfather sitting there answering what my grandpa last night called: “silly questions”.
My granny and grandpa had met some time before on a bit of a blind date. She was a cousin of Tom’s friend, who wanted to take another girl out but needed Tom to take care of his cousin for the evening. Grandpa called it a blind date, but I am sure he didn’t have a bag over his head. Well, he knew a chap who had a rowing boat and so he took Margaret out on a boat ride to the edge of a farm that was on the river. The farm had an apple orchard. So being the adventuring types Tom and Margaret (Granny) went and picked some apples. They where chased away from the field by the farmer and have still not been caught.
I am sure they chuckled at the excitement, laughed their way home and enjoyed the taken apples.
When Grandpa was sitting before the panel they asked him some questions to see what he was about. Grandpa later found out that one of his tutors talked to the officers interviewing him about deferral, as the tutor wanted Tom to finish his teacher training course. Well this 18 year old Grandpa, who sat before the panel, wanted to go and he went, but before he could he was asked a silly question: “What would you do if you were in a playground and you saw a U-boat?”
Last night Grandpa told us that sometimes lucky lines come to his head and that he is happy when they do. Well the 18 year old Naval-officer-to-be answered like a bullet out of a gun muzzle: ” I would torpedo it sir!”
To which the Naval Officer retorted: “But where would you get the Torpedo?”
“Well”, Grandpa said, “the same place you got the U-boat!”
Grandpa was accepted for naval training.