Many years ago, when I was doing my GCSE's, I was going through some nasty personal issues as my newly found religion went up against my newly discovered sexuality. I think my Mum must have realised this, because she organised for me to go somewhere over the spring half time. Somewhere where I found myself. That place was Big Dad's.
My Granddad was the real black sheep of the family. His family history is murky (and that is being kind... I'm still trying to find out about his relatives) and he was not around by the time I was born.
About 5 years before my birth he eloped, leaving my Nan and her five children in the lurch. He moved to Suffolk to live with a lady named Sandy and her daughter Tanya. So when I was born Granddad was not spoken of kindly. Nan had had to take up several jobs, working every hour God sent, in order to keep a roof over the heads of her children and food on their plate (and then on mine too when I came along!). Four of her children, my Mum included, blamed my Granddad for destroying her life and theirs. I don't think Nan ever engaged in poisoning her children against my Granddad but my eldest auntie certainly did to her siblings.
And let's be honest, it was a bit nasty to leave his children without keep. Run away but don't try to escape your financial responsibilities. But anyway... his new life did not last long. Shortly after she gave birth to my youngest uncle, Derek, Sandy passed away leaving Granddad with a step-daughter and son to care for.
I only ever met him once before my visit as a teenager when I was about 4 and Derek was 8. I remember only that 1) house was cold and 2) I caught nits there. Hardly inspiring memories.
So it was with some trepidation that I arrived at his cottage in Suffolk. The driveway was covered in the wrecks, literal wrecks, of MGs with grass growing through them. These wrecks, I would later discover, harboured Cat and Fluff the two sentries of the cottage who attack the unwary.
Once through the door, it was hard to find ANYTHING that wasn't falling to bits. Old magazines lay shrewn across the floor, half finished bottles of Coke sat in every room, and there was the occasional smashed window. I.e. it was my idea of heaven having come from the house of an obsessive compulsive. My Mum made a quick escape lest she find the hoover and be unable to resist tidying. And that was me for the week...
Granddad was always a person of obsessions, and passing one's at that. In that we are very much the same, although he was both more practical and more thorough than I. I remember Mum telling me of his obsession with a new form of scaffolding connector which, once invented, he sold for a mere £10,000 down the local pub. That new form of scaffolding connector is now found on pretty much every scaffolding kit out there. Damn his passing obsessions! At the time I arrived in the house his obsession was computing. Amiga's, Commodore's and Atari's littered, literally, the house and this was in age when they were already obsolete. I think it was then that I knew we'd get on just great...
The week passed with playing ancient computer games (Chucky Egg anyone), watching Derek's VHS collections (and discovering my love of Terminator, Alien, etc. etc.) and pottering around with Big Dad (oh yes, he was called Big Dad by everyone up there), Derek and the family of Ludovic Von Kennedy (Big Dad was obviously in love with his daughter and Derek was actually going out with his granddaughter. Kind of disgusting when one points that out... :s). There was fried breakfasts which tasted good but had little black bits all over it as the word "cleaning" was unknown even in the kitchen. There were baths in a bath that actually had a colony of spiders living around it. There was time spent keeping cricket greens and other times wondering why Big Dad had a garden full of portacabins (note it was to do with his last invention which is now in the hands of my Mum... God save us all).
During that time I learnt from watching the 18 year old Derek exactly what lay ahead in my late teens (good times) which was something I'd never seen, which really helped me move on from my problems at the time into a new frame of mind. And I realised Granddad was not a monster just a very silly man with a genius level of intelligence and a distinct lack of common sense.
After that, something strange happened. I don't know if it was to do with my glowing report but Granddad and Derek were allowed back into the family. There was a joint birthday party that year in Snodland Community Centre for Nan and Granddad. Melly's death brought Granddad even more closely, mentally if not physically, back into the fold. And he was even allowed on the head table at David's abortive wedding, although in typical style (and much to my taste) he wore a messy shirt. Gotta love him.
So what is the reason for all this Granddad related nostalgia? Well four years ago today he passed away... and I very much doubt anyone other than Derek will be remembering that. His death caused my family to descend into chaos as Derek and Tanya were, basically, robbed of their inheritance by "my side" of the family who wanted to compensate Nan for all her trouble's. In so doing his cottage was sold (and possibly demolished although Google Maps, as shown below, leaves me hopeful it's still standing...) and ties to Derek were forever severed....
So here's to Big Dad and all he stood for... the intelligence and the stupidity of humanity, both in himself and in our family as a whole after his death. May he rest in peace.
And here's to Derek... our missing relative and good luck in whatever he's doing now. Severed from his family, living his own life... he's a living tribute to Big Dad.
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