I don’t know why but quality time with me grandad always seemed to be in the pub. To this day I think about the Trip to Jerusalem in Nottingham and the Bell in the Old Market Square as our family fun locations. It wasn’t very often that the Wildish’ would get together, but when we did it was usually daytime drinks in these pubs.
So me Grandad, Roy, was hardcore. A really lovely great good morals kind of man. Like most grandads he fought in WWII and like most he refused to talk about it even when asked. He was the first non-medical personnel in the liberation of Belsen. He drove a tank, and out of his whole battalion – Churchill’s Butchers, he was one of only a few to come back. That never left him, he had guilt and only now in adulthood having googled Belsen concentration camp, can I ever come remotely close to know how he got through the rest of his life being a father and a grandad and functioning normally, although I saw snippets of how he didn’t at times throughout his life… Anyway, Roy was amazing to me.
The liberation of Belsen
So this snippet, was the family get together on a few days before Xmas, I don’t even know what year… I think I was about 24ish and he was in his 70’s (sadly Roy is no longer with us). For some reason it ended up being me, me dad and me grandad (forgive the grammar, I’m speaking Nottingham!) It was usually more of us, but this time just us three.
For some reason I remember me dad had to go early after a few pints – we were all having a good old time drinking a couple of pints and chatting away. Me dad and grandad always covered Forest in conversation, that’s Notts Forest and their progress or lack of, and we always talked about who was doing what in the family and giving our opinions.
So me dad had about 3 pints as did we and then had to leave, thinking back now, I don’t know why, perhaps a hot date, but he left.
Normally I was only ever in the company of me grandad with me dad so there was this moment where we both thought: ah that’s it then I guess that’s the day over and we will say our goodbyes. So I think I just said, have you gotta go or do you fancy another?
Needless to say we both had about 8-10 pints each that afternoon/night. I remember thinking, how much can grandad drink, and then remembered some of his old stories, but what if he has a heart attack (again) and it’s my fault…
But do you know what… I had the best time. The best and not because of the 8 pints, although it played a part. You see, we talked and talked. He told me how great he thought me partner was (and glad he wasn’t anything like my dad or brother – that’s his own son btw) and he talked about his life, and most importantly he talked about the war and the times that were hard in his life. Man he had some amazing stories, some horrifying life and death stories, stuff I will hopefully never ever see, or situations I will never ever be in, for the first time he opened up about Belsen and how it affected him, not because of the drink, but probably because for the first time ever, he and I had hours together. He didn’t go into massive detail, but he told me enough to bring tears, build my respect for him tenfold, and get to know me grandad for the great, utterly great man that he was.
Some was emotional, others hilarious and I learnt about his jobs, his loves and his life.
So he opened up, and I respect that, I really to this day respect that. And I’ve never forgot that day.
So 8-10 pints later, we were both drunk, we covered life, love, wars and hopes for the future.
I think around 8pm (we’d been out since 1) and when I realised I was at the chips and mushy peas stage, and of course the realisation that not only I was drunk but I was with my 86 year old grandad who was totally plastered too, albeit nowhere near as drunk as me, I thought I really had better get him home.
So we gave each other massive hugs, we were laughing loads and I put him on the bus (he was conscious) and off he went home, waving as he went, and so did I. I was sick. When I got home.
The next time I saw him, we laughed about our adventure, he kept saying how much he enjoyed the day, and we both had a new found respect, me for just who he was, and he, I for downing 8 pints and keeping up with him! He was ok that night and said he felt a bit rough the next day, but I mean the man drove tanks… That day was nothing. He lived for a good few years after that. I’m proud to be his granddaughter.
So whilst this isn’t an amazing story about anything in particular. It was the afternoon that me and grandad really connected, the time I found out about him for the whole man he was, not just me grandad. I think I loved him more after that day, and I miss him still a lot. It really is my fondest memory, which is probably wrong on some levels… But I don’t care and neither will he.
For Roy x