Number Thirty Six May 2006
SLOW COOKED BEEF
The 5th of April was just going to be a normal day for my grandfather way back in 1953. The weather must have been at least sunny that day as he never bothered to leave the house if it was raining. So for all intents and purposes it was just the sort of day for heading off on his old sit up and beg bike the few miles to his workshop in town.
Grandfather rented a large room at White Lion Court in the centre of town. The workshop was on the second floor and belonged to Goddards the tailors. As he pushed his old bike through the garden gate he always stopped for a moment to fill and light up his pipe before setting off. Grandfather was now in his 82nd year. In the First World War he made aeroplanes out of plywood, string and canvas. These were sent over to France to be used in the war against the Germans.
Over the years he was taught to be a cabinet maker. As a very young boy I remember being taken to see him in his work shop - I was fascinated by the piles of old wood, old hand tools, and the smell of wood glue on the boil that gave off a sweet smell that once sniffed it was infused into your memory forever. I was told that it was made from rabbit skins and it was called Scotch glue.
Grandfather’s way of reaching the workshop would mean leaving the house and biking up the Loke past the old bombed out Victory public house then through the town to Lions Court; the distance of probably a mile or so. As he rode past Eddy Towler’s gents hairdressers shop, Eddy - if he was outside - would shout, “going to work Fred?”, and Grandfather would call back “Just going to put a few wormholes in an old table. This was a little trick in the trade that was called ‘ageing’. As he slowly cycled along the traffic in those days was unlike today. Those were the days when the cars parked in any street in the town. Along the route he would often stop and have a chat with an old friend. There was no rush for what Grandfather could not finish today, well there was always tomorrow or next week or even next year to complete the task in hand.
The workshop contained loads of half finished bits of work that he had been given to work on. Large tables that were made of solid oak could be made into a fine bookcase, or a chair that had a broken leg could be skillfully repaired to last another fifty years unlike today’s ‘bin it society’. Sadly all these items would never be finished. The glue pot was to be turned off, the key was turned in the workshop lock for the last time, and sadly I would never see my Grandfather again. As he rode home on his old bike puffing on his pipe on that day in April he was involved in a road accident and killed.
It was only the other evening when I went out to dinner and as I was sitting very close to the kitchen door that was slightly open - maybe it was the stewed cabbage that was sending off the smell that resembled Grandfather’s old glue pot that triggered the memories of his old workshop - the person next to me was waffling on about his new computer that he had bought. Although he was not talking to me I could not help over-hearing the conversation. What if Grandfather - who would now be around 135 years old - was sitting down with us at the table listening to this guy’s conversation? What would he make of it? ‘Hard drive’, well that's a easy one. Grandfather, to start with, yes you may be correct in thinking it means driving all the way from Scotland in a 1945 Morris Oxford with bald tyres and faulty brakes. Have another go - how about ‘megabytes’? That's what young children do at birthday parties. And what about this one Grandfather? What if a lady asked you if you had a three and a half inch floppy? I am certain Grandfather would have given the answer as the sort of thing that you don’t reveal that to even your best mate
As I sat there ear-wigging the conversation relating to this guy’s new computer the conversation went off in another direction. How he had just bought a new four wheel drive for the wife. Yes the old girl fitted with all the latest gadgets - satellite navigation, cruise control, air con, and this that and the other. You name it the old girl’s got the lot. The fellow next to him decided at last to speak: “Going off road with it?” “No no.” his friend replied. “Bought it so the wife could pick up young Tristan from school of course. He and his friends think its really cool man.”
As we finished our meal and started to leave the two guys that I had sat next to were saying their goodbyes. “How about meeting up next week?” “Sorry old chap just haven't got the time. You know what its like? Golf on Monday and Thursday, trout and salmon fishing in Scotland Friday till Sunday. Then there is the health club if we have any spare time taking up the rest of the week. Look, is that the time? Must dash.”
have certainly had a problem with all the new technology in today’s
world, but the one thing that I feel would have a devastating effect on
him more that anything is the pace that life is lived at today. Why is
that? As far as I know we still have 24 hours in a day. Life has
certainly changed from that day in April that he set off to put a few
wormholes in a old table, for better or worse. Well who am I to
comment, but on reflection I bet my old Granfather would have a few
words to say. “Who’s turned my glue pot off? Look its really cool
was one of my Grandfather’s favourite dishes.
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