Ohinemuri Regional History Journal 37, September 1993
He was a little old man, my grandfather and cultivated an out of date look. He grew a beard when other men were clean-shaven. He wore boots after other men had taken to shoes, and he used spectacles with steel frames when horn rims were in fashion. He did this on purpose, for he was a thorough going non-conformist at heart and erudition and was very unhandy at practical jobs.
In his younger days, with a large family and a moderate income, he had been obliged to be frugal, but when he retired he pursued a nearby market and could never resist bringing home any useful piece of string or stick of firewood that was lying about. Once he picked up a cabbage stalk with some roots attached, planted it in his back garden and was delighted to harvest a few free leaves. Staying in the house as a child, I would hear a scratching noise in the early morning - this was Grandfather out in the yard scraping the potatoes to make sure they were not peeled too thickly.
He carried on an extensive correspondence for he was a great warrior with his pen. He never used a new envelope, though, but readdressed old ones and patched them up with stamp edging. Every so often he topped up his ink bottle with a little water to make it go further, until the postman who had to read it complained about the wishy-washy ink.
I noticed one day that he had been seized with the idea of economising on tap washers. The kitchen taps must be turned on as infrequently as possible, so all the water needed for one day must be run off at one go. Consequently the scullery was full of bowls, buckets and baths full of water, standing around like booby traps for the unwary.
His own father had advised him to beware of the legal and medical professions, and also of sausage manufactures, so he always refused to eat sausages, hinting that they might be made of cats and dogs. Nor would he ever eat mushrooms in case they turned out to be toadstools. When Doctor's prescriptions came into the house he would decipher them as far as possible. Doctors medicine? Eventually the doctor countered by telling him that table salt was poison if taken immoderately.
He also stayed away from Dentists fearing that one shot of anaesthetic might turn him into a drug addict. In old age he appeared to have only two teeth left and could only eat soft food. The problem was, he did like to buy large loaves rather than small ones, as it was more economical but they went stale before the two old people could finish them and he could not chew stale bread. Consequently, his long suffering wife was supposed to eat the stale bread and if she was detected feeding it to the birds instead she got a lecture on the starving millions in other parts of the world.
Once he announced that as he lived on an island he thought he had better learn to swim. He took his family regularly to the swimming baths, but he only managed to learn to float. He considered however, that this was sufficient to save his life, presumably in case he accidentally fell off Land's End or the White Cliffs of Dover.
He was always warning us younger members of the family against some evil, or other - sunstroke, money lenders, mad dogs, pick pockets, French novels or knitting on Sundays. The list was endless - would have been longer if he were alive today. He was in favour of a few things. He enjoyed a good dinner. He was a fan of Children's Hour on the wireless, especially "Toy Town". He was delighted in a ride in a motor car. "If I were a young man," he said "I would have a car even if it cost me ten pounds!"
He was a non-smoker and teetotaller. He told me his office colleagues once asked him what he would do if he were given a bottle of spirits for Christmas. He replied "I would thank the Lord for it, take it home, put it in a spirit stove, and use it to boil my tea kettle.
On his way to Chapel on Sundays - for naturally he was one of the most non-conformist among dissenters, he would hand religious tracts of his own composition to all passengers on the various routes of London transport on which he travelled. They were uncompromising productions, full of exciting double, treble exclamation marks and references to liberty, equality and fraternity. He had no more respect for ministers of religion than he had for Doctors.
As for Lawyers, he would neither trust them nor pay their fees, so he drew up his own Will, then he lived to the age of 93, gleefully celebrating how much his pension had cost the country. Oh, yes, Grandfather enjoyed his eccentricities and so do we.