Monday, December 11, 2006

Alfred J Brown (21 Jan, 1919 - 21 Oct, 2006)

Some of you will have noticed a distinct lack of postings in recent weeks. This is because I've been struggling to come to terms with the passing of my Grandad and struggling to find the courage to attempt to write something that will do him justice.

I cannot say that I've come to terms with losing him nor can I say that I've found the right words to express who he was (or even who he was to me). In fact I'm writing this as I go, no plan, no direction but the time had come where I felt he deserved better from me, he had a big impact on my life and left just as I was really getting to know him and only a few short months after the twins had arrived.

"Alf" to many but "Grandad" to most of the people that I ever heard talk about him. He was an icon to all those that met him, full of life, always a smile and a cheerful demeanour, witty and sometimes a bit cheeky, occasionally cynical but never scathing; when all said and done he was a gentleman, a man of great integrity and unequivocal quality.

When I was young Grandma and Grandad were always a bit scary. It was without much enthusiasm that my sister and I would embark on a visit with my parents. Grandma was always very strict and never really seemed to appreciate or embrace my wit and sense of humour (but then looking back, who would have seen the funny side of a plate of boiled vegetables flicked meticulously around the kitchen). Sadly Grandma passed away in 1989 when I was travelling.

Equally Grandad didn't seem like much fun either in my early years, he wore a brown suit (even on the beach apparently) and was a civil servant (which seemed very boring to me), he did teach me to play chess though and out of the hundreds of games we played I think I managed one draw – sharp as a razor and gave no ground on that front – a good lesson, although I cried a lot.

It was at one of my sister's weddings (Yes I only have one sister - you'll work it out!) in Germany that I really came to appreciate what a legend of a man Grandad was. I shall save that story for another time, as that is a story in its own right, but suffice to say I found in him a firm friend, ally, comrade and fellow renegade.

What I'd failed to see all these years was that he was one of "us", he was a good laugh, he liked a drink, he liked to dance, he loved to party, he wasn't infallible (as some would have us believe our elders are) and he certainly wasn't the run of the mill “given up on life” OAP (old age pensioner) that you so often see. Grandad he was a live wire and got out of life as much as he could.

Grandad came to visit me several times in Malaysia, he came to my wedding in Thailand too (where he stole the show of course). In fact he had a special relationship with "Malaya", as he insisted on calling it, partly because that's what it was called when he was here after the war and also because he knew he'd always get a reaction out of someone - usually me.

He was based in Butterworth soon after the end of WW2 distributing food and basically helping the country get back on its feet. He loved it and openly admitted that when the time came he really didn't want to go home.

Another little anecdote about his life; he and Grandma were taking a European cycling tour during their early married life. Unfortunately the date was 1939 and they found themselves in Germany when war was declared. After a very rapid retreat they found themselves back in England very soon afterwards – unscathed I’m pleased to say.

Despite the horrors of the war, Grandad still spoke very highly of the German people that he met on that trip and even managed to meet up with some of them a few years ago. It seems almost poetic that I moved to "Malaya" and Angela settled in Germany.

Another little fact that the vicar pointed out at the service; Grandad took up sailing at the age of 77! How cool is that! Here he is sailing his yacht "Trilby" that he kept at Burnham on Crouch.

I could go on an on about Grandad and I know that those of you that knew him would not be in the slightest bit bored but for now I'll leave you to smile at the photos and celebrate his life with me - a man that meant so much to many - Grandad we love you and miss you so much.