If you’re around my age (30) and lucky enough to still have grandparents, then you know just how blooming precious they are.
Who else can sit and tell you about rationing, evacuees and getting the cane at school? Who else can mesmerise you with tales of scrumping for apples, and causing the kind of mischief you would usually only read in an Enid Blighton novel? Where else, would you find a never ending flow of biscuits and tea? And when else would you get a sly tenner pushed into your palm, with a ‘go on, treat yourself’ glint in their eye?
I am lucky enough to have two grandparents in my life, one on each side of the family. My lovely, kind-hearted Grannie lives on the North Yorkshire Moors, and I grew up seeing her a couple of times a year. My cousins had her in their life every day and I am partly jealous, but obviously just so happy that Grannie had the love and support she needed to give, and receive.
She was such a joy to spend time with growing up – learning to knit and doing arts and crafts. She had those scissors that look like teeth. What more could a three-year-old ask for? Now I try my best to go up at least once a year – I know its not enough. We have a big family reunion this June that I’ve organised, so I can’t wait for us all to make glorious memories with her.
My granddad lived just a mile or two down the road. He is one of those mad, eccentric, wonderful human beings in life that comes along every so once in a while.
Gordon James Rae – ‘Leopard’ to some, ‘Gamma Rae’ to others.
If you’ve ever had the pleasure of meeting him, then you wont have forgotten this experience.
Probably because he would have given you a leaflet in case you wanted to purchase the book that he had published on model air-planes (he literally always has one in his pocket for every occasion), or because he taught you something to do with motor racing – drawing on his own experience building and racing Formula Vee cars (great piece on this you can read in our local news site here).
He might have told you a tale from his years as a top scientist working on radar technology, or he could have educated you on the behaviours of wasps, fishes, birds to the extent of making Dr Dolittle seem like an animal amateur.
I actually once had a massage client that relayed a story about meeting this eccentric gent at a party, who had talked endlessly about model airplanes – and he had found it fascinating – I quickly realised this was Gordon, my granddad and fell about laughing.
Growing up, he was a massive influence on my life, living so close-by in Malvern he would come and see us at least once a week. Bringing a 15p Fudge or Chomp bar, working my two sisters and I into a sugared frenzy throwing us upside down, and then leaving my poor mum to pick up the pieces.
Vivid memories included our holidays in Greece – I would watch him on his hands and knees, with cardboard life rafts, trying to save the wasps from their untimely death in the pool.
He told me once that he was worried about a bee in his (gorgeous) garden, as it was struggling to fly. (Who would notice that in the first place?) So he caught it, gassed it under a glass with some kind of bee-friendly Cloroform, put it under the microscope and saw that it was covered in tiny mites. He carefully removed the mites with tweezers, gave it something to wake it up, and watched it fly off – miteless and (I assume, how can you tell with a bee?) happy.
WHO DOES THAT?! THAT’S NOT A THING!
In his early 70s, he popped up town and found there was a bike race taking place – up one of the steepest roads in Malvern. He asked to take part, and they didn’t have a category as high as his age, but let him enter anyway.
On his shopping bike he beat everyone in that group, and vowed with the right bike he would have beat the next category down too (and I am sure he would have). He hadn’t obviously prepared and these guys had trained for it.
He told me he even once rode all the way to Cheltenham from Malvern without touching the handle bars (around 25 miles), just to see if he could.
I think maybe his thirst for life came from one of his earliest experiences in racing driving. He and his best friend both debued on the same day in different races.
Gordon, at 6ft 3, is not your obvious racing driver, and a complete unknown on the circuit, turned up in his own car that he had built (that still stands today in San Francisco). Gordon destroyed the opponents, and won the race, with everyone scratching their heads at who this guy was – and what he and his car were doing! He went to share his joy…
His friend had been killed in a crash on the first corner of the race.
That’s how precious, and precarious life is.
Gordon raced well into his 80s – one race at I watched proudly (read more, here) – and still holds his racing license to this day.
My close friends grew up with Gordon too, one of them was considering asking him for a date on account of his sauve nature (see below). But my London pals hadn’t had the opportunity to meet him, so I arranged a day for them to come to Malvern.
He has one of his racing cars still in the garage (the garage that he built with his bare hands in his 60’s no less), that we all got to sit in. He then explained about silicon and how without some of the discoveries that he made as a scientist, we wouldn’t be able to use our phones today.
He took us on a tour of the garden, forcibly making us stop and smell the roses.
And finally he read a love poem he had written for my late Grandma, and we all shed a tear.
(I reckon I could sell tickets for this?! ‘The Gordon Experience’).
ANYWAY! The reason for him featuring as a post (is firstly because he deserves to be as I am sure you agree by now), but secondly because we were discussing religion recently and some of the sadness caused by extremities. (I actually started writing this post before last week’s tragic events, but it seems more poignant now).
At the time he agreed that when anything is taken to extremes, it becomes negative. ‘Everything in Moderation’ is not just his mantra, but he actually bloody lives his life this way.
I made him chocolates for Christmas one year and he was still nibbling at them months later. I sent him a box of goodies, which included some mints… around four years ago… and he was chewing away on one last time I met him!. Not sure they actually are SUPPOSED to be eaten that long after. But Gordon would point out that he’s still going strong.
(Also, who has that level of control? He must have learned it post-war. We need to bring back rationing! As my BF always says it was the healthiest the nation has ever been.)
On this day however, when we were chatting away he boldly declared, “There is only one way of thinking that people should follow. LUCT. I am a LUCTITE Lucy”
A what now?
A ‘luctite’, is (firstly, completely made up by him, but roll with it) someone that practices the four principles of LUCT. So these are:
He explained that if you apply these principles to life, and actually practised this, then there would be no war, less hatred and we would live in a world of positive people, and happiness.
Such a simple, beautiful thought process that encapsulates all angles against the negativity that causes the shit in the world today.
It should be written on walls, we should go to a building once a week to preach these four words. There should be teachers, guiding us to ensure that these four standpoints, are the way that we treat others, and in turn they treat us.
‘Yeah Lucy, this sounds WONDERFUL in theory. But like, how would you even start to apply this? The ten commandments sound good in THEORY, but I need details not just ABSTRACT”.
Okay soz. Admittedly Gordon and I didn’t get that far (we were off to see Beethoven’s 5th at the Symphony, which was beyond glorious).
So let me work through this in a scenario:
You’re in a massive traffic queue, and someone cuts you up. You start to get angry and beep. They give you the finger, and you’re outraged. What happens next?
You get out the car and start shouting at each other, it escalates and ends up in some kind of verbal or physical fisty cuffs.
OR – If you were a LUCTITE you would apply the four principles.
- Love – Doesn’t come into it. You’re bloomin angry
- Understanding – Why did he cut you up? Was he in a rush to get somewhere that he deemed important? Maybe he’s just a dickhead
- Compassion – Okay, I am going to give him the benefit of the doubt. He could have had a really horrendous day (circa Downfall with Michael Douglas, watch it if you haven’t already)
- Tolerance – You know what, you might never know any of these things, but you’re the better person, so you walk away
This is truly nitty gritty – so lets take a step back.
Gordon has lived from 1930 and is still going strong at 2017 – and has been blown out of his bed from bombs, heard of the worst horrors on the wireless, seen the most horrific sadness on the TV, and has experienced and touched the fragility of what life is – through love.
What we should do is LOVE everyone that matters, UNDERSTAND that we don’t always know everything and give the benefit or the doubt, TOLERATE the unknown and never judge, whilst being COMPASSIONATE towards human beings – with all our faults.
So in essence, I too am a LUCTITE – I bet you are too.
If you don’t have grandparents, or you don’t live closely or have a close relationship, then there are SO MANY people out there who would benefit from your love.
You can volunteer to take people who are often lonely, out for lunch, or spend an hour playing chess. You could bring someone into your home at Christmas, or find a pen pal and bring so much joy into someone’s life.
If you’re interested you can find out more information at the following organisations:
Grandparents and older people should be celebrated – I would love to hear stories about your grand-parents too!