My grandpa, who was a wonderful man, took up playing the piano, appearing on television, travelling and painting after my granny died. He was in his 80s but still sprightly and full of energy and enthusiasm. He returned from a trip to Italy with a less than positive image of the place - declaring he didn't think much of their idea of style as they all wore the same sort of clothes, all of which were navy blue; the trees in Italy were a disappointment and the food was dreadful. He claims to have eaten crocodile and 'squib'. We were never quite sure what the crocodile might have been but an educated guess would suggest that the 'squib' was either squid or possibly octopus...
He only actually appeared once on television and that was a daytime chat show hosted by the
I was living in London at the time and I laughed and laughed as the audience took a good few seconds before they could decide how to react. As it happens, all hell broke loose and the vegans waded in. A memorable occasion!
The painting also shows some typical characteristics of my grandpa. Having produced one he was rather pleased with, he went on to repeat it three times - so I have one, my sister has one and my mother has one, all identical! He did some lovely pen and ink sketches too, of the village pub where we used to live. Then, having mastered art, he stopped and concentrated on his piano playing. Whilst my granny was alive, he hankered after a new piano - they had an old one that had seen better days - but my granny said no, literally using the words 'over my dead body'. I swear that within ten days of her death, we watched a new piano being delivered to my grandparents' home. He was fair, my grandpa - not always subtle - but fair.
I loved my grandpa dearly - he was the person who bought me a clarinet for Christmas when I was ten and who helped to inspire a love of music. He was non-judgemental and open-minded and he was the person I told when I had decided to go and live with my boyfriend. He supported my decisions and encouraged me in the things I did. He was delighted when I took up chocolatiering and gave advice, shared his skills and was generous enough to say I had developed beyond the level he had reached himself. He used to laugh til tears rolled down his face and he grew the best tomatoes and chrysanthemums ever.
I originally began this post with no real idea of what it would be about - hence the title. I'd rambled quite a bit before I just happened to mention the pictures we'd brought back with us from Leon recently and that set me off thinking about my grandpa's painting...so all the above came before what follows.
I had been wondering why I haven't had time to do a rambling post - but then I realised we've had a busy few months, what with all the children at home and a new puppy and moving house and all. Extra long school holidays will become the norm over the coming years and I think we have learned a lot from this first one.
What I have discovered this year is that many of the children's schoolfriends are away a lot over the summer - their families have houses in the countryside and there are many cousins, aunties and uncles to visit and stay with too. Although Alcala has not been deserted - it always seems very alive, apart from the hot hours of siesta time - but we haven't bumped into as many of our acquaintances as I had expected. This has thrown the children back on themselves for company.
And most of the time, this goes well. Ruy and Romy have rediscovered their love of Lego and Playmobil and have created some fantastic scenes, buildings and vehicles - which Mateo has then turned into storyboards and photographed.
We have had numerous day-outings to the beach or the countryside which we have really enjoyed. We had our visit to the north, which would have been better had we all enjoyed good health. The children have taken time out on the majority of days to do a little studying - with Ruy finishing the maths part of his homework book in record time. Romy still has quite a bit to do but her homework was not mandatory. Mateo will find out after the 5th September whether his studying has been intense and thorough enough to get him a pass mark in his Spanish Lengua test - the only subject where he didn't quite achieve the required level.
We moved house and have spent a lot of time arranging things, buying things, collecting things to make our new home feel like home. And it does now. We have more of our pictures on the walls - though there are still more in Leon - and we're all sleeping in our own beds. (And in our last visit to Leon, Cesar located all the necessary screws to fit the bedframes together - hurray!)
Our neighbours here are friendly, mainly old, unintrusive but helpful and the other evening in the park opposite, we met a nice couple with their two young sons, who live close by and who invited our children to visit and go in their roof-top pool should they wish. Our ex-next-piso neighbours have turned out to be really good friends and we see them regularly both by arrangement and sometimes by happy accident as we go to the Paseo in the evenings, as happened last night. I'm on my way round to their apartment in a little while to 'help out' with a problem they have - a glut of fruit and vegetables from Pedro's parents' huerto - which is like a village 'allotment' - so I promised to take some off their hands! Fresh homemade gazpacho for lunch today, methinks! And maybe some tzatziki, some fresh tomato sauce and more fig jam too for later!
My grandpa used to cook and bake too... he made wonderful bread and fantastic cakes. On his return from Italy, he conceded that pizza was actually rather delicious and went into production. After a short while, he decided to 'improve' on the recipe and made the base from mashed potatoes. It wasn't long before he'd perfected the Yorkshire Pizza - mashed potato base with a topping of liver and onion. Honest!
I know that my genes carry some of my grandpa in them. I know I'm not like him in any obvious way but I do hope a little bit of that spirit and engagement is there. When I turn 80, I'll let you know if I take up painting!