Monday, 3 December 2012

Poppa:- 03/01/1924 to 27/10/2010


When I was in primary school I was spoilt, having as I did a full complement of grandfathers. I Boasted both a Granddad and a Poppa.

Granddad Rodney was "Granddad". It was he who planted the seeds of my passion for drawing and provided the necessary reams of paper for me to defile every time I was in his custody.  He was always there with a cheery smile and an opportunity to ride on his knee.

By contrast, Poppa was, to six-year-old me, a quiet, mysterious, shadowy figure. On a visit to Nanny Pegs he'd usually be sitting at the far end of the lounge, headphones on, in his leatherette rocking chair. And I'd leave him to it, happy to be seen and not heard.

Back then Poppa stood for discipline, authority and control, and I was scared of him.

In 1987, things changed when I lost Granddad Rodney.

It was suddenly up to Poppa to fulfil the Granddad role solo, and he threw himself straight into it, but never with any risk of sabotaging the stoic reserve that characterized him. Although there would never be as many chases around the garden or playing gee-gee, I rapidly learned how to make the most of him. Fortunately, Poppa had an uncanny knack of producing things for me which I would find interesting.

I couldn't have been more than nine years old when, during one of the occasional overnight stays I spent at Nanny and Poppas house, he presented me with a number of volumes of The Observers Book of Aircraft, which had been squirreled away and presumably unthumbed for decades. To be thought worthy to receive such a gift, I thought, was an honour. I devoured these books, memorising engine ratings in pounds of static thrust, and proud to be the only child at Hamford Primary who knew the difference between a swept-wing and a delta planform.

Whenever I demonstrated that I shared an interest with Poppa, his eyes would light up. If I asked a question about something, he would invariably disappear for a while and return with some work of reference that he could use to answer my enquiry.

Suddenly Poppa stood for knowledge, discovery and wisdom.

There were certain things that I presume he left sharing with me until he considered me old enough to appreciate the experience. When I reached my teen years he took me to the RAF Museum at Hendon. As we climbed up into the venerable Lancaster "S For Sugar", it was like watching a businessman getting comfortable behind his familiar desk.

He also chose me to accompany him on a tour of the Irvin Parachute Factory, an entitlement granted to him by his membership of the Caterpillar Club, a society for people who have had their life saved by an Irvin Chute.

By now Poppa stood for heroism, bravery and excitement.

It's true to say that I appreciated him more as I, myself, matured. Just as everybody claims to see a lot of Granddad Rodney in me, I would like to think that I incorporate a fair bit of Poppa too. He had an appetite for adventure, exploration and knowledge; I do too. I talk nonsense quite a lot and he turned wordplay and spoonerism into an art-form. This was never clearer than 1993 and my first holiday in Florida, when he enthusiastically drove us to Gatport Airwick.

He is certainly responsible in part for me evolving into the figure you see before you. From my earliest meetings with him, when I was intimidated and nervous, I knew that I had to be on my best behaviour. As a teenager, when sharing his company, I would act unnaturally well-behaved and annunciate with clarity far beyond how I would present myself in the schoolyard. This went from something that I felt I had to do, to becoming something I loved to do.

Poppa made me feel like a grown-up. As I grew older I would cherish every meeting with Nanny and Poppa as an opportunity to update them with the latest developments in my world, and chance to set the world to rights. Perhaps Poppa used me as a second chance to bring up a male child, things having worked out so terribly with my Dad*. Probably not, but he would still candidly tell me tales of my Dad growing up, and we would discuss his various shortcomings at length.

The thing is, Dad doesn't know any of this, and I know that up to now he wouldn't.

Because Poppa stood for trust, respect and admiration.

Poppa is now gone as a physical entity, I'm heartbroken that he should have to go but so happy that he watched me grow, learn to drive, graduate and eventually find happiness in my own home, and thankful that he involved himself along the way anyhow he thought he could help. I wanted to show him so much more but was thwarted by the passing of time.

 I now own Poppas leatherette rocking chair, in which I sit, with my headphones on.

Thanks, Poppa, for everything I know, and a big proportion of everybody I am.

May you Rest In Peace, Clifford George Haining.

*P.S: Dad, I'm only joking.