On Tuesday 2nd August a bright light went out in my world. My grandfather, Peter Wrathall, died after a long and brave battle with prostate cancer. I hate cancer.
Peter was a phenomenal man, who achieved a great many things in his life and he was thus many things to many people. He was a son, brother, uncle, loving husband and father to three boys, father-in-law, dear friend, an outstanding educator and to some people he was “Mr Wrathall” – Headteacher and co-founder of St Faiths at Ash independent school. But to me, he was simply “granddad” and he never tried to be anything else.
From a very early age I was in awe of Granddad and his garage of wonder, whatever I’ve needed, however obscure, Granddad would always say “wait there, I think I’ve got one of those in the garage!” After several minutes he’d come trotting out of this mystical place with exactly what I needed. From puzzles and glitter to gazebos and a bubble machine. You name it, he had it! One day he even returned with an iron and a vacuum cleaner! I think his garage was secretly a Tardis or maybe a small branch of Argos!
He was the most generous man I’ve ever met, though he always told me that it was my Nan who ensured he stayed that way.
I have so many brilliant memories of being with my grandparents. Nan and Granddad took us on some great holidays.
They once took me and my brother to Norfolk for a week when we were very young so my parents could have a “well-earned break”. At the time I probably didn’t appreciate fully what this meant, but now- with three children of my own, boy do I understand what a gift that was!
I found the scrap book we’d made on this holiday a few weeks ago, it contained tickets and postcards and leaflets from all of our days out. Though I didn’t really need these, the memories are firmly in my head. But one little gem that I had forgotten was that Ben (my brother) had been savagely bitten by a goose! See my illustration below. I like the way I’ve really captured his mood as the goose pecks him in the face!
We also had an amazing family holiday in Florida when I was a stroppy teenager, and this is where we all met Herbie!
Herbie was a local boy who declared, every time we did anything, “That deserves a cookie!” Surprisingly, living by that little motto, Herbie was not the size of a bus, or even a small family car! I can only assume that Herbie never really achieved anything much! But he was quite funny and his little catchphrase stayed with us all forever.
However it’s not these big gestures that I’ll remember the most. It’s the small, every day memories that are the most special. The fights at the dinner table over the last roast potato, trips to “Mrs Alban’s park” (St Albans to those of you who aren’t 3 years old!) The help with my homework – Granddad trying to explain maths to me and Nan correcting my English, and the countless times I’ve just walked into their home and had a cup of tea and a good long chat as a “poor student”.
Many happy Christmases were also spent with my grandparents and the rest of our family, often at St Faiths at Ash School. But there was one Christmas that I will never be allowed to live down. When I was very young, probably 2 or 3 years old, my Granddad would dress up as Father Christmas for all of the children and families at the local church. Now, I would say that I have a good eye for faces and a good ear for voices, so when my pre-school self toddled into the church to see the scene of children sitting on “Santa’s” lap, asking for Care Bears and Transformers I felt the need to fend them off as best I could by shouting at the top of my tiny voice “THAT’S NOT FATHER CHRISTMAS! THAT’S MY GRANDDAD!!”
From the shattered look on the children’s faces, I fear I may have inadvertently destroyed the Christmas dreams of many young children that day, and I apologise profusely!
As an adult, particularly as a parent, I have spent countless hours questioning my grandparents about how they survived bringing up three boys. In more recent months, with the arrival of my youngest and possibly craziest child, I would often see Granddad watching him and giggling from behind his coffee cup as I was yelling “Stop licking the window!” and “Yes, thank you for passing me the matches!”
When I questioned my giggling grandfather he would simply reply “he’s just like Ben!” For those of you who knew my brother in his early years you will know exactly why Granddad found this so amusing. For those of you who don’t know my brother I would say that the best way to describe him as a child is “Bart Simpson!” When I tell you that he I now called Benno, because we spent so many years saying “Ben! NO!” you may get the general idea!
Anyway, I digress.
I loved my Granddad to pieces and my children adored him. He was my guide, my mentor, my sounding board and my inspiration. I feel extremely lucky and honoured to have spent 36 years of my life calling him “Granddad”.