Adieu To Grandad Jack’s Ladders

Today’s chronicle is the first I’ve had the opportunity to pen for three days. Far more important existential events have required my attention in the previous 72 hours than sitting self-indulgently crafting prose. Anyhow, yours truly is back with quill and parchment, more as a mental health efficacy than any enthusiasm to wax lyrical.

At this juncture, I’m not inclined to disclose the major episode contributing to this literary hiatus. Consequently, today’s journal will contain news about the more insignificant events during the past trinity of days. I realise that’s not a great sales pitch for the upcoming paragraphs; that being said, I’ll endeavour to make them entertaining…… Or at the very least not making you feel bilious.

One element of GJ Strachan’s prevailing day to day existence has been purging a multitude of unwanted detritus from my mother’s garage into a skip. Amongst this ‘treasure trove’, scores of various sizes and types of lumber hoarded by the old man during his later years, old plant vases, broken/damaged garden tools and a fifty three year old set of my late grandad’s step ladders.

These rickety old wooden ladders haven’t been fit for purpose for probably half of that time they’ve been a ‘family member’. Well, unless your purpose was to wantonly risk breaking your neck from falling from the things. Despite this, though, my dad and me held onto the unsafe height augmentation aids for what can only be described as misguided sentimentality.

After launching the wooden steps unceremoniously into the skip, I ceremoniously bowed my head and uttered thanks to the ladders for three generations of familial service. Following this tribute I orated a poem I’d penned for the occasion. This sonnet which playing out as follows:-

Tired timber frame;

Moribund, oak wood lame;

50 years of familial duty.

Adieu old ladder;

There’s nothing sadder;

Well, apart from the end of Black Adder

I’m not one to blow my own trumpet (there’s no point there’s a walnut stuck in the shaft) but I deemed this a moving and fitting tribute to these half century old timber steps. Ladders my grandad Jack procured from a Leeds hardware store in 1968 for 4,000 Green Shield stamps and his favourite ferret gag.

Footnote – For the uninitiated, Green Shield stamps were a 1960’s/70’s reward scheme used for bartering products. It replaced the swapping of eggs for the likes of cans of spam within the West Yorkshire retail procurement culture.

I’m unsure whether my grandad Jack even used the ladders himself. From memory and family legend, my forebear wasn’t the most practical of men. Well, unless being a consummate p*** taker is classed as being practicable. His forte was unrelenting jocularity, which although making him much sought after company, not a skill that’ll hang the wallpaper.

In the late 60s/70s I recall witnessing electrical appliances in the flat above my grandparent’s Armley shop with it’s live and neutral wires being wedged into the electric socket with broken matchsticks. On witnessing this, mum ordered my brother Ian and me to stay well clear of the socket.

Mater’s command delivered in a tone similar to how I’d imagine she’d react if it’d been an untethered king cobra languishing beneath the black and white TV. To be honest, though, she didn’t have to sell the avoidance this crime against health and safety. Even as a 7 year old child it was pretty clear this makeshift electricity configuration wasn’t safe.

The TV was quite difficult to watch anyhow. A consequence of every time a car drove along Stanningley Road towards Leeds city centre brief picture loss resulted from TV aerial interference. In 1969, I recall that monochrome TV was the appliance upon which yours truly witnessed Neil Armstrong’s moonwalk.

The experience of viewing the already grainy shots of Armstrong putting his size 9’s on the Moon diminished further by the intermittent aerial interference of the passing motors. Consequently, I only heard Neil utter “That’s one small step for ‘crrrrrrrrrr’……. One giant leap for ‘crrrrrrrrr'” As a 6 year old the mystery of the words I’d missed stayed with me for …… ooohhhh, about five minutes.

The ladders I jettisoned into a skip yesterday were part of my family on that day Neil Armstrong made that historic step. And I should know because my grandad made me stand on them, holding aloft the TV aerial, in an attempt to get a flipping better TV picture!

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