|At the recent funeral of Bert Catlin the following tribute was read by Rushden actor Anthony Higgins and written by Bert's granddaughter, Polly, who lives in New Zealand. Several people felt that it was so well written and so well read that it should be published for a wider audience than just the 330 plus people who were present at the funeral service.
My Granddad taught me how to water tomato plants properly. He also taught me how to write a diary, that going through a car wash should never be done without a packet of Smarties and how to walk with a furled umbrella in that jaunty way.
He also taught me about respect, self-discipline and dignity. About the love that can be shared between two people. And that having a Granddad is just about the best thing a person can have.
My memories of my Granddad from when I was a little girl are mostly from when my sister, Abi, would go and spend two weeks with him and Grandma during our summer holidays.
The best thing about those two weeks was that you could look forward to them all year knowing pretty much what you would be doing when you got there, because Granddad believed in planning.
No sooner had our parents disappeared down the road, out would come the pencil and paper and a Planning Meeting would be convened to ensure that everything we wanted to do could be packed in; the councillor in him never left. There were the must-do's; the trip to Wicksteed [Park at Kettering], the weekly car washing errand, the making of chocolate chip biscuits and the writing of a daily diary so Mum and Dad knew what we had been up to - and the daily milestones that everything else had to work around - the trip to the park down the road, the ice lollies (consumed on the lawn while shrouded in aprons to lessen the stickiness), going swimming at the open air baths and, of course, Granddad's evening prayer meeting from which he would return with a bottle of Appletiser for both of us so we could pretend we were drinking wine at the dinner table. Every year the pattern never changed and we loved it.
And in all the years that we went for our annual holiday, I only ever remember him losing his temper with us, or more specifically me, once. My sister and I were sharing a bed and she was being annoying in the way that only little sisters can. So I kicked her out. It must have been a great kick because she flew out of the bed and into the doorway to be caught by my Granddad who had appeared to sort out the quarrel.
I think the resulting dressing-down gave me some idea of what those boys at Granddad's school must have gone through when standing in the Headmaster's office. Luckily, there was no willow rod handy and a verbal thrashing was my only punishment!
But the thing that I remember most didn't involve us doing anything. My over-riding memory of those times is the look of pride on Granddad's face when he took us into town and we bumped into one of his many friends and associates. "These are my grandchildren", he would say and we would shuffle about in our best dresses, trying very hard to remember our manners and to make him even more pleased with us. Pride in us was something that carried on throughout our lives. Pride made him call my school when my GCSE results were due to try and badger how I has done out of the poor receptionist. Pride filled every line of the letter he wrote to me after I gained entrance to university. And we saw that pride again when he met his great-grandchildren Joshua, Robbie, Matthew and Paige and we discovered that even when you grow up, making your Granddad proud is about the best thing you can do.
I always thought that my Granddad was the best Granddad in the whole world. He was always dressed with a collar and tie, polished shoes and perfectly creased trousers. I don't think I ever saw him unshaven or his hair in need of a trim; maybe his days in uniform made being properly turned-out part of who he was. His time in the Air Force certainly furnished him with a plethora of comical stories which to begin were full of surprises but became family favourites, known off by heart like a fairy-tale. He never spoke of the hard things he must have gone through hunched over the navigator's table in the belly of the thundering aeroplane, the fear he must have felt or the despair when one of his comrades was lost. All the tales were of the funny things that had happened, of the resilience of the human spirit and downright stupid things people do sometimes, and while they lost nothing in the re-telling, it was wonderful to see a whole new generation enjoying them when he related these old favourites to his great-grandchildren and to see them captivated, as we must have been at their age.
I will miss his booming voice - Granddad's enthusiastic "Hello" when he saw you for the first time in a while must have been heard all over town and his ability to talk non-stop on the phone for ten minutes before passing you over to Grandma without you uttering a single word. He was a great orator and loved an audience.
His life-long marriage to Grandma will always be an inspiration to me. The love they shared is not something you find very often. When I got married, my husband and I went to visit the vicar for the "so you think you are ready for this" talk. The vicar went through the wedding vows, asking us what we thought each part of them meant for us. When it came to "cherish" I thought of Granddad and how he cared for Grandma. It was the embodiment of the definition of the word. My husband knew from that moment that he had a lot to live up to.
Granddad lived by the motto "early to bed early to rise" and whenever we got together as a family he was always the first to retire. As he finished the last mouthful of Scotch, he would say "I enjoy your company but begger the hours you keep" and make his way upstairs.
When you are a little girl you think that your granddad will be there forever because he always has been. It is hard to accept as you grow up that one day this man who has loved you utterly without question your entire life will one day not be there. And now that day has come I realise again how lucky, how very lucky, my sister and I were to have him.