A Letter To My Grandfather

The following is a (heavily edited version of a) letter that I wrote on the night on my grandfather’s death, a couple of weeks ago.

Dear Grandpa,

Thank you. Thank you for everything. Thank you for the role you had in making me who I am today. I’m not entirely sure that you know what that role is, or how much you influenced me over the years, but you did.


First of all, though, thank you for the little things.

Thank you for sitting patiently on the lawn with a five-year-old girl, and teaching her how to make a daisy chain. I can’t make a flower crown without thinking of you, and that is a gift in itself.

Thank you for cracking a walnut shell, and giving me half, and showing me how to use a toothpick and a piece of paper to make it into a ship, that we sailed on the sink in the hallway.

Thank you for teaching me how to crochet, that week I stayed with you. For patiently showing me how to move my hands when I stubbornly refused to learn another stitch. I still have that single line of stitching I managed that week, that I wore as a headband for weeks.

Thank you for taking me conker hunting in your garden, for showing me how to choose the best ones and not spike myself, for filling bags and bags of spiky green shells, and trudging through the cold with me.

Thank you for roasting chestnuts for me when you found that I’d never had them before – they were far too bitter at first, but I have grown to love them.

Thank you for playing cat’s cradle with me, for demonstrating the shapes to make with my hands, and gently correcting me whenever I went wrong. Thank you for disregarding the fact that my hands were half the size of yours, and playing a failing game anyway.

Thank you for giving me that cat’s cradle book, a couple of months later, and the hours I spent sat on my bed, memorising the movements to give me a ladder made from string. Those are memories that now, even my muscles won’t forget.

Thank you for showing me how to tie sailing knots – for pulling out some frayed string, and sitting at the kitchen table, and showing me bowline after hitch, sheet bend after figure eight. Simple knots, that paled in significance to the knots you studied, the theory you were an expert in, the field of mathematics you devoted years of life to.


And thank you for the slightly bigger things.

Thank you for sitting me down, two October’s ago, and using three green disks to try and persuade me to take maths A-level. It didn’t work, but then I’d hardly be your granddaughter if I were so easily swayed. Writing is my dream, just as maths was yours.

Thank you for the figurines you gave me, the china ducks, when I was, maybe 7. They will always stand sentinel over my bookcase, guarding my most precious horde. They do seem small, but they feel very important to me, for reasons I think only you would be able to understand.

Thank you for the doll’s house you gave me, a couple of years before. So many happy hours of childhood were spent at those doors, playing house with little wooden people. My imagination, my creativity, were exercised and helped to grow by that wooden box.

Thank you for letting me win at Monopoly that one time. It really did bolster my confidence, and every game I ever play of it will bring back memories of you, and me, and Susan, at the card table in the drawing room. I’ll never resent a board game again.

Thank you for bonfires in the garden, a pile of wood blazing, dinner on the lawn, the golden sun setting. The evenings in my childhood that started my own personal love affair with bonfires. A love affair that ended abruptly when I had to throw all of your belongings onto a fire, in the garden that I had so loved.


And thank you for the biggest things of all.

Thank you for introducing me to sailing for the first time – for that I owe you not only a skill, and a great group of friends, but a love, and a passion, one that I have no doubt I will carry through my life.

Thank you for the book me gave me, Christmas 2010. I wouldn’t be such a reader, I wouldn’t be me, if it weren’t for that book, and for you. You reignited my love for reading, and you always gave me the very best books.

Thank you for your sons, and your grandchildren, and the love that we all felt for you, and the love that all feel for each other. My family – your family – bring more joy to my life than many other things.

Thank you for your kindness, and your humour, and your desire to teach, and encourage, and bring happiness. Memories of my childhood glow brighter because of you.


Thank you for everything. The big, the character defining, the life changing; and the small, the life enriching, the memory making; and for the in-between, the things that influenced me in small ways, the things that I will always absolutely treasure.

Thank you, and know that I miss you. I miss you, and I love you, and I always will.

With all my love,

Jemima xx


This is a photo of my brothers, two of our cousins, my grandfather, and me, taken two summers ago, on a family holiday. We were going out for dinner for his birthday.


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