“You probably won’t believe this,” I told the kind-faced woman behind the counter in the local stationers, “but you have made my day!”
She looked at me quizzically and who could blame her, clutching as I was a single green biro and 50p? I explained (as an explanation seemed to be called for) that I had been looking everywhere for a single green biro, but
all I had been able to find were packs of four pens of different colours, blue, black, red and green. It seemed such a waste of money, to have to pay out for three pens I didn’t need just in order to buy the one I did need. Especially as at home I have
beakers full of pens, many with interesting inscriptions reminding me of my Past Life as a corporate person - “Arun Crime and Disorder Reduction Partnership” reads one, “British Red Cross” says another, while a third asks, nosily: “Concerned
about alcohol use?” and provides a number of an organisation called ACALT to ring for help. Not one of them, it goes without saying, being a green pen.
woman behind the counter knew exactly what I meant, she said, and it would have made her day too, had she been me. Which, of course, she wasn’t and is never likely to be - but we clearly were kindred spirits, bonding over a 50p biro. It also said something
about the value of small local shops, compared to chains like W.H.Smith (other chains almost certainly sell packs of four different coloured pens, should you need them) and why I like to lend them my custom. Okay, it was only fifty pence, but still...
I needed the green pen for the latest Grandparents Journal I am writing - the third so far (only seven more to go if I manage to live that long.) Unlike the first two books
I have completed, this one has space for both the grandmother’s story and that of the grandfather so I have decided that mine will be written in black pen and Mr B’s in green. It will be an extremely colourful journal.
Because Mr B struggles to write more than his name these days, it falls to me to write his story as well as my own, quizzing him about his family background, his childhood and his earliest memories.
This is proving to be excellent therapy, as between us we try to draw out his answers to the questions posed on every page. We are only on the first section of the Journal and already we have had conversations about his father’s large family (he was
the youngest of eleven children) and his memories of our wedding day (he was watching the Test Match between England and the West Indies all morning so wasn’t the least bit nervous until he was standing at the altar, listening to “Here Comes The
Bride” and feeling his legs buckle beneath him.)
One of the questions asks about any family heirlooms we possess. I, as self-appointed family historian,
have my Dad’s World War II medals but Mr B couldn’t immediately think of anything. Then we remembered two items which surely count as heirlooms - the first of these, the gold watch his father was given when he retired from Bowaters Paper Mill.
He always referred to it, proudly, as his “gold watch” and we rather doubted it was really gold - until we had it repaired and valued. Mr B was so pleased to know just how much his father was valued by his employer. The watch was passed onto Our
Boy on his wedding day and hopefully will be passed down to his eldest son when the time is right.
The second “family heirloom” Mr B suddenly remembered
is an old black tin, round in shape. It doesn’t look like anything special at all - but it is the tin in which his father kept his sailor’s hat from his Navy days during the war. No sign of the hat, unfortunately, but that old battered tin goes
well with the photo we have in a silver frame of “Sailor Frank”, one of the few photographs we possess of Mr B’s lovely Dad as a young man.
yes, my new green pen is coming into its own. Mr B’s memories, as told to me and faithfully recorded by me in the Grandparents Journal, will be Forever Green.