Howard Croft column: Only credentials – being someone’s grandfather

Hull is the 2017 European City of Culture.
Hull is the 2017 European City of Culture.

We went down South to attend a celebration of my daughter’s birthday. Although not a significant one, the birthday that is, not the daughter, the celebration seems to involve a number of events of which I was lucky enough to be invited to one.

When I told my twin sister about this outing she told me that when my daughter was due my father, whose birthday was in early July, had been very keen that her arrival should be on his own birthday, a hope of which I was unaware.

Did I, she wondered, when one of my own grandchildren was scheduled to appear close to my own birthday, entertain a similar hope?

Having had the misfortune to share my birthday for over 70 years with her, I didn’t have the slightest wish to further dilute the limelight that had only ever been half mine. September 24th should in all fairness be all about me, but it never has been.

Had I been born a few hours later my birthday would have been on the 25th and all would have been well. Sort of.

Maggie, the grandchild who had the good manners not to show up on my birthday, will be five in September when she will be starting school at the delightfully named Rickling Green Primary School.

And delightedly located, by the village green where cricket is regularly played, overlooked by the imaginatively named Cricketers’ Arms which provides refreshment. Our visit coincided with the school’s summer fete, a splendid occasion.

My son, who has all his life been dogged by good luck, won twenty-five quid in the raffle.

First prize of course.

Things have changed since my day. Maggie introduced me to one of her friends and as I was about to treat her to a pony ride I offered to include her friend in my generosity.

I was immediately surrounded by fierce looking young dads who obviously thought that they had spotted a wandering paedophile.

My daughter stepped in and said: “It’s all right – he’s Maggie’s granddad!” So, it has come to this: my only credentials now are being someone’s grandfather.

I looked around and realised that the high fences and stout gates were to keep out undesirables not, as in my day, to keep the little blighters in, but that was in Hull, which may explain things.

Ah, Hull! European City of Culture. My few remaining contacts there are constantly urging me to pop over and see the wonders for which the city is now proud, but I don’t go.

I prefer to think of it as I remember it – dull, surly and infested by unsuccessful petty offenders. But, remember, with a fine statue of William Wilberforce, friend to slaves everywhere and, more importantly, an old boy of my own school.

I don’t suppose that the City Fathers will raise a statue to me, but I do have high hopes of the pooh-bahs of Malton.

I suggested to a district councillor that they might launch a public subscription for such a project with a generous donation of their own; her response was “We’ll see you dead first”.

I thought that was the point. It is in my view ill-advised to raise monuments to the living, royalty excepted.

And Ken Dodd, of course, although his effigy is in Liverpool where they do things their own way.

Margaret Thatcher’s statue, intended for erection opposite the Palace of Westminster, has been put on hold.

Two explanations have been offered: that it might be defiled by hooligans is one, probably a reasonable fear.

The other is that her daughter, Carol, is unhappy that the sculpture does not incorporate a handbag.

This seems an odd objection.

And do the children of the celebrated have the right to veto commemorative artefacts dedicated to their parents?

My own children would not be so fastidious I am sure, but Ryedale District Council might like to consult them before the sculptor gets chiselling, and they get dipping into their reserves.