I shall be away for most of Friday, and Chalcedon has promised to post – bless him, he’s so kind and indulges my requests.

I try to avoid too much personal stuff, but the reason I am away is that my grandfather in law , Tom, has died. He was 90. He served in World War II in the Far East, and had a fund of stories about it. The first present I ever bought him was a book on the war in the Far East, and I think from that point on I was ‘in’. Like many of his generation he had had a hard life, and by his own efforts he made quite a bit of money. He founded a small business, which became a bigger one, and he sold out at the right time. Quietly he did a great deal of good, giving large sums of money to charities; nothing which did good work for children escaped his generosity. There were times the family remonstrated, but he was adamant: “I made the money, you lot have enough, and a man who dies rich is shamed”, he would say; and that was the end of any discussion.

Tom was not a Christian, although his wife (of 60 years) was; but he was a good man, although not given to what he used to call “sentiment”. The only time I ever saw him cry was when his wife died. She was the sweetest Christian soul I have ever known – a gentle and caring lady of the old school, who soothed away the ruffled tempers Tom’s attitude could leave in its wake. I never knew anyone who did not love her; I can’t even imagine how anyone could not.

Her death left him bereft. From that point his mental condition deteriorated, and for most of the last two years he had to be in a home because he had lost his faculties. I used to visit him every month, as the Captain was not here (as he isn’t now). He was a gruff old thing, and got gruffer as his condition worsened. But the last couple of times I saw him he just held my hand and smiled; and it was me who cried.

I cried for a man who had lost what he loved most. Like most of those of that generation, he and his wife seldom, if ever, demonstrated their love. They called each other “mother” and “father” and were just about the sweetest couple I ever saw in their selfless devotion to each other. I once said that and Tom replied: “Don’t be so daft girl – mother wouldn’t like it!”  ‘Mother’ said to me later: “I liked that Jessica, but don’t ever tell father I told you so.” That’s how they were. They don’t make them like that any more.

She died just short of their sixtieth wedding anniversary. With Tom goes my last living link to the World War II generation; my last contact with a man born in the reign of George V; my last link with my own father’s generation. It is the passing of an era – Tom – I loved you more than you’d ever let me say – and I will miss you always – God Bless and good night old soldier.