Friday, 8 April 2011

Grandad Sid

Today would have been my grandfather's 84th birthday. His name was Sid and he was one of the biggest influences on me growing up to be a children's writer and illustrator.

He retired from teaching the year before I was born and, as he only lived around the corner from my house, I think I must have seen him every day throughout my childhood (even if it was just me flashing the light on and off in my bedroom at night and peering out of my window to see him and my grandmother do the same from their kitchen!)

Sid had been Head of English at a large school in Birmingham (having moved to Coventry from Wales to be with my grandmother which is another story!) but in the evenings and at the weekends he wrote and he wrote and he wrote. He was passionate about books and the english language and even wrote a book on the subject which was published.

He also wrote articles for magazines and newspapers and even had a few radio plays produced and broadcast. But what he enjoyed writing the most was books for children and he must have written hundreds ranging from very short stories to longer novels. But this was before the days of Young Adult books and although lots of publishers enjoyed the stories, they couldn't ever quite find a market for them.

When I started school, my grandmother decided that rather than have our dog mooching around our house on her own all day whilst we were all out, she would send Sid over to fetch her so she could spend the day (being spoilt) by them. I would leave my best ever toy, a grubby cardigan wearing bear called Silver (not my choice - his name was on his label), on the sofa for Grandad to see.
Imagine my surprise when I came from school to find Silver holding in his paws several piece of A4 pieces of paper addressed to me on which was written a story starring Silver and ME!

It was the best day ever and from that day for the next 4 or 5 years when I came home from school I would find Silver holding a new story nearly always about what the toys in my bedroom had got up to while I had been at school!

Then one day shortly before the summer holidays in 1994, just before my ninth birthday I came home to find not a letter in Silver's grubby, much loved paws, but an entire book! In an old, unused diary, Grandad had painstakingly copied out by hand some my favourite stories and collected them up for me to keep for ever. Above is the dedication.

Since that day the book, called ' The Royal Pool and Other Stories', has been on my shelf in every house and studio I've lived and worked in and even traveled with me when I ( very briefly - another story) studied at university in North Wales.

Sid and I had a very close relationship - he was more of a friend than a grandfather. Always supportive and excited when I visited with a new picture to show him or a new story I had scrawled in a notebook.

When I finished university and got my first book deal I think he almost burst with pride.  I had just moved into a titchy flat where there was no room for me to work so he converted his unused back bedroom into a studio for me and I worked there for quite a while. It was brilliant. Grandad potted about downstairs (writing) and I would draw upstairs and every so often he would call me down to the kitchen for tea and cake and to catch up on every thing I was doing and how the book was progressing. I wish it could have lasted longer as it was a very happy time.

Unfortunately Sid became ill very quickly and died shortly before my first book hit the shops three years ago. My publishers were brilliant though and rushed out a bound proof copy for him to see and he was so thrilled by it.
He is greatly missed by me and all our family. But he lives on and still regularly pops up in illustrations, in the background and the character of Claude is a little bit based on him. He was terribly clever, but at the same time seemed to bumbled through life going from one hilarious mishap to another.
Not only was he a super grandad and a great story teller, he was a gifted musician and after my grandmother died he wrote a short, very beautiful piece of music dedicated to her. 

So there we go, I have good old Grandad Sid to thank for my job and love of books and for the gift a book written by him, just for me.

Happy Birthday Sid, you great big eejit! As it's your big day and it's coming up to late afternoon - treat yourself to a little whiskey and a good book (maybe Claude? I've heard that's quite good!)


  1. A lovely story! Really enjoyed reading, and brought back a few memories about my wonderful Grandad, too.

  2. wow what a beautifoul story. i'm so moved about that! (sorry for my bad english). i used to love my grandDad so much too. and when i died in 2006 i get tattoed his name on my harm.
    i miss him a lot too.

    but they left us so many good memories :-)

  3. Beautiful story... so warm... even made me cry :)and that doesn't happen very often.
    thank you very very much for sharing it.
    The illustration is wonderful.

  4. Ohh thankyou for sharing this story! He sounds like the most awsome grandad EVER!

  5. This story touched my heart.
    It reminds me of my dear aunt Vivi. She was a dancer, writer and beautiful actress. I miss her so much!
    I hope in the future we will be able to be Sids and Vivis for our children. :)
    Thanks for sharing this great story.

  6. I've just posted a reference to this post in my blog. :)
    Thanks again for sharing. :)

  7. That was a lovely story. So glad he saw your book before he died. And how lovely that you had the piece of music he wrote for your grandmother at your wedding. I think it's a great story for others - my children would love it. And I love the illustrations. Really touching.

  8. What a wonderful relationship you had with your Grandad, and what a precious gift he gave you. Wonderful post!

  9. It's so lovely to hear such beautiful stories of extended families. My 19 month old son adores my father and I hope the relationship last and builds as yours did. You and Sid were very lucky.

  10. Wow... such a beautiful beautiful story!!! It's brought tears to my eyes, sounds like you had an amazing relationship with your grandad - he sounds so great!! Makes me think of my grandad too, we were really close too and he is also one of my inspirations... Grandads are awesome!!! :) thanks so much for sharing and beautiful illustrations to match!!!

  11. This post brings a tear to my eye. I had a similar relationship with my Grandad, and I have him to thank for my love of books, as he would walk me to the library every week. Like you, my Grandad lived around the corner on the next street and I saw him every day. He was the most calm and patient person I've ever met, and I miss him so, so much.

    I feel so lucky to have had such a relationship with him, and I really hope when I have kids they have a wonderful relationship with my parents and my partner's parents.

  12. Oh my god, this post brought several tears to my eye(s)! Such a moving story, fair play to your publishers for sending out the proofs to him before he died. So sad.

  13. Great stuff, lovely bit of writing, and a lovely story too.
    Wow the set up with the studio in the back bedroom sounds great. Tea and cake and a debrief of the last few hours work :)
    Thanks for putting up such a lovely personal post.

  14. Such a lovely story, your grandfather sounds awesome and he reminds me a little of my granddad.The story made me teary eyed..

  15. Oh, such a lovely story, Alex!