Conversations With My Grandfather.
He is in his chair by the gas fire with a rug over his legs, Radio 4 murmuring agreeably in the background.
He is either 92 or 93, dependant upon the day you ask him.
Also present are my sister, Favourite Son and Favourite Daughter.
There is some chatter between my sister and Grandfather regarding the replacement toaster she has just purchased for him.
Grandfather: I still don't understand. It had always worked perfectly until today. Very odd for it to just cease functioning like that.
Me: When did you buy it Grandad?
Grandfather: Well. Let me see. Your mother had just started high school ...
My mother is in her fifties. I feel we are some way toward solving the mystery of the non-functioning 'perfectly good' toaster.
I forget that he is blind and not deaf, and quickly make myself busy checking that the children have not fried themselves on the house's pre-war wiring. I'd get in ever so much trouble if they had.
Grandfather: I do worry about the money though. Was it terribly expensive?
My Grandfather has more money in the bank than he could possibly spend.
Sister: Only fourteen pounds Grandad. It's fine.
She is removing the toaster from its packaging.
Grandfather: Really? Well. I say. That is quite reasonable. Tell me dear, how do you think they manage to make them so cheaply?
Sister: I think they're made abroad Granded. You know, in countries where things aren't quite so expensive.
Grandfather: Ah yes. Of course. [Nods sagely] The Negroes.
I sigh and begin rolling my Grandfather his cigarettes for the day. He won't buy pre-rolled ones any more. Too expensive. Instead he gets a monthly consignment of black-market tobacco from someone my brother knows. I think this secretly excites my Grandfather. It makes him feel rogue-ish.
The toaster is given a test-drive, and thankfully my Grandfather approves of the result.
Grandfather: Ah yes. Perfect. Very efficient, our coloured cousins. I must resolve to buy more Negroe Products in the future.
He adjusts his blanket.
Grandfather: Is anyone else a little chilly?
Sweat is streaming from me and I cannot easily blink as my eyeballs are so dry. I do not know what to say. He turns to my sister.
Grandfather: Throw another peasant on the fire would you dear?
My sister turns up the gas on his fire a little.
I hear my children playing in his garden, as I did when I were their age.
He gazes, half-blind, out the window at his garden.
Grandfather: Thank you dear. Now. I wonder what the poor are doing today?
I hope he never dies.