Thursday, 3 October 2013
Every week when my godparents went to London I had dinner with my "god-grandfather", who was always called "Gaffer". He was in his nineties then, spry and sharp. He had been a missionary in India, and used to scold the dog Hannibal if he begged at the table, "Tashi deh leh!". Then Gaffer would turn to me and say "D'you know, that dog doesn't speak a word of Urdu!" He liked to tell anecdotes about "TS" (Elliot), whom he knew. After dinner in that great dark kitchen he would always refuse help walking across the cobblestone courtyard to his apartment in the old stables. I often thought of him as a living connection to the Raj, and a grainier, tweedier, and grander era of English history. My godparents built him a summer house in part of their grounds, and Gaffer would very slowly walk there, and sit in the sun. The summer house is there still, as you see; though the grass is longer now. I miss Gaffer.