10 Oct 2021 - Genevieve Clifford
c/w: death of a family member
The past few weeks have been a little rough for me, about a month ago my grandad came to see me at home, to bring me my birthday card before my birthday. We had a little chat about what I’d been up to at university and what I was planning to do next. I’d not seen him for a while, the last time we’d talked it was in May, before I moved back to Swansea. Before that, I called him on the phone in 2020, while we were languishing in COVID-19 nonsense. Before COVID, we used to see each other about once a week, he’d come round to my parent’s house, my mom would cook tea, and we’d chat over the dinner table. When I was younger, we’d all go to nan and grandad’s house, nan would do a roast dinner, and we’d have tinned treacle sponge pudding and Bird’s custard. Sometime’s we’d have a fry-up, I don’t remember my nan cooking much else (well, she used to do me a bacon sandwich every morning before primary school, way before I was a vegetarian).
Grandad started coming around here in 2012, the year my nan passed. Ever since then, we’d sort’ve kept in touch, I’d pop round when my grandad broke his computer or his smartphone. Even as he entered his eighties, he’d kept up with technology. He was susceptible to installing a virus or two every couple of months, and I enjoyed visiting to mend his computer or something tech-adjacent. We’d talk about all sorts of stuff: events before I was born, talking about my youth, all sorts.
My most cherished memories of my grandad is playing postie, we’d do the rounds of the Black Country. My grandad and I would get in the Citroën Berlingo, and we’d go through a laundry list of addresses of lay preachers, delivering minutes that we’d packaged up into envelopes and stuck address labels onto. I’d be the one pushing the letters through the doors. There’d be a bag of Werther’s Originals in the car which we’d demolish between us.
Or maybe the holidays in the caravan. My nan and grandad had a static caravan in the Wyre Forest (near Kidderminster, for those without Midlands geographical knowledge). It was about three junctions down the M5, and down a few A-roads. The caravan site was as you’d expect for one about ten miles away from the border of the West Midlands county, not fantastic. The real fun was popping out to Stourport-on-Severn. Many fond memories of youth were formed in that Worcestershire town, especially in the outdoor amusements park: shooting water at targets, and steering R/C boats around a massive themed plastic container.
As you may be able to tell, I am sort of stalling. Less than three weeks after I saw my grandad leave the house, after he told me to enjoy my birthday and my graduation ceremony, he passed away. It was sudden, he was rushed into hospital one day, and he was gone less than two days later. He’d been in remarkably good health for an eighty-three-year-old. It was a blood clot in his bowel, he was left with no viable bowel.
I’d like to do one last thing for my grandad. He of course won’t be here to see it, but I’d like to complete one of our little projects from about fifteen years ago that we never got time to do.
My grandad did a lot of stuff for the church over the years. He had been a lay preacher for an incredibly long time, longer than I’ve been alive. If my memory serves correctly, he was the section leader of the 2nd West Bromwich Boy’s Brigade for a long time too. My dad and his brothers were all in the BB, as was I (way before I transitioned), being in the 14th West Bromwich myself.
In retrospect, the BB feels unusual to me. If you are unaware, imagine the Scouts, but it’s very Christian (i.e. bible study and going to church services) and there’s a bit of a naval vibe to it (with military structure and drill). At the time, I was completely fine with this. I remember doing a bible quiz in Lichfield (we didn’t do very well) and marching in a Remembrance Sunday parade in Tamworth. I objected (as you could only imagine, if you have ever met me) to the sport part. As we moved up to junior section, there was considerably less papier-mâché, colouring-in, and decorating digestive biscuits. Instead, this was replaced with football fixtures and a version of rounders adapted for a church hall (which involved kicking a foam football and running between overturned tables, very odd, I know). This is why I left. Coincidentally, if you’re from the Black Country and went to BB or Rainbows/Brownies, let me know if you went to the Christmas thing at the Wesley in West Bromwich. I distinctly remember making a “Christingle” thing, where you stuck jelly babies, a ribbon, and candles into an orange. Something to do with Jesus being born iirc, not sure though.
Anyway, the point here is as my grandad was a section leader, he of course took the section on camping trips. These were invariably along the Cambrian coast in Wales, with many trips being to Dyffryn Ardudwy in Gwynedd. Don’t quote me on this, but I imagine the logic behind this was probably that it was the closest distance to the seaside from West Bromwich as-the-crow-flies. Because these were the days before widespread digital photography (in the 1980s), all the photos from these trips (and there were a few) are stored on 35 mm slide film. When I was young, grandad would load up the slide carousels, and I’d be enthralled as he clicked through them on the slide projector. I was more impressed by the projector than the content, but that’s besides the point.
We were always interested in digitising the massive collection of slides, but grandad never committed to getting a slide projector, and attempts to use a flatbed scanner were unimpressive. We talked about it often, remarking that we should do something before the slides were lost to time, but nothing came of it.
In the days after my grandad passed, I kept thinking about the slides. How we never got chance to digitise them, but knowing they are still there in his study. An idea formed in my mind. I want to digitise those slides, and share as far and wide as I possibly can, with the many people who knew my grandad over the years. I have a basic plan of action for this:
The software is to be known as “ardudwy”, named for Ardudwy, the area in which my grandad and his section frequented for camping trips. I’ll be working on it over the next few months. I expect to have the software ready well in advance of getting the slides digitised. I’m looking forward to working on this project, and am glad we finally did manage to sort the slides out.
I am forever grateful to my grandad, to whom I owe my love of technology. Thank you for always supporting my passion for computer science. I remember you buying cool astronomy software and letting me use dial-up internet when I was three; getting me used to word processing at the age of four; and letting me install countless bloatware on your Windows XP machines through primary school. Without your keen usage of technology, and letting me share in that, I definitely wouldn’t be where I am now. I hope I can continue to make you proud.
The Information Exchange is the personal website of Genevieve Clifford, made with love between 2019 and 2021.