My paternal Grandfather was a conscientious objector during the war, my maternal Grandfather a decorated war hero. Neither of them spoke about their experiences. To my mind either course of action takes courage.
My paternal Grandfather, John, was good with his hands, and wore brylcreem. He spent the war hiding in the hills of the Yorkshire dales, away from his wife and young family. He worked at a bakery making bread in the early hours to get by. He phoned my Grandmother through a friendly telephone exchange operator to keep in touch. After the war he worked in quarries, handling dynamite. He was a health and safety inspector in a paper factory. He never talked about having friends, or his time during the war. I learnt about it from my parents.
John also cycled a lot, with a group of Yorkshire dales riders. Weekend long trips among the hills, out to a B&B and back again on Sunday. Over a hundred miles sometimes. Wool trousers and leather boots to ride in, cagoules when they became cheap enough to buy.
I like to think my grandfather found refuge in a group of people who didn’t judge him for his actions during the war and found quiet peace in nature and the shared achievement of cycling a hundred miles in a day. I admire the resolve he had in staying where people knew him and working the jobs he did. It can’t have been easy, and makes every smile I saw him crack that much more precious.
When I’m out with my cycling friends that’s what I think about. Courage, sacrifice and doing just enough for yourself to make the rest of life bearable.
When I found out my own father cycled 100 miles from Grimsby to Keighley during the courtship of my mother, I had to try and continue the legacy. Took a while to get there, but I did it last year. Thanks go to Chris at Bike Craft Edinburgh for helping out.
Not super clear, but the digits at the bottom are that trip in miles, it reads 100!
I had bought the t-shirt months earlier, I took it out of it’s packagin and I swear I had not worn it before I did the distance.