Many years ago in a valley in the Lake District, my father was born. Thankfully, he was too young to realise the tragedy that would soon follow.
His father (my grandfather) was a genius. Although, he was as eccentric as they come. Being an engineer and an inventor, he spent most of his time in his workshop, designing, making and testing his inventions. Often with great results but sadly, tragedy lay in waiting.
One sunny Sunday morning, my grandfather asked my grandmother if she wanted to go on an adventure. She frowned at him because she knew what his adventures entailed and it was always a challenge. This time he wanted her to ride in the side car of his old motorbike. She hesitated, and rightly so, as she was seven months pregnant with her eighth child.
‘Just around the lakes,’ he begged, ‘I need to try out the ball hitch that connects the car to the bike. This was one of his inventions.
So whilst the nannies took care of my father (who was two at the time) and the rest of the children, my grandmother squished herself into the side car and waved them all goodbye.
‘Go slowly now,’ she shouted up to my grandfather, ‘there’s no room in here to deliver a baby!’ And off they went.
They enjoyed the leisurely (yet noisy) ride around Lake Windermere and on their return to their country home, with its own lake and a small island, disaster struck.
The ball catch snapped and both the car and the bike went in opposite directions. My poor grandmother ended up in a duck pond and my grandfather, in the hedge.
Doctors and nurses came to the house where they desperately tried to save my grandmother and her unborn child. Thankfully, my grandfather survived with just a few scratches. Distraught, he went to his workshop and waited for news. When it arrived, it wasn’t good.
The nurse told him that the next 24 hours were crucial, but it was unlikely that the either of them would survive. He should prepare himself.
The following morning, when the nurse went to see my grandfather, she opened his workshop door and horrifically discovered that, at the tender age of 31, my grandfather had committed suicide in his Rolls Royce. She had gone to inform him that his wife and child had both survived.
We never met, of course, but I know that if we had, then we would have been the best of friends.