Wednesday, June 30, 2010

Bampap

I don’t think the name Bampap is one that is used universally. In fact I’m pretty sure it was created and remained within the confines of my family. My mother, as a toddler, referred to her grandfather as “Bampap” – a young child’s attempt to say “granddad” perhaps – and the name kind of stuck. When I and my sisters were born 20 years later the title was passed onto us as if it were the norm. So our granddad, my mother’s father, was always known as Bampap. Not being a particularly observant child it was years before I realized that other families didn’t have a Bampap.

You may disagree but I think that they missed out.

Bampap
This first photo was taken in 1942. The place is obvious. My granddad – Bampap – and his mates are plainly on shore leave, a few precious days on land before returning to sea and the war. In the years before he died Bampap spoke almost wistfully of his war years. His memories of Cairo seemed to revolve around the street names where all the best whorehouses were and the advice given to all the men by the ship’s doctor. If you’ve been with one of the girls go and see a one of the city doctors before you come back to the ship – their medical supplies were extremely limited and if you came on board with the clap you were liable to be stuck with it for months until you struck land again.

He never said if he’d indulged and I didn’t ask. It wouldn’t have been the gentlemanly thing to do.

I apologize for the quality of the photo – but, hey, it is over 50 years old and the camera would have been rough and ready. Here is a blown up shot of my granddad. He’s the guy in the middle with the fabulous nose. He kept that nose and that body shape for all of his life. Always remaining trim and with a beak that somehow didn’t mar his looks.


Bampap
Years later in 1999 I made my own journey to Egypt and here is a photo of me standing in roughly the same place as my granddad over 50 years later. I don’t cut a dash in the same way, do I? I’m thankful that he was able to see this photo before macular degeneration robbed him of 90% of his eyesight a few years later.


Yours truly
My one regret is not writing down the names of Bampap’s war mates. He had many and there are lots of photos of them. Photos of young boys who look cheery, chirpy and cheeky despite being in the middle of a war. If you believe the mood of the photos they are on holiday; a foreign cruise; out on the pull. That so wasn’t the case. I think my granddad was the only one of his little group who made it home again. I once made the comment that I bet he knew who his mates were in those tough times. He only nodded and said “yes, and I lost them all.” There’s not much you can say to that.

This last photo was taken in 1975. And yes, the boy in the picture with the NHS glasses is me. The girl is my oldest sister. I have no idea where this photo was taken or by whom. It can’t have been my Nan because our heads are all in shot. She’d have cut them off or else chopped off our feet instead.


Bampap
This is how I like to remember him. The sharp beak which protruded from eyes that were always mischievous and kind. The smart blazer with the naval insignia he was so proud of sewn onto the breast pocket. The awkward love and protectiveness that he always exuded.

His presence always made us feel safe as kids. I think that comes over in the photo. Wherever we are, we’re more than happy to be there.

He’d have been 90 today.


38 comments:

Being Me said...

Ahhhh Steve. I wipe away a tear, in solidarity. I don't feel I missed out, not having had a Bampap, for I had a Granddad (he hailed from the North of your good country and introduced us to a thick brogue, cheese on fruitcake and very similar war stories).

I don't know if they make them like that anymore? I love that you were able to love him, and he you (and your sister). Some are not so fortunate to ever meet their grandparents.

Steve said...

Being Me: that's so true. I know a lot of my school friends had to cope with their grandparents dying... for me it never happened. All through my school life and early work life they were there. Even though I am sad that they are now all gone, I also recognize how lucky I was to have Bampap around for 40 years of my life - that's not bad going at all.

Trish @ Mum's Gone to... said...

Why is it we only think about the importance of getting names for photos etc until it's too late? When we are young we just don't consider it might be something worth remembering.

So pleased you have such fantastic memories of your Bampap. My dad's dad died before I was born but I do remember my other grandad who died when I was about 14. Whenever we visited he had a habit of rolling up his tie then flicking it at us kids! That and knocking on the roof of the car as we were driving away. Funny how that should come back to me now!

Steve said...

Trish: one of the nicer elements of the grieving process is all the hidden memories that suddenly come back to you. Bampap would always pip the car horn twice when driving away from our house. He also used to do that old trick of flicking his finger against a paper bag so that it looked like something had dropped into it when in fact it was empty. As my Nan would say, "happy days..."

Selina Kingston said...

Ah, Bampap sounds and looks adorable. There is something about that picture of him with you and your sister which made me feel a little emotional. And how lovely that you had a picture taken in Egypt as in the photo you had grown up looking at. He must have been so touched that you took the time and effort to do that. I think you were as good a grandson to him as he was a bampap to you. Thinking of you today.

Monalisa said...

It is lovely to have those memories and photos of your "Bampap". Now my mum is 89 she is telling me bits of family history and it is interesting.

Steve said...

Selina: thank you. It's still not really sunk in that he's not here anymore and that entire part of my life is over.

Monalisa: take some advice - write it all down! You really won't regret it.

Suzanne said...

What a moving post.
I love the pictures that you have posted - old pictures just have so much character and an ethereal quality.They can't help but remind me of my dad, he was in the Navy and stationed in Burma.
He escaped death many times, and yet he too talked about his time in the Navy with such fondness. He would have been 92 this year.
Really love your post.
I have a friend and her little boy calls her Dad "Bampa", not quite Bampap, but along the same lines.

Heather said...

oh Steve, you brought a tear to my eye. what a wonderful post.

vegemitevix said...

He sounds an incredible man. Full of valour and pride for his family and country. They don't make them like that anymore do they? Oh wait, they do because in you, his grandson, the same wonderful qualities exist. Beautifully written epitaph. x

Very Bored in Catalunya said...

Ahh that's a lovely post. My Grandad who was known as 'half a Grandad' as we couldn't pronounce his name (Arthur), also had lots of shot of him and his pals in Egypt, although I think he was stationed there for a while in the army. I think he spent most of his time as a POW but would talk fondly of his time in the army and the bonds he made with other servicemen.

Steve said...

Suzanne: Bampa...? That's great. That's brought a real smile to my face at the thought there might be other Bampap's out there.

Heather: thank you... though I realize you wanted to be cheered up!

Vegemitevix: that's incredibly kind of you but, alas, it is an honour I must refute. I really don't think I'm of the same calibre as my Bampap. Like you said, I don't think they make them like that anymore.

Very Bored in Catalunya: thank you... I guess strong bonds were made quickly during such traumatic times and were emblazoned on many a soul for their rest of their lives, those that were lucky enough to come home again.

libby said...

Lovely memories Steve...and it occured to me that if he is the 'Wellington Road' Granddad then I must, over the course of the years, have seen him at some time....it's such a good thing to write on the back of old photos and try to leave info for those coming up behind us. My mum has ARMD too, and she cannot really look at the photos we take these days...I put them onto the laptop and enlarge them so that sometimes she can (with an eyeglass up really really close) make out bits of shapes and things. Do you love going over photos? I do...

LöstJimmy said...

Wonderful!
And here's a connection...my great uncle served in the ANZACs and was stationed for time in Egypt, albeit in WW1

Sarah said...

Such a wonderful tribute. I love the photographs and the way you vividly describe your dear Bampap. My Grandfather was also fortunate to survive the war and your writing made me think of him. He would talk more of the comradership between the men, than the tough stuff. There was plenty talk of woman and dancing - with a twinkle on his eye too! I too feel very honoured and blessed to have had him in my life. Oh, I have a tear in my eye now. Thank you for sharing x

Fran said...

Everything you say about him does indeed come over in the photos, particularly that last one. He looks like a great Bampap.

The Sagittarian said...

Loved this post, Steve. Made me a bit sad for my girls as they have never really known their grandfather (my dad), he died when my eldest was just 6 months old. He would have adored them however and we do have some lovely video footage of him playing with her which is something.
The Studs father is 85, my kids call him Plaster and we have no idea how that came about but they have always been Grandma and Plaster!
I think it is a good point that the Bampap gift will carry on with you tho'...

Clippy Mat said...

I love your Granddad stories. It's great how you honour him this way, it makes me feel hopeful (?) and I love how much you loved him.
:-)

English Rider said...

Touching post. There are many chat/info sites on the web where you can post questions and maybe find someone who remembers. example: Hubby was shipwrecked on the mediterranean and rescued by Americans days later, on the brink of death. We found someone who was on board the ship that towed him to safety in St Tropez, actually threw him the lifeline and remembered he had cute girls on board.

Steve said...

Libby: he is indeed the granddad from Wellington Road and he and my Nan had been there nearly 60 years so it's very likely you saw them both and perhaps even me over the years! I do indeed love looking at old photos - just as well as I'm currently scanning over 600 that used to belong to my grandparents!

Löst Jimmy: I always find it hugely comforting to know that some sort of connection exists between us all.

Sarah: thank you, it was a pleasure.

Fran: he was.

Amanda: Plaster? What a great name! Sounds full of character. I was lucky to have my grandparents around for so long. I was blessed in that.

Clippy Mat: thank you!

English Rider: thanks - that's very useful to know. I have lots of old war photos - maybe someone will recognize a face or two (even if they are a bit blurry now)!

Gina said...

Bampap? Oh that is lovely! And such super photos too. I love old photos - even other people's.

I always celebrate my grandparents' birthdays still because I just feel so glad that they were such a major part of my life when I was growing up. We were lucky, Steve, so many people never have that.

Wonderful post.

Steve said...

Gina: thank you. I still have the birthdays of my Nan and Bampap in my diary, both paper and electronic. I think of them both often but it's nice to still have special dates set aside for them too.

lunarossa said...

Fantastic photos...So your Bampap (lovely!) was a sailor? I bet he knew so many fascinating stories...If only photos could talk...Ciao. A.

Steve said...

Lunarossa: If only photos could talk... ah, if only! :-)

the fly in the web said...

That was a wonderful,moving post.

Steve said...

The fly in the web: thank you. :-)

femminismo said...

My eyes are filled with tears too. Great tribute to Bampap. I had a Pop Pop and was surprised when others thought the name unusual! He was too old for WW II and missed WW I also, but he wanted to go fight alongside his three sons who served. I wish I would have asked him a thousand questions!!

Rol said...

A touching post... but I was sure the title was Bapmap, so was expecting something quite different.

Steve said...

Femminismo: I questioned Bampap as much as I could at the time - or so I thought. I now have hundreds of other questions that I didn't think to ask at the time or was to afraid to...

Rol: bapmap? Is that some kind of optional satnav service for perverts?

Suburbia said...

What a fantastic post, he certainly cuts a dash in both photos. What strange lives they all must have lead back then in the war?

Steve said...

Suburbia: I think at times it must have all felt very unreal... and at others too real for comfort.

The Poet Laura-eate said...

Alas my 'bampap' (mother's father) died when she was only 3, so I never met him, but posted up piccies of the other grandparents recently as you saw.

Love the piccie of you in your
1970s clobber - a classic!

Sadly old photos aren't always of the quality we might wish for, but it's always interesting seeing them.

I do hope Bampap is now reunited with all those friends he lost in the war - sad for you maybe, but happy for him.

Steve said...

Laura: as long as he's reunited with my Nan he'll be happy; it's all he ever wanted.

A Write Blog said...

It's nice to rememeber Steve. it's one of the best reasons to blog.

You'll be able to come back and read this over time.

........and wouldn't it be nice if your children did too...........and grandchildren.........all adding to a legacy that you started.

Hmmmm....a subject to talk about.

I like the word 'Bampap' too.I get called 'Grandypaps'

BrightenedBoy said...

This photo reminds me of how much people can change over the generations. I'm twenty-two years old, and almost everyone I know is in school and living at home, leading lives of relative leisure with perhaps the responsibilities of a part-time job.

We're all still effectively in adolescence, yet sixty years ago we would more likely have owned homes and been starting families of our own.

Steve said...

AWB: grandypaps is nice... it's nice how these petnames come about. I look forward to the day I have a grandchild to think of a suitable one for me.

Brightened Boy: very true... it's hard to believe that at 19 my granddad had signed up with the navy and was off putting his life in daily danger. In comparison I was bumming around art college. It doesn't compare.

The Crow said...

Happy birthday to Steve's Bampap.

I'm so sorry he is gone, Steve, for it is obvious he meant the world to you. Wonderful that you had him for as long as you did.

Steve said...

The Crow: that is something I always try and remember; just how lucky I was to have him around for so long.