In the early hours of Monday, December 18th, my Grandad passed away at Hull Royal Infirmary. My partner and I had booked the first flight back from Berlin upon hearing that his situation had deteriorated, and that the doctors thought he wouldn’t get better. The flight was delayed, and Grandad left us an hour and a half before we arrived at the hospital. I do not know whether any obituaries will appear about Grandad, but I suspect they would be rather brief and impersonal if they did.
So I suppose this is an obituary of sorts, or perhaps just a tribute to a man I looked up to. It may be cathartic to put these memories and thoughts in words, but I am publishing them for a reason. Charlie, as he was known to most, was quiet and unassuming. If you search his name on the internet, you will only find results from the likes of the white pages and company check, and now – this.
Grandad was born in 1924, but I only had the chance to know him for 21 of his 93 years on this Earth. Prior to my arrival, he achieved a great deal. He married my Grandma, Catherine Adeline Potts in 1958, had four daughters, and ran a department store in Beverley called Schofield’s from 1979 up until his retirement in 1994. I have been told so many fantastic stories about Grandad from the years before my birth, but I wouldn’t be able to offer an authentic voice in telling them, so I will share memories of only the man I knew.
At this point I ought to apologise to anyone who may have been hoping for an article about a former footballer, as is the norm on this website, but I wasn’t sure where else to publish this. If it helps, Grandad was a lover of the game, both as a player and as a spectator. A quick and hard working left-half who played in a decent local amateur league, he suffered a nasty knee injury via the boot of a former England international at the age of 17, and he was still rather cross about it at 90. He was a lifelong supporter of Hull City, and his favourite players were George Best, Pele and Raich Carter. Oh, and he was a big admirer of Paul Scholes before doing so became cool…
Unfortunately for me, Grandad was 71 when I was born, and into his 80’s by the time my love affair with the game had really begun. As an octogenarian, much of the pace that he had once relied on had deserted him, but he would still join me in the garden for a kickabout. Maybe he felt bad watching me kick the ball against the hill in their garden, knowing I had to weight it perfectly in order for it to roll all the way back to me.
Although I spent a fair amount of time at my grandparents house when I was little, it was always Grandma who I was closer with at a young age. My vivid memories of Grandad are of him in his workshop and helping – or more often just doing – my maths homework, whilst I played dominos with Grandma. As I got older though, Grandad and I grew closer. On a few occasions whilst my Dad was working overseas, Grandad would take me to Hull City games at the KC Stadium. The most memorable of those games was a 6-1 win over Kidderminster Harriers in 2003. I was 7 and Grandad was 79, but I could never understand why he didn’t jump up to celebrate as the goals rattled in.
Grandad was an infrequent visitor during the early years of the KC Stadium, having been a more regular visitor at Boothferry Park, and football soon became our go-to conversation. Even once he could no longer join me for a kickabout in the garden, he still came to watch me play, most recently in 2013. In his last couple of years, Grandad became increasingly forgetful and confused. It was a crying shame to see someone of such wit and intellect have his mental faculties desert him, but glimpses of the old Grandad remained, and it was such a great feeling to catch him on a good day.
Towards the end, when he would struggle to remember my name or quite how we were related, he still associated my face with football. Over the last six months or so, I would go round every Sunday, as Grandad would often be in bed by the time I had finished work midweek. He would always ask how Hull City had got on in their last game, and I’m going to miss telling him who we lost to yesterday every week.
Although Grandad was both shy and quiet, he was also incredibly cheeky and liked to get a laugh. He could make you laugh with a slight raise of his eyebrow or a little shake of his head, often indicating that he didn’t quite agree with what someone might have been saying.
To me, Grandad was an absolute gentleman. In his last week or so in hospital, despite being visibly very unwell and in a lot of pain, it was still ‘Yes please’ and ‘No thank you’ to whatever you asked him, although he did have a few choice words for any nurses or fellow patients who exceeded what he considered to be an acceptable decibel level whilst he was trying to sleep.
One Sunday, not too long ago, when I was at Grandma & Grandad’s house, Grandad was obviously very tired. He slept for the entire couple of hours that my girlfriend & I sat on their sofa, only to wake up just as we were leaving. He was so apologetic, telling us how poor company he must have been and worrying that I wouldn’t want to come round again.
He was always clean shaven and smartly dressed, with his little comb close to hand. Once when I went round, Grandad handed me a brand new pair of Loake shoes, and it broke my heart having to tell him that I wasn’t a size seven like him, and he was in disbelief when I said I was a size 9.5.
Grandad was not a large man, standing at maybe 5’7”, but he was a giant to me, and someone I looked up to long after I stood taller than him. It always seemed to me that his words carried real weight. When he talked, I listened, and a compliment from him would make me feel ten foot tall.
Despite being a smart man, it seemed to be the simple things that made Grandad chuckle. Toilet humour, some may call it. He found little funnier than someone stepping in dog muck or them being stuck in lift with an unpleasant smell. He got his comeuppance one weekend in Whitby though, when a sizeable seagull exacted and excreted some revenge for all those Grandad had chuckled at in similar circumstances over the years. He didn’t find it so amusing on that occasion, and the old adage that it was good luck didn’t wash with him, as he went off to buy a new shirt.
Grandma, or Cathy as she is known to most, bared the brunt of much of Grandad’s cheek, as Grandad’s wife for 60 years. Behind the jokes though, Grandad cared deeply about Grandma. I personally learnt this more and more towards the end of Grandad’s life. On the first day that he was checked into hospital for the last time, Grandad was full of groans and pains. His voice was weakened and wheezy, and he sounded unlike I had ever heard him before. When my auntie Jody passed him her mobile telephone to talk to Grandma though, he somehow mustered up the strength to sound himself, telling her that he was alright and not to worry.
If Grandma was his first love, then perhaps antiques were his second. A passionate collector, he regularly attended auctions up until his last few years, by which stage there was no shelf or cabinet top in the house that didn’t boast some kind of ornament or vase. He could often be found up his ladders winding up his antique clocks, which would drive me crazy when I used to stay the night, but had obviously blended into the background for Grandma and him.
Other passions of his included Whitby, and in particular the Magpie Cafe, and his pets – from their two black labradors Gemma & Digby – to their cats Teddy Bonzo, or ‘Tailless’ as Grandad originally called him, and more recently Morgan. Then there were the comedies he enjoyed. He was a big fan of Ronnie Barker, often bemoaning the fact that he was never knighted, as well as the likes of Tommy Cooper, Only Fools and Horses and Dad’s Army.
A couple of times Grandad spoke to me about a close friend of his who passed away a decade or so ago. Grandad felt he had given up and that he could have had another ten years left in him. “I’ll never give up,” he assured me. That’s why, even in his final hours when there seemed to be only one likely conclusion, I still had hope. I know Grandad won’t have given up, but unfortunately, none of us our immortal.
I will cherish all of the memories I have of Grandad, I’ll hold all the pearls of wisdom which he handed down to me close to heart and I’ll forever long for one more chat with him. But I’ll also consider myself immensely lucky. I got two decades with Grandad, and I saw a lot of him. I will remember him as a gentleman; very polite but equally cheeky, intelligent, shrewd, witty, mischievous, kind and caring.
I miss you already Grandad, and I’ll keep missing you even if I live to be 93 as well.
If you have any stories about Charles Potts, please email them to firstname.lastname@example.org.
The funeral will be at 10 a.m. on the 9th of January, at St. Mary’s Church in Elloughton.