The words we tie together in tribute

This is by far the hardest post I have had to write, mainly as I know that the words I tie together into sentences will do no justice to what I want to tell you about.

rsz_pamela_james1Regardless of this I have decided to tell you about Pamela James, my grandmother who died this week at the grand old age of 95. She was my greatest inspiration and I will be forever thankful for the path she put me on. Without question there is a lot of who I am which can be put fully down to granny. She was born and raised in India, she was the reason I chose to travel there for my gap year a decision that shaped who I am as an adult. All that India imparted upon me comes ultimately from her. She wrote everything down, I mean literally everything, without a doubt if blogging was accessible to the computer illiterate lady she was, she would have had a blog so prolific it would have been hourly. She was a food fanatic, a traveller, a mean tennis player, whip smart and the kindest of heart.

The story that I have been most fascinated with is how my grandparents met. During the Second World War they were both posted to Gibraltar, Granny with the WAAF and Grandpa with the RAF. One night the South African Air Force had arranged a dance and both of them went. As legend goes Grandpa was sat amongst his chums when he heard a lady’s footsteps coming up the stairs, he turned to them and said before laying eyes on her, “I am going to marry that woman”. The two of them danced the night away laughing and talking but at the end of the night went their separate ways. Granny thinking she would never hear from him again boarded a short flight to Morocco to enjoy two days leave from work. A little way into the flight the captain comes on the tannoy and announces that a Jimmy James has requested a Pamela Keelan to please look out to the right of the aircraft. Out of the window was my grandpa flying his Hurricane aeroplane wing to wing with the passenger plane she was on. The plane landed and in Granny’s words “I never looked back and loved that man for 55 years until he died.” It is a story so beautiful its enough to make a cold heart warm, isn’t it?

luke-toulson-738x1024I decided to actually write about her rather than keeping my loss personal due to a show I saw at the Edinburgh Fringe this weekend. The show was called Grandpa, Hitler and Me and consisted of comedian Luke Toulson telling the story of his Grandfather and Grandmother’s relationship through the letters that they sent to each other during the war dispersed with wit-filled humour and heartfelt sentiment. I found the whole show very cathartic because I have letters sent from Grandpa to Granny and have been reading through some of them this week following her death. Their love, much like my grandparents seems far more epic than any today. Set against the backdrop of war and how the way they talked of love has faded into Hollywood fantasies only. He ended with asking if his grandkid would do a play at the Fringe about the texts he sends to his girlfriend, to which the reply was of course not. Too many swear words, lol’s and mundane mumblings about Tesco shopping lists.

So this is why I am writing through the grief, to encourage everyone to write your life down and to make stories that matter for as I have said before in the end all that remains is the memories we have made. I write because perhaps one day my grandkids will come across this blog and understand a bit of who they are from the random ramblings of their grandpa when he was in his twenties. Hopefully it will make them feel not so alone in who they are.

Finally readers I want to end with a little advice: Hold your family close, my friends, for one day all that will remain will be the void left in their wake and those are the darkest of days.

Three Song Playlist

Years & Years – Eyes Shut

Tom Figgins – Let Your Roots Grow

Jack Garratt – Weathered

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21 thoughts on “The words we tie together in tribute

  1. Andrew says:

    Stories are immensely powerful. People remember them. We write and tell too few nowadays. The war generation is an especially rich source. It is a sad day when we lose a loved one. But your close relationship won’t go away and I am happy that your grandmother was such a strong formative influence on you. My condolences.

    • James Dunn -- Coffee and Countries says:

      Thank you Andrew those words are of great comfort. I don’t know if its just that our generations don’t have enough to write about because obviously they were going through a war or simply because of technology its far easier to say things like a shout into the void of social media.

      • Andrew says:

        I think we suffer from overload James. We can’t distill the wheat from the chaff. It’s too easy to bang off a few sentences without thought. Letters were more thoughtful, meaningful and permanent in the past. I still like to write with a fountain pen sometimes. I have a photo of my late mother on the back of which are some song lyrics written by my father. It’s one of my most valuable possessions. It just doesn’t happen much now.

    • James Dunn -- Coffee and Countries says:

      For some reason it won’t let me reply to your last comment, the box I have of their letters would be mine too. I think not only because it is their history but it teaches me so so much about love, loss and humour despite all that they were going through. I used to have a pen pal when I was a kid I wonder if that even happens anymore.

  2. Carolyn T says:

    Ah, James. Your mum emailed me last week to tell me about dear, darling Pamela’s death. I’m SO very sad. Even living way across the pond, your grandmother holds a special place in my heart. Dave and I met Pamela & Jimmy at their neighborhood pub in Ilminster in 1981 – your dad was having a pint and plunked himself down at our dinner table to visit and then had the bartender phone your grandmother to tell her to join us. That began a friendship of several decades. Lucky I was to know them both, that Dave and I stayed with them several times. One year when she visited California we hosted a party for about 15 people to introduce Pamela to our friends. She was a real treasure. Dave and I visited her a few years ago, before dementia had started and we ordered Indian take-out – she adored Indian food and so did we – she was SO happy to have some good Indian food, which she really missed. I treasure several of Pamela’s recipes (a cold pea soup is the first one that comes to mind). She was such a WONDERFUL cook and chef. I’m hoping that Pamela, Jimmy and my hubby Dave are telling stories in heaven. My condolences to you and your family.

    • James Dunn -- Coffee and Countries says:

      Thank you for that lovely message Carolyn, it is always lovely to hear stories about the two of them as sadly I didn’t get as much time as I would have liked with either of them. Since her death I have been hearing such amazing stories and reading the letters and Granny’s handwritten attempt at a memoirs. She really lived a charmed life.

  3. ramaink says:

    I am so very sorry for your loss, James. The pain of losing a loved one never quite goes away but I hope you find peace and solace in her memories. My condolences to you and your family. Take care.

  4. Jools says:

    I too am so sorry for your loss. I hope that sharing your thoughts and memories here has been valuable, and a comfort to you. As for this humble reader of your blog, you’ve caused me to remember my own special and very much loved Granny, who died a long time ago. Thank you for that, James.

    • James Dunn -- Coffee and Countries says:

      I think that by sharing our memories they can live on. Since her death I have heard a lot of stories I have never heard and she just takes on a whole new level of wonderfulness through them. I think that how ever long ago you suffer grief the person always stays with you like you have said and I am so so glad to have helped you remember you Granny.

  5. ckponderings says:

    Life is short, and family is important. Through this post, you have done her proud, James, and, while this is obviously a time of grief, stories like how your grandparents met and the obviously strong bond between you and your Granny will keep the memory of her alive. Your loss is clearly a deep one and my thoughts are with you.

  6. niasunset says:

    I am sorry to hear your loss dear James. I pray for her, and yes, memories are great for us… I can understand through your words, she was a great soul. My thoughts with you, love, nia

  7. Carl D'Agostino says:

    Re Luke Toulson: The use of the H-word would immediately eliminate any hint of my interest esp any connection with comedy. Otherwise please accept my condolences and I understand why such letters bring you love, warmth and understanding. I relate to such little pieces of memory. Tomorrow the 17th will have been 3 years since my mother died. I was her home hospice nurse those last 5 weeks of her life and most of my memories are founded in and imprinted from those days. This past week part of my small family was here for a visit and we had that family portrait made – you never know if such was the last opportunity for all to be included. I also had my youngest granddaughter baptized with consent and participation of my son of course and that memory will also be cherished.

  8. Ahmed467 says:

    My humble saddness is given to you. It may have been many weeks since her death but I am sure you still carry the grief. I hope Morocco helped heal the wounds, I find travel one of ther best cures of lifes ills

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