Introduction

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‘I wish I had asked my parents, and grandparents, more about their lives while they were still around’.

It’s a regret you hear commonly from people aged forty and over. And because this regret is so familiar, why don’t more of us older ones anticipate it and jot something down while we still have the energy and the memories?

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My family, Norfolk Broads, 2014. Left-to-right: Magnus, Edvard, Dan, Adam, Anne, Erika, Jim, Linnéa, Ellie and Björn.

 

My father did so, in a way, with his two books on life in Salford before the Great War of 1914-18, but my mother – who outlived him by thirty years and had wonderful stories to tell – could not bring herself to put pen to paper.

Now, at seventy-eight, it is my turn.   Of course I am only one of their six grandparents, each with a unique tale to tell, but I hope that Linnéa, Magnus, Edvard and Jim will find an account intriguing by one grandfather – if not now, then in years to come.

I have certainly found life interesting, happy (if with some regrets) and so varied that these pages don’t tell the half of it. Perhaps Björn, Dan and Adam will add to my account, correct mistakes and shape it into something more readable. And should anyone want to delve into even greater detail, the following four books – all easy to read, and quite funny here and there – fill in some gaps:

SAILING IN A SIEVE (Methuen 1963) – Story of my youthful cruise from Stockholm to the North Sea. Sailing and boats have fascinated me from my first (mis)adventures in a tin bath tub on a Yorkshire reservoir, to years living on board a yacht in the heart of Paris, to crossings of the Baltic, the Mediterranean and the Atlantic.

QUESTIONING DEVELOPMENT (ISBN 0 906415187) – I have always been inspired by the spirit of voluntary (rather than paid) service. Volunteering for projects in Europe led me on to longer-term work in Africa. There,  I became critical of big aid & technical assistance programmes and so, with help from friends and family, I launched a new volunteer programme, Tools for Self Reliance (TFSR).

KEEPING SOMETHING ALIVE (ISBN 978-1-906274-07-8) – This tells the story of TFSR, a roller-coaster of a ride during its first two decades, and of the hundreds (indeed, thousands) of wonderful, good-hearted people who made it such a success.  For all of us, these were life-enhancing years.

CURIOUS CARVINGS, TALL TALES & ODD ODES OF THE ISLE OF WGHT (ISBN 978-1-906-274-10 8) – After sixteen years with TFSR, I moved to live on the Isle of Wight where I sought out intriguing, true stories about people on the Island. These ranged from William the Conqueror back in 1182, to Victorian smugglers, to the Roberts family welcoming the dawn of the 21st century. For each story, I sculpted a block of stone, which we erected at various spots around the Island, usually with a bronze panel beside it telling the tale.

There is little more to add, except that I hope you enjoy my story. Perhaps parts of it may even inspire you at some stage in your own lives.

G.R.

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