During my time with the Herald I was never called on to do weekend work. Delwyn enjoyed covering football matches on Saturday afternoons and took Friday afternoons off in lieu.
As I normally had weekends off I am sticking to the routine here for now.
I have always enjoyed playing cards, whether a two-handed game of six-pack bezique or four-handed gin rummy or even Newmarket which we used to play with buttons instead of money.
The games I enjoyed the most, however, were the times I played cribbage with my grandfather, Harry Lloyd, my mother’s father.
In the late 60s he came to live with us and a few times a year my great-aunts would come over from Liverpool on a Sunday visit and Grandad would join them in a game of cards.
Auntie Flo and Auntie Bea were my mother’s maternal aunts and Flo was married to Uncle Bill who was also my grandfather’s cousin and best friend. Auntie Sally was Bill’s sister and Grandad’s cousin as well.
One thing Grandad rarely talked about was his experiences in the two major wars of the 20th century.
In 1914 he had answered the call of Lord Stanley, 17th Earl of Derby, who sought to raise a battalion of “Liverpool Pals” as part of the King’s (Liverpool) Regiment. He ended up with enough volunteers to create four battalions.
All I knew of that time, however, was: Bill was in the Liverpool Scottish battalion and his younger brother Bob was in another of the Pals battalions; Grandad was in an entertainment group called the Verey Lights; and Grandad took a bullet through his hand which got him a couple of weeks of “Blighty Leave”.
He was also called up in the 1939-45 war as a Reservist and helped train many of the raw recruits to the King’s (Liverpool) Regiment.
He never talked about his experiences in the trenches and he never mentioned the people who were his “enemy” in both wars.
He was not living with us when I went to Germany with the Little Theatre group.
By the summer of ’67 he was with us, however, when our German friends made the return trip and I took the week off to spend time with them.
The lad whose family I had stayed with was unable to join his friends and a young man called Anton Mütschler was to stay with us instead.
I must confess I was not sure how Grandad was going to react to having a German in the house.
On the day of arrival we all met up at the theatre and renewed old acquaintances and made new ones.
Because I hadn’t passed my test yet my mother drove over to pick up Anton and myself and his luggage. When we got back Grandad had already gone to bed and Anton and I had a late supper.
The following day we left before Grandad got up and went on the first of the excursions that had been planned.
It was a fun day out visiting some of the sights along the coast and there was an evening out planned for later. In the meantime I headed home with Anton to introduce him to my grandfather.
With some trepidation I took him into the lounge where Grandad was watching television.
I gave him my usual hug then said: “This is Anton. He’ll be staying with us this week. Remember I told you about the trip we took out there.”
He started to get up carefully and Anton stepped forward saying: “No, don’t get up sir. I am very pleased to meet you.”
As Grandad sat back Anton put his hand forward and there was a polite shake between them.
Then our guest said: “Excuse me a moment, I have to get something from my luggage.”
He came back with a bottle-shaped package, another flat package and an odd-shaped small package.
He put the first package on the table and said: “That is for your parents.”
The flat package he handed to me and the final one to my grandfather.
“This is for you Herr Lloyd, a small token of respect from a generation of young people who want to reach out in friendship.”
I waited whil Grandad opened his gift to reveal a rounded-off triangular ashtray with a floral decoration handpainted on the base and a gilded greeting:
“Grus aus Gögglingen”
Grandad looked at it, then looked up at Anton and said: “That is a very thoughtful of you young man.”
I almost breathed a sigh of relief. As I said my grandfather rarely spoke about either of the wars, although I was aware of one other incident.
On the first day of the Somme in 1916 Grandad, Bill and young Bob were each with their Pals’ battalions ready to go over the top. A few days before they had met up in a little town near the front.
The three of them had no idea it was the last time they would all be together.
At the end of that first day Grandad and Bill made it back to their appropriate trenches.
Bob did not.
We had quite a busy itinerary that week, including a trip up Snowdonia. On the third night it was a home evening for the hosts and their visitors to get to know each other better.
Grandad and Anton had not spent much time together but that evening he asked our visitor if he played cards.
He did, but we did not recognise the names of any of them. Then Grandad asked Anton if he would like to play cribbage.
I don’t know if any of you have ever played this game but I used to spend hours playing it with my grandfather.
Points are scored by matching up cards in your own hand and a dummy hand. The points are marked up on a board with holes and pegs.
Although he had never played it before Anton took to the game very quickly, although he only beat my grandfather two or three times.
In fact he was so keen on the game that he asked to play it with Grandad at almost every free moment.
It was a joy to see this simple game not just bridge the gap between generations but also between nations – nations which had been at war with each other not just once but twice within living memory.
This was not the highlight of the visit.
That came on the last day when Anton was due to leave. He had shaken hands with my parents and my sister but when he turned to say goodbye to my grandfather he said: “Anton, I have enjoyed your visit here very much and especially our time playing cribbage. I want you to have this.”
With that he presented Anton with his cribbage board.
That may not seem very much but Grandad had had that board since he first played cribbage and he had taken it with him in 1915 when he was shipped over to France.
I have never felt as moved by the presentation of such an apparently simple gift as I did that day. I know Anton was moved as well. He was literally speechless and he gave my grandfather a hug with tears in his eyes.
I stayed in touch with Anton for a few years after that and he always asked after my grandfather.
A simple gift but presented with so much friendship behind it.
(*cribbage points are made by by matching values to make 15. A five plus a 10, jack and king would give 15 three times making six and if the jack is the same suit as the start card the winner gets an extra point – one for his nob.)
PS: I bought Grandad a new cribbage board and played many more games with him. I still have that board.