John Edward Cooper’s Notes

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“We dun’t want boys in while we’re ’avin’ uz teas”

Early Days
“Your grumpy grandad”
 1. I have a vague memory that Jones referred to my paternal grandfather once as “your grumpy grandad”, and that I expressed some sort of objection to him for it. (I wouldn’t have felt it my right to use such a derogatory descriptor to refer, for example, to “Dads”, though he could be testy at times.) I don’t think my protest brought about any relenting on Jones’s part, though: just his somewhat surprised assertion that my grandad was indeed grumpy. I don’t think I went as far as punching him in the expanse of his soft, grey-pullover-clad belly, as I did on another occasion.[i]
[i] A walk with Jones

“We dun’t want boys in while we’re ’avin’ uz teas”
 2. Had Jones received a similar reception at Nanny and Grandad’s to one that Chris had, which has become part of our tradition? Here is a reminder of the situation there:

Nanny and Grandad lived at the far end of Neville Drive, Thornton, at No.4, the last-but-one house on the left; or, I could say, the nearer one of the last semidetached pair. Inside the front gate, they had a rose arch: an arch of steel mesh around which rambling roses grew. Beyond that was the front door, on which unknown callers or tradespeople knocked; and, just to the left, a green-painted, tall trellised fence with a gate that led to the similarly green-painted side door, through which known people gained access to the house. Steven and I went there at least twice a week, for on Thursdays we had our tea there, and on Saturdays both dinner and tea.[ii]

“Dinner”, the main meal of the day, always and invariably started at 12.30 p.m., and “tea”, the lighter evening meal, at 4.30 p.m. Nanny and Grandad Cooper came from Sheffield in south Yorkshire,[iii] but there must have been a common culture across much of the north of England, particularly among the older generation, for the same or very similar mealtimes were kept by Chris’s relatives in Grimsby, Lincolnshire.

[ii] Nanny and Grandad’s house, and environs, par.3
[iii] Nowadays
[2016], this is “South Yorkshire” with a capital “S”, but here I just mean “the southern part of Yorkshire”.

 3. Chris was aware of the situation, and had perhaps made what he considered to be sufficient allowance for it in the timing of his visit, to call for me. Nevertheless, when he knocked on the windowless green-painted wooden side door, which was located in the corner of the kitchen — perhaps I opened it — he heard from beyond the living-room door, open in the diametrically opposite corner, my Grandad’s irascible call: “We dun’t want boys in while we’re ’avin’ uz teas.” It could be that I was expecting Chris and answered the door, only to have to shut him out. “’Avin’ uz teas” wasn’t an activity that could be accomplished within a few minutes. It couldn’t be rushed: one was required to rest for a period afterwards to “let it go down”.

 4. “I’ll wait for you,” Chris may have said, and after I finally emerged from the same side door, I found him crouched just beyond the trellis, out of sight from the street, between the trellis and a bush. “I went to the farther side of the trellis and… I crouched behind the bush so as not to be conspicuous to passers-by,” Chris confirmed to me in 2016. “I don’t know why I didn’t just go for a walk and return later, but maybe the idea of hiding seemed more conspiratorial!”

 5. Subsequently, when I was with Chris, it was not unknown for him to take up this position when I went in to fulfil my “uz teas” obligation, and still be there when I emerged again. It was a posture which I found very uncomfortable, painful even, to maintain, so I marvelled at his ability to do it for well over half an hour.

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