If you really want something – my Granddad learned how to use a computer so that he could teach me

I told you something about my grandparents in the joint blogger post about Grandparents that I put together last year, but today I’d like to tell you a bit more about my Granddad.

You see, when I think about someone deciding what they want and going for it, I often think of him.

This inspires me in an age of quick wins. Where people often give up when they hit the first obstacle. Where we are promised immediate gratification and people seem to feel hard-done-by if something isn’t easy or achievable on the first attempt.

Against the backdrop of all this, my Granddad reminds me that sometimes you just have to keep trying, against all odds, and if you are persistent, you’ll be rewarded.

So, in order for this to make sense, you need to know something about my Granddad.

He left school at the age of 15 and got a job. He had a bakery van and delivered bread. He ran a shop with my Nan. When I was growing up, he worked as a postman. He worked hard and made a living so that he could support his family.

When I was 5, I got my first computer. Who remembers the BBC Micro?

It had an entire 3-shelf trolley for all the things I needed for it. It was enormous. It had a huge keyboard that I typed my first words on, one of those floppy drives that took the 5¼-inch disks and made a satisfying clunk as you locked them in place, an external speech synthesiser with buttons and knobs on the front, and a “pocket user guide” that was two massive folders in Braille (the tactile writing system that blind people use to read).

You could connect a manual Braille input device to it, so whilst any programmes had to be operated using the keyboard, text could also be entered in Braille.

This was all great – and would set me up for life with IT literacy skills, which I would definitely need both throughout my education and my career.

There was just one problem – nobody knew how to use it!

My Granddad did not have a technical background at all. He’d never used a computer at work, and in those days, looking things up on forums wasn’t as easy as it is now. Basic courses or books from the library wouldn’t have given him all the information he needed. It wasn’t just the general information about how to use the computer, but also how the additional technology for blind people could be integrated, how to solve problems, where the access technology reached its limits, how to teach me to use it, and what to do about the error messages that popped up from time to time, or when the speech synthesiser went crazy and wouldn’t stop talking or making sounds (turning it off was usually a good fix for that!)

So he read the manuals. He didn’t have anyone to help him. He just got on with it, and learned. I was eager to learn too, so when I went to bed, he kept reading the books so that he could stay ahead of me and have new things to teach me, or answers to my questions, which never stopped coming!

At that time I had very supportive teachers and a classroom assistant at school, who also helped me to use the new equipment and encouraged me on the odd days when I didn’t feel like learning to touch-type when nobody else in my class had to! I’m so glad I did. But my progress would have been much slower if I hadn’t had someone at home who was interested in helping me to develop and learn.

Once he finished teaching me the basics, he learned how to write small programmes and created games for us grandchildren to teach us maths or word games. A lot of the games that were written for small children were very visual in nature and not accessible to blind children – but Granddad’s ones were!

When I wanted to know how they worked, he taught me as well. I didn’t write any of my own at that time, but I understood how to do it. There’s nothing that tests your knowledge of how to do something as much as someone else asking you to explain it to them!

Now technology is so much a part of my daily life that I don’t even think about it. Equipment got replaced as I grew older and learned how to use new devices. An electronic Braille embosser was added and along came the laptop. Granddad kept up, but I don’t think anything was as steep as that initial learning curve in my first years of primary school.

Now, if my cables are a mess, I still remember how he used to be on my case about them, saying that I should take better care of them!

What I admire is that he took the initiative and did something that he knew would be tough. Of course he could read, but he didn’t have qualifications or knowledge in this field. He was driven by the desire to help me, and so he just got on with it!

It was the same with smoking, or rather quitting smoking. He had been smoking for years, but after a fair bit of nagging from us, yes I was part of that and quite persistent I think, he decided to stop. The plan was that he would collect the money that would have gone on cigarettes, and buy himself something as a kind of motivational reward. He got his video player, and pretty much quit overnight.

I’m not going to get into a discussion here about how easy it is to stop smoking. I’ve never smoked and if someone told me to give up coffee, I would find it incredibly difficult. My point is that he made a decision and followed through, not giving up when it got tough.

I know that as I grew older and went into higher education, my grandparents didn’t understand many of the things I was learning. My love for languages was something they would never be able to relate to – which didn’t stop my Nan trying to read out handwritten letters so I could find out what my German pen-pals had to say!

But I know that if I hadn’t had that early help with my “talking computer” as it was affectionately known, I wouldn’t have had such a good start in life. And that, is largely down to the determination of my Granddad Stan.

Sometimes I think about that when I’m struggling with something that pushes me out of my comfort zone because it’s difficult or new. He didn’t give up, and neither should I!

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In celebration of grandparents and what we have learned from them

I share some things that I learned from my grandparents and then open the question up to other bloggers.

I wanted to write a blog post to celebrate grandparents.

My Nan and Granddad brought me up, and I learned so many things from them. Sadly they are no longer around, but they live on in my memories, and in the many life lessons I learned from them.

I decided to write a few of these things down, and then to ask some other bloggers what they learned from their grandparents. I noticed that when I was talking to other bloggers about scents and the memories they bring back, a number of people mentioned their grandparents. That’s another reasons why I wanted to explore grandparent memories a bit more.

  1. My grandparents taught me that dogs can be a child’s best friend.
  2. My granddad taught me how to use my new computer, even though he’d never used one before. He read up all the books he could find so that he could help me to learn.
  3. My Nan taught me how to bake cheese scones and other tasty treats.
  4. My grandparents taught me that you can discover all kinds of interesting places without leaving your own country. They didn’t enjoy travelling abroad, but we went to many different cities in the long summer holidays and marked the counties off on a map.
  5. My Granddad taught me all the names of the counties and many of the big cities in the British Isles.
  6. My Nan taught me to love books and that there are so many interesting characters waiting to be discovered in them. First we had story time – and she read to me for hours. Later I read the books myself and finished most of the children’s audio books in the library!
  7. My grandparents taught me to work hard for what I want. If at first you don’t succeed…. Keep trying until you do!
  8. My grandparents didn’t have a lot of money, so they taught me to value it and not to be wasteful. If you want something, work hard and save for it.
  9. My Nan taught me that home-made Yorkshire puddings are better than shop-bought ones!
  10. My Granddad taught me about his plants and flowers. He knew all the names, how to care for them, where to put them, and his advice helped me to win the tallest sunflower competition at school!
  11. My Nan taught me to talk – having a blind child, you can’t just point at things, so she talked and talked to me from a young age, explaining what things were, what they looked like, and what they were for. Maybe that’s where I got my original love of words.
  12. My grandparents taught me to find my own ways of doing things. Maybe they won’t be the same as everyone else, but as long as I do the thing, that’s all that matters!
  13. My Nan taught me that preparing for Christmas is almost as much fun as Christmas itself.
  14. My Granddad taught me to swim way before most of the children in my class could.

Now let’s hear from some other people!

“My nana taught me to never change yourself to make someone like you.”
Grace from That Feeling inside

“Mine taught me that to be fully independent it’s actually ok to ask for help when you need. You don’t need to suffer in silence and it’s ok to rely on others.”
Fiona from From Fiona

“My grandparents are no longer with me, but they taught me not to let life stop me from achieving my goals. Don’t stop believing in yourself, that you can achieve anything you set your mind to, just because someone told you it’s not possible. You will always be supported by people who love you; those who put you down don’t need to be in your life.”
Michelle from Oh Sew Vegan

“My Nanny taught me how to bake. We spent hours baking cakes, scones and biscuits, and most of what I know today is what I learned from her. I have lovely memories of it.”
Isabel from Boxes and Swatches

“I only ever had my gran on my mum’s side, and she passed away when I was 10. My mum’s dad passed away when she was a little girl and my gran raised my mum and her brother as a single parent.
My gran loved the opera. Adored it. I have memories of going to her one bed flat as a little girl and hearing her talk about how wonderful Pavarotti is. She was so knowledgeable. Thing is, we don’t know where she got this love from. We’re a working class family from Liverpool. It’s not like it’s something everyone was doing.
Now I’m in London I go to the Royal Opera House as much as I can for ballet and opera. I think of gran when I’m there and how much she’d love it as much as I now do.”
Kim from Kinsey’s Blog

“My grandparents always taught me to do my best and to be proud of my work – no matter what the circumstances. I particularly remember at secondary school in art classes, the whole class was excitable one day and way too noisy. The teacher made every child write an essay on “what is a decibel” for homework in lieu of detention for being noisy. I was encouraged to write the best essay ever at home. It’s always stood me in good stead in life to do your best, to go that extra mile, and be proud of your work…..and it’s something I try to pass on to my kids. In other words, even if you don’t succeed, as long as you’ve tried your best then that’s okay!”
Rachel from The Daisy Pages

“My grandparents taught me that life is what you make it. Both sets of grandparents came from underprivileged backgrounds, but the stories they told inspired me. I share them with others. They taught me that you don’t need money to enjoy life and be loved. Something I hope to share with my daughter.”
Justine from Lilgemandbabye

“Mine taught me to have a sense of humour and that it gets you through the tough parts in life too. To laugh and to love. My nana also taught me to love soaps, (not sure if that’s a blessing or a curse). Also that as long as you’re hard working, it doesn’t matter what you do don’t let others judge you. The sad thing I was taught by them at a young age was that people die.”
Lynne from Almost midlife and looking for a crisis

“Mine taught me the value of a loving family, the snugness of cosy chats by open fires, the welcoming smell of a busy kitchen and the simple beauty of a well kept garden . They all had strict traditional values which I’ve learnt to appreciate more as the years go by.”
Anne from Yoga Ladies

“By the time I was born, I only had one living grandparent, my dad’s mum. She’d raised 4 kids on her own in the 50s during a time when women were treated as secondary citizens in China; she worked, she made all of their clothes by hand, and taught her 3 daughters and my dad that women CAN do anything they put their mind to. They were the most fashion forward kids in school and each of my aunts grew to be capable and accomplished in their own right. My gran taught me to sew, to make pancakes, and she also taught me to take no shit.”
Lucie from Call me dumpling

“My Nan taught me the reality of life. My Nan told me from a very young age about her son she lost when he was just 2 years old, she cared for my great grandmother who suffered with dementia when I was 10 years old, and I watched her cry and go through the transition of losing her husband when I was just 16 years old. She’s my biggest inspiration and I have the utmost respect for her introducing so many realities of life into my life.”
Daisy from Daisarella

“My Granny Eve always told me how beautiful my skin was, even when I had terrible acne as a teenager and incredibly low self-esteem. I’ve finally learnt what works for my skin and it’s now clear, but I really needed that belief in me when I just couldn’t.”
Keely from Keely’s nails

“My Granny taught me that to get anywhere in life you have to work hard and never give up. She was widowed when my dad was only 7 and she was one of the strongest people I have ever met. She could be stubborn and had her own way of doing things but led a full life up to the age of 99.”
Lynn from More 4 mums

“My grandad taught me to value my family and those who love me. The most important thing about life is being loved and to give love.
Natalie from Up your vlog

Elle shares this post about what she learned from her Gran:
“My gran taught me the importance of saving money. She helped me sew to make do and mend, she encouraged me to grow herbs, to not waste food and to look after the pennies and the pounds will look after themselves:
4 of the best money-saving hacks from my Gran

This post is a bit different, but I added it because I thought it’s a lovely way that Moushmi is remembering her Grandfather in this imaginary essay.

“I was so young when my grandparents died but what I learned from my granddad was how to learn spellings of different words. In general he taught me by his actions that sharing is caring.”
Asma from Makeup Dreamer Blog

How about you? Feel free to add what your grandparents taught you in the comments. There have been so many recurring themes about working hard, believing in yourself and trying to be the best you can be. We have a lot to thank them for!

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