(pictured above – my grandparents)
My father rarely spoke of his parents. We recently discovered this old photograph and now we know why. It explains so much. My family's fondness for bananas. Our astonishing agility. Why we playfully throw feces at each other. Why the males amongst us are so often found lying in undergrowth, scratching their balls. It also explains why I beat that cinema usher to death with my bare fists when he requested I stop screeching and leaping about during Rise Of The Apes.
My grandmother said her husband was an animal in the bedroom but that he had a sensitive side too. They would weep together at the end of King Kong. They knew no one would understand their love so they made a home for themselves in a remote rural backwater. She accounted for his odd behaviour and appearance by telling locals he was French. The locals had never seen a French man. One local sent a child up to the house for grinds in the language. That child failed her exams but went on to become an excellent zoo keeper.
I'd heard that my grandfather worked for Posts and Telegraphs, fixing the wires on the poles. I have since learned that he studied at night and went on to get a job with the civil service. My grandmother told his new employers that his odd behaviour and appearance were due to the Windscale incident. They said it didn't matter. 'Sure any old monkey could do the job', they reassured her. He excelled.
It was alcohol that did for my grandfather at the end. One night they were arguing over his excessive consumption of fruit (there was nary a grape left in the bowl for the rest of the family) and he stormed out of the house and bounded down to the pub. Sixteen pints later, he was leaping from rooftop to rooftop and eventually slipped and fell. She rushed out on to the road and cradled him as he breathed his last. So sad. So like Kong.
Most get buried in the ground. They put his coffin up a tree. He liked it up trees. She joined him soon after. My father told the locals it was a French tradition.