Wednesday, August 21, 2013

My Grandad and his Orchids

My maternal grandfather, Harold, was a quiet, gentle man who had fought in Gallipoli and the Western Front in World War 1. He was too young to fight and actually too young to even go to war in an ancillary role but his family were French and they wanted him to go and help their old country so they allowed him to lie about his age and join the Army's Field Ambulance Corps.

Grandad's 21st birthday was the original VE day - 11th of November. What a celebration that must have been. When he came home at the end of the war, injured by shrapnel in his leg, he worked as an engineer up in the open cut tin mines at Tully, QLD. 

Grandad came to live with us in Eden when I was about eight. I loved him so much and would spend hours with him probably annoying the hell out of him with my non-stop chatter. He would tell me about the war and the tough conditions that the men lived through in the trenches in France and about his training in Gallipoli doing similar work as Simpson and his famous Donkey. I used to always think of my grandads as "WW1 Grandad" my maternal grandfather Harold and "WW11 Grandad" my paternal grandfather Frank, who was imprisoned in Changi. Years later I mentioned to mum about some of the things he'd told me and that I used to put my hand in the flesh pocket that the shrapnel had made in his thigh and rub cream on it (it sounds revolting but I loved being trusted to do this for my Grandad) and my mum was astounded as Grandad never talked about the war with her and never let her touch his scar. I think it's lovely how grandparents can find it sometimes easier to open up to their young interested grandchildren about things that can't bring themselves to mention to their own kids. I also loved hearing his stories of working in the mines and looking through his tin specimen collection. I think those talks and my love for technical lego, sparked my initial interest in studying engineering.

When Grandad lived with us he had a large orchid house at the bottom of our garden. He would spend hours there tending to his beloved plants and doing the crossword from the paper. I'm sure he probably was also hiding out from annoying little children  His orchids were so special to him and he took beautiful care of them. A tea cup of water a day for each plant was his motto.

Since Grandad's death in 1982, the orchids have been at my mum's and now the majority of them are with my sister and with me. We gave a lot of them to mum's friends as living reminders of her. I have mine lined up against our back fence but I certainly don't take care of them like Grandad did, they are too straggly and covered in cobwebs, but they have rewarded me all the same.

There are so many blooms and more to come over the next few weeks . I love looking out and seeing their pretty colours against our blue fence. I can't bring myself to cut them off the plants and bring them inside. But that's ok, they probably live longer out in the garden anyway.

A nice reminder of my gentle Grandad and of my mum. What a beautiful living legacy from them both.  These plants are over 50 years old now. Hopefully I can keep them alive for many more years but I think orchids are pretty hardy...right??(please say yes)

Do you love orchids? Can you bring yourself to cut them and put them in a vase? or do you leave them in the garden?

Today I am hopefully finishing a beautiful French desk that's been a major restoration project and starting on the French wicker bed for my daughter. 

have a good day
Fiona x


  1. Hi Fiona. your photographs of your orchids are magical. I think orchids have a majesty about them. I don't grow them but my husband Ross does. Over the years (we have been married 40 years) Ross has had times when he has showered them with attention and others when they have been neglected, some have died and others have been very hardy. Recently Ross has started to slow down and now works 4 days a week. The last few Mondays he has bought a couple more orchids. I'm pleased he is showing a interest in them again. He will sometimes cut a spike and bring it in but we really prefer to leave them on the plant and place the whole pot into a decorative sleeve and put it on the outdoor table on the undercover deck. They are beautiful to see through the back windows. A lot of the orchids were from his mum, she was the gardener in the family. She could grow anything. Sorry, I seem to have gone on but the orchids bring back lovely memories of a wonderful lady.
    Best wishes Brenda

  2. I was drawn to this post because I adore orchids and my grandfather was also very special to me.

    Our neighbours moved to America when I was little and my mum inherited all their orchids. Most are still going strong these days. And they are completely stunning in Spring.

    I do cut them and they last a long time in water. Up to 6 weeks. They also do very well if repotted with special orchid mix. They need a bit of water, but apart from that, not much care at all.

    They are a gift that just keeps on giving.

    I loved your story as I am very much into military history as well.

    I have already read about WW2 G'dad and they both sound very special. There is nothing so wonderful as a gentle and caring man.


  3. Beautiful flowers and photos Fiona and such special memories for you. I really like how lovingly you speak of your grandparents. Have a lovely week. I'm looking forward to seeing your next projects
    Beth x

  4. I love orchids.My nana and my mother have green fingers and can grow anything ther'e Orchids are and were stunning.Me I have green fingertips.I can grow somethings but don't have the desire to do it like them I mean I have beautiful gardens but I wish I could grow Orchids-love dee xPS cant waitto see the bed you are making for your daughter

  5. Such a sweet memory, Fiona.... I think of my grandmother when I see daffodils. She always had them in her yard, and they are SO common here in the spring but for some reason always make me think of her.

    1. Lucky you to have a daffodils growing wild. Would remind me of the UK. Nice to be reminded of our grandparents isn't it. Hope you have a good week. I'm exhausted! Just started a new contract marking university essays in Critical thinking in the business school. I think long term it will be easy but just hard working out all the nuances of marking. And have just painted a French desk that honestly I've spent about 30-40 hours on. So ridiculous.
      Don't you hate those sorts of pieces!
      Fiona x

  6. What a gorgeous story about you and your grandfather. I honestly didn't know they could last 50 years! My dad (whom we lost last year) loved orchids and always wanted to put some in our bathrooms where-ever we lived, but we never did! I don't know why. You have reminded me that I should do that now in his memory.

  7. The pic's glorious, and to think of the generation that has loved them. The story was so touching. My grandfather was too old forWW1, but he did describe the indian battle's in the Dakota and told us about a grandfather who fought at the battle of Shillo(sp) CivilWar.He was great for big expresions. I was 7 when he passed. Grandpa was born in 1877 So the youngest brother stepped in. My uncle Fred was amazing. WW1 the red arrow brigade and their battles no one would want to remember. ThenWW11 he was now a general and he told me a liitle about 1 but never talked about 2, he was army intelligence because spoke fluent German. Thank you for bringing back great memories

  8. a lovely story and lovely flowers!

    1. Thanks Keya, I am really enjoying them and the hint of spring they promise


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