, who is not here any more, had twelve grandkids and about half as many commandments roughly sketching out how they were permitted to behave when running riot throughout his house and garden.
Most probably the rules had been watered down by Nanna who knew about his passion for autocracy and wanted to spare us being ordered about.
Grand Dad’s rules, the ones that got through to us kids anyway, were very simple, and there weren’t many them. Mostly they involved practical things like not drowning in the garden pond, not setting the house on fire and not throwing the sofa cushions around.
Probably the only rule of his we ever seriously thought about violating was the one that ruled there was to be absolutely no fighting between the grand children. Sometimes we just couldn't see any other way.
Cousin John for instance, two years younger than me and eight years old, could be a pernicious little git and had been known to attack using his teeth and finger nails at the very slightest provocation. From my perspective dumping the bucket of water over him had been a completely justified pre-emptive strike.
“It was self defence” I explained my voice all choked up with snot and fear and self pity. John and I had been apprehended and brought to justice before Grand Dad himself at the foot of the stairs that led from the garden to the house. John didn’t say anything, it was the end of autumn and far too cold for being dunked with bucket of water to be any fun.
“What did I tell you?” said Grand Dad who was not too fond of words and far too smart to go anywhere near the complex snake pit that was playground politics.
I rubbed the side of my nose with the palm of my hand, John sniffled some more.
“Well” said Granddad, and of course it would only be years later that I realised how funny he must have found it all.
We both murmured something inaudible.
“Well, what did I say about playing here?” He had raised his voice just a little. To us, then, it sounded terribly menacing, “go on”...
John I looked at each other. “No scragging” we answered, shame faced.
“That’s right, and don’t you forget it”. He started back up the stairs, using the handrail to steady himself as he went. “Grand Dad says no scragging”.
Not long afterwards Nanna fixed everything with the liberal distribution of chocolate biscuits and lemonade.
It’s a funny word, scragging. I guess it must have come straight out of 1930s Melbourne, and now Grand Dad is gone I doubt I’ll ever hear it again. No doubt about it though, it was good advice then and it's good advice now.
Good old Grand Dad, I miss him so much.