the king’s speech

"Why George, you look JUST like an old Mr D'Arcy!"

Well, actually, this should have been entitled MY King’s speech.  This isn’t about the film, but is inspired by it.

From what I can make out from the poster and hype etc, it’s the story of King George VI and the late Queen Mum, and concerns his ascension to the throne and the fact that he had a terrible stammer that he had to overcome.

On BBC Breakfast the other day, they had someone from the British Stammering Association on, and this struck a chord with me because it reminded me so much of my wonderful, sorely missed granddad.

The story has it (as my granddad got it out to me one day when i was little) that during the war (when he was a Desert Rat), they were put into teams of 4 at some stage, as they had to go to get two shells for some reason or the other (canons / tanks, I was never really sure) and it took two of them to carry each shell when they first arrived in Egypt.

However, quite soon into the campaign, they had become so fit and able that it used to take just one of them to carry both shells and the other three would just have a fag break.

On one of these occasions, my granddad had gone to get the shells, and when he returned, his three mates had been blown to pieces.  This is when his awful stammer started.

And this is the part of my story that may seem a bit sick to some, but is a great source of amusement to my family.  he had this awful stammer for the rest of his life (obviously – and that’s not what we find amusing).  he was a fantastic bloke though, and he did so much.  He worked at the Guild Hall doing something financial whizzy, and was actually given the freedom of the city by the Lord Mayor (not bad for a Dagenham lad).  another love was playing the piano.  At one stage he was a proper East London pub pianist – so could roll out the old favourites on an almost continuous loop.  He was amazing!

In later years, his hearing was going, and not only did he have the almost debilitating stammer as it was by then, but he also had an awful hearing aid that was forever squealing – and this meant that a lot of the time, he used to separate himself from us, going in the dining room when everyone else was in the sitting room for example.  but every family gathering, he would be back on the piano – providing the soundtrack to my best childhood memories.  luckily we recorded him before he died and play it sometimes when we’re all together.

So – what was funny?  In a sick way?  Well, about 13 years ago, he had a stroke.  He survived – he was dead fit, he could rush up Dagenham Heathway in his Puma trainers before my nan had even shut the front door!  God knows how as he used to smoke 40 Senior Service a day (untipped fags).

With the usual stroke after-care, they gave him speech therapy.  Something an old-timer like my granddad would never have lowered himself too normally.  And can you believe, after about 57 years of suffering with the worst stammer I have ever come across, he managed to overcome it.  He revelled in it – talking to us all like there was no tomorrow.  which is ironic really as 3 months later he died.  To this day, my nan says that if he’d talked like that all the way through their marriage, they probably never would’ve had kids! 😀

That’s my family.  We ARE very close and loving by the way.

So, I’ll probably make sure I watch the film at some stage – even more so as my granddad’s surname was King – so The King’s Speech is even more resonant for me.

(NB:  His name was originally Lindenmeyer as his parents were German, so he changed it at the start of the war to something more respectably British – work THAT one out!)


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