Writer, photographer, "rapper" and general technophobe takes on the internet in what could be a very, very messy fight. But it's alright: she's harder than she looks, and she's wearing every single ring she could get her hands on.


Monday, 3 May 2010

Missing Links

Missing links are everywhere.

Somewhere in a wood in America is the large footed link between monkey and man; somewhere in a big pond in Scotland is the long necked link between dinosaurs and dolphins and those monsters we think up when we're four years old; somewhere - zooming around the sky, bouncing between clouds - is a big, jolly and clearly drunk bearded man: the missing link between God, Zeus and Father Christmas. Logic dictates it, and so does magic. And so, somewhere, logic and magic dictate that there must be a missing link between Gandalf and Dumbledore; a mystical, twinkly, white haired man; more wise, more kind, more powerful and more just than all the other wizards in the world put together. A wizard that exists in the space where Gandalf finishes and Dumbledore starts. A wizard with a laugh that could fell trees and a frown that - when it comes, so very occasionally - makes them tremble and grow back again, apologising. A wizard who knows more than we can imagine, and who we can trust to keep returning, no matter what: just as Dumbledore and Gandalf do. Logic dictates this, and so - too - does magic.

Luckily, I know where he is. In fact, I can tell you exactly what he's doing at this moment. As you're reading this, the missing link between the two greatest wizards of all time is making himself a nice cup of tea and sitting down to read The Sunday Guardian. He's wearing tweed slippers and corduroy trousers and grey socks, and he may well have stolen a couple of biscuits even though he knows he shouldn't because he hasn't had lunch yet. He'll be putting his glasses on, and running a hand over his nose, and then checking out of the window and making noises at the dratted cats from next door who are taking liberties with his brand new pot plants again. And then, quite possibly, he'll cut out something inspirational - something he would never in a million years have found in The Daily Mail - and he'll neatly fold it up and put it on a table to send to his granddaughter in Japan.

Some of us are born into greatness; the sons and daughters of Kings and Queens and members of Parliament and people off the telly who do Strictly Come Dancing. It's a privilege, and one that the clever among us never forget: one that we carry with us from before we even know the luck of it. I am one of those people. The greatest of all wizards - the missing link - is my grandfather, and I have been lucky enough to grow up knowing that kind of magic: to grow up knowing what it is to have somebody who knows everything; infinitely wise, infinitely knowing, infinitely kind and infinitely just. I have become an adult under the watchful, caring gaze of a tall man with white hair and twinkly blue eyes and an open laugh and a ready question and a ready answer; I have been protected throughout my life by somebody infallible and strong and generous and funny, and always, always there for me.

I have, quite simply, known in real life the grandfather and wizard that Rowling and Tolkien only ever imagined.

Just as Frodo could never have been a hero without Gandalf, and just as Potter would still be wilting and moaning in his little bedroom without Dumbledore, so I would be a different, much lesser person without my grandfather. He is the moral standard I adhere to; he is the watermark of integrity and kindness and strength. In every situation - no matter how difficult - I try and work out what my grandad would do and behave accordingly; in every moment of weakness or cruelty, I remember the family I was born into and try - all over again - to be strong and kind and worthy of it. I owe a large proportion of the good things in me to the only grandfather I have ever known, and to the only grandfather I have ever needed to know. A great man, and a good man.

Not to mention a man who grows really top notch potatoes.

Eighty odd years ago exactly today - somewhat after Tolkien had finished creating his wizard, but somewhat before Rowling had started creating hers - the link between them was born: without much of a fuss but with a whole lot of magic. As logic dictated, the missing link: the greatest grandad, and the greatest wizard, the world has ever known.

And one who - as luck would have it - also happens to be mine.

I love you very much, Grampy Smale. Happy Birthday. x