‘Grandpa, why are you sitting out here in the garden? It’s nearly dark and Nana says it’s going to rain.’
He turned his scarred face to me, dark glasses like pools of blackness. ‘Best time o’ day, Robbie; especially this time o’ year – autumn – and especially if it’s going to rain.’
He took a deep breath. ‘Sniff the air, Robbie. What can you smell?’
‘Not just flowers, dozens of different flowers, pick ‘em up, one at a time. Your Nana planted all those scented plants and shrubs – for my benefit. To think I once wanted a Japanese garden, all stones and sand, before this.’ He tapped his glasses. ‘What about the atmosphere? I know it’s going to rain, but your Nana got that off the weather forecast.’ He smiled his infectious smile. ‘I can smell the earth where Nana weeded earlier. Talking of Nana, she’s just made a pot of tea. Can’t you smell it?’
I laughed. ‘You’re having me on, Grandpa!’
‘Oh, am I? Just wait and see. She’ll be out with tea and biscuits in four and a half minutes. That’s how long she brews the tea. Now, Robbie, what can you hear?’
I cocked my ears. ‘I can hear a jet plane…’
‘No, laddie. Closer than that. In this garden.’
‘Oh yes. It’s a bird, Grandpa.’ I almost clapped my hands.
‘Several birds, Son. I can hear a blue tit, in fact a pair of them; a couple of sparrows and listen! That’s a waxwing! We only get them when autumn is really with us. There must be a load of berries on one of the shrubs already!’
Nana must have had a stopwatch, as she came out right on time. Grandpa laughed out loud.
I’d wanted to ask him this for some time. ‘Grandpa, how come you’re always happy when…’
He tapped his glasses.
‘This, you mean? Seriously, laddie, when that Argentinian missile hit the ship I thought my life was over. Then I discovered the most important three words in the dictionary.’
He slurped a mouthful of tea.
‘Always think positively.’