I have been struggling to write my latest post. I have toyed with sentences and paragraphs, typing and deleting, scrapping everything and staring at a blank screen. This post marks an end to something. It is unlike each of the other 150 plus posts I've written over the last few years. It is a strange feeling, typing away, and knowing that these words will never to be read by someone who read every single word of each earlier post; my writing's keenest supporter, my blog's biggest fan.
My grandfather was the first person who told me I should write, and with such solid encouragement that I truly believed I was withholding Pulitzer Prize-winning material from the world if I didn't. He patiently read - and genuinely seemed to enjoy - everything I ever wrote, from blogposts on house-boats to journal accounts of trekking Peru's Cordillera Blanca, even the less than exciting corporate literature I produced in my professional life. And when I began this blog he was one of The Accidental Londoner's first readers and most ardent champions. With a drink in hand, during visits to my grandparents' house, we would dissect my latest post - him approving of an angle taken or cautioning against antagonising an author whose work I had reviewed. He read each post on hard copy print-outs rather than online, before filing them away in the enormous lever-arches in which he archived his descendants' outputs and achievements, or photocopying them to send proudly round the world to his friends. I know that my last post on farmers' markets lies next to his ancient, now dormant, computer as I type. It was the last writing of mine that he ever read.
Last week my grandfather, Colin McIntyre, died. Within a life spent travelling the world in the armed forces, gaining degrees and Jitterbug-ing titles, playing rugby, writing books and poetry, undertaking press postings to the UN, and launching two new Doctor Whos at the BBC, my grandfather's greatest source of pride was his family. He was a truly excellent grandfather; generous and thoroughly indulgent of his grandchildren, endlessly supportive and encouraging, embarrassingly proud and wonderfully entertaining. He plied me with bottles of gin and armfuls of the Sunday newspaper style magazines that he knew I loved. He sent me proper letters - always a nice surprise to find on the doormat in the era of quick-and-easy email - signed in emerald green ink, and enclosing articles on subjects in which he thought I might be interested; travel pieces, reviews of places I would enjoy visiting, ideas about writing, suggestions for blogposts.
But he was much more than the Accidental Grandfather. For one who always remained cautiously unconvinced about the opportunities of the blogosphere and Twitter, he has appeared as something of an inspiration amongst those who use these media platforms. After the BBC published an article on him - amongst the many impressive things he achieved in his life he was the founding editor of Ceefax - I watched amazed as Twitter feeds lengthened with messages from people who never knew him, but recognised him as having created something wonderful in Ceefax. 'Sad how often I only find out about interesting people when they die' remarked someone. Well @toddmgreen, he was even more interesting than you know, and those who did know him are extremely proud of him.
Yes, one day the ex-editor in him might have driven me completely nuts as I strived to develop my own writing voice and direction. And his constant twitching and warnings about my flitting round the world to 'dangerous' places merited many an eye-roll. But in the last week this city has lost one of my favourite things within it, and the person who gave me the confidence to do something I have grown to love more than anything else is gone. I never told him how much of my desire to write stemmed from his support and unwavering faith in my abilities, and I'm not sure he would have believed me if I had. Should this writing lark ever come to anything however, and I manage to produce a handful of published articles or even a book, I am sure that he wouldn't have been remotely surprised. He would have simply been delighted. And so I will keep on trying; because he believed I could do it. And I'd love to prove him right.