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One More Battleship

by JohnnyA 

Posted: 09 August 2006
Word Count: 1471
Summary: We could learn a lot from the old ships that walk about

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Funerals are portrayed as terribly sad affairs on TV and in the movies. They usually run in slow motion with the camera panning lovingly across a celebrity family predictably all dressed in black. Real life is nothing like the movies though and if there were words I could use to describe my Nan’s funeral they would be ‘colourful’ and ‘drunk’.

Charlotte Miranda Tucker was a hundred years old when she died. Battleships have sunk faster than my Nan did. Her funeral reflected her life. The chapel was decked with bright flowers all over the place. Flashes of orange, green, blue, yellow and red assaulted all the mourners as we filed in for the service. Everyone laughed and cringed when they saw the coffin which was royal blue – my Nan’s favourite colour. We all had to be dressed for a party – per my Nan’s instructions. So that meant casual attire with jeans, shorts and loud Hawaiian shirts being seen all over the place. Even the vicar had been forced to wear sandals and a sombrero upon ascending the pulpit to deliver my Nan’s final address. As a close personal friend, he had also agreed to read out the will in accordance with her wishes. I remember hearing a few disgruntled snorts after he’d finished.

“To my family and friends,

You can’t take money with you so I spent the last of mine on this funeral party. I hope you’re not too upset that I haven’t left any behind. Have a good time though as it’s all at my expense!

Bye for now.


We laughed and after a few arguments, everyone settled down. That evening everyone got plastered on the booze my Nan had pre-ordered. Even dead she knew how to throw a party.

The next day was a Saturday and I received a letter along with my hangover in the post.

“Dear Will,

Hope you’re well! I never got the chance to congratulate you on getting that promotion! Your Dad told me about it a month ago, but as you can imagine, I had other things on my mind. Anyway, keep up the good work and look after that girlfriend of yours. I like Susie and she’s good for you!

I’ll write soon!


Ps. Your Grandfather says hello and asks if you know where he left the remote for the TV? He doesn’t need it, but I think it’s been bothering him for a while now.”

At first I thought it was a joke. Examining the letter I checked the postmark and raised my eyebrows when I saw that it didn’t have one. The writing on the front and on the letter definitely looked like Nan’s. I started thinking. I’d had several promotions over the years so she could have written it ages ago but forgotten to post it. Maybe my Mum or Dad had found it going through her house and decided to drop it in. I stomped off to find some paracetamol and thought nothing more of it until the next Saturday where another letter was waiting for me.

“Dear Will,

I’ve started getting used to the new place. Your Grandfather’s still as grumpy as ever but at least he goes out now. I never thought I’d see the day! Anyway I heard you’ve been having a spot of bother with Susie (such a lovely girl!).

Do you want my advice? Stop being an insensitive clod and just be there for her! She might open up a bit if you stop interrogating her!

Anyway, look sharp and I’ll write soon!


I hadn’t told anyone I’d been having problems with Susie. I frantically studied the envelope and letter back to front but couldn’t find any postmark or date. It looked like my Nan’s handwriting, but it couldn’t be! Someone was having a sick joke at my expense.

That night I met with Susie and took her out to dinner. Even though someone was messing with me, I had been thinking about what the letter had said and grudgingly decided to follow its advice. So I was Mr Attentive and tried to be the best boyfriend possible. It must have worked because Susie told me she was pregnant right after I’d asked her to marry me.

“Dear Will,

A little birdie tells me you’re going to be a Daddy! Congratulations! You’ll make a great Father. Trust me. I’ve been through two wars and a sexual revolution so I know about these things. Your Grandfather sends his regards (he’s still harping on about that remote!) and we’re both very happy for you.

Don’t be scared now. Fatherhood’s a blessing and nothing to be afraid of!


I was afraid of being a Dad, but I was more afraid of where in blazes the letters were coming from! I’d reconnoitred my entire family, but had found no evidence that one of them had been pulling a prank. My younger brother had been the prime suspect for a while, but after a week’s surveillance of him and my mail box I was forced to conclude that it was someone else. My suspicion transferred to the Postman. I jumped him one Saturday morning and tore his post bag to pieces. There was no letter from my Nan and the Postman had me charged for assault.

After I’d been released from the police station, I found Susie waiting at home holding a familiar envelope in her hand. I had become Sherlock Holmes himself so I thought it understandable when I yelled and accused her of impersonating my dead Grandmother. Susie didn’t quite see it that way and flounced off crying; throwing her engagement ring at me on the way out. Paranoid and angry I tore open the letter she’d left behind.

“Dear Will,

Shame on you! You go after that poor girl and make it up with her. She’s the best thing that’s happened to you and will ever happen to you. So help me! Who do you think you are? Josef Stalin?

Your Grandfather says hello.


Ps. He is still asking about that remote!”

My Nan wrote to me for about seven years after that. Every Saturday morning I’d find the familiar envelope amongst the post. I never talked to anyone about it, not even Susie. People would have thought I was mad. The letters grew to be a source of comfort though and I must admit it was nice to get a distant perspective and some advice on my life.

After our third was born, Susie and I spent weeks trying to come up with a name for the baby. She was our first (and only) daughter and we were terrified of mucking up something that important. We’d spent weeks going through baby books and talking to friends and had made huge lists of names that we stuck on the walls at home. Naming a child is tough but I was getting sick of referring to our daughter as ‘sweetie’ or ‘oh-god-she’s-awake-again’.

One Saturday morning after a restless night of singing to the baby, I received my Nan’s weekly correspondence.

“Dear Will,

How you’ve grown and your children too!

Anyway, I just wanted to let you know how proud I am of you. I know you’re a million miles away from where you thought you’d be, but you are truly blessed. Keep plugging away at that song writing. You were always a good musician and the only one in our family who could ever carry a tune! Be with your wife and children and enjoy yourselves. I’ll be watching.


Ps. Your Grandfather remembered where he left the remote! It’s under the sofa at your Mum and Dad’s. Silly fool left it in his trouser pocket when we went round there years ago and it dropped out!”

The next day we were having lunch at my parents’. Dad and Mum had both been lampooning us for not naming the baby yet. Susie and I laughed but told them of all the trouble we’d been having. Mum said it was a disgrace and told us we weren’t leaving until we’d decided.

After the table was cleared we sat on the old leather sofa my parents had in the living room. I had my arm draped low over the side and near the floor. Feeling something hard brush my fingers I gave it a pull. A dusty old black remote control for a TV sat in my hand. Dad had dozed off in his armchair; glasses halfway down his nose whilst Mum was arguing baby names with Susie. With a growing sense of certainty I interrupted them.
“I know what to call her.”

I never got another letter from my Nan, but I’m sure she would’ve been proud of baby Charlotte – my own little battleship.

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