I’ve read several tributes to fathers today, Father’s Day. I suppose I’m a bit late now, seeing as I’m writing it at 10 o’clock, but I wanted to share with you some thoughts about my father, Reg, who died in 1986. This is not be an eulogy, nor will it be very long. He was a –
- Schoolteacher, fascinated by his subject – geography – and with the ability to explain anything in a way that was easily understood by me, at whatever age I happened to be at the time.
- Sportsman, primarily a cricketer, who played for Leicestershire during the war, and even when I came on the scene when he was thirty-nine, an active member of several cricket clubs. Other sports he played included: football, until my mother forbade him at the age of fifty-five to continue, because she was fed up with dressing a knee injury sustained in a masters versus boys match; tennis; hockey; rugby (a bit); squash; everything else. He was an ardent Leicester City fan through thick and thin (mainly thin).
- Mechanic, never happier when tinkering underneath a car or mending machinery, often with my mother begging him to buy new. When called up in World War Two, he wanted to service aircraft for the RAF but, having had scarlet fever four times, he was declared unfit for service, so he carried on teaching. He also loved steam railways and model railways.
- Carpenter and DIY man, who preferred to do all shelf-building, washer-changing and decorating himself. He reckoned he, as an amateur, was better than any ‘proper man’, although he had to defer to my (maternal) grandmother on wallpaper-hanging.
- As poor a musician as I am, with no sense of time or pitch. (My mother was a great singer and pianist.) He despised ‘pop music’, although he did have a sneaking admiration for the music of ‘The Beatles’ after hearing their songs all night through the party-wall in our semi-detached when our neighbour’s son had a few friends round.
- Actor and producer (before I was born). At school, he appeared in Gilbert and Sullivan’s The Mikado and his mother retained his costume, using it as a dressing-gown, until she died in 1969.
- As bad a gardener as me. He did like to grow runner beans on tall sticks, also dahlias. His birthday being on 28 May, I once bought him dahlia seedlings, only for them all to be killed by an unseasonal frost on our lawn on 27 May.
- Unadventurous traveller, never venturing outside the British mainline, except once in 1974 when I dragged him to The Netherlands for three days. (He enjoyed his holiday abroad but never wanted to go again.)
- Lapsed Anglican, despite my mother being a devout Christian. He had a thing about Roman Catholics. He had had a Catholic girlfriend but dumped her immediately he discovered her religion.
- Man who misliked change of any sort, he spent a lot of time explaining to me why older things were always better. For a long time, he convinced
me. Leicester’s motto is Semper Eadem (always the same).
- Politically, a right-wing Conservative. He supported Enoch Powell. If he were alive now, I’m sure he’d vote Leave and support Ukip.
- Devoted husband, who nursed my mother as the dreadful disease, onset at my birth, consumed her, manoeuvring her up and downstairs every day, lifting her feet under his own. He never once complained.
When my mother died, my father went to pieces. He became emotionally dependent upon me and I, at seventeen, couldn’t cope. His cousin several times removed (my beloved Auntie Myra) tried to lift some of the burden, but she lived in Cheltenham. Nevertheless, he supported me in going to university as planned, even though he missed me terribly and irritated me by forever asking me when I was next coming home. (Understandable, I suppose.) He eventually found solace playing bridge in a bridge club, and I was relieved when he remarried, to one of the bridge-players, but she was not very nice to me and drove a wedge between us.
When I was about to go into hospital to give birth to my son, I asked my father if he could travel the hundred or so miles from Leicester to Guildford to visit me, but he replied “We’ll see,” (meaning my stepmother would see) and he never did. He did however appear at my son’s christening – half way through – but died of a sudden heart attack, two weeks later. My husband and I arrived late for his funeral because northbound traffic on the M1 was gridlocked.