Born in Birmingham on October 11th 1925. Went to Five Ways Grammar School. His father, William, died when Dad was 15. Was evacuated during the war with his mum to Monmouth. Joined the Royal Engineers and was promoted to Lieutenant. Didn’t see any action but built a lot of bridges across India and Japan, and played a lot of sport. He continued the army connection when he demobbed and joined the TA. He rose to the rank of Captain.
Went to Birmingham University for a while after the army. First job was with the weighing machine company, Avery. Became an insurance broker in Liverpool. He joined the Guardian Royal Exchange when the Royal Exchange Assurance company merged with the Guardian Assurance in 1968. He stayed with the GRE until his retirement in 1987.
Dad and Mum (Lorna) married in 1955, had Sue in ’56 and I followed in ‘62. We moved to Farndon in 1964 leaving Mum’s parents and Dad’s mother back in Liverpool.
Lorna and Denis were divorced in 1976. Dad moved in temporarily with Peter Rowlandson’s family at Twychooks near the church, then moved on to lodge at Nancy’s. In 1978 he moved into 1, Speedsway, Farndon, and was soon joined by Claire, who stayed for several years before they went their separate ways. Dad retired in 1987 and spent many many happy days playing golf and Bridge.
His dream came true in 1994 when Mum came back to Farndon to live with him. Unfortunately the dream was shattered that same year when she died. Dad didn’t get over this and was never really the same again. Despite problems with his legs (which eventually caused him to give up golf) he still derived enormous pleasure from the golf club, the people there and the Bridge.
Dad died at his home in Speedsway, Farndon, of bronchial pneumonia complicated by Chronic Obstructed Airways Disease on Monday, January 7th 2008.
Short pen portrait
On the face of it his appearance doesn’t sound very prepossessing. His self-perceived short stature (five foot eight – every inch of which he was always conscious about), bald pate and false teeth (since 25 when a cricket ball hit him in the mouth) don’t sound too good on paper, but Dad was a good looking lad and grew into a popular and famous (in Farndon and Curzon Park Golf Club anyway) ladies man. He was especially proud of his moustache and was often found stroking it. Dad never had a comb-over but tried his best to cover up the bald spot. The tonsure reached a maximum diameter very early on, it didn’t spread any further and this left him with a luxuriant growth around the sides and at the back through which he would drag his hands with such obvious relish and satisfaction (or was he just checking it was still there?).
He threw away his suits after he retired and spent the rest of his life in smart casual mode. Pastel shades took over from greys. He was an adventurous dresser – yellow trousers (not just for the golf course), pink shirts. Not a dandy, but careful about his appearance (it took him half an hour to get ready for the pub). He was not vain, but he was self-conscious. He hated his photo being taken.
He always thought he was skinny but actually he was quite well built and certainly not undernourished. He was fit and healthy despite suffering from piles for most of his life (everyone knew this; he was not afraid to give a commentary on his constant companions).
He had a very strong suite of ethics that included honesty and generosity (many thought – “ … to a fault”).
He loved intellectually-challenging past-times like cryptic crosswords, quizzes, scrabble and Bridge.
He was a great dancer and women loved dancing with him.
The Masonic Lodge in Bootle was a major part of his life in the ‘60s.
Dad was renowned as a sportsman. Throughout his life he gleaned enormous pleasure from playing cricket (many clubs throughout the north west), rugby and hockey (with the army), badminton, tennis, bowls, and, of course, golf. He was a good sportsman too; Cheshire County Cricket standard (he was invited to play for them in 1959).
He was a member of Chester Curzon Park Golf Club for over 30 years and loved every minute (even the bad shots (and there were one or two) were soon forgotten). He was beloved in turn by most of the members, especially the ladies. His handicap went down to 10 at one stage, aided and abetted by a succession of drivers (including “Big Bertha”) and a thousand different putters.
His putting style was unique, no-one else putted side-on, Sam Snead-like. He swore by it but usually at it. He didn’t start a trend but he was more than happy to be a one-off and different.
He loved playing sport with me and Sue. He was a great coach. Very patient and knowledgeable.
With his wrinkles and laughter lines etched deeply into his face, his wicked chuckle and dirty jokes, his off-beat humour and his willingness to talk to anyone and everyone, Dad was a real character.
He was also an enigma.
Some Memories of Dad
Our Dad was as honest as they come; I don’t think he stole a thing in his life. When he needed some ashtrays he wouldn’t just take them from the pub, he had to ask the manager for one. And when they said no problem he insisted on paying for them, which of course resulted in a protracted argument. He usually won. Like when he was paying for drinks (he was always first to the bar) or for meals – it was always a struggle to ever pay for anything when Dad was around. Generous to a fault.
He was in Insurance for over 40 years but NEVER claimed on a thing.
He drank in moderation (usually lager, latterly white German wine) and smoked to excess.
Three main things brought pleasure to Dad – sport, smoking and the opposite sex. Not necessarily in that order, and not necessarily one at a time.
Sport, though, was his abiding passion. He held a cricket bat at the age of three and went on bowling until his late 50s. During this time he played for the army, Bootle and Sefton (both in Liverpool), Boughton Hall and Eaton. Very often he would forego the pleasures of a family holiday for the competitiveness of a cricket match. The smell of linseed oil is a strong memory for me. As are mouldy pads and cricket bags.
Entering his retirement he took to wearing really daring colours – pastel shades of pink, yellow, lime green, powder blue. Very daring. Unfortunately some of his trousers weren’t of the best quality, they lacked … substance. They were sometimes semi-transparent and you could see his undies. This never seemed to bother him at all and he continued to wear them regardless.
Because of his recent relative immobility (very painful legs – he virtually subsisted off cocodomol) he had to give up golf and became passionate about Bridge instead. He loved intellectual card games and he threw himself into learning the ins and outs of bidding with as much gusto as once he’d devoted to sports. He was a little disappointed that I didn’t learn the game, but at least Sue learned to play in order to give him a game.
He was a young member of Edgbaston CC and collected many autographs.
He had a reputation for kindness. The new assistant secretary at the golf club said that he was the first person that she got to know at the club when he came in and gave her a hug. Another person said that he was the first person to help him when he moved into the village.
He could never understand why I was a vegetarian and was forever trying to convert me. He’d look at me and say “Go on, Tim, you’ll love this beef … Mmmmm, this Spanish sausage is fantastic. Just try a little bit. Come on, you know you want to.” “No Dad, you want me to.”
In the last few years he had really become adventurous with his food. Previously a meat and two veg man, he moved into Camembert, goats cheese and Spanish meats. But garlic was a flavour too far. Never!
Films: war films mainly e.g. “A bridge too far”, “Tora Tora Tora”, “The Battle of Britain”, “Bridge Over the River Kwai” – he took me to see them all at the cinema. He didn’t like “Blade Runner” and eventually our tastes diverged and became too different for shared cinematic trips.
Everyone remembers Dad. At his local Barclay’s branch in Saltney, Pauline, the manager, said, “Oh Denis, of course I remember him, he was only in last month. He was such a lovely man. Always had a twinkle in his eye. Always liked a joke and had such a dirty laugh!”
He had an almost pathological fear of hospitals and doctors. You’d always know when “Casualty” or another medical drama had just been advertised on TV because there’d be “OH CHRIST!! Oh my GOD!!” followed by a frantic scramble for the zapper (some curses if he couldn’t find it) then silence (a very relieved silence). When I rang him on Sunday 6th January, and he sounded so weak and quiet, there was no way I could persuade him to call the paramedics … Perhaps I should have rang them but he’d have hated it. And he’d have hated the fuss.
Dad retired in 1987 but had spent many years leading up to this event by putting in some serious practice in order to make the most of his imminent leisure time. He was renowned for getting back from work in time for Jackanory. His routine was: drop Sue off at Queen’s School at 0900, get into office and clear desk. Leave for “The Paddock” (cafe in Chester’s precinct) at 0930 and stay there with his cronies, talking and doing the Telegraph cryptic crossword, until 1100 when he’d nip into his car to get to his “patch” around Nantwich to arrive in time for lunch. Some work in the afternoon then back for Jackanory at 16.15. Perhaps I’m exaggerating slightly (his annual appraisals were all glowing and he always exceeded his targets) but work was definitely not his raison d’etre.
The oldest swinger in town …
Golf took over his life from about the age of 48. “Golfers World”, Ping clubs, Titlist balls, “Hill Billy” electric cart, George Parton (the Pro at Curzon Park), Vic the Secretary, milky coffees (made his own way at the club), a laugh with bar and restaurant staff, a laugh and a smoke with his mates, getting pleasure from saying, “No-one interested in the golf [on telly] then ….? Who the bloody hell is interested in this football game? … Isn’t there cricket on the other channel? … I wonder how the rugby’s going?” This gentle ribbing was a favourite past-time of his.
He hated playing snooker but would often indulge me at the club after a round of 18 (or 3 in later years). It wasn’t much fun. As soon as he started to miss pots (which was within the first two shots of the game) he would lose interest. He would give up and just whack the balls without looking at them. The old bugger.
He loved and looked forward to his Sunday evening telephone conversations with me. These went on every week (bar trips abroad) for 25 years.
Earliest memories of Dad include me being bored stiff at Farndon Memorial Hall whilst the parents played out their tennis match. The bowls there were more entertaining (and quicker). The Hall was a major venue of socialising for Dad – badminton, tennis, bowls and dancing.
One memory of badminton was when we were playing a “competitive” match against a killer local team (I think it was Aldford). He decided that a shuttle cock could be played on the other side of the net so long as the net wasn’t touched – you could reach over the net to smash it down before it came over to your side – a pre-emptive strike as it were. He was adamant about this and a huge argument resulted. He won the argument and the point but was later to be proved wrong. Dad was forceful and passionate but not always right.
He was a very loving, caring, and concerned father to me. We had a close relationship. I felt very protective about him but I still persisted in causing him stress and anxiety when I went abroad even though I knew it hurt him. He didn’t like it when I went to Venezuela over the Xmas period. He was always especially worried about where I’d sleep because years ago I was a little wild and slept in cars all the time, or beaches, or on benches …. I don’t do that anymore, I’m too old, so I recently had to constantly reassure him that I was going to use hotels and beds and bathrooms. It never helped. He was convinced I was sleeping in opium dens and on motorways. Maybe he thought he’d indoctrinated me into such behaviour from an early age when he used to order me out of the house and to go and play on the electric railway lines. He was joking. The closest were in Manchester and too far for me to walk to.
With his moustache and matinee-idol looks (see the photos if you don’t believe me!) Dad always liked to think of himself as a David Niven look-alike. Then DN died and he stopped saying that, although I cruelly went on to say that he resembled Niven more and more each day. In latter years I think he evolved from DN into Leslie Philips. He never went as far as to say “Ding Dong” but his lecherous laugh and twinkle in his eye were enough.
He was not renowned for his patience (except for coaching sports), especially when driving: “Look at this proper Charlie in front. Bloody road hog. Bet he’s wearing glasses. And a flat hat. Bloody hell, can’t he go any faster?!” And what happened in later years? Never drove over 40 mph, always wore his golf cap (flat) and had to use glasses for everything. (He had several pairs (in various states of disrepair) located thoughout the house where he could find them whenever he lost his usual pair.)
He tried to teach me to drive once. It was a nightmare. “Mind that bloody car! Pull over! Pull OVER!!! There’s a bend coming up. Mind that CARRRR!” He was especially annoyed when I crashed the car. He didn’t teach me again after that.
Dad had a very difficult relationship with Sue. This started in the early 1970s when she was 14 or so and he was about 45. I always felt awful and learnt to refuse to discuss the situation. Dad was always in a bad mood after the calls. Latterly the two seemed to be moving closer which made him happier. He became more talkative and enthusiastic about the positive side of Sue and her life.
Dad had really strange ideas about Capitalism. He was a confirmed Tory (a true True Blue) but he didn’t approve of commerce, entrepreneurs or making a career from “The Trades” (even though it would have resulted in a far better income than anything else Sue and I have tried our hands on). He didn’t even approve of me carol singing when, one Christmas, I set out with Steven Taylor for a tour of the Townfield estate. Afterwards, he ordered us to give the money back, virtually accusing us of obtaining money under false pretences. He was probably right.
He used to call me Timbo.
He loved antiques shows on TV, and was always on the lookout for valuable things he might have hidden away. He’d say to us, “That’ll be worth a bit”, and “Don’t whatever you do throw that away”, and “Just have a look in the attic, Tim”, and “I’ll leave this vase for you and Sue so that you can sell it”. Cheers Dad.
Midsomer Murders and Taggert were perennial favourites. The Golf Channel was the best TV channel ever created apparently.
Deafness came on him in the last 10 years, at least he was deaf when watching TV (not so deaf when you mumbled something derogatory about him under your breath). The volume was always turned up to excruciating levels. One time when he and the neighbours were enjoying Foyle’s War and I was trying to read a book, I put some ear-plugs in. He looked at me bemused, thought about it for a couple of minutes, then muted the sound. When I took the plugs out he turned the sound up again. It was difficult to understand him sometimes, and he could be quite contrary.
Fun on a “Solo” outing
Dad was pretty dashing when young. His uniform helped this image of course. First the Royal Engineers (Lieutenant) then the TA (Captain). The girls loved him and Dad liked to reciprocate in every way he could (get away with).
Here’s a wee limerick that Sue and I came up with this week: There was an old lecher called Dennis, who played a mean game of tennis. But he was better at cricket, and had a wicked middle wicket, which he used to become quite a menace. (Apologies to Uncle Ted.)
Claire moved in with Dad in 1978 and stayed for 5 years. One of the best holidays of his life was with Claire in La Rochelle, France. This resulted in one of the most beautiful photos of Dad – relaxed, smiling and obviously really enjoying himself. After they parted in 1983, Dad had plenty of ladyfriends but always lived alone. He was forever hoping to get back with Lorna.
He went to India, Japan and Glasgow when he was in the army. He hated travelling and didn’t have a good word to say about any of these places. The food in particular was “bloody awful”. He liked Chinese food though.
He could never understand my passion for foreign travel; worse still, he became frantic with worry whenever I told him of my plans. I used to wind him up something rotten and when he asked at New Year where I was heading for next (having just come back from the Amazon jungle) I said, “Kenya”. He said, “I knew you’d say that! Of all the stupid bloody things to do …” I’m sure he knew I was joking. Maybe.
Last year I was in New Zealand and sent him constant postcards and emails during the 3 months I was away. One email told him of the sky diving I’d done over Lake Taupo. His reply (via the golf club’s secretary) was, “Sky Diving! Golly gumdrops, or words to that effect! Glad you told me after the event!” Absolutely Dad!
During this trip I was visiting various people including researchers, soil scientists and foresters, one of whom took me for a 9.5 hour tour of forests near Gisborne and I got a constant commentary: “ This is a tree I planted in 1978 … This is a group we planted in 1982 … Ooooh look at that! We should have planted up there …”. There was almost 10 hours of this and Dad sent an email back saying, “Pity about the ‘woodsman’, he really must have been a pine in the ass!” His awful puns were a joy to behold!
We went for a holiday, the two of us, a few years ago when I was 36 and he was 73. We went fishing out of Lyme Regis (he always loved boats). After 10 minutes of constantly reeling in mackerel I became bored (and a little sick of it) and went for a jaunt around the boat. It was a small boat. I was walking around the narrow running-board the other side of the cabin when suddenly I heard, “TIMOTHY!! Timothy!! Get DOWN from there!!” I shared a smile of understanding with the other 12 year old who was on the boat with his parents. Dad was forever concerned for my welfare (and always regarded me as a kid).
When our family lived together in Townfield Ave (I was 6-ish and Dad was in his 40s) the parents used to hold parties for the locals (mainly sports people and Ravenites). 6 pint tins of Watney’s Red Barrel, elegant glasses of Babysham and sausages on a stick all accompanied by Top of the Pops Hits of 1969. I think Dad was the only person not swinging.
When he played football in the Farndon Boxing Day matches for the Raven (any excuse to get out of the house and avoid cooking, washing up, kids …) his moniker in the team sheet notes was ‘Denis “Casanova” Bromilow’. One year the notes went, “Ex Hitler Youth movement and Kerry Packer’s circus, Stanley Matthews’ records pale into insignificance compared to Dennis’s (sic) performance. Sets a new league record in this match in being 10 times older than the youngest member of the team. Made some good passes recently but has not scored yet, is still once a year man – football of course.”
I played in one of these games one year (in 1978 as “Tiny Tim”) and in the notes we were the “dual act”. In this one Dad was ‘Denis “Grease” Bromilow. Ex-army (surplus) and Buckley Wanderers. Roy of the Rovers is alive and well and living in Farndon. The player possesses such supernatural talent that he has recently become a ‘Claire Voyeur’ [Dad’s girlfriend]. Still a keen sportsman despite his age [53!] and recently played golf in 6” of snow. His legendary fitness is partly attributed to his hobby – dancing (in fact he once danced with a man who danced with a girl who danced with the Prince of Wales). Lives with Nancy whose face is beginning to smile again [Nancy was his land lady after the divorce]. After the match a collection will be made for this player and the proceeds will go to any club willing to take him.”
Once he played the match wearing a Max Wall wig. It was a bizarre sight to see him dashing down the wing with the long hair streaming out behind him and gleaming pate glaring in the sunshine (well, perhaps this effect wasn’t so unusual). But he loved the joke. Nobody else would have done it.
He was a good sprinter even into his late fifties. I remember him challenging me to a race outside Speedsway when I was 20 and he was 57. He could probably have beaten me even then, but I couldn’t run for laughing and he had to help me back into the house because I hadn’t the co-ordination to walk unaided. The faces that he pulled in order to put me off, and the absurdity of the situation (added to the fact that he might actually have won) were too much for me.
His gamesmanship with me was a gift of God; he took the skill to higher levels that I’ve ever seen. On the 9th hole at Curzon Park he would always remind me about the pond that was 20 yards beyond the tee: ”Don’t worry about the pond now, Tim. Just put the pond out of your mind, don’t let the deep, dark, inaccessable depths of the pond put you off.” Inevitably I’d drive into it and I’d throw my club down and him a dirty look. He’d just laugh with that wicked chuckle of his and think about the next trick he could play, like walking on my line on the green, or standing with his shadow over my ball, or reminding me about the out-of-bounds on the 11th or 12th, or the trees on the left at the 7th. He wanted me to do well and he wanted me to win, but he didn’t want me to win by too many!
When we played tennis (I’d be in my twenties and he in his early sixties), he could beat me without breaking sweat simply by pulling faces and reminding me about the height of the net and the need to get my shots as close to the line as possible, and to serve as fast as possible, and to remember that he was an old man. I’d be a weak, helpless wreck who could hardly lift the racket for laughing.
He loved to pull faces with the kids especially. Some of my oldest memories are of him playing Dracula with his false teeth (his lower set were knocked out when a cricket ball ran up his bat and into his face when he was in his 20s) and scaring me rigid. He was still doing this last year with Fiona’s kids.
When I was a toddler he used to sit me on his knee and ask me to press the knob on his watch. This was a special knob that opened his legs so that I fell through with a rush. He’d always catch me before I hit the ground. The thrill of it was fantastic and he’d build up the tension like a fastly approaching train so that I was giggling before I’d even touched the watch.
I remember, when I was a kid, him driving the old Morris Minor, the model with the foot control for the headlights. He would press my nose and the floor control simultaneously going “On. Off. On. Off.” Not as many traffic accidents as you might think.
He hated football but claimed to support Everton. I used t think it was because the blue shirt meant that the team was Protestant (like Man City), but then I was told the team was actually Catholic. Dad confirmed this and when I asked why he supported a Catholic team he said, “I always thought the blue colour was so much smarter”. Sweet.
Recently he began to support Liverpool but this was only to get at me (in a jokey way). I’ve supported Liverpool for years but I was originally a fanatic of Leeds United. One day when I was 10 I changed allegiance and ever since (for 30 long years) he’s been ribbing me about it. So when he started supporting Liverpool (last year, after years of me asking how Everton were doing and knowing that there would be silence) he’d say “Come on Liverpool! Aren’t my team doing well? Everton who?” and he’d look at me out of the corner of his eye, and we’d both collapse into hysterics.
He was an excellent coach – cricket, golf, tennis, any sport except snooker, which he hated. Oh, and subutteo: when I asked for it one Christmas, he warned, “OK, but I won’t play with you!”
He tried his best to mould us both into champion sportsmen. He was the parent who took us to school matches or badminton clubs. He was a very patient coach. Very methodical. Read all the coaching manuals going. Didn’t mind when I hit the cricket ball through the glass-panelled front door or his bedroom window. That didn’t stop him from continuing the programme of tuition. He was so proud when I scored 20 runs for the Rabbits at Boughton Hall when I was 15. (He didn’t seem to notice that they were bowling underarm and the fielders were unable to catch the dolliest of chances.)
Not that he was obsessed with our success. He was not disappointed when in later life we failed to get to the Olympics or play for England. All he wanted was for us to enjoy sport and to play it to the best of our abilities. He was, though, quite disappointed when in later years I gave up golf and football, but he didn’t dwell on this. Not very often anyway. Every three weeks or so he might ask, “Did you play any sport this week?” “No.” “Oh” he’d say quietly, and you could hear the regret in his voice, but he wouldn’t say any more.
Receiving the Wyatt Cup (bowls?) in the army
Toilet was the best room in the house for dad. He used to spend hours in there, probably to get away from us. Peace and quiet! Quiet fag. Book. Toilet paper. What more could a man want.
Music never played a great part in Dad’s life; he liked it but he could easily go for several years without playing a record. His Hi Fi (which he bought when he moved into his ‘bachelor pad’ in 1978) was almost sealed with nicotine stains. But I do remember certain tunes that he used to hum and certain records he had. Records such as “The World of Paddy Roberts” and Herb Alpert and the Tijuana Brass, and The Drifters. Paddy Roberts sticks in the mind. We used to sing together the lyrics of “Gentlemen must please refrain from passing water while the train is standing in the station, stationary. Workers working underneath are apt to get it in the teeth, and they don’t like it, nor would you!”, and “I love Mary …” and “The foggy foggy dew” and … oh, there were so many.
Dad had a habit of matching songs to the situation or to the mood. He used to heartily sing “The sun has got his hat on … “ whenever the sun came out. Or “we’re all going on a summer holiday …”. Or, “I’m going to buy a paper doll that I can call my own, a doll that other fellas cannot steal ….” – a tune that he used to sing in the car when he picked me up and took me to golf when I was 14, after the divorce.
He was extremely upset by the divorce. He was always crying when he picked me up for badminton at Rossett on Wednesdays, and for golf at the weekend. This went on for at least two years. One time we were driving back from the club and as per usual he was crying, and he looked at me and said, very seriously, “Should we end it here? Now? Should I drive at the wall?” I told him that it wasn’t a good idea. He often took my advice, even way back then.
In his early years in Farndon he was a parish counsellor. I don’t remember that he did a great deal but he was very proud of the fact.
Dad loved to shoot his air rifle. He would stand (not sit) for hours at a time at the kitchen window looking out for wildlife to target – foxes, crows, pigeons – nothing was safe. In later years he actually began to be interested in birds and gardens (a major major change in attitude). He even went as far as to get an ID book of birds, and he invested in peanuts and feeders for the garden. Maybe he just wanted to lure in some more victims? He would still have his 22 at the window to the back garden (along with the binoculars). The book might just have been a chance to ID the birds he shot? Anyway, I think the birds got the message. The peanuts have lasted 3 years, unchanged, and not a bird was seen in his garden. Again, his reputation went before him?
But I don’t really think so. I think he was gradually (very gradually and slowly – after 40 years) adapting to rural life and becoming interested in natural things. The fact that birds didn’t visit his feeder really made him sad. It’s a shame, if they’d come in flocks of amazing numbers and colours and diversity he would have been exalted. Having said that, I saw a robin going for a mouldy peanut in his garden today …
Over the years I’ve sent Dad loads of postcards and letters, and he’s kept them all. I usually sent him letters after arguments over the ‘phone. I would be trying to reason with him and he was refusing to listen. So I sent long letters explaining what I was attempting to say. He kept them and I think they helped him understand me (and himself) because he could read them at his leisure and digest the contents in peace. He never ever acknowledged that he had even received the letters let alone had read them or accepted their contents.
One such letter followed a particularly disturbing incident in the clubhouse a couple of years ago. Dad was very upset about the fact that my hire-car was playing up and he thought I wasn’t doing anything about it and so he was frightened that I would end up having a terrible crash and dying. I could see his point but from where I was standing everything was OK and under control. But he refused to believe me and ended up getting madder and madder. It was especially shocking as he appeared to have forgotten that he was in a very public place. This is my description of him in the letter I sent the next day (from Scotland):
“I have to explain how I felt when you spoke to me … Please bear with me! But it’s not going to be nice reading. We were in the club house having a coffee. You sat next to me, shooting daggers out of the corners of your eyes, muttering, not so sanely or quietly, over and over again, “Stupid! Stupid!” … You were mad. Unhinged. Distorted. Your face was so contorted it was barely recognisable. … Your eyes seem to pop out, they bulge when you get mad (become mad). Your cheeks sink in, your mouth gets tight, small, thin-lipped; it purses out and looks like it wants to spit spite and bile and ill-words. … Your eyes fill with hate (they do!); you look as if I have behaved in the most heinous fashion, like I’ve murdered someone, like I’m the worst person in the world.! And all I’ve done is not heeded your advice and instead I have followed my own judgement. This is how I felt about you.”
Dad never referred to the letter, but I think he appreciated the tone of it, the non-accusatory but still shocked tone. He was very rarely like this but when it happened it was not a little disturbing.
Anyone who knew Dad for any length of time would have known all about his friends, the Haemorrhoids. Dad suffered from these from … well maybe since he was a child. Ever since I’ve known him anyway. We used to get regular updates about their behaviour and health. Usually they were behaving very badly and were extremely poorly. Not surprising really when you add up all the time he spent reading and smoking fags on cold toilets. His piles went before him (so to speak): he went to a golf club for an “away game” one day and a person came up to him to shake his hand and his first question to Dad was, “And how are your piles?” Dad had never met the guy in his life.
As a small child (maybe of 6 or 7) I would periodically get fed up with the household and would pack a small brown paper bag with cans of food, can-opener and socks with the intention of running away (which I would announce solemnly to the family if they were around). One time when I did this, Dad followed me out of the house so I picked up speed to get away from him. He matched my speed and so I went faster. Eventually we were lapping the house at a rate of knots with me just out-stripping Dad, lumbering along with my brown paper bag, and Sue and Mum killing themselves laughing in the kitchen. I’m not entirely sure what was going on in Dad’s head at the time because he could have caught me in a sprint when I was 20 let alone 6.
On the other hand, after I was divorced (from my wife, Alison) I went to Dad to talk about what was happening and about me and about what was going on for me. Dad didn’t want to hear and walked away. I tried to catch him up but he walked away faster. We didn’t actually end up chasing each other around the house but it was a close run thing. Dad definitely didn’t like to discuss close, personal things.
Dad was a collector: of autographs (cricketers and footballers); of old coins (stuffed into jars and carefully wrapped); of stamps (some still to be pasted into his album). Not professional and not obsessive but I remember cleaning pennies with HP when I was young. Cheap child (family) labour was not a thing he had strong feelings about.
I was given 5p a grey hair when I was 8 or so. (I had to pull it out, not bring it to him.) He must have been in his early 40s at the time. Memories of me bending over his head whilst he sat in the chair and watched Grandstand. We must have looked like a family of chimps.
He bought a small dingy when we were young (Dad must have been in his 40s). They called it “SueTim” maybe because our neighbours, Fiona and Bill Scott, had a boat called “Fibi”. We took it on to the Dee at Farndon one lovely summer’s day. Dad was so proud and I was so excited. We sailed it up the river and were going OK – no hitches or crashes within 100 yards of setting off, quite a record for us – but then we hit a spot where some boys (Leslie Norman I remember) were swimming. Leslie swam over to us and suddenly unhinged the rudder rendering us helpless and adrift. Whilst he and his gang were almost drowning with laughter, Dad was not-so-quietly turning puce with anger. He couldn’t do very much about it and we got to the bank safely but we didn’t ever sail there again.