Capstan Mediums and engine oil,
Knobbly hands from the years of toil,
Driving like a maniac
Foot to the floor no looking back
Taking old Ladies off to mass,
Pockets always stuffed with cash,
Guinness and Whiskey with my mum,
Till News at Ten's titles run.
Tales of flying and old outback
and wartime colleagues who didn't come back
Your charmed life, sold me a lie,
I really thought you couldn't die
Now all I have are memories,
but these don't fade after 30 years,
Through all those times, good and bad,
I will always love you Dad
Sunday 1st April would have been my Dad's 101st Birthday. Sadly he passed away in January 1987. It was a total shock to me. I should have realised, but I didn't. Years before, he'd told me a story. He said that when his Wellington was being shot down over Romania, he had prayed to the Virgin Mary that it said in the Bible that a man lived for Three Score and Ten years, just before he baled out of his plane. He said he pulled his Parachute chord and landed about three seconds later. his plane crashed about 300 yards from where he landed and exploded on impact. He sprained both ankles on impact. I asked if he was worried about what would happen to him when he got to 70 given that he'd made a deal. He'd replied that if he'd had the time, he'd have cut a better deal, but he didn't really have time to think and roared with laughter. He was actually 69 at the time of his death so was in his "three score and tenth" year.
It is fair to say I had a difficult relationship with my Father as a teenager. We both were strong characters and prone to being difficult. He had an explosive temper and was prone to rages, which dissipated as soon as they blew up. He always said I had an "Irish" temperament, as unlike him I held grudges and sulked for days. He didn't get Punk rock at all. He told me on more than one occasion that the songs had no tune. I simply thought he was old and out of touch. But when it came down to it, he'd always come good and was the person you'd want in a crisis.
He pulled me out of all manner of extremely difficult situations. He always simply said "put it down to experience". His advice was always sound. his view of life was that it was there to be lived. He only saw my band play twice, having claimed that it was just a racket and he had better things to do. When he saw us in 1986 at The Grahame Park Summer festival, he came up to me afterwards and apologised to me. He said "That was great, I'd never realised that you were serious and that the band are very good". I was quite shocked when he said that.
Our last face to face conversation was something I will always cherish. My Father had just come out of hospital following a Gall Bladder operation. When I had visited him in hopsital after his op, I was shocked. He looked old, he looked at deaths door. Of all the things I'd seen, I'd never seen him looking vulnerable. I made the same mistake he'd made when he prayed for his three score and ten. I prayed that he'd get better and I'd have "one last chance to take him out and buy him a curry". He made a miraculous recovery. As he was soon well enough to look after himself, My mother had gone to visit her sister who was unwell in Bournemouth. I thought "I'd better take him out for that curry!". My Dad loved curries, but Mum hated them. We went to the Mill Hill Tandoori and had a feast. We adjourned home and talked to the wee hours, over Guinness and glasses of Johnny Walker. A couple of days later, Mum and Dad went to Florida for the winter. My Sister Valerie lived there.
I spoke to him by phone at Xmas, but just exchanged pleasantries. In late January, I got a call from my eldest Brother. He'd had a heart attack and passed away. I asked if he was still in Florida. My Brother said "No, Auntie Margo has passed away, Mum and Dad flew back yesterday, but he's lying on the floor, he's dead". I was living in Queensbury. By the time I got over, he'd been taken away.
On our last evening out, my Dad gave me some advice. He said "You are the most like me, you are a risk taker and you'd rather be having fun than making money. You know, you need to make sure you don't end up skint" I said "So how did you manage to avoid that?". He replied "I married a good woman!". So I asked "And what sort of woman is a good woman?". He replied "In your case, anyone who would put up with you!".
Whereever you are Dad, I hope you had a great birthday!