Tuesday 9 October 2018

Michael Shaw RIP

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Michael Shaw RIP
I awoke this morning to the sad news that my Godfather, Michael Shaw, had passed away. For many years, Michael and my Aunty Audrey lived around the corner from us in Goodwyn Avenue, Mill Hill.  Audrey is my mums youngest sister and now the last of that generation.

Michael was a Yorkshireman, who came down to London to find work. He met Audrey, fell in  love and had four amazing daughters. Michael worked in the building trade with my aunties brothers firm, Fanning Builders for many years. Michael worked as a driver, delivering skips and supplies to building sites all over Mill Hill and Edgware.

After finishing with Fanning Builders, Michael had a spell working at Lawsons woodyard in Totteridge and finished his working career driving for Starbus, ferrying around disabled youngsters. This was  a role Michael was well suited for. His greatest talent was his kindness coupled with his sense of humour.

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Audrey and Michael's wedding
Its fair to say that Michael was far more concerned with family and community than career. Audrey was the one who was good with the pennies, working in Lloyds Bank in Mill Hill Broadway for decades. Michael was a stalwart member of the local Roman Catholic community. He volunteered for the parish as a member of the Knights of St Columba. I well remember one incident that my father recalled, where Michael was assisting my Dad delivering some furniture for an "unmarried mother" in Essex. The parish had a whip round and purchased the goods. As my Dad had a works van, he had to deliver the items. As was the way with my Dad, he simply dragged Michael away from the beer he was supping in front of the telly, saying he'd buy him another later.

 He knew Michael would always drop everything to help out. My Father, not knowing the road network, accidentally turned down a one way street. Immediately they were pulled over by a lurking police car. My father was being grilled by the police in a most hostile manner. Michael took exception and got out. He said "We are are from the Sacred Heart Catholic Church in Mill Hill and we are delivering furniture for a poor, unmarried mother with a small child". The Policeman rounded on Michael and said "The last thing we want around here is a couple of drunken paddies causing mayhem on our streets". For my Father, who was a very large Australian of ill temper, this was enough. As an ex RAF officer, he rounded on the policeman "You are really not a very good detective are you. He's a born and bred Yorkshireman, far more English than the pair of you. As for me, I'm an Australian, I only found myself in this Godforesaken place because I joined the RAF to protect the likes of you from Hitler". The policeman, realising that he was on thin ice with my Dad then turned to Michael and said "Right, we're breathalising you and we'll have your license". Dad then said "You really are lousy detectives, he was the passenger. You can be as pissed as a fart if you are the passenger". The Policeman had a cunning plan. He told my father "Yes, but it's only your word against ours that you were driving!". Michael said "Why would he get a drunk to drive his own car when he's completely sober?". At this the police said "Well you'll lose your license for going down a one way street". Michael, who as a professional driver was clued up said "Let's go back and see if the no entry sign was obscured. It is a bit suspicious that you were waiting for someone to turn here". At this, the police backed down and said "Well this time we'll let you off with a warning". When my Dad got back he was livid. He didn't take such things well, but Michael found it hilarious. He said "The look on their faces when you told them that I was a Yorkshireman and you were an Aussie was classic, Laurie". After a few Guiness and scotches, my Dad eventually saw the funny side and often recounted the story of how he and Michael banished the forces of evil in Essex.

Michael was an ever present at all parish events. Any fundraising activities Michael would do the donkey work.  When I was a teenager, Michael was a great person to have around. He took me to several England matches at Wembley. Only having daughters, he enjoyed the opportunity to spend some time in male company! We'd have a beer and a chat. Michael would always give you an honest opinion. When we first opened the studios, Michael rang me and asked for a chat. I went around and over an obligatory beer, he explained that he'd always wanted to play drums. I arranged for a friend to give him a couple of lessons. To my surprise, Michael had a great talent. He even asked me if he could borrow a couple of my albums and recommend tracks to listen to to learn interesting drum patterns. As I was a big fan of The Heartbreakers, I lent Michael their debut album LAMF and explained a why he should pay special notice to what Jerry Nolan was doing in "All by myself" and "I wanna be loved". Michael intently studied the tracks. A week later the album was returned Michael explained "When I first heard that, I just thought it was a racket, but when I listened to what Jerry Nolan was playing, I realised what a great musician he was. You know I'd never have appreciated it otherwise. Mind you, I could only listen to it when Audrey was out, she hated it".  I asked Michael once why he'd taken up drumming so late in life. He said "I never really had the opportunity when I was younger. I always wanted to. Never go to your grave with regrets for things you could have done. When you opened the studio, it was a great opportunity". Michael explained how important to him it was that all of his daughters learned the piano. He said that if you understand the piano, you understand music. Like many people, when you talked to Michael, you found a whole dimension that was surpising.

Michael was a Labour man. He hated the policies of division that he felt the Tories stood for. When I stood for the Liberal Democrats in 2010, he was shocked and asked why. I explained that I saw it as a way of keeping the Tories out of Mill Hill.  He approved. When the Lib Dems formed a coalition with the Tories, Michael demanded I cancel my membership. As a straight talking Yorkshireman, Michael was one person who you could rely on to tell you straight.

As Audrey and Michael got older, I'd get regular calls to visit to fix the telly. Neither Audrey or Michael could figure out all the new fangled controls, and usually they'd just turned the control onto video mode. Changing lightbulbs was another regular task. One time, I had to replace four. I commented to Audrey that it was strange four went at once. Audrey told me that Michael had told her not to "bother me as I was busy" and it was only when the landiong went, that it was worth a visit. I told her that it wasn't a chore, it was a pleasure and call me straight away anytime. I'd always have a beer and a chat with Michael. I'd always make sure I had a joke or two up my sleeve.

Following a botched operation, Michael had to walk with sticks. He'd force himself around the block every day. Eventually the large house became unmanagable and they decided to move to be nearer to where their daughters were living. I was sad to see them go. The last time I saw Michael was at another Aunties funeral. He was happy in his new environment.

I will miss him.


Unknown said...

RIP Michael - Ilove you as my Uncle.

Unknown said...

Thanks for posting this Rog. Rest in peace Great-Uncle Michael, and thank you for being such a great man xxx All of our love to our family xxx Caroline