Monday, June 5, 2017

MJ .Tall stories, gardening and 50 years married.

Its 3 years this week since Chris got a phone call from mum in Skegness. She was in tears and explained that dad had fallen asleep and wouldn’t wake up. He had died late on a Thursday afternoon whilst doing one of his favourite things. Looking through and editing photos on his laptop whilst mum took an afternoon nap in the bedroom. It was a complete blow. He had been ill on and off for years as had mum. Over the next few days as we took mum around Skegness organizing the funeral and telling their friends that he had died we discovered that earlier that morning, whilst he had been out shopping, he had seen and spoken to virtually every person he and mum knew in the town. Everyone we met spoke of how well he had looked, how happy and lively he seemed and how much he had to say. It was as if he knew he was going to die and wanted to make sure he saw everyone before he went, but wasn’t allowed to tell anyone it was his last day. I still get sad thinking that I'll never see mum or dad again, but luckily, we have lots of good memories to remember.

Our dad always had something to say – stories after stories, repeated over and over again, in the minutest detail, even when we told him we knew the story, he would continue and reach the end after far too long. But his stories were great. How, I wish I could hear some of them now. I think everyone should hear a few, so now, 3 years after that fucking horrible day, I thought I would write a few things about dad, about what he was like and even share a few of his photos.
Dad, bottom right as a young boy.

In the garden in Skegness, probably one Christmas, with Gareth and Chris

With Gareth as a baby I think and Nan looking on from the side. 

So, dad was born in Sheffield, and spent a load of his youth riding a bike from there to Manchester. Its not a short trip and I wouldn’t do it on today’s modern bikes, so he was already a little crazy to do it on the bikes in the 50’s ad 60’s. I’m not sure when he moved to Manchester, but at some time he met mum and they got married in March 1964 – we celebrated their 50th wedding anniversary a few months before they both died in 2014. It was a strange night, as ever, with my mum holding the cake knife to dad’s throat whilst telling the tale of stabbing him when they were much younger!

After college, dad started work with the Ordnance Survey, learning in Southampton at the head office before taking a posting to Skegness. This is where the three of us kids were born and where mum and dad eventually moved back to, to retire after we had all left home. They always loved Skegness and it always had a special place in their hearts. We visited often to see old friends and to spend many summer holidays.  During this time in Skegness came one of dads most repeated stories. There is a road called Roman Bank, which as the name suggests is a banked road built by Romans. It is raised about 3-4 metres above the footpaths and houses on either side. Dad used to work for an old friend Ken Scrimshaw – doing dodgy deals out of the back of a mini-van. They could have been the original Del and Rodney! Apparently, they invented the first ever penny falls machine but sold the original to a company and never made any money. But had they not sold it they would have been millionaires. As proof that they did build the first one ever, dad would sometimes take us to an old amusement arcade in Mablethorpe, where the original Penny Falls machine was still in use. He claimed that it was the original one he and Ken had built because the word ‘Penny’, was misspelled as ‘Penney’. That’s was it, no more proof, just that fact that it was misspelled.

Dad and Tiny the dog from Skegness

Training for the Ordnance Survey

 Anyway. Whilst driving along Roman Bank one evening in the late 60’s I think, dad missed the bend in the road and took off in the minivan- landing in a garden a few metres below the road level. Dad couldn’t get out of the car as it was up against the front door of a house. So, he wound down his window to press the door-bell of the house! Haahaa. I found a photo of what I think was the minivan, but I don’t think I was born now.
The minivan!

On holiday - probably somewhere near skegness - with Nan and Mum. Dad still had those striped beach chairs in the garage when he died!

With us kids in Norwich Road. Early 70's

Huge sideburns - About 1973 or 1974 in the front garden in Newort. Love the cardigans!

Later we moved to Newport in Essex when dad got a posting to Harlow. After completing some further training dad took a posting mapping the lake district. He would drive north every Sunday for what seemed like years and come back home the following Friday evening. Whilst there he stayed on a small farm near the town of Bullgill, with Robert and Dorothy Woods, who became lifelong friends to him and mum. Dad also loved his life when working up there, flying around in helicopters to reach the peak of the hills and mountains to take photos and measure the area for the maps. He told stories of buzzing cars as the pilot flew as low as possible along the winding lake district roads. Good times -  and it changed our lives as for the next 10 to 15 years we spent many lovely holidays at ‘The Farm’, where city kids like us could herd the cows, swim in the river and play hide and seek long into the summer evenings.

In the lake district working!

The helicopter they flew around in.
On the farm

After finishing work in the lake district, dad got a posting to an Ordnance Survey office near to Manchester and we moved up there in 1976. We all call Manchester our home, as mum and dads family lived there and as kids, so did we. We had a pretty good life, living on Moss Vale Road, in a house on the corner with a huge side garden that as kids we would turn into a mud pit, ruining dads nice grass and his vegetable garden. Dad loved his garden and spent most evenings out there growing stuff like carrots, beetroots, radishes and his infamous marrows, which he would cook with sausage meat stuffed inside. Never in my life have I ever seen marrow eaten anywhere except at our old house in Manchester.

Also, not long after moving to Manchester we bought a dog. The craziest most independent dog you could ever imagine – Rascal. A small but gritty Jack Russell terrier, born on Valentine’s day and with a heart shaped patch on his side. Dad loved the dog as we all did and thinking back now it’s disgusting to remember the dog licking dad’s smelly sweaty feet after he came in from the garden. Then the dog would lick the remains of sugary sweet tea from the bottom of a teacup, before mum would put the kettle back on and make another brew, using the unwashed cups, still with dad’s foot skin inside where it had been transferred by the dog’s tongue! Bleeeugh
Rascal eating ice cream - he was a fat greedy dog!

On the roof of Manchester airport. 


We were broken into a couple of times in Manchester and the thieves stole the video recorder – rented from radio rentals. Dad, as ever, made am unbreakable wooden shelf that the new VCR was sealed inside to stop it being robbed again. I remember coming downstairs for my paper-round one day to find the screws neatly removed and placed on the floor as a thief had taken their time to remove every one whilst robbing us again! When we went on holiday in the caravan – which we all loved – dad would pack the VCR up in mums wheeled shopping trolley and literally bury it under the floorboards in the larder – neatly placing the vacuum cleaner back on top of the carpet hiding the valuable items below the floorboards.
When he was young

Some more early photos - Including swimming in the canal!!

Holiday time when we were kids.

I think this was in the New Forest on holiday. Love this pic. He looks so proud.

It was early in our time in Manchester that dad got quite ill - he got Meningitis and spent months in bed, with constant visits from the doctor and us kids tiptoeing around the house trying not to disturb him. After recovery, he always had trouble with headaches and you could see his veins popping up when he got angry about things. It also meant that he very rarely drank anything so his life revolved around mum, us kids, rascal and the rest of the family in and around Manchester. We were lucky to have Gran and Brenda just around the corner, Cath and Andrew in Stretford and Nan in her old flat in Old Trafford. We visited everyone often. The family, whilst not overly soppy has always been close.
After us kids had grown up, mum and dad decided to retire back to Skegness – where they remained until they died in 2014. They both loved their little bungalow in Melbourne Drive and especially the back garden. It was dads pride and joy and without us kids about to ruin it, it became an oasis of beautiful plants and the odd wild animal. He built a pond with waterfall and filled it with goldfish. Frogs spawned there every year and in summer it was wonderful sitting in the peaceful, lovely garden with a beer and chatting with dad while he worked away. Mum would sit in the conservatory that they had built at the back of the house and bring dad tea and sandwiches whenever he needed it. I hope that whoever lives at the house now appreciates just how much effort and time dad spent out there and that they look after it for him.
Enjoying the garden with mum

and with me at the front!

Lunchtime with Buffy

Mum and dad had lots of friends in Skegness and as dad was always a bullshitter   talker, whenever we visited it would take hours to go shopping with them as they would stop and talk to everyone they passed. Dad would introduce us to everyone they knew and embarrass with stories that we didn’t want anyone to know, but it was cool that everyone genuinely liked mum and dad and didn’t seem to mind that dad sometimes just wouldn’t shut up. I’m sure, just like us, that they had heard the same stories over and over again and knew exactly what the ending was, but it was always fun to watch as they politely listened.  Dad also spent ages showing Buffy mum and dad Susan and Jon around his garden when they came to visit us in UK. I'm so glad that the two sets of parents got to meet as I enjoy talking with Jon and Susan about mum and dad now and they can relate having met them and been to skegness.
Parents and parents in law - in the chippy in Skeg.

Mum and dad were also overjoyed when Dad cousin Tony, with Joyce moved in at the end of the street. Tony and Joyce, with daughters Sharon and Tracey, have always been close to us all. We were roughly the same age as the girls and whenever we visited the southern branch of the family in London we would stay at Tony and Joyce’s house in Ramillies Road and mess about at the Local Golf club. So, when Tony and Joyce moved to Skegness mum and dad could see them so much more often and we could too when we visited. Tony and Joyce eventually moved away but would still meet up with mum and dad often to grab ab bite to eat and catch up. Dad and Tony were friends for pretty much friends most of their lives.
With Tony and Joyce.

Mum and dad also did a bit of travelling later in life. They visited me in Northern Ireland a couple of times and when I lived in Holland – taking the Eurostar over and visiting Brussels and Luxembourg on day trips.
When I got back after 16 months of travelling

On holiday - with mum

Young love!

Dad in Cleethorpes on a day out and visiting Manchester

On his kids bike!

They also went abroad to Malta and spent a nice holiday or two on The Isle of Man. Dad used to like taking photos of their travels and much like everything in his life he was meticulous about the photos being neat and tidy and sorted out properly. In the olden days, this meant we had a cupboard full of old photo albums whilst later in life, with the digital evolution, dad would upload the photos onto his laptop and sort through them, making sure dates and locations were correct as well as clipping and highlighting pictures to make them look nicer.
More cool cardigans and some cool sunglasses! With mum, Nan and Cath.

After dad died, we drove to Skegness to look after mum and found out that dad had died in his chair in the lounge, in front of his laptop. I sat down and pressed a button on the keyboard. The laptop came back to life in a way that dad never would again, but I wanted something to reach out to, to feel close to dad one last time. I saw that he had been looking through photos of the last holiday he and mum took to the Isle of Man. He had always been happy when doing that and I know he was happy to the end. Remembering a lovely time he had spent with mum – the love of his life. I am sure he was probably thinking about these good times as he closed his eyes for a final nap.
One of my favourite photos - me trying on dads glasses. 

What dad was doing when he went to sleep.

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