This was the speech that I made at Dads funeral in Stoke Row church.
I wanted to say a few words to re-live some memories with dad and to tell you a bit about how he spent his time. If you don’t really know someone then you can learn a lot by their actions.
My first memories start with a building site, when mum and dad were extremely busy trying to turn a run down cottage into their dream home. Dad had a steep learning curve to climb to pick up all the building trades. Mark (mums father) was able teach dad the necessary knowledge and draw up the architectural plans for the house. Dad kept just as busy with the house for the rest of his life, the house was the focus of his free time and although dad died young at least he got the chance to complete his dream. If fact now the house is finished I think he would feel a bit lost. He worked extremely hard at it, he never watched TV, we didn’t even have a TV until half way through my life [find out exactly when]. To me he seemed like one man army and every time that I came home at the weekend from school I looked forward to seeing how much the house had grown. Dad used to work with a spotlight after dark, he forced himself to finish the current task. Work didn’t seem to tire him out, he had so much energy. He’d come home in his uniform after a nights flying, have a cup of tea, change into his overalls, put the cement mixer on and climb up the scaffolding to lay some bricks. He was one of those people who seem to make more time in the day while the rest of us struggle with the hours that whiz past. He was the absolute opposite to lazy.
I remember having one wall of my bedroom made of tarpaulin which used to beat and flap in the wind. I remember having baths outside in a iron cattle trough and having to push snow out the way to get to the toilet. I particularly remember waking up one night really needing the loo and having to balance along a scaffolding plank to get to the toilet. I was told that Ed, as a baby was perfectly happy to climb ladders and scaffolding but when dad finally got round to building the stairs he was petrified to use them. He built us a tree house, but then had to cut all the trees down to make room for another building.
I want to emphasize the other trades and hobbies that dad was interested in: We had a boat which dad had repaired and used to take it to Henley regatta and row to picnic spots and watch the fireworks. Dad kept bees and mum used to make the most fabulous honey, whilst dad used to get the most spectacular bee stings. Dad used to do a bit of farming and used to while away the summer evenings cutting the grass of a number of fields scattered about the village and make hundreds of bales of hay, Ed and I used to have our tea in makeshift houses made of hay bales. I remember he taught James to steer the tractor when he was still a baby sitting on dads lap and there was many a time when he used the tractor to tow peoples cars out of the mud. He also sheared the sheep. He used to go to the Shiplake shoot and bring home pheasants for us to have for Sunday lunch, where we had a competition to see who could find the most lead pellets in our meal. He was a good mechanic and good at fixing broken electronics and machines. My first bike came from being rescued from a skip. One time he took me camping and our matches got wet in the night so to start a fire for our morning fry up he dismantled my bike dynamo and got it to produce sparks that lit our fire. I remember us trying to fly his petrol engine radio controlled aeroplane that he had built as a child, it crashed straight to the ground and burst into flame. Some of dads best inventions were his table decorations that he used to build for Christmas. He built miniature cable cars that would parachute presents down onto the table, skiing Santaâ€™s, surprise fireworks and gun-powder trails that would spell out “happy Christmas” in burning writing. I think the best one was an aeroplane that was supposed to swing down and land on a runway in the middle of the table but unfortunately the wine glasses had been laid too close and so as the plane landed it chopped off some of the glasses at the stem with its wings. He was a member of the parish council and took an active role in the community. He built the village playground and I was the first person to test the aerial-runway which turned out to be much too fast and I careered down to the end where I flew off and snapped my front tooth. He lessened the slope of the wire after that.
Holidays with dad used to be great fun. He was a maniac skier, always looking for a crevasse to fall down. Dad used to carry a rucksack with him until lunch where we’d find a nice quiet spot with a tree or rock for mum to sit on for a picnic where he’d take the battered beer cans out and put them in the snow to cool down, and distribute our squashed sandwiched. The beer of course used to fizz like mad when it was opened. He invented the chocolate sandwich with condensed milk filling. If we were on a beach he would get me to swim out to a nearby island with him, which always used to be much further than he imagined and caused me to nearly drown every single time. Then there was the supposed ‘short cuts’ through foreign countries which took us to the middle of no-where on dusty, washed away mountain passes where the road twisted and turned and was half crumbled away and all there was to ask directions was a old mountain goat.
I’ll miss his distinctive laugh, his strength, his energy, his huge appetite, his constant encouragement and I’ll miss his ability to fix all our problems.