On encyclopaedias we did never have to call…

Love you always

Yet again my blog has been neglected but for good reason this time.

Sadly, Pa B lost his battle with cancer on 8th April.  It was a heroic fight.  He tried his hardest to recover from the fall which broke his hip and just as he thought he was improving – and the oncologist gave him a prognosis of 6 – 12 months to live – he found himself back in hospital with a low platelet count and the devastating news that the cancer had reached his bone marrow.  He actually passed away only 5 weeks after that prognosis.  But as he had always approached life, he approached death in the same way; with practicality.   I surprised myself throughout his illness by not crying in front of him but the week before he passed away, after a rather emotional conversation about how weak he felt, I finally broke down.  And I laugh even now at his reaction.  ‘Oh God,’ he said, ‘I’ve been waiting for you cry on me for months.  You can’t cry now!  You’ve got to be strong now; we have to be practical because this is happening.’  What I had not been prepared for was how long it would happen for.  Due to my Mother’s devotedness, Dad was lucky enough to be able to die at home and watching someone die is something I hadn’t experience before.  I rather hope I never have to again either but it was an experience I am grateful for.  I never knew how agitated the human body becomes when it’s about to die, how restless, how resistant.  It took days to get his medication right and for his state of agitation to settle down.  Most of the time he was unconscious but could hear so I would read Cider with Rosie to him (as he grew up in the Slad Valley) and sing ‘Little Arrows’ by Leapy Lee as this was the song he would sing to me, as a child, when I couldn’t sleep.  Even in a coma he mouthed the word ‘arrows’ as I sang.

But the most poignant memory for me will always be remembering tears slip down his face as he lay in a coma with his lips pursed ready for a kiss from my Mum.  He really didn’t want to leave her and it is the most romantic gesture I think I have ever seen.  I always wondered where my obsession with romance comes from and now I finally know.

Dad’s parting gift to me was for me to speak at his funeral.  A scary prospect but I knew I would only get the opportunity once.  So I did and knowing how Dad had been in life, I knew he would not want people to sit there and mourn, he would want them to celebrate his life with a good laugh.  So you can imagine my relief at the laughs I received about my ‘know-it-all’ Dad and the clap at the end of my speech.  If you have time, I’ve posted it below and I hope it makes you laugh too.

Being a writer, I like to think I am a very observant person, I think you have to be if you want to write authentically.  But what people have observed about me recently is how ‘together’ I have been since Dad has passed away.  I’ve reflected on this – because being a writer you always have to ask yourself ‘WHY?!’ your characters are doing what they’re doing – and I can only say it’s because I will always be sad.  It may not affect my everyday life but there will always be times from now on which I wish he could share in and there will always be advice I need that he will no longer be there to guide me with.  But he is in me.  He shaped me into the person I am and I am shaping my children in the same way.  So I know there will always be a little bit of Godfrey to live on ❤

Lx

Hello everyone and thank you for gathering here this afternoon to celebrate the life of my Dad, Godfrey.  

My Dad was a darling. He was a true diamond and I could stand here and talk to you for hours about all the adventures we had together but as I haven’t got that long, I would like to reminisce with you about two qualities that I think everyone sitting here will remember about Godfrey. The first of which is laughter. He loved a good laugh and wherever he is now, I know he wouldn’t want you to be sitting here crying; he would want you to laugh along.  So cast away that length of toilet roll you’ve just taken from the toilets, because you forgot your Kleenex on the way out the door, as you won’t be needing it. 

As I say, Dad loved a laugh and my first encounter of this was his propensity to give people nicknames.  I can see myself now shouting, ‘I’m not your fairy!’ at him and I used to wish the ground would swallow me up when he would always refer to one of my childhood friends as ‘Clair de Lune.’  One of my earliest memories is him coming home from work and talking to my Mum about his day and he would refer to people by the nickname he had given them.  There was Chatters, who was Brian Chatfield which was obviously an affectionate one, but there were others such as Parker and Plonker which were not attributed in the same vain.  I am pretty sure even now that that Parker was not because he was Mr Parker, rather he was a nosey parker.  And it really was Dad’s ability to find laughter in the grimmest of situations which allowed us to get through the last few months of his life.

You see, the week Dad was diagnosed as being terminally ill, we got a puppy.  His name’s Sparky because my Husband’s an electrician.  He’s a cross between a Vizsla and a Weimaraner and if you are familiar with these breeds you will know that he is a leggy gun dog and at nearly six months old he is already bigger than your average Labrador. 

And in some respects, having Sparky has had a very positive effect on our family.

And in other’s it’s been a catastrophic disaster.

But it’s only because it’s been a disaster that it’s had a positive effect.  You see, I work from home and therefore I was meant to be around all the time to look after Sparky.  And I felt awful that he was being left alone while I visited the hospital or nipped to look after Dad at home while Mum popped out.  And I’d never had a dog before, my husband has, but I haven’t and as much as I love dogs, I didn’t realise what looking after one full time would be like.  I’d put my bowl of muesli down on my desk of a morning, pop back in the kitchen to collect my coffee and return to an empty bowl with the dog sitting in my chair licking his lips and looking at me as if to say:

‘What?  I don’t like muesli.’ 

So to say it was a challenge is an understatement.  And then I started dog training and the saga continued because all the other people there had cute, tiny puppies they could control and I had Clifford the Big Red Dog that got excited by everything and wanted to put his paws in everyone’s face.  And I started to think, oh God!  What have I done? 

And the only way you can get this dog to do anything is to bribe him with a bit of sausage.  So, I would go around to Dad’s and recount these stories and before long he started looking forward to my visits and his face would brighten when I came through the door and he’d say:

‘Oh, hello, it’s you!  How’s the Phantom Sausage Sniffer?’ 

And it became our ‘thing’ really and he would laugh at what the dog had done that day, be it burying the end of the hosepipe in the garden, being sick all over our bed, or running off in the field and not coming back.  It really became the highlight of his day.  So, I can reassure you, that even at the end of his life, Dad did not lose his sense of humour.

But I’m a great disappointment to my Dad.

Oh, no!  Surely not?  I hear you cry.

Oh yes.  Yes I was.  Because I kept producing BOYS.

And I didn’t really realise that Dad had such an issue with boys until I was pregnant with my first Son, Hamish. You see, I didn’t find out whether I was having a boy or a girl until he arrived and so when I was around 20 weeks pregnant Dad started with these little comments like:

‘Oh my, you’ll have to hope it’s a girl, BOYS are much harder work,’ and as my due date got closer, ‘Oh, I really hope it’s a girl, boys are such trouble.’

And I can’t, to this day understand where this predisposition came from because as soon as Hamish arrived, Dad fell in love with him and the only way I could prize this child out of Dad’s arms was when he needed a feed and then as soon as the baby had finished feeding he would be swept up into Dad’s arms to be winded before I even had the opportunity to protest. He was ever such a proud Grampy.  I used to go over and have lunch with him and Mum and then she would go off to work and Dad and I would take Hamish out in the pram and Dad would take pride in waking around the estate and showing his Grandson off to his neighbours.

So, you can imagine my surprise when I was pregnant for a second time that the same concerns came up in conversation again. ‘Oh, you better hope it’s not another boy. My, two boys that would be a handful. Let’s hope this one’s a girl.’ And yet when Archie came along he fell in love all over again and he was the same protective Grampy he’d been with Hamish.

Then, when I told Dad I was pregnant for a third time, with Laurie, this little voice said, ‘Oh, I guess it’s too much to hope for a girl this time. My, you will have your work cut out with three boys.  They will be a handful.’ And again he fell in love and it’s only in the past few weeks that I came to realise what Dad’s grandchildren really meant to him. 

However, he was right.  My boys are a handful and I love them dearly but, as with so many things, Dad was right. In fact he was often right, which brings me onto the other quality of his which I wish to reminisce with you.

I debated about whether to discuss this or not because I didn’t want you thinking I’m being facetious or distasteful to Dad’s memory. But then only the week before Dad passed away, Mum said to me:

‘It’s alright, Archie and I have been chatting and we’ve decided he’s going take over being the family know-it-all’.

Because that’s what Mum has always called Dad; ‘Know-It-All Bodenham’. And it wasn’t in a derogatory way; it was an affectionate name, because he did know it all. I can give you an example; we were out on a walk in Painswick when I was a child – one of the many long and varied walks I was regularly dragged out on – and I commented that there was a hole in the wall of the church and straight away he was able to tell me that was because the Cavaliers had attacked the Roundheads hiding out there during the English Civil War. And I can remember thinking:

‘Wow! My Dad knows everything!’

And there were many occasions like this, whether it was to do with a type of tree or animal where you weren’t sure what it was and he would have the answer because he had a capacious knowledge on all sorts of subjects. And he was always full of good advice too. He was very good at guiding you to your own conclusion or decision on a matter. And indeed, as I got older and left home, I would find myself in a quandary over something and think, oh, I’ll go and ask me Dad about that. 

But there were sometimes when you didn’t actively seek out Dad’s opinion but he was going to give it you anyway. And you always knew when he was going to bestow upon you one of these great nuggets of information because he would draw himself up to his full height, like this, – you may recall he was only 5ft 8″ so he needed to make the most of it – his head would rise up and  he’d talk down his nose and you knew you needed to settle yourself down for half-an-hour whilst you listened to the omnibus edition of what he had to say. But that didn’t matter because it was only me and Mum that ever got a taste of the full-on-know-it-all-Bodenham, or so I thought….

When I was twenty and not long left home, I worked as a PA and I hated it.  I hated making coffee and buying my boss’ wife’s birthday presents so I decided I was going to have a career change and I’m quite a people person so I thought I’d go and work in Human Resources.  And around the corner from where I worked was a publishing house and they were looking for a Personnel Administrator.  And I applied and was offered an interview with a man call Alan Wright.  And I had heard of Alan Wright, who is sadly no longer with us, because he was part of the old Indalex Crew; he had worked for the Pillar Group which were the parent company of Indalex and had, indeed, worked in the past with my Dad.  And I can remember vividly that my parents were holidaying in Switzerland at the time and they phoned home to see how I was and I said to Dad:

‘I’ve got a job interview.  With Alan Wright!’

And there was a pause on the end of the line.  And I realised this pause was not a good thing.  Then Dad said:

‘What do you want to go and work for him for?  Oh God, you won’t learn much from him.  He’s a plonker.’

And, as with everything else in life, Dad was right.  What I learnt was how to put a bet on a horse and collect winnings from the local bookies. To be fair Alan Wright did teach me quite a few things, nothing about human resources, but plenty of tactics to survive life, like how to fiddle your expenses claim.  And he was obsessed with filing and when I had 101 other jobs to do, I didn’t really see the point in filing and that used to annoy Alan and one day he moaned about my lack of filing and I came straight back about the 25 other things he’d asked me to do that morning and he turned round to me and this is what he said, as true as I stand here now, he said:

‘Do you know, you are just like your father; a know-it all.’

And as quick as a flash I went back with:

‘Well, that’s funny because he calls you Never Wright.’

And Alan walked off in a huff and I went back to doing anything but the filing but it stung because it was the first time that I realised that other people outside the family considered Dad to be a know it all too and not in a sentimental way either.

But what comforts me the most, is that in the past week or so, so many of you have written and emailed to offer your condolences and two qualities about Dad have shone through.  Firstly, many of you have said what a Gentleman he was and secondly that he was someone you could always go to for advice.  Indeed, only last month, when Dad was in hospital, knowing that he was dying, he found another elderly patient in the toilet crying as he had just been given the news that his condition was terminal too.  And it will not surprise you to know that Dad found it in him to console this man and help him come to terms with what was happening through his own experience. Because that was the sort of man Dad was, he was always practical and he always put the feelings and needs of others before his own.

And as I have said already, I really debated over whether to talk about Dad being a know-it-all as I didn’t want you to think I was disrespecting his memory.  However, the week Dad passed away, Mum and I were sitting, chatting in the room with him and Mum reminded me of a fridge magnet that I’d bought for her when I was a teenager and this magnet said:

‘I didn’t just marry my Mr Right.’

‘I married Mr Always Right.’

So, I am going to read you a poem now, a poem by Pam Ayres which was written around the time of the Millennium and was a firm favourite within our family including Dad.  And whatever capacity you knew Godfrey in, whether it was work, or camera club or as a friend or family member, I hope you will sit and reflect on a time when he gave you good advice or a jolly good laugh.  The poem is in the point of view of the wife, so imagine this is Marcia here reading this, and it is called, They Should Have Asked My Husband.

You know this world is complicated, imperfect and oppressed And it’s not hard to feel timid, apprehensive and depressed. It seems that all around us tides of questions ebb and flow And people want solutions but they don’t know where to go.

Opinions abound but who is wrong and who is right. People need a prophet, a diffuser of the light. Someone they can turn to as the crises rage and swirl. Someone with the remedy, the wisdom, and the pearl.

Well . . . they should have asked my ‘usband, he’d have told’em then and there. His thoughts on immigration, teenage mothers, Tony Blair, The future of the monarchy, house prices in the south The wait for hip replacements, BSE and foot and mouth.

Yes . . . they should have asked my husband he can sort out any mess He can rejuvenate the railways he can cure the NHS So any little niggle, anything you want to know Just run it past my husband, wind him up and let him go.

Congestion on the motorways, free holidays for thugs The damage to the ozone layer, refugees and drugs. These may defeat the brain of any politician bloke But present it to my husband and he’ll solve it at a stroke.

He’ll clarify the situation; he will make it crystal clear You’ll feel the glazing of your eyeballs, and the bending of your ear. Corruption at the top, he’s an authority on that And the Mafia, Gadafia and Yasser Arafat.

Upon these areas he brings his intellect to shine In a great compelling voice that’s twice as loud as yours or mine. I often wonder what it must be like to be so strong, Infallible, articulate, self-confident …… and wrong.

When it comes to tolerance – he hasn’t got a lot Joyriders should be guillotined and muggers should be shot. The sound of his own voice becomes like music to his ears And he hasn’t got an inkling that he’s boring us to tears.

My friends don’t call so often, they have busy lives I know But its not everyday you want to hear a windbag suck and blow. Encyclopaedias, on them we did never have to call Why clutter up the bookshelf when our Godfrey knew it all!

 

 

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