Today, 26th November, is my Dad’s birthday; he would have been 92. A lifetime beneath the industrial blanket of Trafford Park and a twenty-a-day man for much of his life, he left us ten years ago. This is by far and away my favourite picture of him; it seems to capture his essence – a reserved and quiet man, beneath this almost shy exterior he was caring, intelligent and intensely capable. It was taken beneath the dappled light of a generous plum tree in the early 1980s at a too infrequent family gathering. I have admired no one else more.
The ‘cherub’ with the golden ringlets is our Matthew, yes a boy; such is the fate of children born to the hippy generation. He looks a mite different now.
In my assessment of others I always look for the same qualities I found in my Dad. My sporting heroes have a certain sameness of character: Jim Clark, Dan Gurney, Ronnie Peterson, Bobby Charlton, Arthur Ashe, Ernie Els. None of them brash, all quiet men with immense talent and a steely determination. Dad was captain of cricket and football at Andover Grammar and continued playing both through university and his early career at ICI. Given any opportunity Mum would remind an assembled audience that Dad was ‘at the football‘ when I was being born which always struck me as the preferential choice of spectator sport. That is not quite true, he was playing football, but the story doesn’t work if I am not economical with the truth. This puts me in mind of my favourite and too oft repeated Peter Tinniswood (1936-2003) lines for Uncle Mort from I Didn’t Know You Cared. Delivered by the great Robin Bailey (1919-1999), this is also not true:
Carter Brandon: Were you there for the birth Uncle Mort?
Uncle Mort: Good God no lad, t’were bad enough being at conception
(Apologies to pedants – the quote is from memory and may not be quite as Peter Tinniswood intended).