31 years ago – 11 October 2017

Much of this site is about JPJB, but, increasingly, is what I recall of him and of times in which he lived. It was on the 11th that I realised that I had lived more years without Dad than with him. There is nothing special about the arithmetic, but he seems to be getting further away, and to have crossed a border of sorts. Another border will be reached (if and) when I reach the age he was when he died – 64 years and 80 days. After that, I’ll be in unknown uncharted territory, somehow even more without him. That seems to be tempting fate, but I am slowly realising what it was like for him, to be in the early 60s.

This 11th October was odd and poignant, for three unrelated reasons. One was in the evening, when I spent time with a relative who, if the medical prognosis is not (d.v.) wrong, may be soon joining him, wherever he is….(and there will be no theological discussions here about that!). I did wonder, suddenly, whether something of him had survived, and whether my relative might be wondering about whether there would be a reunion. This seems unlikely, but it is an oddly ambiguously comforting thought.

Later in the evening, I had a FB message, from a longstanding friend of my late first wife, who asked if I was sad today. Wondering if some sort of telepathy was operating, or whether she had recorded the date of Dad’s demise, I recorded yes, indeed. But I then discovered what it was to which she referred. My father had run a business at 72 Wallasey Road, and this had been sold to his (then) business partners, all of whom have died; the widow of the last one had sold the remains of the business to another man, who, very sadly, died even younger than Dad (at 63), earlier this year. The doors of what had, 31 years ago, been Dad’s office, had then closed for the last time, and the final owner had sold the business to a national firm. Out of the parking forecourt, a quantity of furniture had been dumped, on a “take it for free if you want it” basis. Being Merseyside, most of this had gone, and by the 12th a skipful of old computers and bits of sign and timber was all that was left. I will write about Dad’s business – a source of much sadness and regret – elsewhere, but it was odd to think that this reminder of his past (very much the past) would soon be gone, and a connection with the building that had gone back to 1931 would be broken. It was good to read a tribute from my informant, who said how helpful he had been when she and her husband had moved house. But there is ambivalence about a space long vacated (as far as I was concerned) and yet with reminders that will disappear.

Those concerned Dad, but what also made me sad was the day that I spent in a small conference about waterways history. I would not have been interested in such history, and presenting some ideas about the second world war (in which he served) without Dad’s influence. I might not, frankly, have cared too much about waterways at all had it not been for the holidays, not always happy, that he organised.

I found the conference disturbing and left with mounting concern, for reasons entirely to do with a presentation there. I am probably wrong, but I got the impression that I was the focus of prejudice – painted as one of those awful middle-class white elderly men. The person who featured the apparent prejudice made slighting reference to matters that I had presented for discussion. Maybe it was not prejudice, and I was just too aware of the events of 31 years ago, rather than history as an abstraction. I may write further – on my own website – about the content of this contribution to the conference.

I have always experienced a slight uncertainty about the precise date that Dad passed, and so it felt somehow preparatory that I visited Rhos-on-Sea and Llandudno on the 10th. He was preparing to go to Llandudno when he died, but that does not negate the feeling that I have always had, that this was a place he enjoyed, arriving at the hotel, sitting round, going down Mostyn Street, along the Promenade and the Pier, and few other places – but, at least, often relaxed and happy. We enjoyed an afternoon there, not really in tribute to him, but because this too has become a favourite place for us, as it was for our previous (and sadly departed) partners. The visit was thus multi-layered, but pleasurable. Perhaps this was a good thing, given the day that would follow.