What made him tick

 

Gareth and Lynne write:

Many factors influence the people we become. Parents, upbringing, education and our genes all have an impact. Dad’s background was by no means unique, but it’s possible to identify some particular traits that he inherited, and others that he learned throughout his life.

An outgoing man, Dad nevertheless held his emotions very much in check, and while excellent company it was hard to glimpse under the shell. In all the 60 plus years we had with him, we can think of only a couple of occasions when he properly lost his temper. We remember his father being a very gentle man and thinking of him now, we can discern his strong influence on Dad.

Similarly, his reserve meant he was not particularly demonstrative in his affection for both of us. However, we knew that we were loved and that we were the apples of his eye. This reserve was by no means unusual for parents of his generation. Maybe the toughness required to get men through the first and second wars (His father fought at Passchendaele in the First War) meant that the strongman approach became something of a default.

An external factor that always affected Dad was his lack of formal education. He was an extremely intelligent man and felt his lack of formal qualifications keenly. His brief glimpse into an alternative world when he attended Monmouth School was something he never forgot. (When the opportunity to send Gareth to Public School arose, via grants from the RAF, he was very keen to ensure we took advantage.) He compensated by reading voraciously. We cannot recall any time until the final couple of years of his life, that he did not have at least one book “On the go”. He ended up being much better-read than many with the formal pieces of paper.

Dad took some O-Levels in 1958. He wanted some "ordinary" qualifications, even though he was a highly qualified pilot and didn't need them for his work 

His entire career was a testament to another defining trait, huge determination. No matter what it was, once he started on something he stuck with it until it was accomplished, occasionally resulting in sense of humour failure. Gareth says "When I was a boy I would often help him to service the car and I can remember the air regularly turning blue as Dad grazed a knuckle dealing with a recalcitrant nut". He was incredibly impatient with the minutiae of life. Though he would deal with genuine crises calmly, logically and without any drama (A good trait for a combat pilot)

He also had a fabulous sense of humour, particularly loving the absurdities of Spike Milligan, Monty Python and Basil Fawlty. He had an astounding memory for limericks, RAF doggerel and old country sayings. Sadly, almost all of these were completely obscene and cannot be repeated. As children we would often be entertained on long trips in the car with monologues which began with lines like “If a pig drinks a quart of buttermilk, how far can it run before ….” We would sit in the back seat giggling at the rudeness while Mum would be admonishing him with a shocked “Terry!”

He played up his Welshness and had a romantic attachment to his homeland. It was his public face and his RAF nickname “Taff” started as the generic one for all Welsh in the forces (like Jock and Paddy, but also “Dusty” Miller and “Chalky” White). The time he spent there, while not long in a lifetime, was long enough to pick up his soft South Walian accent. He never lost it and it would become more emphasised if he felt the situation warranted it. 

So he was a reserved man, but there were two things which were hard-wired and by-passed his tough outer shell. The first was his adoration of Marge. He was besotted with her, and throughout their long married life they frequently behaved like a young married couple. They had big rows, but would frequently be found canoodling in the kitchen of Wycombe Way. They never left the house without telling the other they loved them. They had a ritual of waving when leaving Wycombe Way. One wave as they set off down the drive and another as they turned into the road. I remember Dad waiting once at the end of the drive on the way to golf, because he hadn’t seen Mum at the window (She was answering the phone, but scurried over and gave him the obligatory wave so he could proceed).

 

 

 

Mum and Dad

The second, (which must be inherited since his children have it too) was the impact of music on him. He loved music and singing and would always be whistling or humming. But when singing it was almost impossible for him to remain dry-eyed, especially with some pieces of classical music and old hymns in their original settings. Mum would cheerfully report on a Sunday that they were about to watch Songs of Praise for a sing song and a good cry! Lynne remembers taking him to an Elgar concert at the Symphony Hall in Birmingham and he cried all the way through! Gareth notes that Susie and his children see this trait regularly in his son. It has passed down to another generation.

Lynne will always remember his love of nature and his never-ending font of wisdom and store of what he would call “absolutely useless bits of information”. These ranged from how you could identify the songs of specific garden birds to how you ploughed a straight line in a field. In fact, it was these useless bits of information, based on his life on the farm, which ultimately led to her own love of nature and wild life. During her visits to Dad, he was always very keen to hear about the birds and wildlife around their Norfolk home. The birds on the bird feeder which we put up outside his lounge window in Richmond Village provided him with constant interest and entertainment.

Dad was a good, kind man. There were fallings-out with him, but happily they were in the past by the time he died.  We were glad of the last couple of years and treasured our morning visits to Richmond Village, even if they were approached in trepidation when his health began to fail.

Now he’s gone, to say we miss him does not begin to scratch the surface.