It would be remiss of me if I didn’t begin with the joke Dad invariably opened with on social occasions:
“I suppose you’re wondering why I called this meeting.”
He only had about six gags, but they were all good ones, and they somehow became funnier with every repetition.
So many memories that Amy and I cherish about Dad stem from the family holidays of our childhood. Many is the happy hour we spent sitting in the back seat of our Dolomite on the hard shoulder in France or Italy whilst Dad laboured away under the bonnet fixing whatever it was that had gone wrong this time.
Then there were the golfing trips he would take with friends, which appeared to be largely an excuse for a competition of “Who can wear the most appalling trousers”.
Another of the great passions of dad’s life was for fell walking and in particular for the grandeur of the Lake District. Even as he led us through yet another downpour protected only by our Gortexes, he would be full of enthusiasm for the magnificent beauty of the mountains and the poetry of their names – Blencathra, Scafell Pike, Helvellyn. As well as Amy and me and many friends, he would regularly take groups of students from East London away for the weekend and share his passion with them. I’d like to think that there’s one of his former students halfway along Striding Edge right now – Wainwright book in hand – with his or her family, passing on that passion to a new generation.
Just about the only value that Dad failed to pass down to us was his support for the team his mother-in-law referred to as “nasty vanilla”, the team anybody can lick! Dad would regularly take me and a friend or two to matches whenever Villa were in London, carrying a milk crate with us so we could see over the adults on the terraces. Unfortunately for him the day he took me to Highbury to see Arsenal it was the home team I fell for.
It is very special to us that there are people here today that met Dad only in the last year and others who knew him from his childhood in Birmingham, or his university days in Newcastle and Warwick, who became friends with him in Brentwood, or who were work colleagues in London. We are all here because we knew the same John; his unfailing humour, his generosity of spirit, his desire to share his love of life with others. Every occasion was the merrier for his being there.
Perhaps the most remarkable relationship of Dad’s life was the one he had with Mum. Whilst their marriage ultimately didn’t work out, they remained devoted to each other as all of us who saw them together could never doubt. Amy and I would like to thank Mum for the support and companionship she gave to Dad so generously for so many years.
We would also like to acknowledge the wonderful care Dad received at Meadowcare in the past year. It was a great comfort to all of us to know that he was being looked after with such compassion, respect for his dignity and personal attention.
Michelle and I were fortunate to spend a lot of time with Dad just recently. I will treasure my memories of sitting with him in Amy and James’ beautiful garden; he was sipping on a glass of lemonade and smiling at his four grandchildren – Phoebe and Isabella, Beth and Barnaby - as they raced around together, shouting and playing. As usual, that terrifying creature the goose played a prominent part in the chasing and tickling. Dad had that familiar smile on his face, taking joy in their childish enthusiasm and feeling happiness from being with those of us who loved him so much.
I think the legacy that Dad leaves behind is a testament to him. This week Amy and I have received so many lovely comments from people who knew him. Some talked about his loyalty, some his sense of adventure, some his gentlemanly manner, but everybody – everybody – had stories to tell of the good times they had together and the laughs they shared.
So thank you all for being here. Please join us at the Victoria pub for some food and drink. We can re-tell some stories and share memories about our dad, jeg, “our Johnny”.
To finish I would like to read a brief bible passage, Philippians chapter 4, verse 8:
“Finally, brethren, whatsoever things are true, whatsoever things are honest, whatsoever things are just, whatsoever things are pure, whatsoever things are lovely, whatsoever things are of good report; if there be any virtue, and if there be any praise, think on these things”.