“Sheffield’s chief spider catcher is dead.
I’ve realised that I have not only never written a eulogy before, but I have never even heard one that I can remember. So, I’m not quite sure what I am supposed to talk about. I don’t think a list of all the jobs my Dad had would be particularly appropriate, because those aren’t the things that you love and remember someone for. So, instead, I thought I would try and compile a CV of the things that made my Dad a good Dad.
Firstly, he could make Yorkshire pudding mixture ‘gallop’ in the bowl. See me at the wake if you don’t know what that means. He could also, upon request, stir ice cream so vigorously that is achieved a perfectly smooth consistency. He could hoot like an owl, one of the key adult skills I have still failed to master. And he was incredibly good at spotting wildlife and even managed to catch a cricket in his hands for us to inspect. These skills also came in handy for the removal of arachnids from the house we lived in at Hunter’s Bar. I suspect there may have been some sort of special breeding programme for giant spiders in the local area. You knew it was a bad one if Dad went to fetch the beer glass, rather than the standard glass. I remember him being somewhat puzzled when he came home one day to find that in his absence, I had corralled a spider under a glass, a bin and then placed books on top of the bin to contain it until his return.
Some of the nicest things Dad ever did for me I can only recount now that he is gone. When it was the school holidays, he would let me travel around with him all day in his lorry (no seat belt, of course) and visit all the factory yards he used to deliver to. He used to let me ‘help’ with roping up the sheets on the back of the lorry and even, one glorious day, let me sit on the back (safely wedged between some pallets) while he drove around a yard.
For someone who left school at 15, Dad was not uneducated and read books and magazines and watched programmes about travel and the natural world. He would spend hours looking through the World Atlas with me as I poured over the sections on rocks and gems from around the world. He also loved walking and would take me and Mum on various outings up ridiculously steep hills (well, this is Sheffield, after all). His love of walking also meant that he was a very good dog father to Sooty and Flossie. He even thought in his last few weeks at the Nursing home that Sooty was there with him and I hope this was comforting for him.
Some of the stories I want to share about Dad sound like complaints but will in some ways are my fondest memories of him. For example, he had a terrible sense of humour. It became a tradition that every year I would buy him a comedy birthday card and then have to spend a good half hour explaining why it was funny, before finally giving up. However, this was not the highlight of any birthday – that always came if someone foolishly bought Dad anything that came with an instruction booklet, which he would then sit and read, cover to cover ….. out loud. Honestly, I think my Mother suffered more than me here, as I was a bit sprightlier at getting out of the room and up the stairs before he could start.
I also can’t pass up the opportunity to mention his DIY skills, which largely explain why he’s one of the only people I know to have received the maximum number of tetanus boosters you can have. I think my favourite occurrence was him walking out of the kitchen waving the cooker’s thermostat (which he has mistakenly ripped out, thinking it was the sparker) with the words ‘Right, I’ve fixed that, that doesn’t work at all now!”
He was also difficult to impress. Much as he seemed happy when I received my degree and PhD, it never produced the overwhelming response I was hoping for. Even taking him to the palace when I got my Duke of Edinburgh’s award (I thought that him and Prince Phillip might hit it off) seemed to leave him cold. Until the day I telephoned and casually commented that I’d single-handedly reverse parked a 1980 Talbot Eldiss campervan with no power steering. Mum reliably informs me that he was ‘chuffed to bits’.
The thing I will remember most about Dad though was his unwavering devotion to Mum and to me. Even in his last few weeks at the nursing home, when he was barely the man I remembered, he was always so happy to see us and oddly, those are some of the times with him I will treasure the most. When the nurse, Phil, asked Dad whether he had enjoyed seeing Cathie, my Dad replied (in a way he would never in front of a woman) that it was ‘f*ing lovely’.
So, Dad, thank you for everything you have done for me and go well.”
Today I brought your ashes home with me, and for the first time, I can’t stop crying.