Day 311 Mile 311: Remembering Dad. Today’s run was always going to be hard in some way. These are some memories that flashed through my mind of Bryan Wright, my Dad whose funeral it is today. This isn’t a comprehensive life story, nor is it a list of achievements. Some of that will be documented elsewhere. There are many people who will have known him for more years and have longer memories. What I wanted to do was to be able to convey is some of the apparently insignificant snapshots that get lost in a list of achievements and dates, but which make up some of my fondest memories of him.
One of my earliest recollections is of walking in the countryside with him, accompanied by his wellies, flat cap and golden retriever. In one hand he held a dog lead that bashed stinging nettles out of the way and with the other he held onto mine, even though invariably it was my remaining hand of which was cold. He had an inspiring knowledge of the landscape we went through, not only could he name the trees and flowers and birds, but he knew what they did, where they grew and how they were a week or a month before. To my mind this was astounding, and actually still is.
Dad loved telling a good story, part of the fun was in the sleight of hand between fact and hilarity. He had an impish grin, a gleam and smile that creased his cheeks at the mention of fun or mischief. To this day I still don’t really know if snails used to lick the stamps off letters in the post box so that they could eat the glue; or if Churchill’s lion used to live in a cage overlooking the football pitch and roar along with the crowd. But that is almost not the point.
He was a man who you could fly your kite so high with, that suddenly you could find the end of the sting was free from the spool and helixing skywards, and somehow, he got it back. Some children go around thinking that their Dads can mend anything, in my Dads case it was quite close to the truth, unless it was a computer, in which case you have absolutely no chance!
In my mind he is still stood there on a crisp winter’s day, breath in clouds, wearing heavy boots and blue overalls which smelled of leaves sawdust and two-stroke oil. The logging gloves had been taken off and placed on the handles of the barrow so that the arms of the galvanised log cart seemed to be offering a comical hug to anyone who came along. He was throwing lumps of bark from the barrow, across the fallow section of the vegetable patch, to the delight of the two golden retrievers careening across it. At more festive times I remember he would be stood, silly-hatted and wooly-jumpered carving the Christmas roast; and in summers, early afternoons would often occasion us sitting on the heavy oak step inside the open front door, shared sunbeams on our backs, watching the Formula One as the likes of Prost, Senna and later Schumacher, Button and Damon Hill navigated the circuits and we ate sausages.
I remember him teaching me to fish in the Grand Union Canal and catching a Pollock off the back of a boat at Beer in Dorset, which is a sentence to pronounce carefully! and I can picture him walking around North Harrow looking for his own Father’s banana yellow misplaced mark 1 Ford Escort in the rain; and driving me and Mum across the country in our their Orange VW camper van full of fossils which I had found, and he had carried several miles back along the beach.
He made a rubbish cup of tea.
In the dappled light of the apple tree, he pushed his Granddaughter Alena down the hill on the tricycle that he once pushed me. In between these times he had scrubbed the frame down from the oxidization of the intervening 30 years and repainted it in her honour.
In that same space he had found the time to create and maintain a beautiful garden, and more amazingly, find time to enjoy it both as himself and with me and my Mum. There was always something happening, if we weren’t digging up or replanting the Christmas tree, it was turning the vegetable patch, lighting the barbecue, or simply him, standing with his hands clasped behind his back staring at the roses with a quiet smile. It’s an amazing space and means a lot to pretty much everyone who has visited. What makes it so powerful is that it was all done, not so much out of a sense of duty or one-upmanship, but more that he thought it would be nice to do, and that it meant something to him. Linked to this on some level, he was constantly supportive of my creative and musical endeavors, even though part of the time he had even less idea of what I was on about than I did.
There was a look of abject confusion, coupled with a dogged determination; clutching small diagrams drawn on the back of a brown envelope when the prospect of a game of chess was broached. The television was too loud if it was above number 13, even if you couldn’t quite hear what was going on, and the thermostat was just in a different league!
I was picked up from primary school before lunch one Friday in summer several years in a row to go and see the Formula One Friday Practice. I remember shaking from the noise and buzz of the comparatively unregulated 1980’s engines and loving every second with him. Years later would see this reflected as he in turn grinned like a school boy propping up the barrier on the start-finish line at Silverstone with the grid revved up for the British MotoGP as he and I celebrated his seventieth birthday.
Over the years we had a lot of fun and I remember him incredibly fondly, as clearly a lot of other people do; the outpouring of goodwill and kindness has been astounding.
In-spite of his superficial mischief he had a vast depth of practical wisdom, coupled with a great sense of fairness and kindness. He was a man of courage who made his own decisions, based upon what he knew, and felt to be the right thing, and he kept to them. He knew if he had locked the front door while it is something many of us struggle to recall on an amazingly regular basis!
More than that, he was a my friend.
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So today’s run was full of these thoughts, as it should be. There was a wonderful earworm for today, in this version absolutely perfect.
I’m running a mile each day everyday for 2017. If you feel you can sponsor me please do, as all the money raised will go to the Cleft Lip & Palate Association (CLAPA) who provide services all across the UK to support people affected by it.
Distance: 1816.7 meters recorded
(1 mile = 1609.34 m.)
Thanks as ever for all the support!