Sunday, April 20, 2014

My Way

I think this song sums up my father’s life as well as any other; with the exception of the “I travelled each and every highway” line, which, in Dad’s case, needs “within a strict twenty-mile radius” to be tagged on at the end.

Whenever I tell people that Dad didn’t even attend his own son’s wedding, they conclude that Dad was selfish, strange, silly, stupid, sad… – all those s-words, basically – and they are of course right to a certain extent. But that was Dad: he did things “his way”. I have never known a more stubborn person; nor will I, I suspect.

Dad suffered terribly for his obstinacy, knowing as he did that his irrational refusal to attend any family occasion beyond that 20-mile radius was thoroughly inexcusable. As for those of us who loved him dearly despite all his failings, well, we forgave him, of course, didn’t we? And I’d like to think that he won’t be suffering too much this Friday on the occasion of his own funeral. At least, the crematorium and church are just down the road from his beloved Penlan:

So much for Dad’s qualities. What about his weak points? Something’s gone wrong here, but let’s plough on, anyway… OK, Dad was a superb communicator – when he wanted to be; a great listener – unless he had no time for you; and a fearless opponent – if you upset him, for example, by picking on some poor defenceless soul.  Dad also had the most eclectic collection of CDs in the world: there was absolutely nothing he would not listen to; nor label.

Fortunately, I visited Mum and Dad at the beginning of April, never imagining of course that this would be the last time. While poor Mum tried, in vain, to get a word in edgeways, Dad rattled on about every subject under the sun:  his health, my kids, Radio 4, the state of English cricket, the upcoming Kate Bush tour, his health, my wife, The Archers, Just William, A History of the World in 100 Objects, ELO, his health, my health, Mum’s health, the new minister, the old minister, the neighbours opposite, the neighbours down the road, the stairlift, the gazebo, his health, Today in Parliament, Desert Island Discs, Wycombe Wanderers, Songs of Praise, What The Papers Say

How I wish I had inherited that ability to rabbit on and on and on without losing your listener. Indeed, anybody who dropped off was soon roused back to attention as Dad launched onto the next topic: 'What shall we talk about now? Beethoven, British Rail or Lucky Dip?'

Love you, Dad, and miss you terribly. Rest in peace, but drop me a line occasionally if you get the chance, OK? xxx


  1. Lovely piece Mike, touching and amusing in equal amounts. He sounded like a real larger than life character, I bet he was a riot in his younger days :)
    Where is Penlan, actually? It sounds very Welsh, though it's probably in Cornwall...
    RIP Mr. Church.

  2. Andy and Reggie, thanks so much for taking the time to read the above, and even leave a comment.

    Reggie - 'Penlan' - How interesting! Because you're absolutely right: it's in Cornwall! I looked it up on Wikipedia:

    "Penlan is a suburban area of Swansea, Wales falling within the Penderry ward. The area is set on top of a hill, which overlooks Townhill, Kilvey Hill and Swansea Bay".

    I didn't know that, though I'm sure Dad did. In our case, Penlan is the name of the tune for one of Dad's favourite hymns (which will be played at his funeral, I believe), and he therefore called our house 'Penlan' when he and Mum bought it in 1956.