Liberty and Taking

About 18 years back my wife bought me a rather fetching tie. Liberty print. A small-scale pattern of blues, whites, pinks and greens. Its texture was lovely and it quickly became my favourite neck adornment. Sadly, due to its popularity, it wore thin and began to lose its structural integrity (essential for any man-about-town’s dress). So it was consigned to a charity shop where, no doubt, it languished for a while before being sent to a clothes recycling plant. No matter, it had done its job and I still remember it fondly.

16 years ago this month (May) my father died. He was a few weeks shy of 81. Born in 1918 he was quite old to have had a kid my age. He served in the Merchant Navy in WWII, was torpedoed and spent time in a POW camp in North Africa. He was a swimmer and a runner all his life. A strong member of his community he was the fittest man of his age you could hope to meet. Even in his late 70s he was running 5 miles a day. Until, out of the blue, a cancer took him after that saddest of euphamisms “a short illness…”.

I picked him up from hospital after the doctors told him there was nothing they could do to fix him. On the way home from Haverfordwest to Newport (Pembrokeshire) I took him on a circuitous route to encompass the roads he used to run on. The valleys he jogged through. The mountain he slowly plodded up. We both knew he wouldn’t see them again but nothing was said. We stopped to pick a sprig of blindingly-yellow gorse to put in a bedside vase. Sadness hung heavy, as it does now as I’m typing. As we drove I oddly thought that the hedgerows were the same colour as my old tie. It’s odd how the mind can focus on the most trivial things at the most crushingly serious times.

He died less than a week later with all 6 of his children around him and his wife, my Mum, beside him.

I have just been down to home to visit Mum, who is now 4 years older than Dad when he died. It is May. Again. The hedges of the Gwaun Valley are a base colour of intense grass greens peppered with the blue of the bluebells, the white stitchwort and the pink campion. Like my Liberty tie.

I’m moved to write this as it is the hedgerows in May that most remind me of my father. And my tie.

My father did his job and I still remember him fondly.


5 thoughts on “Liberty and Taking

  1. I remember your father well Essex, he served me regularly in the shop and was fantastic with children I took to the shop. He always had time to pas the time of day whether in the shop or elsewhere. His fitness was amazing – he was as much part of Newport as Parrog and Traeth Mawr.

  2. Thank you for your beautiful words. It is so often the unexpected things that suddenly set off a deep resonation, isn’t it. My father has recently been diagnosed with cancer and I hope to find such beauty to remind me of him when the time comes.

  3. Heard about your blog from someone at conference this last week Essex and looked it up. Read this lovely piece about your Father whom I and probably everyone locally well remember especially for spending the whole year in shorts and running everywhere, even up the mountain as you say. Lovely man so friendly and so sad he was taken when he was. Great tribute to him….

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