I posted the last of Dad’s Naval memoirs yesterday. For months, early in the morning I have sat down, opened an England ring binder and worked through my Dad’s writing. I admit I shed a few tears as this period came to an end – I like to see me sharing the memoirs as an act of love of sorts.
Dad loved the sea, ships and aeroplanes and I knew that came from his days working with aircraft carriers in the Royal Navy. He used to drive Mum mad always spending part of our holidays finding boats and planes to photograph. However, he spoke little of his experiences in the Navy. Mum could be quite dominant conversationally and as these tales pre-dated her perhaps he had learned to keep them to himself.
He would regale us with stories of his days as a police officer but not of his younger days as a sailor. He did write some memoirs about his police times but not as much as about his beloved navy.
As it happens as I have shared stories from the memoirs with my family, my teenager already knew them clearly taken into Granddad’s confidence.
So what did I learn by reading the memoirs.
1. I was surprised that Dad could be naughty. The fact that he smuggled tobacco to make a profit came as a real shock.
2. I was amazed at the level of detail in his descriptions particularly around measurements.
3. I was reminded what a quiet and self-effacing man he was. At no point does he say how amazing he was in these memoirs. Of course, I see how brave he was to set off into the unknown from a small town in Yorkshire. He did not have to go. He chose to serve his country. He insisted that the Union Jack was to be placed on his coffin – a patriot for sure.
4. Dad always wound me up with his inability to enjoy a meal properly. By this, I mean that he would leap up to clear plates and wash up almost before eating his last mouthful. Now I see, this came from his experiences on cook duties where discipline in such matters was vital.
5, I loved how my Dad broke the rules so that he could get tinned food back to his parents. He was such a young man and I am touched that whilst overseas their needs were very much on his mind.
6. I recognise how challenging it must have been for Dad to remain in one market town for most of his life after such adventures. He was always looking to leave once to join the police force in Uganda but my Mum was not such a risk-taker so they stayed put.
7. I understand now why he insisted that my first foreign trip was to Malta where he clearly had quite an idyllic lifestyle.
8. It amuses me that on the last leave before leaving the Navy, he met my Mum. It is typical of him to have such time management. I can actually see him saying to himself that his youth was over and it was time to find a wife.
I know the memoirs won’t be to everyone’s taste but even if you read just one post, it would mean the world to me.
I feel a bit like I am saying goodbye to Dad all over again but it is perhaps time for a new chapter all of my own.