Today is Remembrance Sunday 11/11/2012 and I thought it would be a good day to remember my Dad, Roy. Although he served in in the RAF in WW2 he survived and returned home to his family. If he hadn’t, I wouldn’t have been born because that didn’t happen until 1970 so of course I am grateful for that. He died in 1995 aged 78. I was only 24 and we had had no warning of his death. I spoke to him on the phone at midday and he collapsed and died at 5.15 pm. It was many many years until I came to terms with this death and I can now look back at my memories with fondness and lots of smiles.
It is my Dad that I really have to thank for my writing talent. When I was at school every weekend, on a Sunday evening he used to write 2 pages of spellings for me and I had to sit down and copy each word out ten times. Contrary to what you may think, this wasn’t a punishment but just his way of cementing words into my head, and it worked. He used to love giving me complicated words like ‘liaise’ or ‘toughen’ and testing me on them weeks later. He was a stickler for correct grammar and spelling and told me that my writing would be a direct reflection upon me. “You can lose or gain someone’s respect in the first line of a letter”, he once told me. I have never forgotten those words or those lessons. He taught me how to address and write a proper formal letter using Dear Sir with Yours faithfully or Dear Mary with Yours sincerely and how to write a cheque (something we rarely need these days).
My love of books also helped a great deal with my use of language as from the age of about 5 I always had my head in a book. Usually something by Enid Blyton or, when I got older, Judy Blume.
However, in today’s world it means that I am often frustrated by the lack of importance placed on spelling and grammar. When I was a police officer I was frequently mortified by the terrible spelling in documents and evidential material. As professional witnesses we were expected to perform in all areas to the highest standards but over the years I saw those standards steadily decline and by the time I left entry levels were so low it was embarrassing. I used to think of my Dad and wonder what he would have said if he had read the reports I was reading. He would have been very disappointed and his opinion of the police service would have dipped. I am glad he never saw that.
My Dad was a very shy man, he hated socialising and always felt awkward in company, not like me at all. I am very gregarious, outgoing and love the limelight as my friends and family will lay testament to. I don’t look like my Dad or have the same ambitions that he did. We were very different. He probably thought that he hadn’t left me anything worthwhile but to me he has left a fabulous invaluable legacy. The love and respect of the English Language. I am passing it on to his grandsons and they, like me and him are language purists. I know he would be very proud of that and if I could speak to him today, on Remembrance Sunday I would tell him that his legacy is alive and well in us and 17 years after his death, so is he.
I love you Dad.