He was tough – I remember one summer we were surfing off the north coast of
Devon, and he slashed his bicep open on some rocks. Back at the beach house while Mum fixed our tea, Dad calmly sewed up the wound himself. He designed and built every house I grew up in, and countless others for people all over the country, converting barns and restoring listed buildings. He owned construction companies, timber yards, his hands were hard and strong from working, his nails always dark with grease from stripping down a Jeep engine, or from building work. He painted beautiful oil paintings. He worked from dawn til well into the dark every night, ankle deep in wood shavings in the workshop, or his head bent over the drawing board in the office, always with Radio Four playing in the background. He was smart, part of Mensa, and he did a science degree just for the pleasure of learning. He rarely read fiction, but made an exception for my first book. He was uncompromising – I remember him handing a vegetarian dinner guest a spade and directing them to the vegetable garden. He didn’t suffer fools. Once, in a hotel, he felt that the woman at the next table was staring too much, so he calmly ate the flower centrepiece. He taught me about the countryside – about wild flowers and animals. He rescued injured birds, had a wild owl as a pet. He taught us to swim in the rivers and salmon ponds, to surf, to drive a 4x4 off road, to draw, to play chess. He believed in tough love – when his beloved gun dog was dying of cancer, rather than take him to the vet, which the dog hated, he took him out on one last pheasant shoot, and shot the dog himself. He was married to my Mum for over forty years. For ten of those he fought cancer bravely, and with strength. Yesterday, my wonderful Dad died, and I can’t believe yet that he’s no longer here.
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