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What Can You Say? | February 23, 2011

Yesterday was my dad’s funeral and although it was an incredibly sad occasion it was a fitting service for a great man. I actually said a few words, which wasn’t something I ever imagined I would do, in fact I only said yes because I thought some of my siblings had already said yes, and by the time I found out otherwise I’d got it into my head that I should say something. As my brother put it “you took a step forward and we all took a step back.”

My dad loved ice cream - he'd have approved of the tale I told about him and Great Ayton's famous Suggitt's ice cream...

I doubt I could describe my dad better than I did in my few words in church, so here’s what I said, at least what I wrote down prior, in case I went to pieces.

“My dad was a man of many talents. He pretty much seemed to have a solution for any problem that came his way, or at least he didn’t let on that he was baffled. Yet, amongst all the exchanges, watches and toys he fixed, to name but a few things, my favourite of all his fixes was probably as much of surprise for him as it was for me.

We were at Roseberry Junior school, as it was then, for a fete or something, some years before I actually went there. And in my hand I clutched an ice cream cone, topped with a velvety smooth vanilla ball of Suggitt’s ice cream – generally regarded as the best ice cream in the world at the time.

Like I say, I was young and you know how kids have that tendency to let cups wander from vertical to horizontal and spill everywhere, well I did that with the ice cream cone. I only spotted the error of my ways at the point where the precious cargo rolled from its holder and plopped onto the floor.

At which point I shouted DAD! And quick as a flash, much faster than you can think at, working almost entirely on instinct, my dad crouched down, wrapped his fingers around the ball of ice cream and hoisted it back onto the cone. He then told me to stop eating before I reached the bottom.

Although this is an unusual illustration it captures my dad’s subtle blend of generosity, patience, activism, teaching and love. Obviously, he bought the ice cream in the first place, generosity. He then had the patience not to shout at me when I foolishly dropped its goodness on the floor. Why leave a problem unfixed when you have a solution, that was the activist in him. Clearly he loved me, otherwise he wouldn’t have warned me not to eat as far as the rogue bits of gravel that were stuck to the bottom of the ice cream. And yes, I did learn – never again did I make that mistake.

In all kinds of ways I strive to be like my dad, and for that I will love him and miss him for ever.”

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