Last Sunday my father in law died peacefully in our local hospital, aged ninety-five, from kidney failure. Four days earlier he had slipped into deep unconsciousness and we knew he could no longer be treated. From then on Ian and I, hugely supported by our son and daughter and their partners, who live reasonably locally, kept him company night and day. Our other adult children, who live far away, provided their own support by phone and text. How does anyone manage these things without the loving support and care of adult children, I wonder? When my mother died last year I felt it too: we were not alone, the next generation were with us, taking their share, looking after us in their turn. It is a good feeling.
I felt as I do now about blogging when my mother died. Partly I did not want to blog. There are some things which need privacy. But I also knew that if I did not mention something so important, if I blogged about gardens or lemon cake or walking on beaches, I would in a sort of way be lying. This blog is not for baring my soul, for public self analysis or therapy. Often it is for the things in life that give me pleasure: cooking and eating and books and gardens and making things and the very beautiful place in which I am lucky enough to live. It marks out the year, follows the seasons, shares the celebrations that punctuate the year with family and friends. Every now and then I have a bit of a rant about things I hate: bullying, unkindness, consumerism, our society's obsession with looks and celebrity. It is a blog about my life and if I did not tell you about my father in law's death I would start to feel that the blog was a bit of a pretence, in fact I might just have to stop blogging altogether.
So while this blog is not a place to be sad in I would like to tell you a bit about my father in law.
Born in 1918 in the industrial North West of England, Eric was a Rochdale man to the soles of his feet. He was the youngest of seven children and I suspect was indulged a little by the whole family. He certainly grew taller and stronger than his elder brothers which they always claimed was because he got more food as a child. His family were truly poor in that way we have all forgotten about now. There was no question at all that he could stay on at school beyond the age of 14. All the children had to work. Eric loved school and didn't want to leave. He didn't necessarily have an academic sort of intelligence, although he was bright enough, but he had a natural quickness of mind, an ability to make people laugh and a way of handling people which made him popular and well loved throughout his life. He was easy to get on with, always ready to give people a hand, a lover of gambling who nevertheless never bet more than he could afford (which wasn't much!), a devoted father, a man totally incapable of doing anything other than looking on the bright side. He was very profoundly of his time, growing up in the twenties and thirties and raising his family through the fifties, and of his place, a Lancashire milltown.
The only time he spent away from Rochdale was when he was posted to Orkney for the duration of the Second World War. Somehow being sent to Orkney was very typical of Eric. Yes, there were dangers undoubtedly and, despite being a soldier not a sailor, he served on the boats which supplied the many bases on the islands. He was lucky that he did not suffer from seasickness. But it was a dangerous place. There were deaths in Orkney, in fact the first civilian to die in the war was killed on the islands. The following is an extract from the website which documents the landscape and history of Scapa Flow in Orkney: