1987 was a momentous year.
It must have been some time in 1986 that my desire to move out of London for the first time had been crystallised by a menacing incident in Tooting. Having been concerned about my two youngest children’s schooling being in a vast comprehensive school I was already thinking about it.
I was walking home from Tooting Bec underground station along Tooting Bec Road to Gracedale Road quietly smoking a cigar. Five young men approached me in line across the wide pavement, allowing me no room for manoeuvre. Sticking to the fences on my side, I faced one who silently squared up to me. Raising the glowing cigar level with his face I asked “Where am I going to go?”.
Nothing more was said. After what seemed an age, but was probably instantaneous, my prospective assailants made space for me to continue on my way. With some difficulty I took care not to look back. But my mind was made up.
We began seriously considering a move, seeking assistance in research from friends and relatives who lived some way from the metropolis. With Giles and the Kindreds both living in Southwell in Nottinghamshire Jessica, Sam, Louisa, and I spent a fortnight’s bed and breakfast holiday in the nearby village of Kersall We had decided to stay up there for a fortnight and search for a house. My discovery, with my friend Giles Darvill, of Lindum House advertised by Gascoigne’s estate agency in Southwell, was the result.
Unfortunately, I cannot remember the name of our hostess, which is a pity because she ran an excellent establishment, and was instrumental in a campaign to save her hamlet’s famous red telephone box from extinction. She carpeted the box, and kept fresh flowers, a visitors book, pencil, and various telephone books inside it. It was regularly cleaned and sweet-scented, and received many visitors. Unfortunately it wasn’t profitable and whichever of our enlightened telephone operators was responsible for this treasure wished to close it. The battle to keep it functional continued into 2008, later residents having kept up the continuing care. I do not know the outcome.
Perhaps because of our focus on selling our own house and buying another, we had not visited my parents in Hampshire’s Horndean for some months. I was shocked to see my tall, strong, father a shadow of his former self who did not join us at the dining table because he didn’t “require very much”. My readers will already have realised the same as I did. I persuaded Mum to get him to hospital. Despite surgery, he was dead from stomach cancer six weeks later. I was able to say goodbye but was not there at his death with took place ten days before we moved. He returned home for his last days. A further shock was how easily, with Joe’s assistance, this featherweight was turned in bed.
In December 1985, Dad was happily playing with Sam and Louisa. The first of these photographs is the one from which I took my pastel portrait.
Like me, our mother thought about him every day for the next 34 years.