Thursday, September 10, 2015

I remember my father.

I remember a comforter and fixer of things.

I remember the ice cream we used to make together by mixing snow with jam.

I remember the sculptures we used to create by burning polystyrene or putting plaster of paris into all manner of things.

I remember the films we would make with his cine camera, often stop-frame animations using my brother's toy Daleks and disappearing tennis balls. One involved me waking up after falling off a cliff and finding it was all a dream.

I remember tape machines, oscilloscopes he would borrow from work, transistors, resistors and light-emitting diodes. He once made me a box with a light bulb sticking out the top that you could light with a match and extinguish by pinching it with your fingers - I took it to school and it got crushed by a falling stage rostrum.

I remember he made a telescope when I started getting interested in astronomy.

I remember he made me a short wave radio when I became interested in short wave radio.

I remember being told about the television he built and I remember in the loft when I was a child there was an electric piano that he had been working on and presumably not got round to finishing.

I remember the speaker cabinets he helped me build. Bigger, better and louder than anything you’d normally come across in a suburban living room.

I remember him helping me do everything from regrinding the valves on my Triumph Herald to changing the big ends in my Hillman Imp.

I remember the children’s programmes he worked on, dubbing them into English - Captain Zeppos, Belle and Sebastian, White Horses.

I remember his stories about lunch at Shepperton with Elizabeth Taylor, working with Orson Welles, Bob Monkhouse’s suitcase of prescription medicines, what a nice man Donald O’Connor was, how horrible Doris Day was, how Peter Hawkins could do the Dalek voices without any electronic aids.

I remember feeling I had nothing to rebel against. After all, at his studios at De Lane Lea, the Animals had recorded House of the Rising Sun and the Jimi Hendrix Experience had worked on their first album. Dad had even turned down the chance to record the return of the Beatles to Heathrow after an American tour. Like the Beatles, he wasn’t that interested in the sound of screaming girls. But he did some work for Paul McCartney on Magical Mystery Tour, though he didn’t think a lot of John Lennon. He didn't like arrogance. He liked duende.

I remember when he recorded The Clash’s White Riot and they released the demo recorded at the school in preference to the record company’s version.

I remember a profile of him in Beat Instrumental magazine where he described his main asset as his poor memory, because it made him look at everything with a fresh perspective.

I remember the magic of the places he used to work, whether wandering around the bright lights and dark alleyways of Soho, or driving through the autumn gold of Burnham Beeches.

I remember during my banking years his continued encouragement to get me into a more creative way of life. He would often take me to work as his tape op on casual weekend sessions at Beaconsfield. Once, we were producing a tape for an avant-garde ballet and we were highly amused when the musicians went off for lunch and left Dad recording me banging stones together and plucking the spokes of a bicycle wheel.

I remember his trips to Prague and Sydney to help set up film schools there.

I remember his flings with judo, wood turning, pebble polishing.

I remember the Margorikki, the beautiful mahogany-finished cabin cruiser he kept on the Thames at Sunbury.

I remember when he retired he bought a computer and taught himself programming, although he resolutely refused to budge from Dos to Windows. We even managed to sell a game, Hospital Homicide, to a software company, though I only dealt with the words, the programming was all his. I think we made a fiver between us in royalties.

I remember his aversion to onions, Jesuits and loud noises in restaurants, and our shared love of Hill Street Blues, Keith Waterhouse's Jubb (the only novel I am aware of him ever reading) and Al Stewart's first album.

I remember when RCA got too corporate for him he downsized to De Lane Lea. That company grew from strength to strength and when he felt he was losing touch with what he loved to do he quit and took a job with a boat builder next to Richmond Bridge. Then along came the National Film School and he was back in his element.

I remember when he, my brother and I nearly all drowned at sea.

I remember a few weeks before he died he told me how frustrated he was because he had always felt his job was to make things better, but  he wasn’t able to do that any more. He asked me what I saw as my reason for living. I mumbled incoherently about wanting to do the same.

I remember my creator, my comforter, my fixer of things.

I remember my hero.

I remember my Dad.


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