Dad & I, 1961
When I was very young, Dad seemed to be constantly decorating in some part of the house and whenever he decorated, out came his reel to reel tape player. He would hang wallpaper, hammer nails and slap on paint whilst singing along to the likes of Frank Sinatra, Buddy Holly, Roy Orbison and even early Bob Dylan - all artists who I came to appreciate in later life. Dad had been into music from an early age, visiting Ronnie Scott's and the coffee bars of Soho in the 1950s to hear his first love - jazz. In later years he listened more to classical music, but in the early 1960s he enjoyed many pop hits of the day - I still have tapes of him singing Freddie & the Dreamers and Gerry & the Pacemakers songs with me. Dad's love of music was a constant throughout his life and the care with which he organised and notated his LPs, Cassettes and CDs as he got older made me smile - I could see where I'd got it from.
In his later years, in addition to failing hearing, Dad struggled terribly with his legs. He could barely walk more than a few steps and was in constant pain. His bolthole was the back room, where, with headphones on, he would listen to an album or two every evening, while Mum watched the soaps on TV in the front room. Unfortunately, because of his deafness, such was the volume coming from the the headphones, the music was still quite audible all over the house! The tinny, distorted sound of a symphony orchestra in full flight would often be the first thing I heard on stepping through their front door when I visited.
During a period of personal domestic upheaval in the 2002, I found myself hurriedly and unexpectedly moving from a large shared house into much smaller accommodation and I had no option but to stash my own, by now very large, record collection back at my parents house. Rather than leave piles of heavy boxes stacked up all over the place, I simply reconstructed the free-standing metal shelving units that I'd bought with me, spaced them around the walls in my old bedroom and filed the records away again. This left little usable space for my parents in what was now essentially their spare room, but the arrangement was only meant to be temporary.
Ever the opportunist, Mum hung a makeshift washing line from shelf to shelf across the room - handy for when the weather was too wet for drying clothes on the line in the garden. One day Dad was hanging some washing on Mum's indoor line and, because of his unsteadiness, lost his balance, snagging the line as he fell, bringing three floor-to-ceiling shelves full of LPs crashing down, trapping the lower half of his body beneath them. He wasn't hurt at all, but didn't have the movement in his legs to free himself and Mum couldn't get to him for the piles of records and twisted metal shelving. It was the middle of the day and the neighbours weren't at home, so, in a panic, she called the fire brigade. It must've been a unique call-out for them. They diligently made a pathway across the room to Dad, helped him to his feet and, bless them, apparently did their best not to damage any of my records in the process.
The condition of the records was the furthest thing from my mind when Mum told me about the accident on the phone that evening. I was utterly mortified by the news. At the soonest possible opportunity I went home, dismantled all of the shelves and boxed up my records again. Thankfully he was none the worse for his ordeal and we were all able to laugh about it later when I suggested that, as he had instilled such a love of music into me at a very young age, Dad had literally brought the accident on himself!
Dad passed away 10 years ago today. Here's one that he and I sang together back in 1963.