This Sunday 21st April was Easter Sunday, and by a rather poignant coincidence, it also marked two years since my dad Peter Walker (aka Nicholas Rhea) passed away. It barely seem possible that 24 months have gone by, and yet the memories of that period are still vivid.
These days, when I think of my dad, it usually starts with a smile, then morphs into sadness as I’m reminded of his loss, and often, a few tears will follow. Grief is a funny old thing. It never leaves, but it does change in nature. You might recall last year’s anniversary when I wrote about being reduced to tears over little things that unexpectedly reminded me of him, such as making mashed potato or eating pizza.
Today, I am happy to report that I can now make mash and eat pizza without having to reach for the tissues.
But I do still have my moments where the gap he has left hits me hard. I have just started to read one of his crime novels, ‘The Sniper’, and on the inside back cover is a lovely picture of my dad taken in 2001 when he was 65. He still looks young and vibrant, and very much the dad I remember growing up.
Looking at that picture reminded me of the chats we would often have about stories he was writing, what was going on in the latest episode of Heartbeat or projects I was working on, and I always enjoyed being able to talk with him about that sort of stuff over a cuppa. And so of course, when I looked at that picture in the back of the book, the familiar process started, with the smile, then the sadness, followed by a few tears at knowing I would never be able to chat over a cuppa with him again.
But those feelings are not as all-consuming as they were in the early days, and although I can’t imagine this sense of loss will ever go away, I know that each moment of sadness will pass. They are just part of the healing process and when they crop up, it’s fine to just let them happen.
One thing that always cheers me up is when I read his column from the corresponding week forty years ago in preparation for my column today. I can’t talk to him in person but he is still teaching me things I don’t know, expanding my knowledge in ways I never imagined possible, and never even considered two years ago.
So this week, true to form, Dad has taught me about a right old mish-mash of subjects from his column of 21st April 1979.
I have learned some folklore relating to long-range weather predictions, namely that if rooks are building their nests high in the trees, it bodes well for the rest of Spring. I must check if they are doing that this year!
He also added notes about the Yorkshire Dialect Society and their newly-released LP which was entitled ‘First o t’sort’. Costing £3.50, it celebrated our county’s ancient tongue through readings and poems. You can still buy the recording direct from the society, either on cassette for £2.50, or CD for £5. The price hasn’t gone up much in 40 years, has it, but sadly I can’t buy a copy as I no longer possess a tape recorder or CD player. Does anybody?
Dad then mentions, with his tongue firmly in his cheek, the infamous (and fictional) Ryedale Henwatching Society, and how members were agitated about the fact that Easter eggs were taking over from real eggs.
And then, lastly, I learned that there was once a greenhouse inside Lincoln Cathedral. It was used as an office so that the vergers could go about their work, sheltered from the cold and draughts, while keeping a watchful eye the cathedral’s treasures. Dad says: “It seems such a brilliant idea that I wonder it has not been more widely used in similar places.”
These days, I think the idea has been adapted by clever architects and engineers as I have seen purpose-built glass office structures within cavernous buildings like cathedrals. I can’t find any reference now to a greenhouse ever being in Lincoln Cathedral, but would love to hear if anyone actually remembers it.
So, having been suitably educated this week, I wonder is there anything that your dad taught you?
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This column appeared in the Darlington & Stockton Times on 19th April and the Gazette & Herald on 17th April 2019