Friday, 11 March 2011

Letter from Beck 1975

Come on, Beck! You've been notably absent from the blog for a while - and if this post doesn't get a reaction then I will be concerned.

I'm now plundering a thick envelope full of family letters dating from the mid-70s to early 80s. Lots of gems from Mum, Beck, John and Pig, many written to me at university or to the family from holidays. To start, click on the envelope below for one of the oldest items: a letter from Beck to me (when I was on a school trip, judging from the envelope) from Sept 1975.

Loads more where this comes from - including various tales of Beck's Ladywood love life, post-Steve c 1981.

Wednesday, 9 March 2011

Shoe polishing

I polished my shoes this morning for the first time in years and made me recall the zeal and enthusiasm Dad put in to keeping his shoes shiny. Pretty much every morning as I recall, but certainly for church on Sundays, the old tin with fragments of dried out polish and mangy brushes would be brought out. His patented technique of clenching the heel of the shoe between the knees and then vigorously shining the toes by pulling the cloth back and forth at high speed, still works a treat.

Not sure where this sudden burst of Dadisms has come from...

Monday, 7 March 2011

Boiled eggs

Just a quicky: When finishing your boiled egg (as Aidan did this morning), turning the empty shell upside down so it looks like it's whole again. Then having the "fun" of crushing it or pretending you had not eaten it etc.

Friday, 4 March 2011

Funeral speech - part 2: The family holiday

Pauls bit:

I want to take you all to the seaside. To beaches like Woolacombe in Devon, Red Wharf Bay on Anglesey and Rhossili in the Gower. These are places where we went on family holidays in the seventies and which provide my favourite childhood memories.

Invariably, Dad is first into the changing tent. Mum has made it – from thick, towelling in a pattern of orange and yellow daisies and with a piece of elastic around the neck. In the wind it flaps around his body like a spinnaker on a sailing boat as, bent over, he staggers as he steps into his voluminous trunks. All of us wolf whistle as the wind blows the tent up his legs. Having attracted the attention of everyone else on the beach Dad finally flings off the tent with a flurry and a fanfare. He likens himself to Charles Atlas and strikes a muscleman pose. A fine figure of a man – to use his expression.

He then jigs off towards the surf. Entering the sea he runs in as fast as he can for as long as he can. Then he spins round onto his back to immerse himself and kick like fury creating as much foam and the highest spray as possible. He puffs out his cheeks and whoops and hollers. (I use this technique to get into the sea every time. In fact, a week ago today, on holiday with my family in Scotland, I used it again in a tribute to Dad. I’m glad to report, it still works).

Dad comes out of the sea and later watches over Beck, John, Adam and I as we swim. He paddles about 30 yards away from us. His trousers are rolled up to his knees and he wears a red cable pattern jumper (also made Mum, I should add). He reads a book – about the Boer War, a favourite topic. It’s not a paperback but one of about a dozen weighty tomes that he has got out from the library and previously tied up in a pile with a length of string. His hair is tufty from being dried so vigorously. Wrapped around his neck – like jumpers on a cricket umpire – are towels for us. We are soon rolled up in them and blissfully cosy next to Mum at the back of the windbreak.

To me, Dad will always be that man standing in the sea. Often in the distance but always there and utterly dependable.

Funeral speech - part 1: The farm sale

I came across a dog eared version of this a few weeks back while clearing out some drawers and I enjoyed reading it again a few years on and thought I'd add it here even though it doesn't strictly fit. I've just included the snapshot bits in two parts (to avoid clogging the screen up too much) - this one was my part on the farm sale and the other is Paul's from the family holiday.

I start with Dad the working man that consumed so much of his life. Carrying the John Kerr name, I initially started to follow in the hallowed footsteps of my father and grand father in the agricultural auctioneering business at Thimbleby & Shorland. I often worked the school holidays at Reading cattle market and at various farm dispersal sales, and it is these that I would like to recall.

In my admittedly rose tinted view of the past, this farm sale is on one of those endless summers’ days in the rolling fields of England’s picture postcard countryside. The day before the auction is spent preparing. Dad is at his most content as he views and values the cattle – simply by thrusting his hand between a cows legs and having a good rummage around the udders he is somehow able to accurately age, value and give the expected milk yield of the by now rather startled cow.

The rest of the day is spent setting up a make shift arena using bails of straw, building the relationship with the farmer (always a strong point of his) and documenting the herd individually. While Dad is checking Buttercup’s details and admiring the “hind three quarters” (or something of that sort) I tackle the rather more hair raising task of plastering the cows behind with a patch of toffee-like glue using a wooden spoon and then sticking on a lot number.

The day of the auction is to see my father in his element. His is an effortless, if somewhat pedestrian auctioneering style but all the while, behind the bluff and the banter, you can see him working hard to do his job to the utmost of his ability: He works the characters in the crowd with the same old corny gags, draws from a deep knowledge and appreciation of cattle and uses his skill as an auctioneer to build up the demand for each lot.

With the sale over, I am at liberty to relax and check out the sold farm machinery lots – often apparently scrap bits of metal that he had somehow got good money for. But Dad is still there, working hard for the client and helping out wherever or whoever needs it. Finally, with the last guinea counted and lot picked up, we are the last people left and he drives us home. His dedication, integrity, hard work and way with people are the hallmarks of his career and things that, to this day, I strive to match.

Thursday, 3 March 2011

Archive letter

Time for another golden oldie, I think, partly prompted by the passing of Feb 27 which always makes me think of Pa. Here's the first letter he sent me after I'd gone up to university (Oct 81). It includes some funny gags, a mention of Doris and good Dadism too ["exercise your personality"]. Click on the icons below once to open the letter so it fits your screen and twice to see it at full A4 size. Several more where this comes from.