Those of you that follow and read my blog will know that in early June I fell quiet for a couple of weeks. I lost my Dad just before Fathers Day and got tied up with all those things that need to be done at such times. I poured my initial feelings into my Fathers Day blog.
I knew even then that I would probably write some more about my Dad but despite a few attempts I have failed miserably. I simply could not unlock the words I wanted to say. Yet today I was handed the keys by Chief Inspector Donna Allen when she posted a picture on twitter. Here it is.
Let me explain.
My Dad was a massively keen walker and climber. In his younger life he climbed all the traditional mountains in this country that you would expect. When he became a family man he continued to follow his love of the mountains and hills. We didn’t have a car for many years but jumping on a train with rucksacks on a Sunday morning for a walk in the Peak District was common. I climbed Snowdon when I was 5 and came to love the hills and mountains as much as he did. I still climb as much as I can and, like my Dad, take my children with me so they can understand the pure beauty of nature. This is me with Dads old canvas rucksack in my very early walking days.
When Dad was in his late teens/early 20’s his mum took in a lodger. A student studying at the local university. Arild was from Norway and he and Dad became lifelong friends. Dad visited Norway once at this time. A short visit as a single man. Over the years he stayed in touch with Arild and he yearned to visit again, yet with a wife, three children and a mortgage the opportunity never arose.
In his 50’s Dad was made redundant from a job he had done for nearly 40 years. He spent almost 2 years without a job before finding something. Every time I think of this new job I think of the book Mort by Terry Pratchett.
“Death comes to us all. When he came to Mort he offered him a job”
Death didn’t offer Dad a job… but an undertaker did! With some trepidation and doubts he gave it a try. He found a new vocation and spent many happy years helping people at their most difficult times. He had many funny stories of trying to negotiate 20 stone people down tight staircases at 2am in nursing homes whilst trying not to wake anyone else up. There were tough times too and carrying a small coffin in his arms for a small baby or child was heartbreaking for him. He said at the start to the owner of the firm that he was too soft and emotional for the job. The response was “My family have run this business for 4 generations. Do you think I want someone who doesn’t care?” He was right.
Dad settled into his new job and as us “kids” were now all grown up and being successes and failures in equal measure, the door to travel opened. He and Mum visited Norway twice. They were nicknamed by their friends as the “Wow” people. A reflection of a phrase they said over and over again at the stunning country Norway is.
One of Dads wishes was to climb to Pulpit Rock in Lysefjorden. On one of their trips they decided to give it a go. They set off but after a while Dad was becoming breathless and it was clear he wasn’t going to make it up and down in time. Arild pointed it out to Mum. She knew but let him climb a little further before breaking to him what he already knew.
Dad was disappointed but never really let it show. Mum knew how he really felt and so did we but we chose not to talk about it too much. They walked back down and instead took a boat up the fjord. The rocks at the base of Pulpit Rock are vertical and drop straight into the fjord. The water is very deep immediately so the boat can go right up to the cliff face and the feature towers above you. He was suitably impressed and as the boat drew closer and closer the speakers on the boat played Morning Mood from the Peer Gynt suite by Edvard Grieg.
When Dad died we all did a lot of talking about his life. We laughed and cried in equal measures. Arild saw Dad in his last weeks. He was visiting the UK and Dad was in hospital. He travelled a few hundred miles and turned up at the hospital. Mum saw him coming and chatted with him then walked onto the ward and nodded her head in the direction of the door…”You won’t believe who has come to see you”. Mum says that Dads face on seeing his old pal was priceless.
As we made plans and arrangements for Dads funeral we talked about Pulpit Rock and how he never made it. The subject of the music to be played on entering the crematorium was discussed and it was soon obvious that Peer Gynt was the piece.
Dads old firm, albeit many miles away came to see off one of their own and conducted all the funeral arrangements. Dad would have been very proud. The company prides itself on family values and tradition. They are one of the few firms that will always carry a coffin by default. Dad used to say being pushed into church on a trolley was the final insult. At Mum and Dads tiny church we left the carry to the professionals. Later at the crematorium myself and one of my other brothers joined his old work mates and carried him in. As we got ready I could hear the music start and the delicate melody traced out by the oboe and flute. As we walked thought the doors the first crescendo (about 50s on the video) began. The music was massively powerful and so fitting that I welled up… as I do now typing. It was perfect for Dad, his love of that beautiful country and all he would have liked to have shown us as kids but never could. The music will stick with me now. I’m not sad about it. It doesn’t make me think of Dad and how I miss him. It makes me think of all the happy times, all the memories he gave me and how proud I was to be able to carry him home.
There and then I decided that I would, one day, climb to Pulpit Rock for him. Purely symbolic but it would mean something to me and that was all that mattered. The fact that I have three children, a wife and a mortgage, as he did, and simply cannot afford to get there at the moment is rather ironic!
As I said at the start. I had no idea how to start writing about Dad until I saw the picture. The picture drew me to some conclusions.
Embrace life. Get on your feet and get off the beaten track. It’s remarkable what you may find. Sometimes we set ourselves an objective and we fall short of that wish because finances, health or other complications get in the way. Yet even when disappointment crushes you there may be another perspective to view your predicament from. It might not be what you were planning but can be equally impressive and in some cases may even be better.
Finally, never assume you are always right. Your understanding may be genuine but in reality… flawed. Why? The picture above is what I always assumed was Pulpit Rock. It’s not. I’ve discovered today that it is actually Kjerag Boulder. I wasn’t far away. It’s still in Lysefjorden but a little further East. Pulpit Rock is below.
As they are so close together maybe I will do both. What do you reckon Dad?