Favourite thing: Dad’s comb
Dad used to have this comb with him wherever he went. It was in his back pocket. His wallet, his comb, his keys – those were the 3 things he’d always be out with. And when he passed away in 1999 the only thing I took was the comb. And ever since, it’s been in my pocket.
And I found that the way for me to deal with Dad passing away really was… I didn’t deal with it looking at his photographs and reminiscing, looking at videos and things. Even to this day I don’t. I’ve got plenty of photo albums but I don’t go through them. Every now and then, in recent years, a member of the family will send me a picture or we’ve got some old pictures up in the house — 2 or 3 at most — with my Dad in them. But I can’t sit and watch a video. Well I probably could now but I couldn’t in the early days. So the closeness that you know when somebody’s with you, you have, when they’ve departed… having that comb was that substitute for me. I don’t sit there staring at it, I just know I’ve got his closeness with me.
“It reminds me of some happy and some sad times”
Every now and then it just falls out of my wallet if I’m looking for things and it reminds me of some happy and some sad times. And it’s quite nice just to be reminded of that every now and again.
The reason why Dad is so, was so important to me — even though I love my Mum to bits — is that I spent most of my young days with my father. My father always wanted a boy so much. He only had one boy, me, and I was the youngest out of 7 children. So they kept going until they had me. So yes, I was spoilt. In their world probably spoilt rotten. In our world, our kids have got a lot more than I had, but given the resources my father had, a lot of them were directed towards me and spoiling me.
I remember some of those things when I have this comb and I look at it. I’ve been talking about it now and I’ve been thinking about it the last few days. And I remember things like coming home from school and Dad driving past me one road away from where we lived and he didn’t stop and pick me up, which was weird. And right behind his car was a minivan type thing that belonged to a shop called Ditchfields which was the local toy shop. There weren’t any big department stores. There was that Ditchfields toy shop. That was our local. It was quite big. And they sold all sorts of things in there… Airfix models, bicycles, whatever else.
“I knew there was something in that van for me”
And I knew that there was something in that van for me because it was just behind Dad’s car. I ran home — my feet didn’t touch the ground. I had a chopper bike! I didn’t have just any old chopper bike — I had the limited edition 5-speed version. It was brilliant. Those are the sort of things I remember… I swapped it in for a Raleigh 501 many years later.
So that’s one memory. The other memory that comes back quite frequently — Dad used to run cinemas. And he used to see a lot of film distributors and whatever else. He was in the West End quite a bit and sometimes he’d take me with him. There was one occasion, we’d parked up in a West End street, and Dad said, “Look wait in the car, I won’t be long.” He was probably gone for 20 minutes but it felt like it was 5 hours, and I got quite worried. I came out of the car and I went to the end of the street in the direction that he went in. I’m standing at the edge at a corner looking to see if I could see him coming because I was getting worried and scared and I was by myself. Dad came back round the block, round the other way to an empty car. He obviously thought, “Oh my God what’s happened?”. And then looked up the street and I looked round at the same time and there he was. And I ran. And you know… It was a moment that will always be with me.
“I lost the comb once… I always have it in my wallet”
I lost the comb once. I always I have it in my wallet. I accidentally dropped my wallet and the comb was in there. I had credit cards, driver’s licence, everything else in there, and my driver’s licence had my home address on it. Whoever found it relieved the wallet of all its money, put it in an ordinary envelope and posted it. That came back half open… must have been 10 days later it came back through the post.
You know I’d gone to a police station, reported it missing. I was aware I’d lost it. I wasn’t really worried about the money or the actual wallet itself. The cards had all been cancelled immediately because I’d noticed immediately, but it was the comb. So the joy when I got that back! The first thing I looked for was the comb. So that was a lucky return really to have kept it.
I think I’ll always keep it with me. I don’t have anything else actually from Dad’s time. But, as I say, it’s special to me because I can see his face as a young man. I can see him before he’s leaving the front door — here was a mirror in the hallway — he’d comb his hair and off he’d go.