I can remember walking downhill behind Dad in deep snow,treading in his big footsteps- I the page and he King Wenceslas:and feeling proud as a teenager when he walked me home from a party in the moonlight,a great bearlike figure in his black cape and police helmet.
My father never tried to please:he was absolutely genuine, without guile. He did not easily make compliments,and would conceal affection beneath a joke:yet he felt deeply, and as he grew older his soft centre was more in evidence. For years he corresponded in Esperanto with a German soldier who had been invalided in the War: when the inevitable black-edged envelope arrived Dad went into the Front Room, closed the door, and grieved alone. The small wooden box which contains the photos and letters from their long friendship is another of the remembrances on the 2 bedroom shelves.
Dad prepared himself for unpleasant tasks ahead. During the week before my mother was buried he went out very early one morning and walked the funeral route alone. He told me once that when action was imminent on the Western Front and his comrades went out in search of drink and company,he lay on his back in a field and looked up at the stars. He was content with his own company, and a keen observer of humankind. He had a dry sense of humour,bright blue eyes under bushy eyebrows and a mischievous smile- he rejoiced in odd and unexpected things,and often chuckled as he went about the house, remembering something he had heard or seen during the day. I often catch myself doing the same thing.
I loved my father dearly and greatly admired him, and when he died I felt the world would never be the same.I wrote a poem shortly after his death - the words I quote from him give an indication of his calm and courage at the end. There is an Esperanto version, which I like to think would have pleased him!
Audrey Deal-written at the request of David Silbey, who published my father's War Diary in 2010