Steve Pope Barbel Fishing

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My Dad

Twenty-five years ago this week, my life changed forever, when my dad’s life came to an end. He was just fifty-nine years old, an age I left behind a year ago.

Losing a parent is something we all expect to experience but we are instinctively programmed to deal with it at a time when it is, for want of a better word, natural.

When we are kids we believe our parents will always be there, sort of live forever, as we get older reality sets in and as I said we mentally prepare, but when it happens out of the blue and takes everyone by surprise the effect is shattering.

My dad was a monumental figure in my life.

I only really knew him for a relatively short time, through childhood, then adolescence, into adulthood and then for the most important part of my working life. Thirty-five years, that’s all, but for the last fourteen of those we worked closely together, every single day of our lives.

My dad was born and raised in North London, he came from a pretty typical working class background. The war years along with lack of money prevented him getting the education he deserved because like many at that time grammar school was just one step too far.

He joined the merchant navy and then became a bricklayer. That was how he met my mum, repairing bomb damage at the house she lived at in Hornsey.

I arrived in 1950 when my dad was barely into his twenties and like the great mass of folk back then working hard was the order of the day to ensure a good life for mum and me.

I find it difficult to recall too much about those days, basically the whole of the fifties. Times were relatively hard and parenting could not have been easy. I was a product of the seen and not heard generation, probably the reason I talk too much now!

I remember my dad’s first car, a Standard Ten; I don’t remember too many excursions in it though! It’s the flag emblem on the bonnet that sticks in my mind, you often see them at classic car rally’s or fifties films! After that there was a Ford Prefect and I do remember my dad spraying it an awful sand colour in the garage he had built at the end of the garden of our house in Tottenham. I do remember trips in that car though and holidays to Yarmouth and Herne Bay.

I recall my childhood years with affection, I didn’t really want for anything but our expectations back in those days were nothing like today, as long as I could get up to the park after school to play cricket, football or just have the sort of adventures we enjoyed then, I was happy. Dad and mum just worked hard to pay the mortgage and that was how it was.

My dad enjoyed fishing, he used to love going to the Walthamstow reservoirs and the Lea at Tottenham Lock, every now and again he would take me and if I try really hard I can remember every detail. My tank aerial, Spratts groundbait, the maggot tin, the very first time I managed to get in Walthamstow and watched dad catch bream from number one, the steam train to Cheshunt………………happy, halcyon days.

My dad loved going to watch Spurs and I’ll never forget him coming back home after we had put thirteen, yes thirteen goals past Crewe in a cup game.  I remember the very first time he took me, back in 1960, we played West Brom and I think we won. I don’t remember many other times after that because I watched most of the games from then on with schoolmates, it would be another twenty years and then we were sponsoring matches!

As we entered the sixties my days as an only child came to an end when my brother was born, I remember the day. He was born at home and I was downstairs when dad opened the living room door and told me I had a brother. As I type this i’ts as though I’m back there, the memories just come flooding back.

A year later I found myself at grammar school after fluking the eleven plus, looking back now I can fully understand the pride my dad felt, I was embarking on a path denied to him, no wonder my uniform was immaculate. Mind you fast forward to sixty five and I was being sent home to change because it wasn’t deemed correct to emulate the Stones taste for fashion at school!

Through the sixties dad had moved up the career ladder and was literally running the small building firms who he worked for. Obtain the jobs, price and then run them and get the money in. This also led to us moving away from Tottenham to Chigwell. This in itself was unusual because the normal move was up the A10 to Hertfordshire but it seems that destiny called us across to the East.

By the end of the decade I found myself following in dad’s footsteps by entering the management structure of the Construction industry, looking back now it’s easy to see where it was all going to inevitably lead.

During my teenage years like everyone else I moved away from the parental influence but fate was to bring us all back together as the sixties passed by and we entered the seventies.

I was now married and with a mortgage of my own, embarking on my career when dad told me he was packing up his job and was going it alone.

Within six months I had joined him, a huge risk at the time but I remember thinking it was the right thing to do. It was as if fate was saying it’s the only thing to do.

From then on until the day he died we spent at least some part of the working day together, looking back now that’s probably more time than most would spend with their dad over a full lifetime.

We shared many ups and downs, good times, bad times. We argued, we laughed and we very nearly cracked it. We certainly lived the seventies and eighties dream.

Dad owned his dream car, a convertible red Mercedes and a pukka sailing boat. Holidays on cruise ships were the order of the day. Life was good.

From a materialistic point of view we pretty much had it all, but do you know, we only managed one days fishing during those fifteen years.

So success of sorts but at a price.

In July 1985 my dad was diagnosed  and within three months he was gone.

It was and still is a devastating blow.

That August we sat on a bench in Chelmsford and we talked. He talked to me in depth, he opened up a little and those moments and words he spoke are etched in my mind forever.

Dad came from a time when you didn’t really speak to your kids, it wasn’t the done thing, not like today when our kids know more about us than we know ourselves.

His influence on me has become so much more apparent as the years go by, I wish he could have been around to see his grandchildren grow up and prosper in their own right.

So this coming week will find me deep in contemplative thought as I look back and remember my dad and thank him for all the good times we shared.


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