The Beach Hut

The Beach Hut

Wednesday, 28 August 2013

Tribute to Dad

My last post was prompted by  my  83-year-old Dad being in Intensive Care, unable to speak or swallow. He passed away later that day.  Just a week earlier my brother and I thought we'd witnessed an improvement in his condition, he'd actually spoken a few words.  I'd even sent a 'sentence of news' to radio 4's iPM programme, which was broadcast on Saturday 17 September. This is my sentence of news:  After four days of being without speech due to viral encephalitis my father clearly said, "I want to have ...." How quickly things changed.

As a tribute to my Dad I decided to post this item that I wrote as recent exercise at my writing group:

Biking to Beachy Head

The winding road to Beachy head and the Sussex Downs seemed steeper every day to Roy as he pedalled his bicycle up the long narrow stretch of tarmac.  He'd used this road many hundreds of times in his long life but never had it been as exhausting as it felt now.  he even thought he might have to give up before reaching the top on this occasion.  It was the snigger on the lips of a dog walker, who's dog ran beside the bike yapping at Roy's heels, that made him determined to keep going.

After a long slow grinding ride up to the top, after he'd sat for a while to enjoy his flask of coffee and slice of crushed cake from his saddlebag, Roy got back on his bike for the return ride down the winding road.  The wind rushed through his thinning hair and it filled his cotton shirt which billowed out behind him. Down, down, down he went, past the dog and its owner still trudging upwards, speeding down to the seafront, on to the pier and home almost without pedalling at all.  This was his reward for the hard-going uphill.  

Wednesday, 21 August 2013

Intensive Care

My father is in hospital at the moment, Intensive Care actually.  He has always been an avid cyclist, right up until he started to get sick about five weeks ago he was cycling up to 20 miles a day – for pleasure!  He is 83 and probably physically fitter than many men and women 40 years younger, at least prior to this current episode.

Dad worked as a baker until he was 50 and then worked in the kitchens of the local hospital until he retired at 65.  Did I say ‘retired’?  A few years later he started working part time at his local Asda, where he had what he often described as ‘the easiest job in the world’; he worked in the instore bakery where he piped the cream into the Victoria sandwich cakes – and he was always very generous with that cream. 

It was while he was working at Asda that he got talking to a colleague about going to France for the day – yes, here he was, at least 70 by then, and several times each summer he would have a day of cycling in France, coming home with fish soup and red wine in his saddlebags.  He admitted it was, "a bit of a struggle" to pedal up the hills when loaded with tins of soup and bottles of wine.  Anyway, his colleague, I’ll call him Simon, who was about 30 years old, clearly thought, ‘If the old man can do it so can I’, and he said he would like to join Dad on his next trip.  So early one morning off they went, 13 miles to the nearest port, 4 hours ferry journey across the channel and cycling all day in France with occasional stops for coffee and sustenance.   They had a great day, well Dad certainly did!

By the time they arrived back at Dad’s house that evening, Simon had all but stopped talking, it was taking all his energy to keep pedalling.  As Dad got off his bike and said, “goodbye, see you tomorrow”, Simon said, “I think I’ll walk the rest of the way home”.  And so Simon walked, on somewhat wobbly legs, the remaining half mile to his own house.  When Dad got to work the next day he learned that Simon had phone in sick.  One up to the old man!

I’m hoping that physical fitness will help him in his recovery now.