There’s a set of cutlery from 1950, with the embossed numbers hammered in.
It represents my fathers RAF National Service, over 2 years spent as a 20 year old young man straight from College. Like his tools he made at English Electric in Thornbury after National Service that as an Apprentice, or the Morris Dancing hat and bells, or the songbooks from his years in the Folk music world, these are the triggers and fragments of a life of a legacy; doors to a brief awakening. Routes to unlock the richness of a past we don’t want lost. The houses shared with Polish ‘displaced workers’ when he lived in ‘digs’ with a landlady. The pictures tours of postwar Europe with Morris dancer as the folk revival just began in the ashes of post war Europe.
But also a reminder of the decades after that have become fragile and unclear, a marriage that has all but faded as widower of over 10 years, four children whose presence in a fragile timeline takes time and gentle efforts to connect. The past being more alive than the present is a strange feeling. For his children the doors seem to be often more closed than open, our Dad is often lost.
His time with our Mum is at times lost to him, his recall back before he was 30, the parades, the Aircraft repairs, the folk songs and the loves of a young man in his prime, the fears of guards duties and the lifelong friendships now marked by a list of wakes.
His joy becomes our sadness.
And then we have the things that make you swoon. Seeing the wonder power of communal song, the years fall away the faces light up, he comes alive and joy is visible. The dog that comes in to be petted and hugged… The chat that takes him back with the pictures, the films and the reminders of a life rich in hopes.
I’m still learning from him, perhaps things he kept hidden, but amidst the loss and sadness there is some treasure.
Ralph Berry, Live Well Leeds, Touchstone