Quiet gentleman 1928-2006
Family words for the funeral held at the Woodland Burial Centre, Hinton, Hampshire.
For many years Peter and I visited Crete, sometimes twice a year. For over ten years we stayed with Maria Filipakis in a very Greek apartment. Our Greek was minimal and so was Maria’s English but we managed to have long and involved conversations. Maria’s mother still lived in the family village in the hills. She was a very demanding old lady and as Maria was the only girl in the family she bore the responsibility of caring for her.
Maria had a washing machine but the heavy washing she did in the garden with a bowl and a hosepipe. One-day mother wanted her blankets washed and although the temperature was in the 90s Maria had to fetch them and do them in the communal washing place by the sea.
Sadly Maria’s husband died. We were not there for the funeral but it was clear we were expected to attend the subsequent memorial service. After all, we were family. We walked up the hill to the family church. We lit our candle. We blew out our candle. Afterwards we had a small glass of brandy, bagels and a beautiful iced cake decorated with symbols of eternity. We ate this with a spoon. We felt very privileged to be part of this tribute to our friend Vagelis.
No wonder we loved Crete where we were always made so welcome.
Mum has received many cards with thoughtful and kind words. A theme of these is Dad as a quiet gentleman. We appreciate such fond recognition at this time.
There is a clue in the different surname, but physically it’s obvious we didn’t get the ‘thin gene’ from him. Nor, if you remember the younger version, did we get the ginger moustache. But he has, in the sense of first-hand childhood memory, always been our father. The youngest was four and the eldest nine when Mum and Dad married.
For us, he found helping someone else was never too much trouble. And he was a do-er. He was a Dad that could make things. In Benfleet we had a range of hutches for rabbits and guinea pigs. Both Steve and Angus still have their boarding school wooden tuck boxes made with sturdy steel corners.
The new house in Crewe was a blank canvas upon which he built and decorated into a home. The bungalow in New Milton, too, saw a transition. In both gardens he was the handyman to Lorna’s gardening creativity. He had a regular eye for the detail. Watching him read a birthday card or letter made us smile as he instinctively tilted it to the light for a professional inspection of the paper quality.
A slight counterpoint to this was the episode with the gravel driveway at Crewe which by some miscalculation we had deep pathways either side of the house and a six inch layer on the garage roof. As the drive was on a slope the pebbles were forever rolling into the road.
We can’t think of the house in Crewe without remembering the basset hounds. This choice was meant to be a compromise: Mum wanted a smaller dog, so they had ‘a big dog with little legs’. Dad got his own way on that one but perhaps rued the day when he had to lift them into the car or carry Susie aboard a narrow boat.
He was mildly tolerant of our youthful exuberances, perceptive and understanding of our different characters. His thoroughness meant that we have the record of letters between home and school. Our growing up was their consternation: we can all recall a firm, but caring and supportive, talking to.
Our education gave us an independence of spirit but we all fondly recall the occasion when Mum and Dad took what they thought was a first holiday, in Norfolk, without the children. We were off in our own different planned locations. But, somehow, we each individually made our way to the cottage in Norfolk at some point during the fortnight.
He was as solid and dependable as the cars he chose in the sixties and seventies. These vehicles took us on adventurous outings and holidays covering every county in England, Wales and Scotland while we were still young. This included a grand driving tour of Scandinavia in 1966.
The move to New Milton meant exploring the beaches and the forest, this time with the company of growing grandchildren to enjoy. To them he was a willing conspirator in the bacon sandwich production – and in half a family of vegetarians.
Also in retirement we were pleased to see him enjoy spending our inheritance travelling around the globe, usually cruising to somewhere sunny. We can’t say we were as pleased about having to view the photos. The aim was not to be the first visitor after their return, especially if it had been a trip to Elounda.
Thank you, Dad. Thank you, Peter, gentleman.