Barefoot in the City.

Not so long ago and not so far away, my father was my teacher. I learned from him in different ways; through lesson, observation and emulation. Amongst so many other things, he taught me to swim, I watched him work, and I copied his writing.

His was a glinting calm presence, a wordless reassurance that all was well. There was no room for naysayers, no room for fear. Where he walked barefoot, I surely followed. Summer was no time for shoes!

So it was that, last Friday, after delivering a presentation at a City institution, I said my goodbyes, shook hands, left the building, nipped round the corner and took off my business shoes. The relief! I walked on in flip flops, surrounded by the fellow-relieved in trainers

Sadly, the streets of London are not paved with gold, happily, my flip flops glitter – and that is close enough for me. I set off towards Liverpool Street station in search of a breeze, a drink and a train home, in that order. I was rewarded with all three.

I walked into Broadgate with my iced pink wine, to watch Wimbledon on the big screen. What caught my eye, however, was not the epic men’s semi-final projected in front of me, but the man confidently striding past barefoot.

I looked down at my flip flops and up to meet Dad’s gaze. We smiled and raised our glasses in a toast to lessons learned, not lost.


How Much Heart.

Yesterday, it would have been Ted Hughes’ birthday, and a chance remark from a friend reminded me of the poet’s fatherly advice in the final paragraph of this letter, sent to his son Nicholas in 1986. It struck me as something my own father might well have said, too.

‘The only calibration that counts is how much heart people invest, how much they ignore their fears of being hurt or caught out or humiliated. And the only thing people regret is that they didn’t live boldly enough, that they didn’t invest enough heart, didn’t love enough. Nothing else really counts at all.’

(Letters of Ted Hughes, 2008. Ted Hughes, editor Christopher Reid)


How My Father Raised Me

Nayyirah Waheed, ‘Salt’ (2013)

Lost and Found

Reading ‘Hurry Up and Wait’ by Maira Kalman and Daniel Handler, I was stopped by this:

‘When I was a kid my father would say,
if you get lost, don’t look for me.
Stay there. Stay there and I will find you.

He’s gone now.’

Instantly reminded of my complete trust and faith in my father to take care of everything – especially me – I wondered am I still waiting for him to find me?


My Dad

Gordon Stanley Weller, born 23 June 1918 in Newcastle-upon-Tyne.  

Italy. 1954
Abberton, Essex. 1961.
47 North Hill, Colchester. 1964
RAF, Egypt. 1944. (Gordon Stanley Weller second from left)
47 North Hill, Colchester. 1964



Good Night Irene

In the first week of August, 2011, my father died after a long illness. He’d just made 93 when he was declared out. We hadn’t seen each other in a long time; my mother acted as ‘gatekeeper’ to that relationship and to describe her as a difficult person is polite. Once he’d died, she made short work of disappearing him physically. She removed him almost without trace; if you’d wanted to believe he hadn’t existed, you’d not have had to try too hard.

Just under a fortnight later, Dad was cremated with minimal notice and no service. I knew where he’d gone, but not where I was, and still have no words to describe my feelings. How to cope? I carried on working and, in fact, worked harder. I took on a six-day week. Insomnia invaded my nights, precious sleep interrupted by vivid dreams of my father. Frequently I saw him standing, holding a little boy with black hair and pale skin in his arms; both of them looking quite calmly at me, sometimes smiling.

So, my sleep was valuable, and Sunday mornings were my only chance to lie-in. Two days after my father’s unceremonious cremation, a Sunday morning, I was furious to be woken up before 7 a.m. by shouting. Of course, becoming furious made going back to sleep impossible. I climbed out of bed and, unable to see what was happening from my window, pulled on a jacket and went down to the garden. The noise was coming from a neighbor’s house, the voice was almost incoherent, the only intelligible word being ‘Help!’ I climbed on the garden bench, but could see nothing over the fence.

I ran round to the house and knocked on the door. The elderly husband answered in a confused state, I’d woken him up. His wife was calling, she’d fallen and couldn’t get up. She sounded as though she’d had a stroke, I called an ambulance and talked to her while her husband got dressed. The paramedics were with us in under five minutes and were fantastic. We watched while they worked tirelessly. Even while she slipped into unconsciousness, they spoke to her and treated her with the utmost dignity. Yet she drifted away, and we all saw her letting go. She was pronounced dead in hospital.

The husband came round to thank me. He sent flowers and chocolates. I was for a while the talk of the street, but I knew nothing of this. I’d had enough. I’d taken off, travelling light. With a sigh of relief (no-one wants to deal with a bereaved colleague) my boss had signed me off work on the compassionate leave I’d not asked for my father’s death. A good friend told me I was meant to see Irene out; it did feel right and it did go some way to helping me see Dad out, too.