My Pops has just turned 70. I’m about to turn 40 and I’m not too worried about the whole thing – hell no! And, if you saw my Pops, you’d say “No way, 70!”
I’m his youngest (one of four), he’s his Mother’s oldest (one of eight) – and a twin! (allegedly a triplet as there is a story about one being lost at birth, given that there was an air raid and the hospital was affected when he has born – 1941 in Liverpool).
So 40 years (almost) after I came along, what do I know about my Pops?
He’s had (for most of it) a great life: boy meets girl (stunning she was too), marries girl, has kids, struggles like most people did through various recessions, works damn hard, pays off the mortgage and plans a great retirement with the love of his life.
When we were younger we had great holidays: I remember towing a caravan to Wales and Devon in both long wheeled and short wheeled based Landrovers, stopping at farms part way and taking the ‘jam pan’ so that we could pick blackberries and make jam – yes, we did! I remember too my cousins coming with us as we used to go as two (sometimes 3 families) and evening on the beach with a campfire when the day was almost done and it had gone cold – happy days! My parents used to save money in a huge whiskey bottle and holiday week they’d crack it open and the housekeeping for the week and whatever that bottle had used to be our holiday fund. I wouldn’t change these days for the world – I have so many memories and every one of them good.
Pops was an engineer: originally a time-served mechanic in his late teens and then onto the ships as an engineer in the merchant navy – he was proud to be qualified enough to be sat at the Captains table. After a lot of time away from home – my Mum, the love of his life persuaded him to give up his ocean days for dry land.
He has always had an interest in something or other and he spent many years very passionate about karate (it was a serious thing to be part of once) and he took it very seriously – trained very hard and used to be a Sensei until more recent times.
He used to make jam (at home as well as hols) and took up wine making – not from those dodgy kits: fruit picking, sieving, sugar and yeast (how it should be done). I remember my Mum’s stocking hanging from the washing line with the juice of the fruit dripping out and this used to rattle her, lol.
HonieB here also remembers Pops as a Bee Keeper and coming home one day with a hive (yes, a hive) on the bus, with a few stray bees not wanting to leave their home, to start another passion that went on for many years, many more hives, lots of swarms, a few angry neighbours and lots and lots of jars of honey. In case you were wondering, that’s were the name HonieB came from – for Twitter and other sites, I’ve had to add the UK. I can still see the spinner that got the honey out of the comb and boy oh boy the smell of fresh honey – not to mention the great apples we used to get from the tree (ahhh Mum’s apple pie – can’t beat it!).
And there you go, another passion – his garden: fruit trees, a fabulous vegetable plot, the best rhubarb, various pond built over the years as he also wanted to improve or relocate them. We had carrots and other vegetables growing in the front garden in brick build borders and the tops looked lovely amongst other veggies. We had a fabulous strawberry plot that just got bigger and bigger.
No garden at the edge of a village and a valley would be complete without pets. We had pets and we had pets that not many would have called normal pets: a large aviary of over 100 budgies/canaries; the hives (5 or 6); rather a lot of rabbits; just as many ferrets; dogs (many over the years); a chicken; a cock; a duck; 2 stick insects; an ant farm and 2 aquariums with tropical fish, a reed fish (a bit like an eel), terrapins and piranha’s (4)!!! We were told by the man in the fish shop that they were ‘silver dollars’ but although similar, they were not and Pops would feed them chicken – they were quite cute and you could out your hand in the water, unharmed! They died of shock (probably from so many kids trying the hand in the water thing). Told you they weren’t normal pets.
I remember as a child he would write in my birthday cards ‘to Poppet ….. from Pops.’ I used to laugh at this, it seemed silly, but cute – an affection we shared (although I have 3 other siblings older than me).
I remember being obsessed with combing his hair as a child. I’d look forward to him coming home from work and sitting in the chair, taking his comb from his back pocket – I even remember the smell of his hair.
He took up learning a new skill as a radio amateur as our neighbour was good at it and we had an ‘AM’ CB radio (not allowed then!). He did have a licence for the radio amateuring though and there was the odd class at our house in the evenings. He went on to build an ariel that could rotate (with our neighbour) and they would sell them to other budding enthusiasts. I can tell you that he was able to have conversations right across the atlantic and the ariel was more than popular in these parts – but not with the neighbours for TV interference – so they went on to design a TV interference filter – and it worked!
From AM to FM I used to use the CB radio myself (along with Pops and others in the family) – made lots of friends this way. Looking back it’s why the internet and chat forums and platforms have taken off so well – only now it’s all a bit more high tech’ (but more vulnerable). I knew everyone I talked to before and my Pops was not going to let anyone mess me around with me. “For every minute you bring her back late Sonny, I’ll break bones in your body.” I couldn’t stop out late if I ‘wanted’ to.
He like to play the guitar and had played it as a teenager and yes, had tales of wanting to be in a band). He was brought up in Liverpool and I kid you not when I say that he ‘knew’ the Beatles and remembers them being younger and keen, so he and his mates gave them tips. Well they were keen, obviously and the rest is history, lol. Anyway, he liked to tinker on the guitar and even played the mouth organ sometimes – both of which were popular with old friends at great parties we had at home or even when new friends wanted to learn a chord or two.
In later years Pops wanted to learn more and although he was time-served and had more experience than most men in engineering and could probably repair a ship with a piece of string, he wanted to prove to himself he could be academic and so went to college to complete a HND in Engineering – he was the eldest in the class, but they all loved doing projects with him. He made good friends as we took in German students on an exchange and they remained friends for years as they came over on motorbikes en route to Scotland, crashing out at my family home – it was a big house 😮
Then he thought he’d brush up on his creative side and took on a HE course in Art & Design – something he enjoyed very much, with interesting projects of painting, pastels and ceramics displayed around the house. I was impressed at the level of his efforts and not surprised that his exhibits were praised. He always wanted to do a bit better – always the perfectionist!
My Pops had a heart of gold – I remember him passing a hitchhiker once and having him stop by for dinner at our house, before taking on to where he wanted to go – another 15 miles away. I once, with this in mind, had a couple of cyclists I met in a pub with my cousin come by to the house as they were struggling to find digs while doing a John O’Groats to Lands End cycle. I knew he’d be OK with it. I got home just as Pops did and the cyclists minutes after – I only got the chance to explain as they arrived and they were a wee bit shocked to hear him say “Come on in, get yourselves cleaned up and I’ll fix you a meal”
Generous – yes! A cause as good as theirs – maybe! They were cycling for Cancer Research. Only the year before I watched as my Pops fell to pieces (along with the rest of us) as his life’s love was slowly stolen away. I’ll lift myself out of the shaky feeling as I type this by telling you that when my Mum knew she had to have chemo’ and she would lose her beautiful dark brown, silky hair with auburn tints, his response was “I’ll do this with you Love, I’ll shave off all of my hair.” This became the response of my Brother, my close cousins (the of Auntie Pam the woman they had grown to love, as well as her amazing apple pies, not coping – was all too much). And so it was, 16 men joined her in her loss of hair and this became a charitable affair with almost £4,000 raised in a weekend of fun at the local pub she used to work in. A year after she passed, we repeated this with a ‘Wax & Shave’ event in an old bath tub at the pub headed by my Pops and my Brother returning to claim the trophy for the truck pull gained the previous year.
So this act of kindness had relevance, anyone who put themselves out for a worthy charity as this, got his support – and mine!
The next few years were difficult. I won’t steal the moment with details of my own issues (which were stuff you could write a book about). Another time (maybe) this is his moment and I’m proud to say that he came through. Someone once said that everything my Pops did turned to gold – not without hard work, I would say. My Pops took on challenges, had interests, never gave up – watching him lose Mum was the hardest thing to see him not be able to fix.
Thinking of things people would say, leads me to remember the things that Pops would say, as I watched him work late into the night in the garage, tinkering and building. “A chain is as strong as its weakest link” means more to me now than it did then and I have applied it through my life to most things – not just things mechanical – projects, ideas and people!. “You can’t fall of the floor” – which is why it’s the best place to put a baby if there is no-where to place them safe! “What goes around comes around” – I remember in hard times thinking, I bloody well hope so! And, “Everything does not come to he who waits, you have to make it happen” – I’m still struggling with that one (after having the confidence knocked out of me in my first marriage, I’m a wee bit scared to make leaps of faith with matters of my own ability). “You can’t save a man from drowning when you are drowning yourself” he would say.
I seem to be very good at giving others the confidence and advice needed to make water into wine – but I’ve always been good at that, I inherited it from Pops! I found that no matter how bad things can get, I would tell others there would always be someone to help them through it – things were not as bad as they seemed. This philosophy went very well with my work as a therapist. My Pops needed me more than I did back then and I was going to be there for him, no matter what!
My Pops had a wonderful marriage with my Mum. They were genuinely the couple that others moulded their marriage on – people would tell him that! He supported my Mum and she was the rock of our family – he was the boss, but would tell her that she was. Knowing this made all the difference.
When he missed her most I would tell him that others had not and may not ever know what he has had – a fabulous life with a woman he loved more than any other. I told him that even I had missed this chance, that I had thought this was how it was for everyone after seeing such a good marriage (through good times and hard). I thought that I’d never have what he had been lucky to have. I never gave him a hard time about not being able to be there for me and my daughter when things were so hard for him.
Mum was exceptionally healthy prior to cancer and this is why her illness was for so long. We always assumed Pops would take ill and we would have to support Mum. Pops had a heart problem (apparently since birth) and had a heart attack in his mid-thirties.
After she died, he had a quadruple heart bypass – and despite a fabulous and quick recovery, I’m glad she didn’t see it. Then a couple of years later he was diagnosed with bowel cancer. Life has a fine way of dealing cards – what goes around comes around is not what I had in mind here. He woke up after his op’ which was about 7 hours longer than they said (can’t tell you how much that made me go into lockdown) and he had a scar a little bigger than the keyhole they promised after removing 12cm of bowel. It’s been almost 2 years now and he is, despite a few diet issues, fighting fit.
What just one passion, no not Pops, he has completely renovated 2 properties after selling our wonderful family home (too many memories and I skipped putting this earlier till we reached a happy bit).
He has also completely transformed the piece of scrap land at the back of the house (approx 18 metres of it) into a fabulous patio, hand-built garage, beyond this lawn and borders with space for the greenhouse he constructed and flowers and veggies are now in full bloom.
And this last week he turned 70. My Pops! A source of my life’s support. The man who allowed me to pull him through and now we are there for each other. I’m so proud of him and glad he has seen my life change for the better also. I was wrong about the chances I wouldn’t have – I have found my life’s love: I have my First Born and she is growing into a beautiful young lady; I have another gorgeous young Daughter who keeps me on my toes; I have a Step-son, who despite his disabilities, keeps smiling and reminds me of how unimportant the trivial things are and I have an amazing man, who loves me and looks out for me as much as I for him (a fabulous balance) and a true friend.
And, I have my Pops – the man who has influenced my life and even when it’s not been all I thought it should be, I have found the courage and strength to come through it all and I’ve found him to be much more than my Father, my Dad – he’s essentially the soul of the cooking pot that has held the recipe of my life – he’s my Pops and I love him.
HAPPY BIRTHDAY POPS ………….. From your Poppet xXx