I’m sorry that I’ve been neglecting my blog these past few weeks but on Thursday 21st December 2017 my dad, Jack Parker, passed away. He went into hospital for a day and ended up staying for almost three months. A few days before he died, the doctors were hopeful that he would be home for Christmas but that was not to be. My mother and I were with him at the time, so thankfully he was not alone when it happened.
My father was a voracious reader and I have him to thank for my own love of books, which ultimately led to me becoming a writer. Every time he read a new book he would pass it on to me, anything from Erich von Däniken’s Chariots of the Gods to James Plunkett’s Strumpet City – one of our favourite books. He told me that as a child, Jack London was his favourite author and The Call of the Wild was a much loved book. He fished and hunted duck and rabbit and many a time my parents would tell us the rabbit stew we were eating was chicken because of the fuss we kicked up over the ‘wee bunnies’ hanging in the shed.
Dad was a great sportsman, from his school years right up to the week he went into hospital. When we were children he was a goalkeeper for various football clubs and also a fantastic darts player. He even wrote a book on how to play darts but never published it. In those days, golf was his favourite pastime and he won five scratch cups over his lifetime of playing, I think if he didn’t have the responsibility of a family to provide for, he would have become a professional golfer. He was a coach builder and carpenter by trade and very good at his job.
Chess was another game that my father loved and he would teach anyone who wanted to learn. My sisters and myself have known how to play since we were very young and would set the pieces up for our parents whenever my father managed to talk my mother into giving him a game. In their later years they both took up bowls – indoor and outdoor – and were quite competitive, especially when playing on opposing teams. My dad was never a bad loser, except when the winner was my mum, but he always said ‘you play to win’ and his motto was to practice, practice, practice. I was very proud of him when, in his mid seventies, he studied to become an umpire/referee in bowls. He passed his exams and was well known and respected in many clubs over the years. At his funeral, which was on Christmas Eve, some of his bowls friends formed a guard of honour while his grandsons carried his coffin to the hearse.
Although he hated flying my father decided in his seventies to visit places that had been on a wish list for most of his life. He took a short flight to St. Andrew’s golf course in Scotland, one of the oldest in the world, as a practice run for a much longer trip to Poland. It was the first time he had been to mainland Europe and we were quite concerned about him as he was travelling alone. However, there was no need to worry, my dad had it all sorted. In case he got mugged, he had photocopied his money and put it in his wallet, while carrying the real notes in the shoes he was wearing. We were terrified he would forget and pay for something with the fake money by mistake and end up being arrested for passing on forged notes. He tried hard to blend in by dressing like a local in Warsaw, hoping to avoid pickpockets who targeted the tourists and was amused to find other tourists giving him a wide berth – I can’t blame them when he described what he was wearing.
One particular place that dad wanted to visit was Auschwitz-Birkenau Memorial and Museum. He was twelve when the second world war ended and the concentration camps had left a deep and lasting impression on him. From Warsaw, he took the train to Berlin but didn’t get to spend as much time at the former site of the Berlin Wall as he would have liked, as he had to catch a plane to Alicante in Spain. We were living there at the time and he stayed with us for a week, soaking up the sunshine and swimming in the warm waters of the Mediterranean. I’m so glad I have the memories and photographs of that time we spent together. He will be sorely missed. R.I.P. Dad.