Friday, August 31, 2007

Message from?

Sunset from the caravan

Sunset at Bwlchtocyn

Dad died on a Saturday night, so we couldn't access any of the professionals that are concerned until the Monday. John's first call on the Monday morning was to my parents Solicitor - he and John are joint Executors.

After that John called my parents accountant, Mr E. He has been more than just a professional over the last few years - Mum has been taking her letters into the office to be read to her since her sight got really bad. He has been a friend to my parents.

John told Mr E. that Dad had died on Saturday. There was something of a silence, and then Mr E. said... "You may not believe this, but my clerk R. came in to see me this morning and told me he'd dreamed Mr Mills (Dad) had died over the weekend".

Which makes sense to me - if Dad was going to try and contact us from the Great Beyond, it would be typical for him to make contact through his Accountants.

It went on after too. John didn't have anything fit to wear for a funeral, his only suit was a horrid one bought cheap years ago for work. I was convinced we'd hit lucky in our local Oxfam shop. And we did - perfect fitting suit (even the sleeves fitted - usually much too short), nice white shirt also, and a great tie.

And there was a very elegant navy hat that perfectly matched the navy suit I planned to wear...

Plus we got parking space right outside the shoe shop in The Crescent (practically unheard of!) when we went to buy new slippers for Mum. Conveniently close the the butcher too, Roberts, where we bought a lump of beef to roast (it was delicious and tender).

So I felt looked after, that someone was making sure that we found what we needed when we needed. I realise that may sound odd to some folks, but I'm sure others may recognise this happening in their own lives sometimes.

Dad's funeral was on a Thursday afternoon in St Bridget's Church, West Kirby. It was a perfect summer day, with fluffy white clouds in a blue sky, and the swallows flying overhead. There were red and white roses and pink lilies on his coffin. It was peaceful walking behind the coffin through the churchyard and into the Church.

I hadn't been sure I'd be able to manage to read my Tribute (especially after shaking badly throughout the first hymn), but John was standing by to take over if need be, and Sarah helped me up the 3 steps. So I managed. Sarah helped me back to my seat, then returned to the pulpit to give her own Tribute on behalf of herself and Helen.

Afterwards a few of us went to the Crematorium for the Committal. Then we met up with the rest of our party at The Basset Hound for buffet and drinks. We had a tab on the bar for the party, as we felt Dad was always generous when entertaining his friends and family, and he enjoyed a tipple himself. ;-)

The Funeral Directors sent a car to fetch Mum from the nursing home with a nurse to help her, and Sarah travelled with her to keep her company too. We didn't know if she'd be able to cope with the whole of the day, but she managed both the Crematorium and the reception after as well as the funeral. John and Sarah took her and her nurse back to the nursing home when Mum began to show signs of being tired.

When they got back to the pub we had another round of drinks, just the closest family (including John's Mum, Mary).

This is all old news now, but I wanted to make a record for myself.

Here's a couple of recent photos of my favourite city.

St Nicholas Church, Liverpool

St Nicholas Church

Cityscape, Liverpool

Atlantic Tower, RoyalSunAlliance building (to let) and that big tall building that I haven't found the name of yet. It's very striking, even more so seen from Birkenhead. That top penthouse must have fantastic views!

Monday, August 20, 2007

Went fishing...

Well, not exactly, but we did make it to Abersoch for a week.

View from the caravan

The agapanthus only had 3 flowers this year, and John managed to knock off a flower head while on a mad snail and slug hunt amongst its leaves. Sarah (elder daughter) said it was a casualty of war. ;-)

Agapanthus seed head

Took a pile of knitting but mislaid the bag till packing to come back home. Ah well! Spent more or less the whole week in a nest of our double down and feather duvet on the bunk with the best view of the field and read some books.

Corner of the patio

The garden hasn't done too well, though we did have some plants survive. But I didn't get to trim the brambles choking the shrubs beside the shed - next time hopefully! Which we hope won't be too much later, maybe mid September, time will tell I guess.

Pink flower

The lily got chewed by bunnies I think, but badly snail or slug damaged too. The leaves you see in the background are the agapanthus. The lily still smelled wonderful, and I took some time to smell the flowers.


John and "the kids" went sailing, and friends and relations called, all good fun but I slept through vast amounts of fun. I was just really shattered.

It's going to take me a while to catch up, have a lot of stuff I want to think about and then write about. Still not really got to grips with everything that's happened.

Friday, August 10, 2007

Tributes to Dad

Tribute to Dad

Dad was not a demonstrative man, but throughout the time that I have known him as his daughter he has made clear by all his actions that his Family were the most important thing in his life. He loved my Mum for over 60 years, and they were just short of their Diamond Wedding Anniversary.


Dad and Mum on their honeymoon

I only ever saw Dad cry once, and that was when he visited me in Oxford Road Maternity Hospital just after I had Sarah. He took one look at her, and his eyes filled, he was just so happy to see his first grand daughter.

When our girls were small (and sometimes grubby!) Dad and Mum made sure we always had a working washing machine, and were generous helping out with extras like school trips and holidays. Dad was very proud of his grand daughters and their achievements, and took great pleasure watching them grow from tiny tots to the people they are today.

The definition of a Cockney is "born within the sound of Bow Bells". That made Dad a Cockney, though he was far from the popular conception of such. He loved London, and had many memories of it. He remembered as a child being driven in Hansom Cabs, and also 4 wheeled horse-drawn cabs or "Growlers" with his Grandfather Mason. His Grandfather would always take a horse-drawn cab when possible, as living was hard for horse-drawn cab drivers with the advent of the Omnibus and motor car.

One of my first memories is from 1952. Dad and Mum took me to London to see the Coronation Lights. They thought it would be something that I would remember for the rest of my life. I have no memory of the lights whatsoever. But what I do remember is sitting on Dad's shoulders, feeling safe and secure, and looking around at a sea of heads surrounding us. I had never seen so many people at once before.

Dad in Egypt on motorbike in WWII

Dad on his motorbike in Egypt in the War (WWII)

As a little girl I loved to hear stories of Dad's time in the Army during the war. He told me of taking tea with the Bedouins while stationed in Cairo, when a goat was milked directly into the cup before the tea was poured into it. He adopted a homeless kitten when he was stationed in Gloucestershire, called it Putten, and fed it milk with a fountain pen filler. When he had to return overseas he managed to persuade the Cook to adopt Putten. Even then he knew how best to look after his "family"!

Recently he enjoyed reminiscing about the Farewell Dinner for the Sergeant's Mess of the 712th Company of the Royal Army Service Corps - British Army of the Occupation of the Rhineland, held in The Vaux Hall Club , Brussels on the 12 Jan 1946. He kept the menu, signed by all present, and a photo. Taken at the end of the meal, all look very cheerful, all are smiling, but I think Dad's grin is the broadest of all of them. It must have been a very special meal.

Dad enjoyed stamp collecting, specialising for many years in Disaster Covers, with a particular interest in Air Mail. He told me about Zeppelins, showing me a crumpled piece of metal that came from a crashed Zeppelin. He also had some rather more light-hearted Disaster Covers - as a child I was particularly fond of the one that was "Damaged by snails".

For Dad, stamp collecting wasn't the solitary occupation that it is perceived as by many. He went to meetings, made friends with fellow enthusiasts, and corresponded with collectors all over the world. He liked to combine interests. He loved the mountains and estuaries around Mum's Home Town of Dolgellau. He was very fond of steam trains. Add those to stamps and you get the Talyllyn Railway. He wrote an article "The Talyllyn Railway and its Stamps" which was published in The Stamp Magazine in July 1961

Dad with Rameses II in the 80s

Dad posing with Rameses II

Dad loved to travel, and he re-visited some of his war-time haunts in Egypt with Mum, as well as visiting Turkey long before it became apopular tourist destination. They cruised up the Fjiords of Norway to see the midnight sun, and crossed the Atlantic to visit friends and family in Canada.

Dad on a camel In the 80s

Dad on a camel in Egypt in the 80s, think might be at Petra?

But I think he best loved to visit the the mountains and valleys around Dolgellau with Mum. They visited every year until recently, enjoying time with my Uncle Glyn's family and Mum's old friends. Dad was very proud of his certicate proving he had mined for gold underground at Gwynfynydd Gold Mine in 1994.

Last week one of Dad's friends and work collegues commented to me that Dad could look quite sombre some of the time, but then his face would light up and come alive when he smiled. Dad retained his sense of humour to the end. I last spoke to him the day before his last birthday. We reminded him it was his birthday the following day, and I teased "21 again?"

"23, actually" was his reply.


Sarah's Tribute

To Helen and I, John was always Grandpa. When we were little, we often went to stay in West Kirby in with Ninny & Grandpa, and Grandpa was in charge of games and keeping us amused whenever possible. We played board games, cards, and Bagatelle whenever we couldn’t be outside, but mostly we enjoyed running around in the garden and setting ‘records’ to be recorded in the little notebook that Grandpa called the ‘record book’. One of our other favourite games was to offer him a piece of decorative plastic fruit and then run around laughing when he pretended to try and take a bite.

Grandpa was always kind and generous to Helen and I, helping us out with pocket money so that we could go on school trips and then again at university. He encouraged us to broaden our horizons. He would tell us about the travelling that he had done, both in the war and then since he had retired with Ninny. Grandpa loved Wales and its history, and he loved to get out to Dolgellau and into the mountains. When I was very small I remember being taken to Bala for the day for a picnic with them.

Helen and I have both done our own bits and pieces of travelling, partly inspired by Grandpa making us believe that it was possible. In fact, Helen has been as far as a round the world trip.

Helen and I were both aware of Grandpa’s love of good food from a very early age. Whenever we drew a birthday card for him, it would nearly always show a big chocolate cake. Ninny & Grandpa loved to eat out together, and even when we were very little they took us out and taught us which spoon to use for what. This helped us to have confidence in different situations as we’ve both grown up. Grandpa always enjoyed going out for a meal with us all, and seeing us all dressed up and smart for the occasion to have a good time.

Grandpa was always keen to hear about our academic achievements, and he was always supportive of the career choices that we made. He told us a bit about his professional life, working in London, and working with computers back in the early days. I think that he was proud that we both went to university and then managed to support ourselves since then. We are both very grateful to him for his help and encouragement to us to do our best with our studies and continue them.

Grandpa helped Helen and I to learn manners, politeness, and respect for other people. We will both miss him, and miss having an excuse to get giant chocolate cakes for him. We remember him as a kind and good person who always wanted to do the right thing for his family and friends.

Thursday, August 09, 2007

Funeral Day

John W. Mills

Dad reading

23 July 1918 - 28 July 2007

Wednesday, August 08, 2007

My Dad

I was looking through some of my parents old photo albums the other day, when I came across some colour negatives. This was really quite amazing, as mostly they destroyed all negatives. So John took them down to Max Spielman in Richmond Street, and they put them onto CD for us. There are a number of pictures of interiors of the house they lived in before moving to the flat (the calender in the kitchen says June 1985), and several of the girls.

And two really super photos of Dad. This one is the nicest one of him that I've seen - you can see the twinkle in his eyes.

Dad and the girls

Proud Grandpa

Wednesday, August 01, 2007

Just a quick update

My Dad was taken into hospital on Saturday afternoon with a chest infection, and died peacefully in the evening about 8pm. Our younger daughter Helen, John and myself were with him. We are sad, but happy that he did not appear to be in any pain.

I'm not sure when I'll be updating for a while - we have so much to arrange in a short time.

Hilbre and windfarm