Monday 27 February 2012

Eulogy - rjb

My Dad was clever.
    He invented things so novel and useful that they got patented. He helped me with my studies all the way through school and university, and I still used to ring him up and ask for help when I started going to work. He built his first radio transmitters when he was a child.

My Dad was good with words.
    When I asked him how digital frequency counters worked, he said "very well" rather than explaining their principle of operation. He described catheterization as "a monstrous indignity". He was quicker and easier to ask than Google when you couldn't think of a word. When he noticed that "text" had become a verb he naturally included "Thou texteth" in the conjugation. I once heard him call somebody "a baboon" and "sir" in the same sentence. Without fail he was clear and precise in speech, he once left an answering machine message for me at a friend's house. It started "This is John Redacted with a message for Richard Redacted his son message follows:"

My Dad was practical and resourceful.
    There was almost nothing that he couldn't make or mend, from bicycles, lawn-mowers, and out-board motors, to amplifiers and oscilloscopes, from childrens' toys to furniture and boats. After my brothers had destroyed a small petrol lawn mower (which had already been scrapped) to make a powered go-kart, he turned it back into a lawn-mower, and it's still cutting the grass more than 30 years later. He made sailing and rowing dinghies in his garage. When you worked with him, you never went out to buy specialist tools or parts, everything was repaired, adapted, re-purposed, or fabricated.

My Dad understood risk.
    He once left my 10 year old brother in charge of a small lead smelter, but he never let me cycle at night without lights. He crossed the channel to France several times in an 18 foot open boat. He encouraged his children to ride motorbikes. He once sent me to the top of his house on an aluminium ladder which had a home-made 3 metre extension G-clamped to the legs. We did all kinds of exciting and adventurous things and nobody was killed or injured, there were only a handful of broken bones. Looking back I think that he understood our capabilities and trusted us. He would never put us in harm's way, but neither was he paralysed by fear for us.

My Dad was wise.
    In my life I have only had to make a handful of heart-wrenchingly, future-splittingly difficult decisions, but the ones I did with his help were easier and better. His advice was straightforward and mainly boiled down to: Don't do anything rash, weigh up the pros and cons, sleep on it, don't be dishonest.

My Dad is dead and gone forever.
    And the world is a sadder and a duller place because of it, but his values are alive. My brothers and sister are like me, and we behave as he taught us. Between us we're clever, eloquent, practical, adventurous and wise. For example I make and mend all kinds of things for all kinds of people. I'm never wasteful and will always try to mend or re-use something broken before I buy a new one - just like my dad.

Richard "will" B

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