Tribute to Dad

This has been a hard post for me to write and has taken time so I could get it right. It also explains a bit of a blogging hiatus as I have been incredibly busy over the past few months arranging and sorting things.

2016 was the year a number of legends died. On the 27th December not only did we lose Carrie Fisher but my dad, Bryn Williams, also passed away.

Dad had been in ill health for some time but his death still came as a shock especially as he has fought and won so many times in the past when admitted to hospital for various different reasons.

But it would appear he wasn't strong enough this time to beat pneumonia.

Dad was the biggest fan of my blog with alerts set up to tell him every time I posted and he often would leave a comment. He was a naturally gifted writer himself, writing for many speedway clubs around the country in their programmes and for the national speedway magazine, the Speedway Star. In his younger years he also contributed to fanzines at Crayford and Hackney. He was very proud of his articles and still had a collection of all the Kestrel News'.

Dad with our cat Woodsey (named after Speedway rider Paul Woods!)

Speedway was dad's life - a crazy motor sport involving 500cc bikes going at high speeds around an oval track with no brakes. Dad would often travel around the country to see various meetings. And for someone who didn't drive, this was no mean feat! If he wasn't able to grab a lift with a friend or one of the riders, he would make use of his rail card and get there on the train.

Dad and friends outside the Vic Harding Lounge at Hackney Speedway

When I was younger I would often accompany him to various meetings, and would drive to some when I had passed my test. These trips with stop offs at various service stations and truck stops as well as detours down back streets to avoid roadworks and accidents has stuck with me over the years. I have taken Mr Fox to the Red Lodge off the A11 and cursed when trying to take him to Kate's on the A1 that it was on the other side to where we were travelling.

But I did get to see a lot of the country - from the Isle of Wight in the South, to Kings Lynn in the East, Newport in Wales, Swindon in the West, Cradley Heath in the Midlands, Newcastle in the North East, Workington in the North West and Edinburgh in Scotland. And Dad could easily visit all those tracks in a week - in fact when I used to talk to him to see when he was available it would often be "well I am at Wolverhampton on Monday, Isle of Wight Tuesday, Kings Lynn Wednesday, Swindon Thursday, Arena [Essex] Friday, Eastborne Saturday and Iwade on Sunday". He didn't really do rest days between March and April, certainly not until his body forced him to.

As a kid I was a daddy's girl. If mum said no, I would always ask dad as he would usually say yes. I was rather spolit - on holidays dad would often buy me gifts or win me toys on the grabber machines. We once had to buy an extra bag to get the 53 toys we won in Scarborough home! Despite being made redundant and his arthritis crippling his hands making it impossible for him to work, dad's generosity knew no bounds especially where I was concerned and he bailed me out on more that one occasion. When I crashed my first car which I had proudly saved up for, he bought me a replacement, and later when some toerag attempted (badly) to break into that car and wrote it off, he lent me the money to buy another. Without his help I would have struggled!

Dad and I rocking matching jackets
Dad and I at my "I am leaving to go to Uni" party
In my younger years, not being flush with cash myself, I looked for other ways to pay him back - driving him around, taking him out for meals and in later years, decorating his home and making it a much nicer place to live. He loved Mr Fox and I being in the house and would DJ to us. In his younger years dad had been well known in the Kent area as part of Mr Toad's Roadshow, DJing at lots of pubs in the area. As well as a vast collection of vinyl, dad had also amassed a large collection of CDs over the years spanning many genres.

Mr Toad's Roadshow

As previously mentioned, dad often wrote for various magazines and programmes. When he had finally given up on his old Amstrad computer, he turned to Apple Mac as a replacement. He loved Macs. But dad was certainly not tech savvy! Often he would call up Mr Fox asking for IT advice - Mr Fox works in communications. I work in IT!! But despite me telling dad I probably knew more about computers he still phoned Mr Fox.

Mr Fox, Dad and Tadders Christmas 2015

Dad had been a heavy smoker over the years. It was not uncommon to see him with a cigarette (always a superkings black) in hand but after years of being sick of tax hikes he decided to stop, something of a shock to many who knew him. When I was younger he had promised me he would give up smoking if I stopped sucking my thumb. I gave up when I was 10, it took another 21 years before dad held up his end of the bargain! But he did give up and he stuck to it and never smoked again.

Over the years, dad would often call me and start the conversation "Don't panic, but..". "Don't panic, but I am in the hospital", "Don't panic but I fell over at the (enter name of speedway track here) and am in the St John's hut". The most memorable time dad made one of his Don't Panic phones calls was the Wednesday before my wedding. "Don't panic but, I am at Darent Valley Hospital. I will be out for the wedding so don't worry. It's just a problem with my foot." Fast forward to the Friday "Don't panic, I am still at the hospital but I will be out in time tomorrow". And then Saturday morning "Don't panic, I am still at the hospital but they are going to let me out of the day". Queue me jumping into Project Manager mode and looking at how we can ensure dad get's to the wedding as well as getting him to a barbers to smarten him up for the occasion. Quick call to my friend Ben to secure a lift for dad, quick call to mum to borrow a wheelchair and quick call to the local barbers to ensure they can sort him out.

Needless to say we got him to the wedding! And after delivering an off the cuff speech (which to be honest no one would have guessed was made up on the spot such was dad's natural ability with a microphone), he watched the first dance and then jumped into a black cab all the way back to the hospital.

Dad's improv speech

Me and Dad at the Wedding


Dad, me and the bridesmaids

Dad was a man of integrity. He swore he would be at the wedding, and he was. This is not the first time though dad has kept a promise to me. When I was 18 my friend Gary and I found ourselves in the Blue Dragon Tattoo parlour in Brighton. I had wanted a tattoo for some time but this was the first time I had plucked up the courage to head to a parlour. After flicking through their books I couldn't find the right dragon. I had seen one that I kind of liked and was all set to ask for it on my shoulder. It was busy on the day and after waiting 45 minutes and no one speaking to us, I gave up. When I told dad he said "I'll make you a promise - have a think about it and if you still want a tattoo in 10 years time, I will pay for it." In 2009 after months of research I finally found a dragon design I wanted. I popped along to Frith Street Tattoo and duly booked myself in. I phoned dad and told him. "A promise is a promise and you have waited 10 years. How much is it?" He never let me down.

My dragon tattoo

Dad also loved to shop. As mentioned above, he loved music. He had a huge collection of CDs and it wasn't unusual to find amazon packaging in his house somewhere. But it wasn't just CDs he seemed to collect.

"Why do you need 10 pairs of scissors dad?"
"Because they were on offer and I got a good deal".
"Why do you have 20 jars of coffee dad?"
"Because they are expensive when they are full price so I stock up."
"Did you realise you had 12 multipackets of Sunbites dad?"
"Yes - I like them so I buy them when they are on offer."

Mr Fox and I generally tended to term this "dad logic". It did also mean we never had to buy coffee as he was more than happy to donate a jar to us when we were running low.

One of the things I am going to miss (and really missed earlier this year), is dad's love for rugby especially Wales. We would often sit and watch the rugby together and cheer on the boyos. Dad also enjoyed baiting fans of the other teams especially England fans. Mr Fox was generally the token England fan when we were watching and even though he is not a massive rugby fan he joined in and allowed dad's jibes.

Dad, Mr Fox and I in June 2016

At his funeral it was lovely talking to his friends who have known him for many years (and the years before me) and hear about what he got up to when he was younger. I'm annoyed at myself for not asking him to regale more tales from his youth when he was alive. Dad would often tell us stories when we went to visit him and he did love to tell stories but he also was still a man of mystery. After he died we found out he had been taking part in a patient think tank group for the British Lung Foundation for people with COPD. He was highly regarded by the group and had some useful insights.

I am sure there is so much more I could say. I have so many memories of dad I could write a novel. He encouraged me to live life to the full (but to be sensible), he had my back when I did things my mum would have killed me for, and ultimately he was the best dad a girl could ask for. Needless to say I will miss him immensely.


Comments

  1. A beautiful insight to your friendship and relationship you have with Bryn, Although we've never met I knoew him from, can you guess where? Of course speedway. My son rode for about 12 years and Bryn would alsways greet with his Hiya, and we'd spend a little too long having a chat and then rush around to be ready to race. Bryn in life was a fantastic example of how to 'get on with it' despite the cards you're dealt. He'll never be dead, he may be on the other side of the curtain where we can't see him, but his spirit and character will mean he will never be forgotten. Bryn was special, unique and just a brilliant man and i'm honoured to have known him.

    Ray Blackwell, Mark & Kath

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