recital by me
my words about dad
Dad was best known for his always entertaining stories. His storytelling mastery was matched by his ability to recall fine detail. And, of course, his irreverent wittiness.
He was a proud and principled man who seemed to love a uniform: be it with the navy, the police, and for most of his working life, British Airways nee B.E.A.
His Royal Navy stories included; tales of cockroach & elbow-sweat soup, and ill-designed latrines. The soup story described meal time in the tropics when the ship would become a haven for thousands of cockroaches. They were impossible to remove. They either made their way to the soup in the kitchen, or they fell from the canteen ceiling to swim in your bowl!
The flavour of cockroach soup was further enhanced with extra salt. The saline liquid dripping from the brow and elbow of the, overcooked, cook!
Apart from this mealtime story, Dad (when feeling particularly mischievous), would describe the latrine experience. The latrine comprised two planks set a few inches apart spanning the ship’s hull. This design, while a little too friendly, worked okay in calm seas. But not the case in rough seas. When the ship pitched and rolled, the best spot was dead centre of the span and the worst, at either end. In the case of the latter, the unfortunate occupants would receive a generous sluicing. The content of the latrine would warm their nether regions. This repeated with every roll of the ship.
Dad loved to watch his audience’s expressions, often of disbelief or… disgust. Much like your faces today! Well, like I said, irreverent (Dad would approve!).
Talking of irreverent & uniforms, another nautical tale springs to mind. The irreverent side of Dad liked to push the limits of acceptable dress-code. He’d wear his cap as jauntily as possible, and while in the tropics, wore regulation shorts that made his superiors wince with the frustration of a held-back reprimand.
You see his shorts were compliant with the rules, if not to the letter. This all came about when Dad had a laundry mishap. His standard issue shorts were fine before they were washed. Unfortunately , they shrunk several sizes smaller when laundered. I should add here we don’t know why it was just his shorts that shrunk so dramatically). Anyway, he saw the funny side of appearing on parade in his ‘disco-dancer’ shorts (my words not his), and the reaction of his commanding officers.
It was while Dad was at sea that his first connection to Mum took place. Mum was working for E.M.I. at the time where she’d picked-out Ordinary Seaman Bernard Green in a ‘pen-pal lottery’. The idea was the E.M.I. office girls would select a sailor and send letters to help keep spirits up. The rest, as they say, is history. A history of 67 years of Dad’s fondest memories with his soul mate, Dorothy.
His family and close friends knew him for his unbridled love of animals. Pictures of cats and dogs always made Dad gooey; his eyes twinkled and his lips formed a gentle smile as he ‘oohed’ and ’aahed’ at the furry forms.
Back in the ‘60s, the Green family welcomed two such furry friends; Tabby Cat and Ginge. A few years later. an event dismayed the whole family; Tabby Cat went missing. Day’s past with still no sign of him. We were all feeling down and Dad went to work day after day with a heavy heart. Then one morning the missing moggy turned-up at the back door. Dad was at work, so Mum suggested my sister and I call him with the happy news. Unfortunately, Dad was out in his B.E.A.van driving between planes at Heathrow. So we left a simple message with his colleague: “Tabby Cat has come home!”. Later, Dad told us that his colleague had interpreted our message as a bet on a little-known equine thoroughbred. Dad didn’t gamble (apart from the football pools). He was definitely happier with the return of his furry lap-warmer, than any amount of winnings!
Later, on one of his trips to South Africa, Dad told the story about walking through the territory of larger cats. His friend of many years, Dino, had a private pilot’s license. Dino took Dad up for a tour around a huge animal reservation, on what one might call an aerial safari.
Halfway into the planned route, the engine coughed & spattered before finally conking-out! While Dino pulled levers and twisted knobs, Dad looked for suitable landing spots.
“Strip at 10 o’clock!!” Dad cried.
Dino glided the fragile plane to land on the rough brown strip. The aircraft rumbled to a stop. Dino announced that he should stay with the plane while Dad should go to find help. So off he set, mindful that he was in the middle of an animal reserve that included several large Prides of Lions!
And apart from a dusty track, there was no sign of human presence.
I can see Dad now, striding through Lion territory in unsuitable Englishman-abroad attire, hoping he might avoid becoming feline lunch by whistling “Mad Dogs and Englishmen” (the well-known Lion deterrent!).
After half-and-hour in the blistering heat, he came across a Ranger’s station. A few hours later, the plane repaired, he and Dino flew home - with all limbs attached!
Dad enjoyed humorists like; Dave Allen, Peter Cook & Dudley Moore and The Goons. His favourite books include: The Meaning of Liff, Let Stalk Strine, the cartoons of Carl Giles, and the writings of Clive James.
So what’s the red-thread? Anything that poked fun at the ‘establishment'!
The family home was 44 Cromwell Road, Hayes. A modest terraced house in a working class area. We Greens stood apart from our neighbours in several notable ways. For example, Dad’s choice of vehicles; the infamous Calliope, a pre-war grocer’s van with clockwork windscreen wipers. And WAR three, yet another van, in this case, of '50s vintage. A 'converted' sickly green Commer Express Delivery van. The conversion consisted of the addition of side windows. And a hand-crafted, extremely uncomfortable, bench seat. Child cruelty laws would prevent such a thing todayI
Dad never got around to selling its reg: W-A-R 1-1-1. Sadly, it would make a fortune to day.
The way we Greens spoke also made us stand-out from the populous of Hayes. Julie and I were considered ‘Posh’ by our contemporaries. This was due to our pronunciation of consonants, an unusual trait in that neck-of-the-woods. Proper pronunciation was something Dad insisted upon. This wasn't fully appreciated by his offspring at the time, but eventually became ingrained. And is carried forward by his granddaughters today. He frequently mentioned how much he loved Lizzie and Rosie and how proud of them he was. Apart from the they way they spoke, he appreciated their love of animals, kindness, determination, and funny bones!
All things their Grandad stood for.
Dad and Mum really enjoyed each other’s company particularly on the road. I’m sure their traveling companionship stemmed from their cycling days when they toured South West England on a tandem bicycle.
One of their favourite activities was going for a drive. They went all over the UK and did several motoring tours in the USA ( A favourite I recall was The Painted Desert, Arizona ).
On motoring jaunts, Mum would chat away, pointing out things interest as the passed, while Dad would chat happily back as he drove with a true motorists glee, often just a tad over the speed limit. More recently, Dad and I had a fun-packed ‘petrol-head ‘ day when we visited the Morgan factory and when I took him for a drive in my TVR. He loved the lumpy grumble & growl of a V8!
Dad loved our Mum to the day he died. He missed her dearly since she passed away in April 2013. There wasn’t a day that he didn’t think about Mum. While Dad wasn’t religious, he did let himself wonder, if he would see her again in some sort of afterlife.
Julie, Talal, and I were lucky enough to spend time with Dad in his last few weeks. Denise remarked on how great it was to witness the rapport between Dad and Talal, and to see Talal’s hitherto hidden talents as a carer. Thanks Talal.
Julie was staying with Dad when he finally let go: peacefully, surrounded by the things he and mum had gathered over the years. Julie and I were chatting about how Dad had passed, when we realised the date.
Dad finally decided to pop-off the day after Mum’s birthday. We decided Mum has forgiven him for being a day late!
thanks for making us smile dad