David and Dad
I’ve only got two ties. One’s black that was thrown out, which is a national trust one that I don’t really like, but this one, this was my dad’s crowning achievement in life because he became the first, I think I’m right in saying this, the first dentist ever to become a full colonel in the TA. No sorry, in the medical wing of the TA.
So he commanded, what’s it called, a field hospital, which is generally something only a doctor could do. He did so well he became an officer, and you can’t go any higher than a full colonel because the brigadiers and the generals in the TA come from the regular army, they’re not part time. So they’re in a different group altogether, so he achieved the highest role he could get. He had a bad chest and he should have done national service, and I think he wanted to go in the army but the army wouldn’t have him because of this bad chest.
I think it’s the sort of thing you’d wear to dinner, but he’d wear it casually anyway...and it’s got the snake on the back, the apothecary from Moses.
Very strange story: there‘s a disease goes round the camp and Moses gets a serpent, sticks it on a stick and shows the people (is it a gold one?) and they all get better…and you think - ‘well how did this fit in with the idea of not making graven images?’ It’s completely at odds with everything else in the Bible, it’s brilliant. Then you’ve got the 201 which is, it’s 201 general hospital and that’s the bridge over the Tyne, so it was Newcastle he was based.
When I was about 10, he took me to fire machine guns on the range which was like ‘wow’. Sheer power in your hands, no one else had ever seen one. Even then I think it was highly illegal.
There’s very little else I got from the house, almost nothing. I wore it to the funeral directors’ Christmas party, no one asked about it. It would have been nice if someone had because then I could of told them the story about it.
What I dislike about it is...perhaps my dad couldn’t really...I think he would have really liked to be in an institution as a total as the army where every decision is made by the institution, really, and where life is very very easy, you don’t have to think. I don’t think he liked thinking very much.
I always felt and still do, kind of the history of Britain, the history of the Second World War, is a bit more complicated than the goodies and the baddies. There’s definitely some baddies but I’m not sure about the goodies really.
It was an opportunity to play away from home and I remember my dad sitting down; he used to have these little pocket diaries and he’d say I’m shooting that Saturday and fishing that Saturday and playing soldiers that weekend, he was never there, never there. Every weekend he was away doing something. Occasionally he would take me with him and I’d have this fantastic time, but most of the time he just wasn’t there. It was like not having a dad, really.
My mum had said ‘you can join the army but I’m not going to marry you if you do’ but anyway, he couldn’t in the end, but in effect it was part of the way that he just did whatever he wanted. I remember a time when he used to go to the pub every night after work and he’d get home sort of six, maybe half six, and I get home at about half five at the earliest but that’s because I’ve come from work, not because I’ve gone to the pub, but that’s just how he was. He just thought he earned the money so he could just do what he wanted and we weren’t really part of his life then.
My friend Andrew lived three doors up; his mum and dad would spend their weekends taking their children and their friends to do things and to go and play in the stream and go hill walking and stuff. My dad was never able to do that.
because he was too busy doing other things, most of which involved killing things or firing guns or those sort of things.
I don’t particularly like wearing a tie, I do now at work all the time and I check it every time I get in the Hearse, because the thing comes down and you can check it in the mirror to make sure its straight… but yeah I wouldn’t wear one ever if I didn’t have to, but I do think they’re good at work, with the uniform they look great and they’re an inevitable part of that, but yeah, I won’t wear it unless I have to.
I think what all objects and all people share in common, is that at some point they become separated from the world in which they were created, in which they have grown. At some point someone must have started 201 general hospital and at some point the barracks in Newcastle were built, in the First World War, and then they kind of went on for a long long time.
I remember as a child on the inside of the wall, on the outside wall, there were stables and we used to go into this big, big place with all these empty buildings, and stables… of course they hadn’t had horses for forty years and they never bothered to knock the stables down. There is a housing estate and supermarket there now. At some point that hospital will cease to exist, that unit will disappear and then it will be part of a museum and then gradually it will disappear... and It won’t mean anything anymore, no one will remember it and that’s true of all people, isn’t it? We remember names, don’t we? But no one actually remembers Genghis Khan, he’s just someone we talk about, no one has a personal memory anymore and at some point no one will have any memory of 201 General Hospital, at some point, like most things, it will disappear. It’s just a process of disappearing, isn’t it?
So we fade, don’t we? This [tie] will fade and in due course the colour will go, it will disappear like a photograph gradually disappearing, the same process as a memory just generally disappearing.
I was at a funeral today of a twenty year old and they’re still very much in the ‘well, she does this and she does that’ and that goes after a little while; after the funeral everyone starts to talk in the past tense, but the person is still very much there and the contacts still there and even still, well it depends on the type of family you have, but friends will move away and the family will move away. They won’t see her friends anymore because they are her friends. They might come around to see the mum and dad, to show they care, but at some point they’ll stop doing that and if they move away, they won’t come back and if they come back at Christmas, they won’t have time for someone whose daughter died 10 years ago or whatever. It’s a gradual fading away of memory.
Nothing lasts forever.
They’d [my children] think it was strange that I had a tie, because when I wore a dog collar, one of the nice things about a dog collar is you can wear it anywhere. All the places that say ‘gentleman wear ties’ you don’t have to… you can wear a dog collar instead. It’s very odd wearing it.
I took a number of funerals, when I first went into the funeral trade I was part time and I got all the hours I could get. Sometimes you can get lots, sometimes I could get sixty hours a week but sometimes you can’t. But when I could get them I got funerals as a vicar and there’s a fee for that as well and it was really weird putting the dog collar back on. It felt uncomfortable – it was like this doesn’t belong here anymore.
I suppose part of my thing as a child was all about uniforms and not wanting to wear a uniform and my dad was into uniforms and I rebelled against it. I was the scruffiest vicar you have ever seen, frequently in trainers and shorts and then a clerical shirt.
I was gonna change the world, you know, the world was going to be a better place, my dad was wrong about everything and I was right, and it has changed and I’m essentially in the same place as he was.