Saturday, 16 June 2007

Happy Birthday Dad!

Its my Dad's special day today - 79 years young! I miss him very much, and being so far away from our elderly parents was the one thing that made Richard and I question moving to France. We both lost our Mums nearly 2 years ago, three months apart, and it was a difficult time for us and the girls. Dad is therefore especially precious - I am already starting to plan a surprise 80th birthday party for him next year!

He does not change though. A gentle quiet man, always letting my gregarious Irish Mum be the main talker, he would ring me up regularly and the conversation would be as follows:

"Hi, its Dad."
"Hello Dad!"
"How are you? Richard and the girls?"
"We are all fine. Are you OK? And Mum?"
"Yes, we are fine. OK then, night night." And he would put the phone down.

And today when I phoned him - it was almost exactly the same! The shortest call in history!

Watching the 'Trooping of the Colour' celebrations on TV was particularly relevant on his birthday. As a soldier in the 3rd Battalion the Parachute Regiment, he was also in their Military Band as a musician (euphonium player) as well as a music teacher for them. He also arranged musical scores for the Band.

I have wonderful childhood memories of watching him in the Band performing all over the country and I still love watching and hearing them to this day! I knew the animal mascot that marched in front (a Shetland pony called Ringway) and never cottoned on that it 'changed' over time as age took its toll! I was fascinated by the 'dishmops' (the drum sticks that had white tassels on the end and looked just like old fashioned dishmops......) and exceedingly jealous of the man with the BIG drum in the centre because he got to wear a tiger (or was it a leopard?) skin which Dad did not.
As a very organised man and with more nouse in his little finger than most people have in their whole body, he had already researched what he would do if Mum died first. Knowing that (after several strokes) he would not be able to look after himself in the long term and with a lifetime of being most comfortable around soldiers, he discovered that the Royal Hospital Chelsea is actually an old people's home specifically for ex-soldiers. Provided you were a full time soldier with a clean service record, receive a service pension and have no dependants - they will welcome you to join them for the rest of your life. It is a service charity, and you just sign over your Army pension to them each month (irrespective of how little or large it is). They do not take anything else from you - they consider your 'assets' (eg your savings, your house, etc) are yours to do with as you wish.

At the moment they are only able to take on a small number who need the amount of care that Dad requires so although accepted, his move there is delayed until their new infirmary building is finished - due Autumn 2008. So if you are looking for a worthwhile charity to donate to - please remember them and their 'buy a brick' campaign! They do an amazing job and the Chelsea Pensioners are an important part of our heritage!
It is also the birthday of one of my nephews, Paul, today. Hope you have had a super time!

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