29a - Father sketch

I’ve been working on portraits.   This uses cross-hatching.   I do a series, bluetak them to the wall … see where they’re heading.

‘PINA’- a film for Pina Bausch by Wim Wenders (Germany 2011)

‘Pina Bausch, who died suddenly in 2009, was a legend in the world of modern dance, and Wim Wenders’ evocative, visually powerful tribute to her life’s work captures lightning in a bottle and watches it move.’ (Milo Wakelin, MovieMail)

Contemporary Dance often celebrates the shapely physicality of the dancers who often wear very little.   Not Pina.   Her dancers are usually fully clothed … often heavily.   People in off the street.   She seemed to choose dancers not just for their accomplishment but for their willingness to explore, and not just for their skill but for their presence.   And faces mattered.   Our daughter Melissa trained at the Northern School of Contemporary Dance and danced her way round the world.   She observed during our viewing of the film at home ‘She chose dancers in her own image.   …   I don’t think it was like the Phoenix where you went in, did a class, did a rehearsal, went home.   She wanted more.’

Highly recommended.

*     *     *

My father died peacefully of bone cancer on Thursday 29th September at Southport Hospital. He was 93. I was an only child.

While I was in single figures, he was the perfect daddy.   He was a kind magician. I loved him unconditionally. I haven’t got space to tell you all about his virtues … I talked about him for thirty minutes without notes at the funeral.


29a - family

Things went wrong when I reached double figures and our relationship staggered on through my adult life, through my parents’ separation and their eventual reunion.   I imagined that ‘love-hate’ would best describe my feelings for him.

When I visited him in an acute ward, I stood beside his bed so he could see me because he couldn’t move much.   With my right hand I held his right hand, and I echoed every touch of pressure.   With my left hand I gently stroked his old brow.   Most of the time his eyes were closed.   He had become deaf so I wrote notes.   This went on for three weeks.

There was the time he sympathised with my long journey.   (It took at least four hours by rail.)   I wrote ‘I’m remembering the many hours you spent commuting to keep us fed and watered’.

He said the same thing on another occasion.   I wrote ‘We’ve come a long way together’.

I’d been reading Liv Ullmann’s autobiography ‘Changing’ and I wrote on a card a quote from it.   She’s working with an old Norwegian actor, Gunnar, who says to her: ‘I no longer think of death with panic.   If I become old enough and tired enough, death must feel more natural than birth’.   On one visit a nurse had spilled a tumbler of water all over his table and he’d been drying things out on his counterpane.   ‘Is that dry?’ he asked urgently, indicating an index card.   ‘Seems OK’, I wrote.   ‘Put it on the table where I can reach it’, he said.   As I did so, I noticed my writing on it and wondered what it was.   A closer look confirmed that it was the Liv Ullmann quote.

On one visit he was asleep for quite a time then opened his eyes, saw me, and his eyes opened wider, and with no teeth and disappearing lips he made a sound that could only be ‘John’.   I’m glad he saw his son’s tears.

When I look back at my life, I can see that the bad things were all excusable psychologically whereas the good things were ALL ME.   So it is now with my father.

The miracle is that my unconditional love for him has been restored by his passing.   I hope he knows.



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