In memory of Dad, a hell of a good tutor

12th June 2009 at 01:00

This is the one I've known for some time that I'd have to write. I hope that, despite the theme, those who come here to be entertained are no less entertained, and those who are irritated by what I write are at least as irritated as they usually are. My subject would want nothing less.

My dad is dead. Aged 82, he had been suffering from a terminal lung condition for some time, though it was only within the past couple of years that it began to severely restrict what he could do. Aged 77, he was still climbing mountains and his GP discovered him power-washing paving slabs on a recent visit. We all know people who can still do these things yet lack the life force to be bothered to do them, so while I'm a bit choked as I type, you'll appreciate that I won't be using the word "tragedy".

He was a good dad. He was close only to family and a small number of friends yet, through years of work with the Scout Association, he influenced hundreds, perhaps thousands. A talented writer and artist, he would sit on a chair between my brother's bed and mine when we were young, making up stories about Batman or his own characters, illustrating them in quick, precise pen-strokes as he spoke.

My father was an RAF-trained mechanic. He told me that he felt terrible the day he "abandoned" me at my digs as I started university. At the same age, he was on a troopship to join the occupying forces in Japan. On finishing national service, Dad became a design engineer, initially with Austin. He drew the badge that appeared on the company's rocker covers. I am no less proud of this than if I'd been told he'd painted one of the angels on the Vatican ceiling.

He taught me many things, including the facts of life, the basics of cartooning and the correct order in which to tighten the bolts on a cylinder head. Each of these has, in its time, been a useful skill to me.

While I claim no great competence in any of these areas, for a mechanic turned vehicle designer, my dad was actually a hell of a good teacher.

Gregor Steele will remember his dad as being most likely to laugh out loud when John Wayne shot somebody unexpectedly.

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