Dad was sat beside his hospital bed, in one of those wards where no-one seemed to think that natural light might improve the patients’ sense of well-being. It was hard to know whether it was day or night outside, even harder to know what the weather might be like.
“What is it like outside?”
“It has been a super day – blue sky and bright sunshine. I had to close the blinds and open the windows of my classroom at half past nine this morning because the students were complaining they were hot. But there was a sharp frost this morning. It was minus two when I was heading to work at quarter past six. I had to de-ice the car.”
“That’s not too clever, what were the roads like?”
“Fine. Very dry. No ice and it was light at half past six. Not like driving on icy roads in the winter.”
“Tell me about it. I did that many times. I used to leave home before seven and the roads were not treated then in the way they are now.”
I remembered my Dad in his working days. He always got up at six o’clock and would make tea and sit at the kitchen table reading or doing a crossword before he set off for work.
Dad was proud of his work, proud of having served in the Royal Naval Air Service and then proud of having continued as radio and radar technician working on naval jets in his civilian life. For thirty years after leaving the Royal Navy, he continued doing the job he had learned in his days on air stations and aircraft carriers.
Dad’s morning journey wasn’t as much about work as about a way of life. When he was made redundant in 1992, at the age of fifty-five, it seemed a mark of Ministry Defence ingratitude for all the years of service he had given. In January of the previous year, the British forces fighting the First Gulf War had been so short of ground crew that Dad and his workmates had agreed to fly to one of the airbases to support the effort. They had reached Sicily when the war ended.
Standing in the kitchen last night after returning from the hospital, there was a moment of imagining. A dark-haired stocky man wearing blue overalls, with Airwork Services embroidered in red on the breast pocket, sat at the red formica topped table with his mug of tea. It took little effort to hear his car start and move over the gravel before beginning his journey to work through the dark, narrow lanes.