A tribute to Dennis.
My father would have made an expression in response to seeing so many people at his funeral. He would have ‘pulled a face’ and thought it all a bit unneccessary
Dennis was an unassuming and shy man. Comfortable around his family, friends and peers, but who did not seek or enjoy the ‘bullshit’ that came with formal or civic occasions.
He would have been happy to live his life quietly and in his own company. Under the radar and without too much responsibility.
Dennis was born ‘between the wars’ and at a time when ‘real poverty’ was around. His parents, Ernest and Eva were born at the time of Queen Victoria. You could forgive him (and his generation) for being ‘old fashioned’.
I remember at Primary School, Dennis appeared old fashioned to my school friends. He was in his 40’s, had a bald head and wore a flat cap. One lad genuinely thought he was a monk (Although I have to say that the same lad genuinely thought that the lady that lived with his father was his ‘Aunt’)!
Rather than being ‘Old Fashioned’, Dennis was in fact ahead of his time and forward looking. He would never harp back to times gone by and was always positive about the future.
Here are a few examples of him being ‘ahead of his time’:
- Inner City Community Cohesion – Dennis was born in St Anns, Nottingham and later moved to The Meadows. An early pioneer in diffusing ‘postcode’ tensions, he was accepted into both areas and had no particular allegiance to either. He did have a tattoo on his forearm, but chose a stylish picture of a bluebird rather than NG2 or 3!
- Health and Safety – On 8th May 1941 100 German planes bombed Nottingham with the most casualties on Meadow Lane. Dennis was at Lady Bay on the other side of the river. On seeing what was going off he conducted his own dynamic risk assessment. He declared the situation as ‘Bloody Dangerous’ and hid himself under a large tree.
- Binge Drinking – Dennis did his best to teach my sister and I the pitfalls of Binge Drinking, or as it was known then… ‘Over doing it’. There was an incident when he had been on a sea fishing trip. He came home at about 8 in the evening and mum told us he had gone to bed early and was unwell. We later learnt he’d had 3 pints in the pub! Leading by example, we don’t think he ever exceeded this amount (although he came close at one family Christmas meal in a cottage in Whitby!)
- Recycling – Long before green wheelie bins and ‘Recycling centres’, Dennis was a recycler. He even managed to convert a suburban garden into what can only be described as an early form of ‘Eco-Experiment’. This involved areas of rotting vegetation and various contraptions that were powered by wind or water and constructed using ice cream tubs, pieces of driftwood and an old pram!
- Rock Music – Despite having a love for Opera and Classical Music, Catherine and I introduced him to 1970’s rock music. Surprisingly he actually got to like some of this ‘modern stuff’. In particular Queen, The Electric Light Orchestra and David Bowie. All these bands had something in common. They used piano’s, violins and harps. The men dressed in strange costumes and wore a worrying amount of make up! Opera had clearly reinvented itself!
- Fuel Economy – Dual Fuel and Hybrid cars are common place now, but Dennis was always keen to find ways of conserving fuel. Again in the 1970’s, he would collect a Vauxhall Viva full of us from Arnold Hill school and drive off towards home. To our amazement, whenever the car was going down a gradient, he would put the gear into neutral and let the car basically roll down the hill. An early example of ‘Embarrassing Parent Syndrome’ . This routine didn’t last long!
- ‘New Man’ – In the 1990’s the ‘New Man’ term was created. It suggested that fathers were now more ‘hands on’ and getting involved with their children’s activities. Dennis had tried all this 20 years before. He had been keen to help my sister getting to and from the Friday night social at Gedling Miners Welfare! Initially he would park outside, however he soon learnt that the teenage population of Arnold and Carlton at 10pm on a Friday night was ‘not a pretty sight’.
- Dennis also took me to the football every Saturday. My cousin had taken me to a Forest match in 1969, and Dennis seemed keen to carry on this tradition. I assumed that he loved the ‘beautiful game’ as well. After a few games I realised that, maybe he was taking me as a ‘sense of duty’. We were making our way out of the Trent End after a game. He said to me ‘ What a fantastic game, 4-1 eh!”. The match had ended 0-0.
- And lastly – Politics! Dennis had a unique and unusual mix of political ideas. These were quite probably ‘ahead of his time’ but we’ll leave it at that.