I guess I will always remember T shirts from the early 1980’s proclaiming that “I’m Quietly Superb” alongside a picture of the white cab David Brown tractors, isn’t it funny the things from childhood that stick in your mind? I would say this is especially the case when such memories are attached to people you love and have lost, for me that always means memories of my Dad.
Incredibly, 19 years have passed since we lost him on this day in 1997 and there is hardly ever a day that passes without some little reminder or observation making me wonder about the years he has missed. From the joy that he had a few brief years being “Mandy Lucy Grandad” through to a sadness that his 4 grandchildren are growing up without knowing and loving him.
Google “Anthony David Coe” and you will find official references to birth, death, marriage. Google “Anthony David Coe Patents” and you will find the patents relating to tractor front loaders of which he was so proud, but Google “Tony Coe” and all you will find are biographies of an unrelated jazz musician and nothing of the man everyone knew as Tony. I decided this blog post should aim to change that just a little by writing down some of my personal memories.
As long as I can remember we have always gone camping, our tents varied in size but our summers were always spent under canvas making the best of whatever weather was thrown at us. It was on one camping holiday to Scotland (or it could’ve been Cornwall) when I remember my Dad writing a postcard out in the Last House visitor centre at John O-Groats (or possibly Lands End) addressed to my Gran, his mother in law. It read “Dear Ede, I’ve travelled as far away from you as I possibly can without taking to the sea, love YNOT”. Simple, humorous, sarcastic good fun, is there a better way to show you care?
Every month as kids in the late ’70s and early ’80s we would spend our Sunday mornings at Maine Road for the Junior Blues meetings. True blue Uncle Charles would always come along and our loyal dad would drive us all across to Moss Side, never once complaining even though his football sympathies were more red than blue. The compere would shout out to see if there were any United fans in the room and Dave and I would jump to our feet, pointing at our dad yelling, “here’s one”. What a pair of ungrateful little shits we were! Never a word of complaint and still he took us along every month with a smile.
Rolling into the mid ’80s and I was doing a paper round every day to earn some money. This was pretty much what dad wanted us to know, work hard to pay for the things you want to do. On Sunday’s the paper round was an awful job, huge heavy papers as all the press jumped on the bandwagon of providing colour supplements, carrying two huge heavy bags from Swinton to Kearsley was no fun I assure you. Recognising that such efforts were not being fairly rewarded my dad was always there to help and we spent many Sunday mornings in the car delivering papers together. I think I earned about 80p for that round and he must have spent more than that in Petrol, not to mention the time he dedicated to supporting my efforts.
The summer after I graduated from Lancaster and was briefly living at home, I had decided that I was doing nothing for that summer, nowt. I had a job lined up to start in September and could see this as my one and only chance to take time off. To say this was a source of just a little tension is perhaps an understatement. The idea of not working for 3 whole months just did not compute with my dad at that time, he was probably wondering if he had been too soft helping with those paper rounds! Perhaps really its just a generational thing or a sign of changing times but I think that today he would surely appreciate the value of time.
In 1993 when the thin blue line appeared on a pregnancy test Jackki and I had a lot of thinking to do, not least of which was how to broach the subject with parents. I can still remember being in the kitchen in Scarborough, Mum was suitably shocked and I am sure that Dad had lots to say and ask but he couldn’t hide his grin. He had to hide his delight until the shock had subsided but his instinctive happiness was plain to see, looking back of course this was the start of only a few short years of being a Grandad so I am glad he enjoyed it right from the start.
A vivid memory of my dad’s care for others in the months before he fell ill was in the weeks after the death of Uncle Charles which came as a shock to us all. The way he stepped up to support Aunty Elsie on the day of the funeral as if it was the most natural thing in the world left a real impact on me as I began to look at the world as a proper grown-up. That 1996 Christmas we had parents, grand-parents and Aunty Elsie with us in Durham for as an extension of the sense of togetherness and sharing Michael’s first christmas. Towards the end of a chaotic time even by our standards I remember him whispering to me “we’re not bloody doing this again”, confirming that he would prefer to keep it simple I guess. How those whispered comments have haunted me ever since!
A few short months later I can still remember my annoyance on my birthday, the 19th of April, that my planned day of golf and football with Dave and Dad was spoiled by Dad crying off as unwell. I don’t think he had ever avoided something through ill health before in his life and I should have been concerned but at the time, things like serious illness was something that happened on TV and to other people, so I was just annoyed. 5 weeks later he was gone, such is the vile bastard of a disease that is lung cancer.
So once again my blog message centres on live your life every single day. Don’t wait for permission or some bullshit salvation in the afterlife, none of us know how long we’ve got so work hard and play hard while you can. If you remember my Dad today raise a glass of your favourite tipple and take a vow to do something you love this weekend. Me, I will be burning sausages in the rain surrounded by friends and family whom I love dearly, something I know he would have enjoyed. I think the David Brown sales campaign provides the perfect summary of my dad who was indeed Quietly Superb.