Today is my dad’s birthday. He would have been 90. He died in 1992 from stomach cancer after a life dotted with health issues all stemming from a very poor beginning in life. Not that he ever complained. That was probably what killed him. He didn’t like to let anyone know he was suffering and always tried to turn everything into a joke, even the most blackest or darkest situation. He was a really wonderful man and I miss him as much now as I did when he died. I find that I think about him almost every day, usually when I am behaving most like him. Over the years I have come to realise, I truly am my father’s daughter and I wish he could be here so I can show him he succeeded in his mission to bring us up as normally as possible, despite our problems.
He would always be on the lookout for an opportunity to turn something he’d found into something wonderful. That’s how it seemed to me as a child anyway. He was the ultimate recycler. He’d find a way to re-use things most of us today would laugh at. He hated throwing things away. The best place in the world to be with my dad was in his shed. Dad’s shed was a magical world to me as a child. It smelled of grass, oil, tobacco and compost. I remember onions hanging up ripening (I am guessing) in pairs of mum’s old tights, held up by old nails. He had shelves of little tiny jars of paint for touching up radiators. He had things with windy handles, putty, bags of cement, bricks, car parts and I don’t know what else! It fascinated me.
We used to collect seeds from the garden from late summer on. It was my job to collect them in brown envelopes and write on the front things like ‘marigolds, mixed, right border, sew april’, ‘cosmos, tall, pink, put near coal scuttle, sew may-july, deadhead often’. I had no idea what some of this meant at the time or how he knew these things, he just did. I wish I had asked him or could ask him now.
He had a vegetable garden too and he won a few first prizes at the horticultural shows. He grew tomatoes, beetroot, potatoes, lettuce, mint, onions, cabbage, swede and all sorts. I remember his favourite thing was to pick beets and cook them in a huge pan. We would eat them with our Sunday tea with ham and big chunks of bread smeared in butter. I have never tasted beetroot like his since.
If he found a pretty or strange looking stone in the garden he would declare ‘ That’ll make a nice necklace for your mother’. He would spend hours in the shed preparing the stone, find something to set it in (usually a washer!) and either add a pin or a chain for it. He’d present it to mum as a gift. I used to think it was wonderful that he had made this thing from stuff he found. Mum wasn’t quite so keen (at the time I thought she was most ungrateful) but she’d kiss him on the cheek and say ‘you are the original Dust Hole Fairy’. And he was too. He was the only man I know who would come back with more than he went with to the rubbish tip.
I never knew a more gentle, kinder, funnier man than him. Love you dad, miss you dad. Wish I had the chance to tell you once more how truly wonderful you were. RIP James Edward Morland. I will see you again one day.