Mum and I weren’t close but, although this letter is short and to the point, the sentiments are genuine. It is also similar in content to the words I delivered at her cremation at Mortlake in September, 2012.
I want to thank you for four things:
First, for showing and teaching me to respect myself and others. You always dressed me smartly, I was never allowed to eat and drink in the street, I had perfect manners and always deferred to my ‘elders and betters’.
Next, for teaching and encouraging me to have a wide vocabulary and to enjoy language. I remember you reading to me and I still keep some of those first books – Ned the Lonely Donkey, Dusty and Baby Jesus – the latter still bearing the dirty mark on the image of the star where I would insist on covering it with my thumb every time we reached that particular page.
You included me in adult social gatherings where I learned to listen and converse from an early age. In fact, with no siblings and few friends, I spent most of my time in older company, so it was perhaps not too surprising that I married at a young age, and a woman eight years my senior. What you began with me around the principles of respect, listening and language have been the bedrock of my career as a trainer and as someone to whom others now turn for advice and support.
Third, for looking after dad when he was ill for so many years. You were dutiful and committed to his needs when, at times, you must have been beside yourself with worry about him and what the future might hold for all of us.
Finally, thank you for playing football tirelessly with me on Southwick Hill, behind our home in Mile Oak. Poor dad was ill and was unable to play for much of the time, which I know was frustrating and upsetting for him. But you certainly stepped up: the summer holidays must have been particularly wearying, as I dragged you up there day after day. You did the shooting and I played in goal, fancying myself and my spindly limbs as the next Gordon Banks. You would have been well into your forties by then, and it must have taken it out of you.