My father recently died from Alzheimer's, but he left us having taught us more growing up in the 20th century about living a full and good life than almost anything my own children learn at school today. His eight lessons are as relevant today as they will be at any time. Eight key lessons from eight decades of enjoying life.
My sisters and I grew up with the bedrock of mum and dad behind us and the safety of our street, where everyone was 'uncle' or 'auntie', everyone knew your name, where you had tea in whichever house you happened to be in at 5pm, where you came in went it got dark and where you didn't talk to strangers.
Dad was of a time when men were real men - private people, keeping their emotions to themselves. Dad worked, Dad told us to wash up or wipe up, to set the table, to eat our dinner if we wanted our pudding (which, when it was tinned pears or peaches with evaporated milk - we did), Dad threatened to cook Snowy our rabbit for dinner, Dad made toys for us, Dad worked on the car, Dad cycled.
I am having a good life in a different age to my dad but when I have reflected over this week and in fact over most of my life, the reason I have experienced some success at work, play and love is due to the critical lessons my dad taught me and that have dictated the way I live my life.
These lessons were far more important than anything I learnt at school or through work. These are not the lessons of how to become cleverer or earn more money - these are the lessons of how to truly live life to the full.
I've entitle this on dad's behalf, he was more modest than me and hated making speeches:
'The eight most important lessons for living a full & good life. From an offline father to online children'
by Roy Ward
1 EXPECT NOTHING MORE OF YOUR CHILDREN THAN FOR THEM TO DO THEIR BEST
Work hard and do your best at everything you try: homework, career, cycling, helping at home. Life doesn't owe you anything. Dad led by example. Critically though, there were no further expectations placed on us, if we did our best that was simply enough. Nothing more was expected from us. There was no pressure to achieve anything beyond what we could by trying our best.
I am happy because I know I have worked hard and do not have any pressure or expectations to have achieved any more.
2 ANYTHING IS POSSIBLE
Mum would often say "there's no such word as 'can't" but Dad really showed it to me when we went to see the careers officer at school. It wasn't about University (whatever that was?) it wasn't about Dad wanting me to be a lawyer, dentist, draughtsman or doctor. It was about Dad coming with me, with his full backing, while we told the careers officer I wanted to be....a Formula 1 motor racing Driver. I wanted to be James Hunt. And to be fair to him, the careers officer went off to investigate and a week later reported back that we needed to be millionaires if that was to happen, which it sort of didn't! It did teach me though that Dad thought anything was possible for me.
3 WATCH THE PENNIES
It seemed Dad loved the idea of beating the supermarkets at their own game. We didn't know it was out of necessity. I remember walking back and forth between Sainsbury's and Presto as Dad compared prices and made sure he got the best deal in town for the weekly shop.
Dad also didn't want to waste any money on a good car. They were there simply to get you from A-B. So we'd have one of the cheapest ones possible and then with his genius skills he'd keep it running for years, upon years, upon years. A policy he instilled in me as my first mini cooper cost £80 & had holes in the floor, but Dad had the engine out of it and kept it going long after its shelf life.
4 RIDE A BIKE
Meanwhile though, a bike isn't about getting you from A-B. A bike provides the opportunity to gain the most pleasure there is from life, to enjoy the simplicity that life should be about, to cycle through sunny country lanes, to keep fit, to pass the time with friends, to wear Lycra! To get away from all the stresses and strains (and kids!) for a few hours.
This was dad's time, if you don't cycle you don't know this but there is nothing better in life, honestly.
I was always expected to cycle everywhere - even 40 miles back from Portsmouth when I ended up much further away than ever before at about the age of 15. My bike gears broke and got stuck in top gear. I phoned home, expecting some sympathy and an offer of a lift - but nope - I was expected to ride everywhere - even in top gear "We'll put your dinner in the oven" was the sympathetic offer I received
5 EAT CAKE
All cyclists have one thing in common, not a love of Lycra or shaved legs but a love of cake, a sweet tooth. Normally it is chocolate but dad was slightly different. With him it was fruit cake - in whatever guise you can get fruit into flour and sugar; a slice of cake, scone, Eccles, fruit loaf, currant bread you name it, it was devoured.
Everyone likes Cake, cake makes you happy, you can't ever eat enough but the magic is if you cycle you can eat as much as you like. Dad did and so never had an ounce of fat on him.
6 PUT FAMILY FIRST
Mum and dad always put us first. Dad made brilliant toys, mum made brilliant dinners. They also put their marriage first. Everyone has stresses and strains in their marriage. it is often harder to stay together than separate. This is no judgment on anyone else; this is a tribute to my mum and dad who so ingrained in us that we stick together, however hard it gets.
7 EMBARRASS YOUR KIDS
My kids will verify I follow dad's lesson to the enth degree. Molly, our 18-year-old daughter, when I try to talk to her about fashion, music or anything on Channel 4. Bob, our 15-year-old son, when I refuse to upgrade, change, improve or throw over a cliff our Fiat 'ugly bug' Multipla car.
Dad did the same to us. Did he really have to beat every other dad on the holiday camp to win the knobbly knees competition? Did he really have to turn up for a fathers v sons football match with the skinniest longest legs and shortest tightest white shorts and socks?!
Yes he did. Because he was living his own life and if you can embarrass your kids you can live with any sort of embarrassment. The thought of embarrassment is what stops most people attempting something new or doing what they want. Dad didn't have that, and much to Bob's regret, nor do I!
Finally, with on the onset of Alzheimer's came the last lesson and a side to dad we hadn't often seen before. He started to show his emotions and feelings, on many levels. Alzheimer's is a horrendous illness, often more for the partner and carers than for the sufferer themselves. But through it, it was great to see some light, Dad setting the example that
8 IT'S ALRIGHT FOR A FATHER TO SHOW HIS EMOTIONS
A lesson that my wife Helen will verify that I still struggle with but it's the final one. It that took a lifetime to pass over from father to son, and one that I'm still working on.