Just in passing

John Ward
John Ward
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WARD’S WORLD: By John Ward

It was one of those events and hearing somebody’s part life history being read out in quiet surroundings meant we were sadly at their funeral service and once again I was going through this ritual that seems to be fairly commonplace these days for those of us of a ‘certain age’ as we go along and pay our last respects.

Being there brought back assorted memories. My first ever funeral I attended was for my granddad and being a mere befuddled teenager, it was all lost on me to be honest as although we there as family, relations, friends and his old workmates being present, where was the ‘guest’ as in my amazing granddad?

As I said, a mere befuddled teenager.

This recent occasion was for Dave who was suddenly taken from us and while not having seen each other for ages, and not through choice I will add, he meant something to me in many ways as he was what I call a ‘real’ person in what you saw was what you got.

On arrival I was amazed to see the majority of the crematorium car park nearly filled plus a 52-seater coach and I actually thought there were two services ongoing, but no – this was all for Dave, as I found out.

Hearing all the many things being read out in his eulogy meant he was somebody and something to a lot of people present at this service as it was literally ‘standing room only’ as we were jam-packed into the chapel and I can understand the vast number being there as he was indeed quite special.

In his 59 years, he didn’t swim the English Channel, but he could find a few channels on the telly if desperate.

He didn’t find a cure for flat feet, he didn’t go singlehanded to the moon and back as wife San told him when his dinner would be on the table and he should eat while it was warm.

He didn’t fly the Atlantic singlehanded or win any Olympic medals, but if there was a medal for smiling and brightening other people’s lives by just being himself, then he would have a chest full.

I met Dave through his wife Sandra many years ago when she worked in a photographic shop and I was a mere customer, Grade One and cash paying, and at the time she was having ‘one of those days’ as she put it as I popped in to pick some bits up and doing my usual taking the ‘yes-yes’ as its called in France, she pointed out that I was ‘like her Dave’ (poor soul I thought..) as he was always making fun of things and I said it was the shop prices being charged that brought my opinions out but she said she only worked there and with that we both agreed and the score was 1 – 1.

She knew about my ability (debateable) of making things for assorted occasions, so she enquired about what could I make for his 40th birthday as he was only having the one that year, and on hearing about his interests and the main one was playing snooker, I was left to my devices.

So into my workshop and sewing machine (my trusty stone bonker Singer and still going strong) and after a bit of thought and assorted ideas I came up with the Ward-A-Matic Snooker Player’s Companion that was custom made for, well, a snooker player, would you believe?

Dave’s birthday event was quite something and I was amazed even then as to how many people turned up to celebrate it with him and his family that I can still recall and I am happy to say the time spent making it was appreciated I am happy to report.

The ‘star attraction’ was a sort of comedic (if I may be so bold as to put it into words) ‘strip-a-gram’ lady who arrived in her police outfit that used to be all the rage at the time at such events and it was so, well, different that instead of the poor soul discarding her clothing whilst ‘dancing’, everybody was shouting “Keep ‘em on, girl” and shows that they were concerned about the effects of the weather even then and her catching cold, although oddly it was only August but at least they showed they cared.

A few years ago I was ‘messing about’ in my then-workshop welding away making a carnival float base, as a voice disturbed me and as I turned round and it was Dave.

He was passing through and stopped his lorry and popped his head round to say ‘hello’ and the kettle just had to go on!

As a team, Dave and Sandra were invincible as they both had the ability to bring a smile to people’s faces but in Sandra’s case she could also sing and did so at the local club in the village where they lived.

She could really belt the numbers out but due to her stature, okay, her shortness, she asked how she could ‘project herself to the crowds (?) at the back of the hall’ (she never said if they were arriving or leaving to get earplugs) and after a bit of careful thought, we came up with the idea that as there was a bar there, why not go for a ‘cheap and cheerful’ measure and just stand on a beer crate?

She smiled and this is what she did.

It was after a couple of hours that she realised, despite Dave telling her from the word go, she was supposed to turn the crate upside down and stand on it as opposed to just standing in the bit where the bottles fitted, which scrunched her toes up.

On turning it upside down fully, she was another foot taller, and sung ’Hey Big Spender’ to all those patrons who could now see her as well as hear her.

Old Harry was as usual propping the bar up was so impressed by this rendition that he invested in a packet of ‘Burnt Hog’ flavour crisps – he had a certain reputation and was quite ‘careful’ with his money – to go with his half a pint of ‘Old Mother Crewcut’s Best Bitter’.

Sadly Dave, he of multiple skills and knowledge as we found out in precise detail from his eulogy, is no longer with us and while being in that very packed chapel, you could ‘feel the warmth’ of the very people he had brought a form of happiness to in whatever shape it took but he was not famous as such, just a normal husband and father who always wore a smile and usually left you with one as well.

You may have smiled at the above, a rather condensed version of somebody’s life or part of it as it has been written to highlight the fact despite all the dark moments in the world currently, that it’s not always been the case and if you smiled at any of it, rest assured Dave would be very pleased or as he would put it: “Another job well done then.”