Today would have been my father’s 92nd birthday and he’s never far from our thoughts. This picture was taken on his 90th in Hornsea when Debbie and I came up and stayed in Cobble cottage a short walk away in Eastgate.
I thought I’d mark the occasion by paying my respects to two other individuals who have influenced my life in a significant way.
The first I never met in person, but was introduced to me by accident when convalescing at my maternal Grandma’s house in Fleetwood when on holiday there aged about ten years old. I was bed-ridden and bored, so she went to the local library and borrowed a book called “The Two Towers” by JRR Tolkien.
Unfortunately, as I’m sure many of you are aware, this is the second book in the “Lord of the Rings” trilogy so I must be one of the few people ever to read books 2, 3 and finally 1 to understand rather late in the day what it was all about! In any event it’s become over the years my favourite book of all time and I try to re-read it each year, its like meeting up with an old friend.
The second person who made a big impression on me this time at work was David Eynon, who was the European Finance Director of Pfizer’s Howmedica division way back in 1984. He gave me my second interview, which followed an initial interview by Alan his financial controller and my future boss that had apparently gone OK. I’d applied to join them as European Financial Analyst.
This interview with David started badly for me when I sat down in a chair right in front of his desk and promptly fell head over heels backwards! In an effort to calm me down (perhaps) he then sprung a matchstick challenge on me, laying them down in rows of differing numbers and giving me three chances to force him to pick up the final two matches if I wanted the job. I think I managed to win only on my third & last attempt after ever increasing times studying the logic of the game. I’ve often wondered if he let me win, I rather think he did, but don’t ask me to explain the rules…
I also remember that he gave me advice before heading off for my third and final interview with Trevor, then President of Howmedica, Trevor, who’d been in the RAMC previous to corporate life and moving into the medical device business. David knew that he hated anything unusual about people working under him, so keeping quiet about not driving, living on a boat and having a Swedish girlfriend at the time was an absolute must!
David was a real character, he had a huge handlebar moustache and a wicked sense of humour. He had a habit of saying “this is true” in many sentences! Alas I think I may have been influenced in my love of wine by him, as he would host regular “wine tasting” sessions in the office after work.
Also any excuse for the finance team to have a leisurely liquid lunch in Staines to discuss the politics of “New York” would be taken. Favourites included the Staines “Rat”, as the local tandoori next to the office was called, also the Szechuan restaurant just down the High Street where for me the perfect dish was their whole braised crab in ginger…
I remember going with David in his Jaguar car at full speed back towards his Oxford home to pick up something he’d forgotten after leaving the Park Royal data centre. He played at high volume “Ride of the Valkyries” on the car stereo. I always believed that if he suffered an accident it would be when driving a car in a similar fashion, but fate was cruel when he was knocked down & killed by a car while crossing a busy London road a few years later.
Lots of Howmedica colleagues went to his funeral and the wake afterwards in the family home in Oxford back in 1987. I’m not ashamed to say I broke down in tears and had to be comforted a lot by old finance colleagues and by Rob, the European IT Director as by then I’d moved out of finance into IT.
Now I’m not a big visitor of graveyards normally, but Wolvercote Cemetery on the outskirts of Oxford is a special place as it’s the final resting place of both these gentlemen. I took the pictures below to mark my visit to pay my respects with Debbie this morning.
JRR Tolkien’s grave is shared with his beloved wife Edith who passed away two years before he died and on their gravestone is marked the following
Edith Mary Tolkien
1889 – 1971
John Ronald Reul Tolkien
1892 – 1973
David’s grave is on plot J4 251 and if you don’t know the number can be quite difficult to find. I phoned the cemetery’s office outside the chapel with the map attached to the noticeboard to get it.
This allowed us to find his grave and I have to admit I was quite shocked when I realised he was only 41 years old when he passed away.
Happy memories, tinged with a lot of sadness.