I wanted to take this moment to say a few words about Mum and Dad on this most special of occasions. Afterall, Rob got his chance to make a speech on their actual wedding day, so it’s only fair.
We’re here tonight to celebrate such a special, eternal love, a love that Rob, Helen and I have always known to be selfless and unfailing. And it’s so wonderful to see that 50 years on since the last time they hosted a room similar to this, they both still look so amazing. Mum, dressed beautifully as always, and Dad, dressed by Mum, as always.
Growing up, dad always told me that he married his best friend. Theirs has been a lifetime dedicated to their family, pursing shared interests, taking care of each other, providing for one another, rarely arguing, often compromising, and always putting each other first. Mum has learned to never stop dad from taking on yet another volunteer role, and Dad has learnt that his standard of domestic cleanliness will never be good enough, he will never choose the right clothes to wear, and he should under no circumstances, cook food in mums’ pristine kitchen without thoroughly covering it to avoid a potential disastrous splattering of food in the clean oven scenario.
Dad first clocked mum as she got out of her car in the works car park at Presteel Fisher in Birmingham in the summer of 1968. Ever since I can remember, dad has always told me that he knew straight away that mum was the woman of his dreams. Being the sixties, Dad decided to play it cool and waited at least seven days before he proposed. Mum, being a little more cautious, used her family contacts in the Personnel Department at Presteel Fisher, to check out his eligibility. Having been reassured of his strong work ethic and future promotion prospects, she agreed to marry him. My grandmother, ever the sensible one, and naturally cautious of an ex copper, persuaded them to slow down a bit, so 9 months later they married, on the 15th March 1969, and after a lavish honeymoon in the tropical seaside resort of Bournemouth, they moved into a flat above a shop in Acocks Green. In a matter of months, mum was pregnant with Rob, and concerned about him growing up with a brummie accent, they purchased their first house in Polesworth, where two years later, Helen came along.
They lived in Polesworth for the first few years of their married life, making great friends on the street that they lived on, friends that several years later, got them so drunk and a holiday in ****, that nine months later, I arrived. By this time, mum and dad had made the move to what became their beloved hometown of Lichfield.
Talking of Lichfield – Rob, I think you have a few words you wanted to say about their life here?
Growing up Dad always used to tell us to fight fire with fire which turns out was the reason he joined the police force and not the fire brigade.
Lichfield has been hugely important to both Mum & Dad and it’s fair to say that this is where they’ve truly built their lives.
It’s just 16 miles from the mighty Villa Park and 28 miles from the underwhelming St Andrews which always pleased Mum.
For as long as I can remember (and there are a few years in the middle that I can’t) Dad has been totally committed to the Talking Newspaper and during that 40 odd years Mum has been fully involved, totally supportive and always beavering away in the background.
Lions has been a big part of life in Lichfield too, Dad must surely have been President about 15 times now and he went on to become District Governor and has had multiple national roles supporting young people with a focus on health and drug education. Lions recognised this and awarded him the Melvin Jones Fellowship and the International Directors Award.
Most of you will know that Mum is also a Lion now so no doubt the club is a lot tidier and more organised.
St Peter & St Paul’s was central to a lot that we did growing up, the school didn’t open until 1972 so it was in its infancy when Helen and I started there, but the friends that Mum and Dad met there have remained immensely important.
It was however Rocklands School where Dad was Vice Chair of Governors for nearly 30 years and being a governor of a school myself, gives me newfound respect for all he’s done there.
The Church has spawned all sorts of fun and friendship in Lichfield which I know are dear to both Mum and Dad. I know that Dad is a big fan of the knitting club in particular.
There are lots of things that Mum and Dad have been (and still are) entrenched in in Lichfield, The Staffordshire Neurological Alliance is another of those which has been prominent in Dad’s monthly newsletters for about the last 10 years.
There’s one day that I will always cherish, and I think it suitably illustrates just how integral Lichfield is in Mum & Dad’s life and indeed how much a part of Lichfield they are and that was the 30th June 2012 the day that Dad ran through the streets of Lichfield carrying the Olympic Torch.
I was joking when I suggested to Seb Coe that he did it but nevertheless I was immensely proud to see the love and support for both Mum & Dad from all quarters that day. It was a chance for supporters, friends and family to share their feelings and family are key to Mum and Dad as Helen is going explain….
When Rob, Dan and I talked about what we wanted to say to Mum and Dad tonight, we knew instantly that we had to say something about their phenomenal dedication to the family.
I sat down to write about this and I was overwhelmed with all the happy memories and feelings from our childhood and how I could possibly convey that in one small speech.
Their dedication as parents was, and still very much is a beautiful thing. As children we always felt safe, we always felt loved, we always felt encouraged and nurtured. We were supported in our hobbies, we were encouraged to develop our strengths, and we were always reassured that if we tried hard but didn’t necessarily achieve what we had hoped for, that was ok, life had a plan and we would soon understand.
Dad has sometimes said he wishes he could have provided more for us in our childhood. We can tell you now, the three of us wanted for nothing, we had all the important things that money simply doesn’t buy.
So, home was our haven, but Mum and Dad also had a great capacity for involving us in their grown-up world. All three of us enjoyed getting involved with the Talking Newspaper, with the Lions social events, with meeting their work clients who we sometimes got to host, with church events and the many many dinner parties that Mum and Dad have always been so good at. We did however avoid Lichfield Old Time musical due to the trauma caused by seeing our Dad dressed up as a fairy, and there’s a few of you here tonight who will remember and understand that!
Whilst balancing home life and community life, Mum and Dad took the brave decision to leave employment and set up a new business when we were all quite young. I’m not going to talk about the details of the business idea, but I do want to just take a moment to verbalize how I(we?) see that time from a family point of view. That decision showed bravery, it showed trust, it taught us about risk taking and hard work, but the most amazing thing was seeing how Mum and Dad worked together – something a lot of couples would avoid at all costs. What we saw was how Mum and Dad had different strengths, and at the risk of sounding very corny, how they really do complete one another. The hard work reaped it’s rewards for many years and whilst the hours were sometimes long, family meal times remained sacred. The effort behind keeping this time commitment nearly every day was very much a conscious decision made by Mum and Dad and one that kept us all on track, all together and another example of their commitment and wisdom.
In time, we’ve all grown up, some more than others, and have all moved to the south east as a result of work and our own marriages. Mum and Dad have remained as committed to us in adulthood as they were in our childhood. Family parties are always a source of excitement, times together relished, and we are always moved to see Mum and Dads beaming smile and enthusiasm when we pull onto their driveway (sometimes accompanied by a glass of something cheeky to welcome us home).
Whenever we’ve needed extra support, they’ve been there in a flash and have certainly been a tower of strength to Dave and I over the years.
And so now mum and dad are grandparents, and my goodness they’re good at being that. Seeing mum and dads parenting skills being applied to their grandchildren is beautiful to watch. They always show interest, they’re always ready with a cuddle and always happy to get involved. Grandma so often has come armed with a new little treat that she doesn’t just hand over but is happy to sit down and play with or demonstrate, getting our children sewing, knitting or reading, whilst Grandad will be playing cards with them or doing magic tricks or telling stories and jokes. On top of this there is the occasional pearl of wisdom that they share with us in order to help our own parenting, which has frequently left me wishing I had that wisdom.
So, Mum and Dad, thank you. Thank you for falling in love with each other, thank you for the way you love us all and thank you for giving us an amazing example of marriage.
Pauline and I were very, very touched.