My mum married my step-dad Jim when I was 9years old. I don’t think I fully appreciated all he did for me as I hit my teens and at times could be very confrontational.
I remember the little routines we had – Friday after school was cleaning day which included dusting/hoovering etc from the top of the house to the bottom. Dad was immaculate and had a place for everything. Mum worked full time while dad was retired due to wounds received during his National service. His mother was even sent a telegraph from the war office stating that the outlook was bleak and that he probably would not last the night. He had a crushed spine, fractured skull and shattered knee caps. He did live and often told everybody he met about his experience and rightly so. He taught me that no matter how many times somebody tells you a story, you should listen, it may just be the therapy they need. Dad always made tea during the week and we never went short of a good hearty meal. Liver, Mince and onions, a huge pan of Stew and dumplings mmmm (guess what meals we have now.)
I was encouraged to keep my bedroom tidy and had jobs to do like feeding our dog Scooby or preparing vegetables for tea. Dad was always singing and liked listening to artists such as Peter-La-Scalla, Ronnie Hilton, Max Bygraves and Harry Secombe to name but a few. He would often tell people about the times he would stand up and sing when on holiday and people would refer to him as the poor man’s Mario Lanza.
After we had picked mum up from work (also on a Friday) we would do the weekly food shopping at the big open market in Bradford City Centre and head up to our caravan in the Yorkshire Dales, listening to Friday Night is Music Night ( even listen to it with my children now.) It isn’t until you look back on your life that you realise the influences that have shaped the way you are. Music has played a huge part in mine and I have and do come from a background of music lovers, especially with my mum being Welsh. I am very fortunate to have a wonderful relationship with my biological dad (Tony) and know my dad loves music too and with 3 older brothers and my late older sister, was exposed to an unbelievable variety of younger artists, well in my younger years my brothers were listening to Hot Chocolate, Beatles, David Bowie etc. Whilst I was at school I was part of the school choir picked to sing in the performance of Joseph’s Techni-coloured Dream Coat, at the Alhambra Theatre, Bradford. I sang solo at Bradford Cathedral, Once in Royal David’s City. I was even caught by my step-brother Chris singing at the top of my voice one morning, You Are My World by the Communards. Chris still maintains that I didn’t make a very good Jimmy Sommerville and that he was convinced a cat was being strangled he he! As time passed I eventually left home and after a few years, joined the Army, making my way in the world. I continued to love music and my step-dad when visiting would break into song and was always singing Nursery Rhymes and his old songs to the children.
My Mum, brother and sister-in-law are all members of the same choir in Shipley and my Step-dad who has been a huge influence to me became even more of an influence during the hardest and darkest time of not only mine and my families life but his own. In October 2011 after 2 years of suffering with Vascular Dementia, dad was diagnosed with terminal Pancreatic Cancer and that we would be looking at weeks but not months. He came home so we could care for him but it was like a knife in the heart, watching someone you love dearly slowly shutting down. The family would play CD’s for dad and he would suddenly break into song. Only a few days before dad passed away my mum and niece recorded him singing a beautiful song called ‘Open Your Heart To My Love Song’ and it was so sad but so spiritual all at the same time. He is my inspiration because he proved to me that music isn’t just important when we are young but even in those final moments, music and singing can help us through the most difficult times in life whilst in our happiest times music can be as equally important.
I am sad when I think about my Step-dad not being around to share the latest wonderful opportunities The Military Wives Choirs have achieved but know that he was fully aware of the wonderful family network I am part of and the support we give each other through our love of music. Definitely appropriate when we think about The Military Wives Choir Foundation being ‘STRONGER TOGETHER’!!!!!!!