Today my Dad would have been 100. This picture of him holding me was taken in 1949 at their first home in Westcott Place, Swindon.
By the time of my first memories of the tiny garden behind our home, the brick wall had been rendered and painted but the old green door to our outside lavatory was as you see it here. Cold, dark, damp and unlit other than by torchlight, but at least a torch could be shone into each of the four plainly white painted corners and then around the underside of the rough wooden toilet seat checking for slugs, snails and toads sheltering from the elements.
Dad is 28 here. Family history does not record how my Dad, a humble tobacco worker at the local Wills factory, could, unlike all of his fellow workers, afford even the deposit to buy his own house which he had acquired in 1946 the year after their wedding in 1945. He also found enough cash to buy Mum’s wedding ring on the London blackmarket at a time when gold rings where both unaffordable and unobtainable. He later admitted the ring was bought with “gifts” from Nazi officers he had helped to round up in an SAS clear up/liberation operation in Norway. It is likely that the his house deposit came by the same route.
We will never know for sure but if their “gifts” were the key they not only paid for the foundation of a warm and welcoming family home but laid the groundwork for the home owning ethic he handed down to all of us.
In time, from memory around 1960, our outside lavvy was replaced by an internal bathroom and kitchen conversion with the help of a modernisation grant from the council and my parents were then to remain in this house until it was subjected to a compulsory purchase order in 1970. It was then demolished to improve the road arrangement at the junction of Wootten Basset Road, Westcott Place and KIngshill Road.
I have often, over the years and to this day, reflected on what made my Dad so unique. All Dad’s are special, or they should be, but Percival Warwick was of a higher, nobler, heroic order altogether.
I could say that I think of him everyday. I do but not in a conscious way. He lives on in me because much of the way I think and feel I have from him but also in little details of fatherly instruction and guidance, taken for granted at the time but which have become a part of daily life.
I gathered seed today from a garden plant and folded them into a packet with a plain sheet of paper just as my Dad showed me in his garden at Westcott Place. I folded, gathered, folded over again on a very, very deliberate, slight angle, then folded each end back and tucked the one into the other to make a sealed envelope. I wrote a name and date on the front just as he would have done.
Our handwriting is almost identical.