In memoriam

Peter Edward John Littledale

For those who prayed, and supported from afar – here is today’s funeral address, with my thanks.

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If you didn’t know it before , you would know it on looking at today’s order of service: dad was a photographer. ‘Photography’, he would have told you  is “drawing with light” – and he was very good at it. The walls of the home he and mum shared for so many years are adorned with his work – printed, glazed, framed.

When we lose someone we love it is as if the picture has fallen from the wall, and lies there shattered in a thousand shards at our feet. Pick them up and look, though – and you have the makings of a new picture – a mosaic of memories.

  • Here’s a 17-year old schoolgirl who fell in love with the sound of his voice, then found that she rather liked the rest of him too, and married him, going on to raise 2 sons together and
  • Here’s another one, with Dad on the road far from home looking for work and writing letters back to the one he loved because there was no telephone.
  • Here is a work colleague who talked of his utter reliability
  • Here is a nurse who called him a ‘gentleman’
  • Here is a doctor who called him a ‘lovely man’
  • Here is a former assistant who described him as “kind teacher and lovely man”.
  • Here is a hotelier who would host him when down in West Country on a ‘firing trip’ for work– who commented that if anyone ever fired her, she would like it to be Peter as he would do it so nicely!

I have some memories of impish good humour too. There was the time that I was touring Scotland with a student theatre group and a letter arrived from Dad. Out of it fell a small pile of Chinese bank-notes and a letter. In the letter he explained that I was probably broke, but that if he sent me more money I would just be broke all over again. The Chinese money was money I could not spend – and therefore I would not be broke!

Often our neighbour would dismantle his car on the drive over the weekend, and Dad often threatened to slip an extra nut or bolt through the fence during the process. When the car was put back together the ‘mystery’ piece would have caused no end of consternation. So far as I am aware, he never actually did it.

There was a very generous side to Dad too.  Years ago, we were queuing at the supermarket behind an elderly gentleman who was paying in cash. He seemed a little short, and his levels of anxiety and embarrassment were rising. As he turned away to pat his pockets down one more time, Dad winked at the cashier and took the right amount of money from his own pocket to add to the pile on the conveyor belt.

His lasting legacy may be more to do with time. I have with me a visual aid- an old timer which has sat in Dad’s darkroom in the loft for many years. With it, he could time to the second how long a photograph was exposed in the enlarger, or how long a print sat in the developer. One second either side could make all the difference between an image which was arresting, and one which was dull and disappointing. Its all about time.

Most of dad’s hobbies over the years needed time. Gardening, painting (both watercolour and acrylic), photography and walking were all things which could not be hurried.

Two days after dad died, the  cover for my next book arrived, and I so wish he could have read this paragraph about him:

In his youth my father was a very keen walker, travelling great distances between youth hostels with his canvas knapsack on his back. Years later, when my brother and I came along, he was still keen to walk. With our much shorter legs we often found it hard to keep up. What was a pleasant stroll to him often felt like more of a route march to us, and I frequently struggled at the back. Realizing this, he took me on one side and explained that the secret to enjoying a long walk was not to concentrate on the distance, but on the contents. In other words, it was better to savour the sights and sounds as you passed through, rather than spending the whole journey thinking about its end. In this way, the miles passed more quickly and the journey was a whole lot more pleasant

Today, the 300-strong London Hospice choir will release a cover  of ‘The Living years” Do have a listen, but not without a box of tissues by your side. The chorus says :: “I wish I could have told him, in the living years”. Don’t wish – do.    Use time wisely , love deeply, don’t leave good things unsaid. And enjoy the journey, as he did – step, by step, by step. There truly is a time for everything.

Loss is a physical ache – and like generations before us , we must look beyond ourselves to soothe it:

As for man, his days are like grass;
As a flower of the field, so he flourishes.
For the wind passes over it, and it is gone,
And its place remembers it no more.
But the mercy of the Lord is from everlasting to everlasting
On those who fear Him

(Psalm 103 v.15 – 17)

Dad will be missed, without a doubt.. However, as we put the mosaic back together in minds and hearts, each one different for each person – let us be grateful for the true goodness which was there.

Photo by Mark Littledale

Photo by Mark Littledale

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