Today we have been sharing our dining room table with Sailor Frank.
Ah, how I wish he had been there with us in person - but at least we had his photo smiling back at
us, Mr B and I, as we sat together reminiscing.
Sailor Frank was Mr B's dear Dad who died twenty-four years ago today. He is almost certainly jigging about with the angels to thqe tune of Electric Dreams and
keeping the Heavenly Host in fits of the giggles.
We didn't actually call him Sailor Frank in his lifetime but one of our favourite photos of him was taken during the war in his sailor's uniform. We still
own the metal hat box in which he kept his hat though, sadly, the hat itself is no more. That photo has pride of place on top of one of our cabinets. Lest we forget - but, let's face it, there's no chance of that. Frank Ball was a tiny man with a big character
and an even bigger heart.
Every year he would arrive at ours for the World Bowls Championships which were then always held in our home town. Off he would trot each morning to catch the bus into town,
returning late afternoon, brown as a berry from sitting all day in the sun, to regale us with tales of the day's play, interspersed with various escapades and including climbing precariously down the back of the tiered seating to rescue someone's umbrella
and chatting up the barmaids at the nearby pub where it was his custom and practice to buy his daily lunch and a pint.
One year he took off on an organised coach trip to Austria - the only male in the party.
We had helped towards this exciting experience by selling an old piano, the proceeds from which paid his fare. Every photo of the holiday shows him centre stage, beaming broadly, surrounded by his Adoring Companions.
I've told the story before - but I think it bears retelling - of a gathering in a large hall where Our Frank invited a generously upholstered woman at a nearby table onto the floor, whisking her off in a mad dance which was a combination of waltz and
polka with a touch of the Sailor's Hornpipe thrown in for good measure.
"Who was that you were dancing with, Dad?" we asked him on his slightly breathless return to the table. "Auntie Flo," was his answer.
At which we pointed out that Auntie Flo was seated right at the other end of the hall. His dance partner, on the other hand, was Unknown To Us All. Though doubtless overwhelmed at the attentions of Sailor Frank.
When my own dear Dad died, Frank put his arm around me and said he would be my Dad now, if that was what I wanted. Crazy with grief, I didn't appreciate the offer until some time later.
My second Dad,
Sailor Frank, one of life's true gentle men.