About Me

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London, United Kingdom
Holly Searle is a writer who was born in Westminster in the middle of London. She shares her birthday with Jarvis Cocker and David Seaman and like Jarvis Cocker she wears glasses but has nothing whatsoever in common with David Seaman. She is fascinated by words, people and their stories, and regularly spends hours fantasising about being offered a weekly column. She has a degree in Film and Television which she gained from Brunel University in 1997. She has been blessed with two quite remarkable children whom she adores. She enjoys the company of her friends and the circus that is life. Long Walk to Forever by Kurt Vonnegut is her favourite short story. She is the author of the published children's tale The Story of Balan Singh, and is currently working on her first book.

Tuesday, 4 September 2012

Dad - By Holly Searle





One of my overriding memories of my Dad when I was a child was his ability to be able to crack a whole walnut in the crook of his arm. I still don't know if he ever cheated this illusion with a shifty prep with the nutcrackers beforehand, but I was amazed by this feat and thought he was the strongest man in the world.

A few years ago my Dad was diagnosed with Inclusion Body Myositis (IBM) an incurable cruel degenerative disorder that has already stolen his ability to carry out simple tasks that you and I take for granted on a daily basis.

IBM is a muscle wastage disease. Initially the early signs are indicated by the inability to be able to use your hands to grasps objects properly or a slight weakness in the limbs and then gradually, as it progresses, you find that you are unable to support yourself until one day you suddenly find that you are simply unable to stand. Then your legs just fail you altogether and not only do your muscles become redundant and out of work, but your confidence packs its bags and exits via the gift shop.

IBM has taken away my Dad's strength and has diminished the command he once had over his body. It is heartbreaking.

We had lived all over London during my childhood, but my fixed memories of him only really begin once we had moved to Fulham in the mid sixties.

During this period we once paid a festive visit to Selfridges to go and see Father Christmas. Before you ever reached him, Uncle Holly would be there to entertain you, I wasn't able to make it past old Holly as I fainted due to the heat and remember Dad having to carry me to the in house sick room where I could rest until I felt better. I always felt safe in his arms.

He was quite involved with motor racing and maintained Mini Coopers for a man who raced them. My brothers and I spent many a weekend under the stands at Brands Hatch or Linden Hill, while Dad tinkered with the car before and after the race. He was always busy fixing something.

And he has always been a sociable man and even back then, I can remember the eclectic mix of people that were part of our lives.

Looking back, I should imagine that it was during his Soho days (which pre-dated my arrival) where he met or was introduced to the various people he knew or would get to know. He had always wanted to be an artist, but before he was able to realise his ambition, he worked in a garage below Andrew Logan's studio in Hammersmith.

I remember Dad being in that garage working on the carcass of some car, the smell of oil and the massive can of Swarfega that he used to clean his hands with. That cool bright green jelly like substance would work like magic and rapidly remove all traces of his days work from his hands.

Dad was born in the East end of London. He was one of six children and the second youngest. During the war he was evacuated to the country and during his time there, he rarely saw his family. When he returned after the war, he found that his youngest sister had been adopted and his Mother was living with a man whom he refers to as Pop. I don't know what happened to his Dad Albert, he is an unsolved mystery to this day.

His London had changed and so had he. I have never asked him when or why he decided to be an artist, I really must do that.

After attending art college, he worked at ITN as an editor. He was always good at fixing things and what with his past race connections and a family, he reverted back to the cars and carried on. He was very good at it.

It was only when he moved to Ireland over thirty years ago that he actually loaded his brush and started to paint. And paint he did the most beautiful landscapes you could ever imagine.

Now you're thinking, yes well you would say that, but seriously, if you get a chance, look up his work, he is a very talented and underrated artist. Inspired by Turner and a lover of Rothko, you will be able to witness for yourself his glorious use of colour and his abstract interpretation of the landscapes that have surrounded him throughout his life.

I am a big fan of Terry Searle's work and I am fortunate enough to have collated a vast and varied collection of his work.

I was lucky enough to be treated to a visit to New York earlier this year. I thought about him a lot while I was there. I thought about all the walking I did and how he would never be able to do that. I made sure I visited most of the major art galleries and took as many photographs as possible so that I could show them to him. When I stood in front of a Rothko I will admit that I cried.

When he first became unwell he told me not too worry, but of course I do.

A few years ago after a minor disagreement, we didn't speak for over a year, I could kicked myself now for the stubbornness of my nature and the time we lost. But we made amends and I am glad that we did.

I realised recently that out of his three biological children of which I am the only girl, that I am actually more like him than my brothers are.

I am pragmatic to the core like him and never see a reason why something cannot be fixed instead of replaced.

He once oversaw the build of his own house, the first one constructed out of wood in West Cork, all the locals thought he was a bit mad and surmised that it would probably catch fire and burn to the ground. It never has and is still a lovely house. This is the sort of maverick undertaking I would consider myself. How hard can it be?

My brothers are not this way inclined, but I am, so I have come to conclude that I have inherited the same industrious spirit of adventure that he has.

And just like my Dad, in my middle age, I have at last grown into myself and have discovered the world and have at last realised what I am happy doing.

But of course, this makes me realise how difficult it must be for him to no longer be afforded the choices he once had.

He used to come and stay with me while he was on route to somewhere or returning from a trip. But now he will never be able to do that ever again.

Armed with this realisation, I have turned the tables and have started to visit him as often as I can in Ireland.

It isn't a hardship on my behalf to make this journey, it is a pleasure to be able to just spend time with him. What we talk about is of no consequence, just being is fine.

During my last visit we talked about this visiting business and we both got teary because this disease has taken away his right to choose. His liberty has been removed and I can't imagine how frustrating that must be.

All that said, he has a very positive outlook on in all. He is surrounded by family and friends who love and care for him and despite his illness, he has the look of a man at least fifteen years younger than one of 76.

And to me, he will always be and remain the man who cracked walnuts in the crook of his arm, regardless of anything else.





4 comments:

sue mcintosh said...

made me quite emotional. Fantastically written, as usual.
Sue x

Holly Searle said...

Bless you x

Anonymous said...

Very moving Holly.....treasure every moment you can, Dad's are very precious x x

Holly Searle said...

Thank you, I am xx