Thursday, 25 April 2013

R.I.P. Ronald "Joe" Page 1922 - 2013

My Daddy was born in 1922, in South London between 2 World Wars. A London still more likely to see horses travelling through Piccadilly than motor cars.

Born to parents who barely knew he was there, his early years were beyond modern imagination. He stole food to feed his little sister and, being Dad, no doubt, other comforts. By 11 he was thrown into a borstal where he would stay until they threw him out at 15, illiterate and unloved, without a penny to his name.

Any wonder then that he fell into an underclass who admired his survival skills, running messages for the Krays and other, more small time London gangsters.

But Ron took himself to night school and learnt to read and write. Brilliant, handsome, wily and more charming than any other man I ever met, he was a survivor.

Soon, at just 17, war broke out and Ron joined the RAF, lying about his age. He fought all through the second world war, trained to be a spitfire engineer, stationed mainly in the African desert. A generation of state sponsored murderers were trained to kill, then expected to come home and live like good little boys. He was knocked off the wing of a Spitfire (MAINPLANE I hear him shout) by Douglas Bader and taken prisoner by Rommel. But Ron survived. He always survived.

"Holding them back with cold steel" Spitfires in the background, his "bivvi" - home for 5 years - on the left

His generation got no reward for their great sacrifice. In retirement, his 7 lost years were marked in no way at all.

Ron would never be a good little boy. Why should he? Life had dealt him a tough hand and only a little ducking and diving would get him through. Long after he didn't really need to any more, he carried on, just for the fun of it.

He won ABAs. He boxed for the RAF - think for a moment what that meant; the status and admiration afforded a tough guy who out toughed all the other tough guys.

He played wicket keeper for Surrey Colts and every one of his fingers was broken and gnarled from catching impossible catches. Somewhere in the Lords archives, I believe, there is a picture of him taking a catch completely off the ground, in perfect parallel with the horizon. He had a trial for Walthamstow football club back when they were a 1st division club. He tried out the same day as Jimmy Hill. Dad was offered a place, but couldn't afford to take the drop in salary. Jimmy took his place and the rest, as they say, is sporting history.

After the war, he worked as a toolmaker, working his way up to foreman before starting his own spring making factory. I'm not sure quite how much of the business was legitimate.

He leaves 7 children - 4 sons and 3 daughters, of which I'm the baby. His princess.

Ron was a drinker, a bon viveur, a small time, loveable crook. He had a "look". Oh dear God, you never messed with the "look". The quieter he got, the stiller he became, the more trouble met the poor unwitting fool who pushed his luck.

After 77 years of devoted attempts to pickle himself alive and as many falls from various wagons, he gave up drinking entirely, overnight, just like that. At 77.

Pity a succession of hapless boyfriends who met "trial by gangster-Dad" as I was growing up. As a teen I hated it. I'd squirm as I saw him set traps for each to walk straight into as they remained blissfully oblivious right up until it was too late. But later, I came to rather like the selection process. If they turned tail and ran, they were rarely worth my attention. If they stood and toughed it out, they were generally keepers - and Dad admired them the more for it.

He swore he'd never give me away to anyone. My Dave melted his resolve. You might catch a trace of the f*** this "look" about it all though ;)

He met my Mum in the late 60s and they fell immediately in love, a love that lasted til the very end. They married one snowy day, just the two of them in wellies, no need for fanfare or procession.

He wasn't even a conventional man for his age. From a young man, he always cooked the Sunday roast at a time when most men were still demanding their pipe and slippers. Through his later years, he somehow managed enlightenment on race, homosexuality and equality of gender few of his contemporaries ever achieved.

Oh, he wasn't an easy Dad. The demons that haunted him from a broken, unloved childhood and a youth spent bombed from "arseholes to breakfast time" by Germans, left scars. We all need crutches and Dad's were booze and bravado. Charming, loving and hysterically funny by day, dark, sarcastic and brooding by boozy night, life with Dad was a roller coaster, but an exciting, challenging roller-coaster.

The stories I could tell! But I'm sure most would get him arrested posthumously. "The legend of the footprints in the snow", the night he and his then grown sons drank their way through an illegal brewery to "hide the evidence", the box of chickens, (?!?) swimming races down the Thames before the police could fish him out - you should have been cross, you should have stopped him, but no-one ever stopped him and no-one could ever stay cross. He smiled that crooked smile and all was forgiven. He talked the talk and charmed the charmless.

His advice made me who I am - "There's no such word as can't." "Worry, and you worry all of your life." "Watch the tiger when it's licking your ear." "Never sign anything." I could never have survived decades of crohn's without his unique brand of tough love and fierce pride. When everything was desperate, when I had used every last drop of hope and fight, only he would tell me to "man up". "Get up off that bed, kick that fucking doctors arse and FIGHT! Fight my girl, no-one's going to save you, save yourself." When everyone else looked at me with pity, he looked at me with pride, when others offered sympathy and cosseting, cloying reassurance that it was all too hard, Dad reminded me it was NEVER too hard - and what an example he was! If he could survive mastoids, meningitis (pre-antibiotics) malaria and peritonitis, I could survive anything.

Oh, men like Ron had their faults, but to be loved by them? To be centre of their universe? To know that no-one could ever hurt you and live to tell the tale?? To earn their pride? It makes life special, embroidered with golden fire and lucky stars, opportunity and competitive confidence.

When I got my degree, I swear he knocked on every door in our street.

His strength!! Men like Ron don't exist any more. He never grew accustomed to real food, good food, healthy food. He lived from a "chindet pot" a kind of curried stew of whatever Mum and I left. Everything went in and it was never emptied. Somewhere at the bottom of that pot was ten year old food, but his constitution was indestructible, his immunity resisted any illness, ever. Until the very end, his "treats" were a nice pot of jellied eels, a trotter or some nice chewy whelks.

He got a growth on his hand once and hit it with a hammer every day til it disappeared.

In his 70s, Dad liked to ride his bike to Bognor Regis and sit by the sea with a can of beer. In his dirty old bobble hat and body warmer with the stuffing hanging out, the eccentric old bugger looked like a tramp. One day a group of yobs tried to mug him. They threw his bike to the floor and tried to take his beer. He went quiet & still. He knocked the ringleader clean out with one punch and told them to run home to their Mummies. He was nearly 80.

Men like Ron shouldn't fade away. The massive stroke that left him helpless and insensible the day after my last huge op couldn't take him, it wasn't right! He should have careered of a race track, trying to be the oldest man to win a Grand Prix! He should have frozen stiff half way back down successfully climbing Everest.

But he lay there, and we told him we loved him every day as he faded quietly away. Perhaps the end wasn't fitting, but perhaps, after all, it was. The man who started life so alone, who fought so hard, who ducked and dived and conned and survived found peace with my Mum and I and the grandchildren he adored. Perhaps, after all, drawing a last breath and drifting away was the best end of all. At the end of his 91 years, he finally found peace.

With my boys, the light of his life

How do I live in a world he isn't in? Who will kick my arse and grit my teeth and tell me I can do anything? I suppose, somewhere, he will. As I remember his crooked smile and his cheeky grin, as I remember his enormous strength and indestructible lifeforce, he'll always be here. Where else would he be? Where else would he ever want to be but here with Mum and I forever?

My favouritest tweep, @DocHackenbush and separated-at-birth-twin just made this for me. I'll treasure it :)))


  1. Replies
    1. Are you my UCH friend-nurse-blogger?

  2. Such a lovely tribute - big hugs to you all, Sue. Stay strong. :)

  3. An amazing tribute Sue. I am so sorry for your loss.

  4. Blessings to you on this sad day - what a lovely poignant and heartfelt eulogy hun


  5. He'll always be with you - memories like that are too strong to fade. When you need his strength, remember & it'll be there. {{{HUG}}}

  6. A beautiful and moving tribute. Your dad certainly had the perfect right to be very proud of his little princess. You carry his flame and fire in your words every time you write. Knowing now a little about where you come from, Sue, helps explain your own absolute refusal to quieten down in the face of adversity. He did you proud and you are doing him proud in return.

  7. Sniffly comments guys!

    Essois - that's kind of why I wrote it. Until you know my Dad, you don't really know me xx

  8. I am so sorry for your loss, and that of all Ron's family and friends. May he rest in peace. I'm sure this lovely, eloquent tribute would have given him even more reason to be proud of you.

  9. How lovely, a wonderful thing to read. My Grandad was born in '20, and he was in the RAF too. A generation unlike any other. Lots of love to you and yours xxx

  10. Great piece of writing again Sue and Thank You for sharing you and your Dad, the quality of your writing is very special and very much appreciated by this regular reader. Continued best wishes to you and your family at this tough time.

  11. Beautiful.

    The easiest thing when faced with great loss is to say there are no words - I said exactly that when a friend's mum died very recently - but somehow you found them.

    Thank you.

  12. Hit his hand with a hammer....yep, sounds like my grandfather, still going at over 90. He's ruined me utterly - if I cannot find a man like him, I'll never be with a man again in my life. And so it goes; but as painful as it is to lose them, I praise the fact I ever had him at all.

    Much love to you, my beautiful.

  13. Thankyou for telling the world about your clearly amazing Dad. It's amazing to read such a heartfelt tribute. I feel sure you will continue to make him even more proud as time goes on.

    I send love.

  14. What an amazing dad... Sounds as if he broke the mould when he was made. My thoughts and prayers are with you and your family.

    Thank you for sharing a small piece of your dad x

  15. lost mom 4yrs ago and my dad 22nd dec the pain never eases. how i miss the guidance and the 8pm phone calls. sorry for your loss Sue.

  16. Wow!

    Many hugs and a reminder -

    You may have seen your Dad on a regular basis, but from now on he's with you every minute of every day, in your heart and in your mind.

    Now stop grizzling and get on with it! Shades of my father-in-law when his wife died, you can take the man out of London, but you'll never take the London out of the man!

    May your God bless you and help you hrough our loss.

  17. I'm so sorry for your loss Sue but what a beautiful tribute, it brought tears to my eyes, it was so beautifully written.

  18. The most beautiful tribute I have ever read, you certainly are a chip off the old block Sue! I had tears in my eyes and a big smile all at the same time. Reminded me so much of my Dad,I think the War and then National Service created some amazing people. Cyber {hug} to your family at this sad time.

  19. So sorry to hear this news. But, I smiled wryly at the thought of someone being arrested posthumously. (Don't give the ******** ideas like that!)

  20. I suspect both he and you have "fighter" printed all the way through you like Brighton rock. You've made me both smile and sniffle (my mum died earlier this month and I'm still pretty raw). What an amazing guy!

  21. "Until you know my Dad, you don't really know me"

    And this definitely explains a lot! Apparently not backing down to anyone is in the Page genes. I'd say 'stay strong', but that's clearly superfluous.

  22. So sorry for your loss, but what a life, and what a celebration of it!

  23. So sorry for your loss, Sue. Times like these good writers need their blogs the most, I always say.

  24. Sue, I am so sorry for your loss. What a marvellous tribute to your father.

  25. What a beautiful tribute.

    Sorry for your loss. Stay strong.

  26. Goodness. In that photo of you and your dad he looks eerily like a slightly older version of the Horn Rimmed Glasses Man from Heroes. For a second I thought it was actually that actor!

    Sorry for your loss. Losing a parent is really tough; especially when you depend on them. But you get there in the end. Eventually. My dressmaker mum has been dead for 4.5 years and I've only just (within the last month) learned how to sew so I can shorten my own trousers.

  27. He's still here. In your memories & spirit. He will continue to kick arse through you. Hope your strength gets you through xx

  28. The lovely comments and thoughts on Dad's life have meant so much to me today. I'm so proud others got to hear about him. thank you all so much xxxxx

  29. So very sorry for your loss. A beautiful, moving tribute, one I can relate to so very much. Stay strong and keep his flame alive.

  30. What a great man and a marvellous tribute. These are the men that should populate the world. What a huge loss for you, Sue. Words cannot help, except your father's words that you will hear again and again. My heart goes out to you. I would love to read more about his life - do write his story. If I was a publisher, I'd grab it immediately. Sarah x

  31. What a moving and wonderful tribute to a very special man from a very special lady.

  32. A beautiful tribute to a wonderful man. He will always be with you Sue, continue to celebrate his life and the man he was; they don't make them like him anymore. God Bless.

  33. I'm so sorry to hear about your fathers passing Sue.

    Your lovely and moving tribute to your father has reminded me of my own dearly departed Dad who, while a post-war baby, was a made from a similar cloth, mine had a 'look' too :') it's true that you never lose the ones you love as long as you remember them.

    I'm rarely moved to tears, (I have malfunctioning tear-ducts), but I'm in floods here.

    My thoughts are with you and your family xx

  34. Ah, now I get it!! So sorry your wonderful Dad has gone, but I'm sure he knew you'd carry on the same xx

  35. Lovely, lovely tribute to your Father, Sue. Pride and love stood out from every line.

    All the best!

  36. What a fantasticly beautiful tribute to your father. Your words are full of such love, compassion and meaning. I'm so sorry you have lost your father. I lost mine 15 years ago, and he was too young to go. Like you I say how can I live in a world without him in it. a world so lacking in caring or compassion. I miss him so much. Sue you are an amazing person a complete credit to him. My thoughts are with you, hugs and love Rosalind B. xx

  37. What a beautiful tribute to what sounds like a giant character. I can only imagine how great it must have been to know a man like him. Now I can see where you get your indomitable spirit from. RIP Ron, and gentle hugs to you Sue. xx

  38. God bless. May your future be richer with your loving Daddy's everlasting spirit strengthening your life every day. x

  39. A wonderful tribute to your special Dad sending you big hugs and love x

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  41. Oh Sue, that's a beautiful tribute. 2 years older than my Dad, so I know that generation well. Sorry he's gone, but glad you had him so long and his end was peaceful. Hope you are bearing upx

  42. "Until you know my Dad, you don't really know me" and my Mother.
    So sorry to hear about your father, sounds like very much like my father, just that look!

  43. This comment has been removed by a blog administrator.

    1. Is that all you have to offer Anwar? Not got anything interesting mate? I think you are wasting your time on this website. Try somewhere else, thanks..

  44. What a wonderful article Sue, it brought tears to my eyes, your heart must swell with pride, what a wonderful man... RIP...

  45. A beautiful tribute to your Dad, Some man for one man, God bless ya X

  46. Such a wonderful tribute to brilliant sounding character. I think any Father would be proud of such a write up! An excellent read!

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  48. sue, how much more of this crap is going to go on? with idiotic comments like this?

    " "So, finally the workshy are being asked to pay up. About time too, very few working people are lucky enough to get a pay rise these days, yet benefit scroungers get them. Make them pay more than a minimum, make them cutback on non essential items! If we stop the lefty claptrap in this country and show respect to the workers, we might end up with a better place to live."


  49. Beautiful writing, vivid portrait. I just discovered your blog today and am happy to see that you got your toughness and smarts and sense of humor from an awesome source. Best wishes from California.


  50. Is it possible to seek the approval of men and be an effective servant of Christ? To go with the flow works well unless there is a waterfall at the end of the river. Then the ride can get a little bumpy.

    Galatians 1:10 For am I now seeking the favor of men, or of God? Or am I striving to please men? If I were still trying to please men, I would not be a bond-servant of Christ.

    The apostle Paul said if I were "still" trying to please men. Obviously while Paul was a Pharisee he was trying to please men.
    Do men today continue in their denominations to please friends and relatives?

    John 12:42-43 Nevertheless many even of the rulers believed in Him, but because of the Pharisees they were not confessing Him, for fear that they would be put out of the synagogue; 43 for they loved the approval of men rather than the approval of God.

    Are there those today who know in their heart that Jesus was correct when He said "has been baptized shall be saved," but will not confess it because they fear being ostracized by church members, friends and relatives?

    James 4:4 You adulteresses, do you not know the friendship with the world is hostility toward God? Therefore whoever wishes to be a friend of the world makes himself an enemy of God.

    If we have friendship with the world, then we get their approval. Is that approval worth becoming an enemy of God?

    Luke 6:26 Woe to you when all men speak well of you, for their fathers used to treat the false prophets in the same way.

    If all believers and the world speak well of you, do you think you might want to reconsider your life style, as well as your faith?

    2 Timothy 4:2-3 preach the word; be ready in season and out of season; reprove, rebuke, exhort, with great patience and instruction. 3 For the time will come when they will not endure sound doctrine; but wanting to have their ears tickled, they will accumulate for themselves teachers in accordance to their own desires,

    If men do not like what the Bible teaches, they will find people who will teach what meets their approval.

    We sometimes think that speaking the truth in love means that we should water down the gospel, compromise the requirements for salvation, accept the sins of the world or simply offer excuses for sin.