This weekend was the worst net weekend of cinemagoing experiences that I’ve ever had. I went to the cinema twice, and both times I left dissatisfied. An earlier blog post talked about the second of the two trips: this is about the first.
You know what – 2012 has been a pretty shit year, so far. We’ve had death (my father’s), more death (my partner’s grandmother’s), illness (my sister’s horrific face infection), and injury (a friend of mine lost her leg to a train, a few weeks ago, under very tragic circumstances). We’ve had breakups (a wonderful couple I know suddenly separated) and busy-ness (a cavalcade of day-job work, Three Rings work, course work, and endless bureaucracy as executor of my dad’s will).
But it gets worse:
On Friday night, I went out with my family to watch Piranha 3DD.
This is one of those bad films that falls into the gap of mediocrity between films that are bad but watchable and films that are so bad that they wrap right around to being enjoyable again (you know, the “so bad they’re good” kind of movies). To summarise:
Lots of nudity, all presented in 3D. If there’ll ever be anything that convinces me that 3D films are a good idea, porn will probably be it. Boobs boobs boobs.
3D films remain a pointless gimmick, still spending most of their time playing up the fact that they’re 3D (lots of long objects, like broom handles, pointing towards the camera, etc.), and still kinda blurry and headache-inducing. Plus: beams of light (e.g. from a torch) in 3D space don’t look like that. The compositor should be fired.
The cameos mostly serve to show off exactly how unpolished the acting is of the less well-known actors.
Plenty of less-enjoyable pop culture references: if you’re not going to do the “false leg is actually a gun” thing even remotely as well at Planet Terror, don’t even try – it’s like trying to show a good movie in the middle of your crappy movie, but not even managing to do that.
Unlikeable, unmemorable characters who spend most of their time engaging in unremarkable teen drama bullshit. Same old sex joke repeated as many times as they think they can get away with. And then a couple of times more.
Lackluster special effects: mangled bodies that don’t look much like bodies, vicious fish don’t look remotely like fish (and, for some reason, growl at people), and CGI that would look dated on a straight-to-video release.
So it was a really special moment to discover that, this weekend, my dad finally made it to the pole. My sisters and I had arranged that a portion of his cremated ashes would be carried with the polar trek team and scattered at what must be one of the most remote places on Earth – the very top of the world. It’s nice to think that not even death was enough to stop my dad from getting to the planet’s most Northernmost spot, even if he had to be carried for the last 600 miles.
Meanwhile, donations flooded in faster than ever to my dad’s fundraising page, taking the grand total to over £12,000 – significantly in excess of the £10,000 he’d hoped to raise. My family and I are gobsmacked with the generosity of the people who’ve donated, and incredibly grateful to them as well as to the team that took him on the last ten days of his journey to the Pole.
It pleases me that my dad gets to trespass somewhere he shouldn’t be, one last time: this time, breaking the international conventions that require that nothing gets “left” at the North Pole. The remainder of my fathers ashes will be scattered by my sisters and I from the top of a particular mountain, as he’d sometimes said that he’d wanted.
And after all of these adventures, I think he deserves to get what he wants. With no apologies for the pun: he’s urn‘d it!
Since my dad’s funeral, a little over a month ago, I’ve been responsible – as executor of his will – for leading the efforts to deal with the distribution of his estate. By necessity of the complexity of the case, we’ve had to draft some friendly lawyers, but there’s still been an awful lot to be taken care of by my sisters, my mother, my dad’s partner, and I, among others. Some bits have been easier than others.
Standard Life‘s pensions department, for example, made my dealings with them very easy: they explained exactly what they needed from me, exactly what they’d do with it, and how quickly they could act upon it. TV Licensing, on the other hand, seem to be working against me rather than for me, issuing me a cheque made out as it is to “Executor of MR P HUNTLEY”, which was subsequently rejected by my bank on account of being in the name of nobody at all. I suppose I could easily change my name in order to accept that cheque, but that seems like the wrong solution. Plus I’ve always felt like more of a “Dan” than an “Executor”.
I’ve begun packing up the contents of my dad’s house, too, so that they can be meaningfully distributed to whoever ought to have them. This leads to an inevitable clash, of course, between the lawyers and the local council. The former want us to remove as little as possible before they can appraise the value of the contents, which is relevant to the assessment of inheritance tax. The latter demand that the house be left unfurnished so that it does not become liable for council tax. In order to walk the fine line between the two I’ve been packaging things up based on their types: his vast library of transport books in these boxes, etc. And despite great efforts (such as the work it took to disassemble the rusty old trampoline in the back garden), it still feels like there’s a long, long, long way to go.
Friday was the day of my dad’s funeral. If you’ve just tuned in, you might like to see my blog post about his death, and a second article about the things that have been hardest, so far, in its aftermath. I’m not inclined to say too much, so I’ll be brief and let pictures, and a video, tell the story. As usual, you’ll find that you can click on the pictures to enlarge them.
A remarkable number of people turned up to mark my dad’s passing on this sad occasion. I was genuinely surprised to see how many lives he’d touched (and to hear about a great many more from people who couldn’t make it). About 350 people struggled to fit in to the cramped crematorium, and many had to stand outside where – thankfully – there were repeater speakers.
My sisters and I were determined that this event would be a celebration of our father’s life. So rather than focusing on his tragic and premature death, we made every effort to commemorate his achievements and reinforce the lessons that we can all learn from his time with us. In a similar vein, we’d told everybody that we had the chance to that there was no need to wear black for this funeral: that people should wear what’s appropriate to them for their personal act of mourning and remembrance.
We’d hired a former minister, Ken Howles, to provide a (thoroughly secular, under threat of non-payment!) framework for the service, but we “rolled our own” so far as possible. Seven individual tributes and eulogies were given by people representing different aspects of my dad’s life: from my mother, from his partner, from the friend with whom he was walking on the day he died, from the managing directors of the company he founded and the company he last worked for, from the chief executive of the charity he was fundraising for, and – finally – from me.
(if you can’t view the YouTube video above, or if you want to share it with others, you can also view it on YouTube)
The contrast between the different tributes was stark and staggering, reflecting the huge variety in the different facets of my father’s life. From guerrilla gardening to trainspotting, lessons learned to tyres pulled, we collectively painted a picture of the spectrum of my dad’s life. The tributes given were, in order:
My mother, Doreen (watch), who talked about their adventures together as young adults and the roots of his career in transport
His partner, Jenny (watch), who shared the experiences they’d had together, and mourned for those that they would not
His friend, John (watch), who let us in on the things that they’d talked about during my dad’s final hours
Kevin, the managing director of Go North-East (watch), on the subject of my dad’s recent career and influence on British transport
Gary, chief executive of TransAid (watch), announced the future creation of the Peter Huntley Fundraising Award, and thanked my dad and his supporters on behalf of the dozens of charities my dad helped
And finally, me (watch), contrasting all of the above by talking about what my dad was like as a father and a friend, and the lessons we can learn from him
Afterwards, we held a wake at Grimsargh Village Hall which, on account of the sheer number of bus industry attendees, rapidly became a micro-conference for the public transport sector! It was great to have the chance to chat to so many people who’d worked with my dad in so many different contexts.
Between hot food provided by a local caterer, cold savories courtesy of Jenny’s daugher Eppie, and a copious quantity of cakes baked by Ruth, there was an incredible superfluity of food. These two, plus JTA, Paul, and Eppie’s boyfriend James, provided a spectacular level of “behind-the-scenes” magic, keeping everything running smoothly and ensuring that everything happened as and when it was supposed to.
We set up a “memory book”, in which people could write their recollections of my dad. I haven’t had time to read much of it yet, but one of them stands out already to me as a concise and simple explanation of what we achieved at the crematorium that day. It reads:
“Great funeral, Peter. Sorry that you missed it.”
It was certainly a great send-off for a man who did so much for so many people. Thank you so much to everybody who made it such a success, and to everybody who, in the meantime, has donated to TransAid via my dad’s JustGiving page (or by giving us cash or cheques at or after the funeral). You’re helping his memory live on, for everybody: thank you.
On Sunday 19th February 2012, Peter George Huntley was killed in a tragic accident while training for a sponsored expedition to the North Pole in aid of TransAid. During his life, he worked tirelessly to improve the face of British transport and for innumerable charities and worthy causes. He leaves behind a son and two daughters.
On Friday 2nd March 2012, a funeral service was held for him at Preston Crematorium. Around 350 people representing all of the different facets of Peter’s life attended to share in a celebration of his life and a mourning of his passing. Surrounded by Peter’s family, friends, colleagues, and neighbours, tributes were given to this great and admirable man.
In the background, fragments can be heard of the following pieces of music, to which Peter’s family do not own nor claim a copyright:
Alive in the World, by Jackson Browne
Dancing Queen, by ABBA
Clear White Light, by Lindisfarne
Thanks to Paul Mann (YouTube: pacifist049) for filming.
1:20 – Ken Holmes (minister) begins the ceremony and explains his role
2:52 – Doreen Huntley (Peter’s ex-wife) talks about how he got started in transport
7:19 – Jenny Berry (Peter’s partner) talks about her life with him
10:35 – John Taylor (friend and colleague of Peter) shares the things that he and Peter talked about on Peter’s final day
16:33 – Adrian Grant (Managing Director of TAS) talks about what it was like to work alongside Peter at TAS
22:17 – Ken Howles introduces a video of Peter Huntley singing Dancing Queen 26:11 – Ken Howles introduces the second set of tributes
26:30 – Kevin Carr (Managing Director of Go North-East) applauds Peter’s work during his time with the company
31:09 – Gary Foster (Chief Executive at TransAid) gives thanks for Peter’s extensive charity work, and announces the creation of the Peter Huntley Fundraising Award
33:12 – Dan Q (Peter’s son) talks about the lessons that he did – and didn’t – learn from his father
38:20 – Ken Howles offers some closing words, and a poem
41:07 – Closing music and photo of Peter
My dad died almost a fortnight ago when he lost his footing during a climb in the Lake District, and – since then – it’s felt like I’ve been involuntarily transplanted out of my life and into somebody else’s. I’ve only been in and out of work, and I’m glad to have done that: it’s added a semblance of normality to my routine. But most of my “new life” seems to consist of picking up the pieces of the jigsaw of my dad’s affairs and piecing them together into a meaningful picture.
The big stuff is easy. Or, at least, it’s easy thanks to the support of my sisters and my mum. The big stuff isn’t small, of course, and it takes a significant effort to make sure it’s handled correctly: arranging a funeral and a wake, pouring over the mountains of paperwork in my dad’s files, and discussing what’s to ultimately be done with his house… those are all big things.
But the small things: they’re tough. The little things that sneak up on you when you least expect it. Last night, Becky and I were watching television when an advertisement came on.
We were both trying to work out what it was an advertisement for – perhaps some kind of holiday company? – as we watched a scene of a family (father, mother, and two teenage daughters) packing their bags and moving them into the hallway. The kids squeezed past their dad on the stairs and hugged their mother: “It won’t be the same, without dad,” said one.
The commercial was for life insurance, and it pulled a Sixth Sense (spoiler: Bruce Willis is dead the entire time) on us – the girls’ father wasn’t there at all.
That we happened to see that advertisement was a little thing, in the scale of things. But it’s the little things that are the hard ones.
Funeral’s tomorrow. I’d better finish writing this eulogy.
And honestly, I’m not sure what else to say. There’s nothing else left to say. It felt like my tweet – like all tweets – said too little, too. But I didn’t want to keep anybody in the dark about this tragic news, so… well…
As I mentioned in December, my dad had planned a sponsored expedition to the North Pole, this April, in order to raise money for TransAid, a charity about whose work he was passionate. As part of his training, he was up on High Street, a fell in the Lake District, with his friend John. There, he lost his footing and slipped, falling over a 200 foot precipice. He was discovered to be dead when the air ambulance arrived; almost certainly killed pretty much instantaneously by the fall.
Since then, I’ve been in Preston, where my sisters, our mother, my dad’s partner, and our friends have been trying to come to terms with this tragic loss, and to make arrangements for his funeral. We’re keeping busy, which is probably for the best, right now. I’d like to say thank you to everybody who’s sent cards, emails, or text messages: your thoughts and sympathies are really appreciated, and I apologise that there simply hasn’t been time to reply to you all individually.
My dad died doing what he loved: exploring the outdoors, walking, climbing, and pushing his limits, in aid of a worthy cause that meant a lot to him. He was in incredible physical fitness, and I’d always suspected that 15 years from now, with him in his 70s and I in my 40s, he’d still have been able to outpace me on a scramble up Helvellyn’s Striding Ridge.
I’m sad that that’s a theory that I’ll never be able to put to the test. I’m sad that my dad never lived long enough to see if he’d have any grandchildren. I’m sad that the world is so cruel as to deny us all those conversations left unfinished and those mountains left unconquered. I’m even sad that I’ll never again get an out-of-the-blue call from him on some Saturday afternoon because he can’t work out how to use his printer, or fix his Internet connection.
And I still don’t know what to say. So for now, at least, that’s all.
This is my father. He’s dragging a tyre in the photo because he’s in training to do a sponsored walk to the North Pole, to raise money for a charity called TransAid.
Apparently, tying a tyre to your waist and then dragging it around accurately simulates the effort required to drag a sled with all the provisions you need for a two-week journey across the Arctic.
He’s 54, and he’s in spectacular physical fitness. Over the last few years I’ve seen him do sponsored hikes up Kilimanjaro and Everest, thousand mile cycles in ten days, marathons and triathlons. I’m 24 years younger than him, and I’m not even slightly as fit as he is.
Was, sorry. Got to get used to saying that.
Yesterday, my dad was killed during a training exercise in Britain’s Lake District. He slipped on a patch of ice and fell 700 feet into a ravine. By the time the rescue helicopter had arrived, he was already dead.
It seems unfair that he was ready to brave a trek to the North Pole – one of the most inhospitable parts of the planet – but what killed him was a slip and a fall up a hill just 50 miles from his house. A hill that he, and I, and my two younger sisters have climbed together, before.
Apparently I have to go and formally identify the body. Apparently I need to execute his will. Apparently I’ve got to organise a funeral. Suddenly my life has come to a standstill and a different life has arrived to take its place. I’m suddenly thrust into a world of paperwork and of calling distant relatives. A world of grief and consolation. A world in which the man I admired… the man I called “dad”… is no longer a part.
I feel woefully inadequate for all of these roles. I just want to phone up my dad and ask for his advice, and have him be there to help me, as he’s always been there to help me before. But that’s something that I can never do again.
Reddit: call somebody you love today. You might not get another chance.
tl;dr: My dad was killed yesterday in a tragic accident. Call somebody you love today.