Friday, 12 March 2010

Farewell to My Father

There is just so much that I want to put in my eulogy to my farther on Friday (now today) as I write. I just don't know what to leave out. He was such a clever man, and lost so much when he got Alzheimer's. now we have lost him.

Aubrey, until recently, attended the services at Holy Trinity Church, I wish to thank all those who so welcomed him to this church. He had a great fondness for church music, and he was a choir boy in his youth.

Aubrey Finch, an only child, spent the first years of his life in Brixham, Devon.
His Father was a Merchant Navy Captain, who during the Second World War was based at Plymouth, Devon. Aubrey was evacuated to Cornwall during a part of the war with his mother’s relatives, but he still remembered the bombs dropping on Plymouth.

I have a story about him as a child, in the sail loft at Brixham, which is above the now amusement arcade in the town. In a loft owned by his grandfather, his uncle would lay sails out there for cutting, marking out the lines with chalk. The child Aubrey would draw railway lines on the sail, using similar chalk, and walk around the tracks with bits of sail constructing equipment, making his imaginary trains run. In later life he wondered if there were some ships out there will odd looking sails, where perhaps his uncle cut down the wrong lines.

This fascination with rail and the mechanics was taken further when we lived in Gutersloh, Germany, and Prestwood, Buckinghamshire where “I?”, “he?” had an “OO/HO” gauge railway.

As a youth Aubrey studied in the evenings at Plymouth Technological College.
After working long days as a mechanical engineer, he attended evening classes. He went on to gain the National Certificate (Higher Grade) in Mechanical Engineering at Cornwall Technical College. At home we have several books that were awarded to him as prizes for his outstanding work at college, especially in the area of heat engines.
Myself and Diane visited one of his great pals Irven Nute at a nursing home in Cornwall a while back. Irven told me how it was that Aubrey was the only Dockyard Apprentice that was allowed to cut propshafts for ships, due to the precision of his engineering.

Later, I believe partly encouraged by his friend Irving, Aubrey studied meteorology and went on to have a career with The Meteorological Office.

He always had fond memories of working on Radio Sond balloon systems, in Cambourne. I investigated the way that Radio Sond balloons were tracked a while back. I was intrigued to find that they used the now nearly defunct Loran system. The Loran system is one of the Navigational Aids that I wrote interface programs for at Marconi. I was then frequently visiting Plymouth Dockyard to carry out this work. Just a couple of steps behind my farther I suppose.

Going back slightly, to Aubrey’s teens, he & his group of friends formed an amateur band of Rhythms & Blues music – ( 1940s ), which  swept Britain  in the guise of Rock & Roll in the 1950s;  during the 1940s this teenage group swapped  British Big Band records for R & B  ones with their contemporaries in the U.S.A. He later had great enthusiasm for bands such as the Rolling Stones, and The Animas.

Anyway, lurching forward a bit we come to where Aubrey met and married Lucia. My mother tells me of waiting for her suitor to finish work, and come and collect her. She could hear the roar of his motorbike from miles away. She just hoped that her mother would not put two and two together, and realise that her daughter was waiting for this motoring fiend.

Lucia and Aubrey married In February 1954 whilst Aubrey was stationed at R.A.F. St.Eval.  They lived in Cornwall first before Aubrey was posted to Gloucester, Yorkshire, and then back down to St.Eval where I was born in the Officer’s Married Quarters in 1957. I gather that Aubrey was ranting at the inconsiderate Lancaster pilots that were exercising their engines, while his wife was giving birth. Perhaps that is why I feel that there is a certain “something” about the sound of a Merlin Engine?

I have heard that Lucia used to get faintly annoyed by Aubrey visiting the Airman’s or Officer’s mess after work and returning with rude jokes after having few drinks – It seems this stopped after found drink gave him bad head aches – He really was allergic to alcohol. It may also have been the onion sandwiches which he so loved. I think these things perhaps turned him into a fussy eater. Not a bad thing I suppose as these days, we are told to pay great attention to what we eat and drink, and the consequences. Something I must do myself.

In 1958 Aubrey was posted to Germany for 3 years, where Jennie was born in a British Military Hospital in 1959.

In 1961 Aubrey was posted to Buckinghamshire where his children – me and Jennie were able to grow up in a fantastic village community. Aubrey was very active in the Parent Teacher Association also the Village Hall committee.

He was always looking to help other people. Perhaps I should diversify here to his membership of the Institute of Professional Civil Servants. He was very committed to this, and was passionate as any of the greats of other Unions have been in the past about working conditions and pay. As an Air Cadet I went on camp to Topcliff in Yorkshire; one of Aubrey’s earlier postings. I toddled on down to the Met buiding one evening and was welcomed in by the staff. After a bit of discussion it turned out that Aubrey was well known there for the views that he expressed in the IPCS, and they wished that there were more like him. Again as in Plymouth dockyard I had that feeling that I was one or two steps behind.

Wife of Aubrey Lucia was busy in Prestwood,and  also an active member on a number of local committees. This she managed as well a being an excellent home-maker. At this stage in our lives holidays were usually camping ones. On these camping trips Aubrey would take us on some very interesting short cuts. This usually involved finding the few bits of nearly impenetrable Jungle in the UK. I think here again I was just that step behind Aubrey – In later years I would lead expeditions to places, and worry people by taking them “interesting” routes. The other step behind was the drive that he had to get involved in things. I am sure that I am still several steps behind him in what I can do at the council as a Councillor, and what I could do as a school governor.

In 1971 Aubrey took a voluntary posting to Bahrain in The Gulf without family for a few months. It was very strange living without a father for a while.

In 1972 Aubrey was posted to Bracknell Meteorological Office where he went from Weather Forecasting to Computer Programming at the age of 45.

At the time that Aubrey was converting to computing from forecasting, I was at Bracknell College learning about computers, as ever following a step or two behind.

In December 1986 Aubrey retired. He was happy with this for a while, and then he stared to get restless, and annoy my mother with asking what he should be doing next. At this time I had a computer company that was attempting to break into the travel business. He helped me by taking on various computer projects for myself and my business partner Tom Conlon. I thought maybe at this point I had caught up with my farther, but no, he eventually had enough of this work stuff, and wanted to get on with the things that really fascinated him. He designed a large Garage for Tom, drawing on his experience of building a garage and extension at Prestwood, and the garage he designed for me at my first house in Harmanswater. Aubrey went on to rebuild a 1930’s Douglas motorbike, and constructing some of the parts himself. His interest in anything mechanical was part of his being until the onset of Alzheimer’s disease.

Aubrey had time for Holidays with Lucia to many Mediterranean countries, Tenerife & Egypt – both of them being interested in archaeological sites & museums.

In his retirement he had much time for his granddaughter Rebecca being as protective of her as his own daughter. Becky when little, would ride around on his back.
Aubrey sometime made up names, and played with words – Ramble our rough Collie became Bingo Bongo (perhaps a reference to a dog from his childhood). When we were children I remember him saying we were going to “high wick pick wick” – Jennie thought he said we were going for a “pick nick”, and there were floods of tears when we arrived at High Wycombe to go shopping.

He very much valued his visit to David & Margaret Wilkins, neighbours whom he used to go to for an hour or so each week. David & Aubrey in the past used to frequent Auto-jumbles, travelling long distances sometimes because of their combined interest in them.
Sadly Alan Bell, a friend from the past, passed away a few years ago – He also valued the weekly visits from Alan. He will be buried not far from his old pal.

Aubrey will be remembered for his listening to highbrow music, rhythm & blues, and his large collection of CDs, tapes, also records he collected in his youth; With the onset of dementia he said he felt sad when he listened to any of them but never-the-less says he liked to listen to them.

Aubrey - A man of many hobbies, interests, and helping other people out.

Photography – developing & printing
Playing the guitar – he got very sad that he forgot how to due to dementia
Aubrey Loved to potter about in the garden and got very frustrated when he hit limits, both physically and mentally.

In the past Aubrey’s capacity for knowledge on most subjects has been exceptional; over the years he was able to turn his hand to anything from mechanical, architectural drawings, house extension – design & building. He installed every piece of central heating in the Bracknell house (with Lucia’s help), and fitted the house throughout with double glazed windows (with a bit of my help), and repaired all domestic appliances.

I am not sure of his views on life and death – I remember him telling us that we could just dump his body in a black sack, and let the bin men take it, he wouldn’t need it any more.

I said before, that Aubrey was always at least one step ahead of me. He is still one step ahead of me – It is a path I might fear to tread, but as my father, Aubrey has trodden it I am sure that it will be the right one. And there will still be still one more step to take to catch up.


  1. Alvin, that was one of the most interesting posts I have ever read. Thank you for sharing that with us. You dad is and was trully a great man. I too play the guitar and would be gutted if I lost this skill.

    I wish we would do more to help people with Alzheimer's and to perhaps cure this terrible problem that so many people suffer from. I so hate Alzheimers it scares the living daylights out of me.

    All the best Darren

  2. Very interesting

  3. There a few spelling mistakes etc. in here. I want to leave it as it was though, as this is how it came out at the time.

  4. I would have so liked to have known him :-)