A hommage to David
David, died of a heart attack on a beach in Antigua on the 5th January 2019.
My speach at Highgate Cemetery.
David - my Jewish stepfather who had a love of sausages – known to his friends at the tennis club as ‘two dinners David’ on account of his insatiable appetite. Two dinners, my mother and I lived for much of last year together in their new house on Willoughby road, where nourishment was never far from David’s thoughts and where David made one essential contribution to meal times, the bbq.
With the new house came a new bbq but sadly the same problems persisted as before; there was always something missing to hinder David’s bbq from ever reaching its pinnacle. Often he blamed the lack of charcoal, so we would take the kitchen scissors to the newly acquired landscaped garden and prune a tree or two. At other times he accused us of pilfering his firelighters, so the weekly subscription to the Times was scrunched up and set alight. Smoke, flames and an exhausted, grubby David were inevitable. As many of you will know an 8pm bbq never started much before 10 o'clock.
Meanwhile in the kitchen, my mother would cook everything in the Aga, and then when eventually “Two dinners” announced the coals had finally caught alight, my mother and I would scurry outside in the dark to pile everything on the embers for a quick reheat. All designed to make David feel he had contributed. A contribution he would remind us of for the rest of the week. On the rare occasion we did manage to cook on the bbq, I was convinced the man was trying to kill us; frozen middles of chicken thighs and blacker than black sausages were the norm.
As you know, David liked wheels and undertook extensive research on all possible modes of transport between his house in Hampstead and his office in Chalk Farm, a tricky 1.2 km with one left turn and one big hill.
My favourite was the purchase of 5 bikes, a bike a day would leave Hampstead and cruise down Haverstock hill to the office, and then the tube was taken back. At the end of the week David would convince my mother to cycle the 5 bikes back up the hill to their house.
He then invested in an electric bike but cycling up the hill was still not as fun as cycling down it, so on the second day, it stayed at the office and as far as I know it's still there.
From then on, the 168 bus, the Edgeware branch of the Northern line and gravity became his dear friends. He also continued to be a fair and generous owner of his 4 wheeled fleet ensuring they all got equal exercise at weekends.
I used to joke with David that he was a cross between a grumpy old man and small rascal of a boy with a mischievous twinkle in his eye. After his daily transport juggling, David would come bursting into the house around 6 o'clock looking for a cup of tea, chocolates and a TV show. Chaos would ensue if the teas got muddled and he ended up with earl grey rather than his beloved PGTips, or if there was a shortage of marshmallows, chocolate fingers and millionaire shortbread for his pre-dinner snack. However the real clangor came when the remote control went missing, and David suspecting his eldest grandchild would bellow at the unfortunate toddler - (explaining ‘I have been working all day and all I want to do is come home to a cup of tea, a biscuit and a working television!’)
My brothers and I were very fond of our step-father, he treated us just like his own children, advising and providing wonderful insights on all aspects of our lives, both when asked and when not! He also helped our many friends who passed through the overflowing house. Between these friends, his children and his grandchildren, there are so many vivid memories of David.
We are forever indebted to David, for being above all a gentleman who loved our mother dearly and who she loved in return. David is truly one of a kind, a very special man. I will close by sharing the 4 words that come to my mind when I think of my step-father: wise, generous, funny and self-deprecating.