As well as being a prolific writer, Dad was also frequently busy with many and varied tasks around the home and was always happy to let me help him. I started out from a very early age turning the handle on the old hand-cranked Gestetener and then, with the inevitable advance of technology, I moved on to turning the handle on the Addressograph Machine (at least I think that’s what it was called).
This was followed by me dashing downstairs with the newly addressed envelopes and delivering them to Mum for stuffing. I also helped out with the printing and sorting all the letters and newsletters that Dad produced as part of the four mailings a year that came with his position as Branch Secretary of the NUT. But my favourite job at these times was getting to open the big boxes of paper (each contained several reams) that used to arrive on a regular basis.
I also helped to polish the shoes and cleanout, feed and generally care for the Guinea-pigs that Dad used to breed and sell as pets. As I got older and Dad discovered a new hobby of home-brewing, I used to help with bottling and labelling his home-made wine and I even helped Dad to clean and restock the fishpond one memorable weekend.
But the job that I loved the most was when I was little and I would help Dad to read the paper on a Sunday Morning. He would point out all the big words (like Conference and Business) and would ask “What does that say?” I would then read them out loud so that he would know how to pronounce them correctly!
I like to think that maybe this was what helped him to become such a skilled writer, because I helped him to understand the big words!