|Me and my father|
My father was Stanley Andrews born on 20th April 1903 and died on 27th October 1953, aged only 50. I had been born only two years before his death and so I have no memory of him at all. Up until today, I had no photograph of him and me together until my twin sister Sally sent me the photograph below of family and friends including me (being held by Auntie May) my father (standing behind me) and my twin (wriggling in the arms of my mother).
By all accounts, my father was a brilliant musician. He played mainly the fiddle but could also play the piano, the trumpet, the saxophone, the ocarina, indeed any instrument. He had perfect pitch - the singer Lizbeth Webb told me before she died that, when he was being treated in Westminster Hospital, she went to visit him. She was wearing a set of earrings with little bells hanging from them. She leaned over to kiss him goodbye and one of the bells tinkled and he said "E flat!". He was a superb arranger and often he would work through the night to arrange a tune for a full orchestra and have it on the music stands the next morning having only been given the score the day before. He played with some of the most well known British "swing" bandleaders of the time including Jack Hylton, Jack Payne and Jack Jackson. He also worked with "Hutch", Stephane Grappelli and Vera Lynn. To my utter delight, I learned recently that he played with the BBC Symphony Orchestra on some of the Goon Shows. He wrote music too and we have a 78rpm recording of his tune "Sparks Fly Upward" which Joan Alexander used as a soundtrack to her film of me "Shadow Study: Nocturnal Journey" which can be viewed at Create Gallery in Brighton until 17th October 2014.
(left to right) Sally, my Mother, Mrs Revie, Auntie May, Me,
my Father, Mrs Roberts, Pat Revie, Cousin Ian Auntie Dorothy
Before he died, he said to my mother "Please tell them all about me" - 'them' being his five children Janet, Anthony, Sally, me and Corinne the eldest of whom, Janet, was only 8 years old when he died. My mother did as he asked and, looking back, it seems there wasn't much because she used to trot out the same old stories but, of course, the same old stories say such a lot. For example, he loved the film actress, Jennifer Jones, and he would storm through the front door and say to my mother, "Get your coat on - Jennifer Jones is on at Hendon tonight". Apparently, he would travel miles to see her say "Help me" in whatever film she says "Help me"; I think it was "Portrait of Jennie".
I grew up with mainly a feminine household as my brother went to boarding school obviously to return for the holidays but even more so because I hadn't had a father, I found it difficult to relate to older men. If I ever met the parents of school friends or, later, girlfriends, I found it easier to relate to the mother than the father. However, gradually, as I began working as a solicitor meeting clients, it became less and less of a problem. Once, many years go, when I was working at the theatre in Chichester, a man came up to buy a coffee. He looked like my father and he stared at me and I stared at him. It was quite spooky. Someone once put up their hand in front of me and said "This is your father; what would you like to say to him?" and I burst into tears because it felt so real as if he was actually there.
I don't think about him an awful lot but he is important to me and I shall never forget my mother's stories. He and I are alike in many ways - we share a love of the cinema, I get flashes of hot temper as he did, I am no musician but I love music and it can make me cry. It made him cry too. I have at home a scrap of music manuscript paper with a dried teardrop on it; it fell on the paper as he listened to Vera Lynn singing "Christopher Robin is saying his prayers''.
I would have liked to have known him, to have played with him, talked to him so that I would know how to have played and talked to my own son perhaps better than I did. But maybe because my mother spoke about him and I have inherited some of his genes, I didn't do too badly.
"Pooh, promise you won't forget about me, ever. Not even when I'm a hundred."
Pooh thought for a little.
"How old shall I be then?"
"I promise," he said.
So, here is the photograph of him and me. At last.