The opening of the Hazlehurst Centre

January 21, 2013

ImageImageOn August 29th last year my family and I were honoured to attend the opening of the Hazlehurst Centre. This was a project Dad was involved in towards the end of his life, which was very graciously named in his memory. I was asked to say a few words about what Dad was like outside of work, and it seems like an appropriate day to print these words below. On the right is a photo of me speaking, looking for all the world like a Two-Bit Politician. All I need is a red rosette. 

This is what I said:

First of all, there are a few people I would like to thank. Thank you to West Yorkshire Police for suggesting that this centre be named after my Dad. I would also like to thank all the members of Dad’s team in HR who were very welcoming when I came to see them in February. Thanks are finally due to Mike Potts and the communications team we have been liaising with at NHS Calderdale: Eleanor, Sandra and Jane, for giving us the opportunity to attend this opening and for allowing me the opportunity to speak. I stand before you today a very proud son. I am very proud of my Dad today, especially in the knowledge that he was involved in projects of such undoubted benefit as this centre.

First of all, let me give a brief biography of my Dad. He was born in Worksop on March 6th, 1959; the second child of four to Betty and Derrick. Whilst at secondary school at Portland he founded the school’s hockey team, which only lost one game in the three seasons in which he captained them. On leaving school he read Business Studies at the Polytechnic of South Wales and studied for a Personnel qualification at Doncaster, before beginning work for the NHS in 1984. Dad was working for the Health Service in Manchester when he met Sue, my Mum, who both settled in Saddleworth and married in 1988.

I have been asked to speak about what Dad was like as a person outside of work.  Dad always tried to keep his home life and work life separate, so talked very little about work to us. But I do remember when I was most proud of Dad at work. He once asked to see my copy of Private Eye, which as a precocious teenager I had subscribed to at the time. When I asked Dad why he wanted to borrow the magazine, he replied that there was a story in it about decisions which a committee had made that he was a part of. Now although I did not know much about the incident in question, for me to know that Dad was responsible for decisions important enough to be ridiculed in the pages of Private Eye was a very proud moment indeed.

Outside of work, Dad was a keen runner until an ankle injury forced him to retire in 1996. After that he exercised by taking power walks around the hills of Saddleworth. Mum and Dad combined their love of walking and their love of the coast by taking holidays to coastal walks in Cornwall and Anglesey over the last few years. They also partnered each other at Oakfield and Huddersfield bridge clubs, and together they won teams competitions at both clubs last season.

I would like to finish by talking about what Dad was like as a person. I am sure that the personality traits he showed at home would also have been obvious to those who came into contact with him at work.

The first of these was Dad’s impish sense of humour. This is perhaps best shown by what he was looking forward to about me and Liam growing up. He made this remark to Mum when Liam and I were a lot more immature and babyish than we are now – so it was made about two or three years ago! Dad said that one of the things he was looking forward to most was coming to our houses when we were older, so he could be sick on our floors for a change. I do have to say that the fact Dad never realised his ambition to vomit in my living room is something that I have decidedly mixed regrets about.

The second quality was his terrible handwriting. This is something that I definitely have in common with Dad, especially his very idiosyncratic way of signing his name. This has led to him receiving letters from companies addressed to a “Mr Hut” or my personal favourite, “Mr Z. Kazlemhurst”.

I think that perhaps what all of us will remember Dad for was his kind and generous nature. He was always generous with his time: he would ferry me all over the country to various chess tournaments, and spend hours building Lego pirate ships for me and Liam despite knowing that we would end up destroying them in minutes. I know from the many messages of condolence we received that Dad was equally generous with his time at work, helping work colleagues.

What I find most comforting is that Dad’s spirit will live on. His name shall live on in this marvellous centre. It is to be hoped his example at work can be continued by the students which he mentored at NHS Calderdale. And his example shall live on with me. If I can paraphrase a song by one of Dad’s favourite artists, Martin Simpson, he taught me how to love a song, the joys of reading, of watching cricket, and the art of conversation. These are the greatest gifts that I have known, and I use them every day.

Thank you very much.

A song for Father’s Day

June 17, 2012

John Hiatt – Your Dad Did

This song is on Hiatt’s Bring the Family album, which is one of my favourites. It’s an album cut in four days by Hiatt on a showstring budget, after he had finally gotten sober following the suicide of his first wife. It’s got some truly wonderful songs on it and a great backing band, including Nick Lowe on bass. What more do you want?

My favourite song on the album is this one. For a more more in-depth look at this song, I recommend this neat blog by Holly Hughes. Basically, this song is about all those times you end up saying something, or doing something, that reminds you of your parents:

The bridge is such a hoot: “You’re a chip off the old block / Why does it come as such a shock / That every road up which you rock / Your dad already did?” I feel the same way whenever I blurt out the exact sentences I hated hearing my mom say. For all the whomping drums, the fuzzy guitar, this is an earth-shaking epiphany: “Yeah, you’ve seen the old man’s ghost / Come back as creamed chipped beef on toast / Now if you don’t get your slice of the roast / You’re gonna flip your lid / Just like your dad did.” In one flash of insight he understands himself, his father, and the world – and accepts it.

Below is a live version, with a home made video accompaniment:

Well the sun comes up and you stare your cup of coffee, yup
Right through the kitchen floor
You feel like hell so you might as well get out and sell
Your smart ass door to door 

And the Mrs. wears her robe slightly undone
As your daughter dumps her oatmeal on your son
And you keep it hid
Just like your did 

So you go to work just to watch some jerk
Pick up the perks
You were in line to get
And the guy that hired you just got fired,
Your job’s expired
They just ain’t told you yet 

So you go and buy a brand new set of wheels
To show your family just how great you feel
Acting like a kid
Just like your dad did

You’re a chip off the old block
Why does it come as such a shock
That every road up which you rock
Your dad already did 

Yeah you’ve seen the old man’s ghost
Come back as creamed chipped beef on toast
Now if you dont get your slice of the roast
You’re gonna flip your lid
Just like your dad did, just like your dad did 

Well the day was long now, supper’s on
The thrill is gone
But something’s taking place
Yeah the food is cold and your wife feels old
But all hands fold
As the two year old says grace
She says help the starving children to get well
But let my brother’s hamster burn in hell
You love your wife and kids
Just like your dad did


Happy Father’s Day, everyone.

Sing a sad song for a good man

May 12, 2012

My Dad died suddenly on January 21st this year. On February 1st I spoke at his funeral, and this is what I said:

Thank you all for coming to this celebration of my Dad’s life.  Particular thanks go to those of you who have flown here, or who have driven a considerable distance.

The last song that will be played today is on an album by Otis Gibbs called Joe Hill’s Ashes.  It’s one of Dad’s favourite albums. Otis Gibbs autographed it for Dad with the inscription “Thanks for giving a damn”. In the spirit of Otis Gibbs, I would like to thank you all for giving a damn and attending today.

It’s especially pleasing to see so many of Dad’s work colleagues here including many he worked with over twenty years ago. Dad was a man who tried to keep his work life and home life separate, and one of the most touching aspects of the past ten days has been reading the tributes that have poured in from those who worked with Dad that provide a different side to the father I knew. I remember being particularly proud of him , when his colleagues at Kirklees PCT gave him an “Amazon Award” in autumn 2010, for being “a natural resource, someone who knows something about everything”. The tributes that have followed my Dad’s death prove just how sincerely this message was meant.

Can I once again stress that if you have any little anecdotes or stories that you remember about Dad, can you please send them in to Mum. Such stories will be of great comfort in the months and years ahead. One such anecdote was sent to me by Dad’s school friend Alan, which with his permission I shall relate to you now. Once again, it provides a different side of Dad that I had never known about until the past two weeks.

Alan said to me that “We played hockey at school and took it very seriously and marched throughout the county sweeping all before us. I was a good outfield player but he took me aside one day and asked if I’d sacrifice that to play in goal because he wanted somebody there he could rely on. I did it without question. I wouldn’t have done it for anyone else. It’s a small incident but says a lot. If I looked up to him at the age of 16 I can tell you I have looked up to him for the years since.”

One of the things that gives me hope and confirms my faith in humanity is the support that Mum, Liam and I have received over the past ten days. There are a few people in particular: friends and family who have been extremely helpful in sorting out funeral arrangements, giving lifts or coming round for a supportive chat. I won’t embarrass these people by naming them individually: they all know who they are.  But I want you all to know that the friendship and solidarity that you have shown means more to me than I can say.

On the subject of love & friendship, I’d also like to thank those members of Dad’s family who are here, and many of his friends he’d known since school. Many of my friends have said to me over the past few days that they cannot imagine losing a father. Well, I cannot imagine what it must be like to lose a friend I have known for forty years, or a brother, or a son, so I can only guess what you are all going through. I look forward to catching up with all of you later today, and only regret that it is in the most terrible of circumstances.

Finally, thank you to all of those that have come who knew Dad from the various sports or bridge clubs that he was a member of. I shall remember Dad as a man who gave me the passions that have guided my life so far. He gave up many of his weekends when I was younger ferrying me to various chess tournaments, and I have many happy memories of those days. The numerous books he bought me as a child instilled in me a love of reading, and this plus my fondness for music, which I also shared with Dad, have made me the person that I am today.

I want to end with a biblical quotation. It was one that Christopher Hitchens read out at the funeral of his own father. He chose it for its “non-religious yet high moral character”. That phrase sums Dad up. He was not a religious man. Whenever “Thought of the Day” came on he would immediately switch off the radio and play one of his numerous CDs.  But he was a man of the highest moral standards. Some of the words that occur again and again in tributes sent to us are kind, lovely, generous, gentle, reliable and caring. Dad was all of those things and more. I can only hope that Dad has passed on some of these characteristics to me. You can confirm for yourselves that I have inherited from him the infamous Hazlehurst receding hairline. I have sadly not inherited Dad’s great aptitude for running, but we spent many happy hours watching and talking about sport that I shall forever cherish.

So to conclude, here is Philippians Chapter 4, Verse 8:

Finally, brethren, whatsoever things are true, whatsoever things are honest, whatsoever things are just, whatsoever things are pure, whatsoever things are lovely, whatsoever things are of good report; if there be any virtue, and if there be any praise, think on these things.

My podcast debut…

August 14, 2011

If you want to hear my dulcett dones on the Pod Delusion discussing House of Lords reform, I’m featured on their latest show here. It starts about 29 minutes in.

Vote Yes today!

May 5, 2011

Just vote, OK? You’ve heard all of the arguments why on this blog.

The NO campaign have no arguments. There’s been no attempt to defend First Past the Post. They’ve said AV would be a roadblock to further reform, when AV would actually increase the prospect of future change.

Vote Yes today at your polling station between 7am and 10pm.

An A-Z of rubbish No2AV arguments: second edition

April 28, 2011

I’ve added lots of new stuff to my most popular ever post. Please read it and spread the word. Cheers.

I’m off to Wales…

April 20, 2011

…and will blog when I return.

Thanks for your patience.


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