Thanks to Bill…

I was an adult when Bill came into my mum’s life in the early / mid 90’s. They were together for a short while, each travelling between Yeovil and Bristol before getting engaged and then married. Their getting together was the catalyst for me truly moving on with my own life after what had gone on before;

It was thanks to Bill, that moving out of home permanently and into a shared house led to my meeting my friend David Gilmore, the man who introduced me to my wife (and thanks to Bill that his elbow grease assisted me with getting all my worldly goods into my new abode!)

A very practical man, Bill was always thinking what could he do to help if he ever became aware of something needing attention. He’d want to get on with it, or see it got done somehow, or at least hand out the appropriate advice.  Not only was he practical, but also good at passing on knowledge and keen to do so if you were willing to listen and learn. It was thanks to Bill, that when my wife and I moved into our first owned home, the wall lights in our living room were relocated and functional.  I also learnt how to add additional lighting to a mains circuit, wire the associated switch and channel out / re-plaster a path for the wiring in the wall in the process!

On another one of his and my mum’s visits to our former home in Kent, it was thanks to Bill that my mediocre at best car mechanical knowledge now includes how to change brake pads & discs! As soon as he and my mum arrived, he enlisted my help in locating the nearest Peugeot parts dealer, as he’d noticed an issue whilst en route. We then set about changing brake stuff on his venerable Peugeot 405.

After four happy years in our first house, we moved home in 2003. The added complication was my wife was expecting our third child! Circumstances conspired so that Alison’s early hospital admission and Adam’s subsequent birth all came at a time when the house move was coming to a conclusion. Alison was admitted to hospital from our old house and came home to the new! A fly in our ointment was being let down with the removal men I’d booked, so Bill flew into solution-seeking overdrive. It was thanks to Bill that we found a ‘man with a van’, two trips for which in conjunction with a few for Bill’s car and that of a friend got us all moved in. The second time in ten years Bill had helped me move house! It was also thanks to Bill, that my wife got safely home from hospital with new baby Adam, as he brought them home.

Divorce is never a pleasant thing, but my parents being divorced and both of them being remarried has meant my children have had three loving sets of grandparents rather than the more conventional two.  It was thanks to Bill, that my children will look back fondly and remember Grandad, always displaying affection, often in a practical manner.

Charlotte, my eldest, started learning to drive when she was 17. She was surprised by Grandad who despite being ill, spotted a neighbour selling a Toyota Yaris cheaply. It is thanks to Bill, ever thinking what he could practically do to help, that my daughter had her first car. She’ll also smile whenever she sees a walking stick, thinking of Grandad poking her with his then feigning innocence!

Her 4th birthday party having been at my mum and Bill’s house, and her birthday being close to Christmas, Natasha will forever associate her birthday with decorating Granny and Grandad’s Christmas tree and shopping trips with Granny, Grandad the ever-willing chauffeur. In later years, she’ll also never look at a box of prawn cocktail flavoured Pringles without thinking of Grandad, who’d always save her a packet if for some reason she couldn’t come to whatever was the occasion.

Even when younger, Adam was never much of a one for toys…but had a fondness for action figures. His favourite was an Action Man that Grandad had found one day whilst scouring charity shops for books, as was his want. There was an almost unspoken closeness between them too, perhaps an echo of Bill having brought Adam home from hospital.

Imogen, the baby of the family, was still quite young before Bill fell ill over the last two years. That didn’t stop her and grandad being sofa cuddle buddies, and conspiratorially smuggling biscuits to him under Granny’s nose!

For me, his stepson, albeit one who has only ever known him as an adult, I’ll always look back fondly on not just the big practical advice and help already alluded to, but the little things. Little things like meandering conversations on classic old war movies etc that we both liked, or authors whose books we both enjoyed. Often, conversations on these matters would be followed up a few weeks later with a carrier bag full of DVDs and / or books, and a “I found these in the charity shop and thought you might like them”. Practical help as well; He and I were a similar size, and I have lost count of the conversations I have had with my mum when meeting her for a lunchtime coffee, that began with “Bill doesn’t wear this any more and thought you might be able to make use of it” or “It’s ever so cold at the moment, and Bill was worried you’d be cold and thought you’d need a nice coat” etc, as she handed me a bag full of whatever. It is thanks to Bill that I know and have many things I didn’t have or know previously, that I am grateful for.

Quirky funny ways, cracking jokes, practical advice, loving grandad to my kids…all these things are great. However, and most importantly, for 24 years it was thanks to Bill that I knew my mum was alright…that someone ‘had her back’.

What can I say mate…I’ll do my best now you’ve gone. Thank you.

Simon.

My stepfather Bill Rogers lost his fight against stomach cancer on Christmas day 2017. His funeral was at Canford Crematorium, on 26th January 2018. He will be missed, and this was partially done for him. Please feel free to donate in his name:

https://bravetheshave.macmillan.org.uk/shavers/simon-foley