Dad died on Friday night, well, around midnight so maybe that’s Saturday. Mum phoned me a few hours previous to say he’d seemed shaky and gone to bed, I told her not to worry. Dad had been getting frailer over the last coupla years, and none of us felt he looked after himself properly. Then I got the phonecall. He had woken up with difficulty breathing, and four ambulance people hadn’t been able to save him. A large part of me had been expecting this phonecall for years and years, and it had sort of prepared me for it. I don’t think I slept, just waited till it was light outside and drove home.
My dad was pretty extraordinary. I know most people’s are, but my dad achieved far more than I ever could. He was born mid-WW2 in sussex, his pram shot at by Luftwaffe on Brighton seafront (so the story goes). When he was in his late teens he became a drummer and joined a band. In the sixties they toured all round the small cavernous venues of Europe, to put it in perspective this was just before the fledgling Beatles followed the same trail. He met my mum while drumming at her sister’s wedding, and convinced her for a year his name was Dave (it wasn’t).
(that’s Dad on the far right)
Most remarkably, I think, Dad built his first house for him and mum. I mean from scratch. He designed it, drew the plans, laid the bricks, installed the plumbing, put the pictures on the wall. Sure he had a little help on the manual labour, and only narrowly averted blowing up the street with the wrong gas installation advice, but that house was entirely his doing. You can see how it looked inside here..
Even the stereo is shag coated! Proper sixties. And a real testament to hard, honest, graft. He even found time to make a scale model as a doll’s house for my sister, with working electrics in it. This is it in early stages..
Dad became an architect and had an office in London’s Fleet Street, employing maybe ten people. Despite being constantly held back at school, he’d turned his life into something successful. He worked incredibly hard for all he had, and spent a lot of money sending me and my sister to decent schools.
(dad in the proper 80s studio, before computers)
In the early 90s, thanks to recession and bad advice, he pretty much lost it all. We ended up moving from house to house (the houses getting smaller everytime), and his feelings of letting everyone down really showed on him. Since then he tried to pick himself up again and again, but it was no use. The world wouldn’t let him get back on again, and he became more and more withdrawn.
In the last few years his health suffered (no thanks to his smoking and drinking, but also from years of stress I suspect), and by the end he had terrible breathing difficulties, trouble walking for too long, and last year even cancer had latched onto him. I’m not quite sure how he put up with it all. Through it all he persisted, working hard on a trilogy of science fiction novels (only 2/3 of which he finished writing though).
Feels weird. I’m not sure its kicked in properly yet that he’s not here anymore. As a grown-up you detach a little anyway, I think, from your parents, but it’s confusing to piece together the dad you knew as a kid and the dad you knew as an adult. I’m not sure which memories should be surfacing, they seem so different from each other.
Now he’s passed, I feel guilty I’m not feeling more. I don’t quite know how I’m supposed to be taking it. I know it’s absolute balls. And I miss him. And I’d like him back, please.
Rest in peace, Peter Eynon Smart. 1941 - 2010
Just as a final note, this is my drawing desk.
Dad bought it for me as a 21st birthday present, since up til then I’d been drawing on kitchen tables or my lap. I’d needed it so badly, especially since I was claiming to be a professional illustrator, and he’d gone out of his way to afford it. I still use it now, and every single thing I have drawn in the last ten years, I’ve drawn on this. Dad’s support of my career was unmatched, both him and his father had wanted to be cartoonists but never managed it, his pride in me was a real motivation. I owe a lot of what I do, and what you probably know me for, to him.