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People with dyslexia sometimes describe their condition as “the letters dance on the page”. All my life I have had a visual quirk, but not in relation to words, but pictures. When I look at a still photograph it seems to me as if the people are moving. As a child I used to stare at pictures, fascinated as to what was going to happen next – but the optical illusion would only last for a couple of frames. Like the portraits in Harry Potter.

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It is just over a year ago that my husband passed away. This is one of my favourite photographs of him an enlarged version which is on my wall. It was taken at John o’ Groats, the northernmost part of mainland Scotland. The strange smile I describe to others as “teeth clenched, to stop them blowing away”. If you have ever been to that Northern Coast, you will know what I mean. The photo was taken the year before he had his first bout with cancer.

I was thinking about something and glanced towards the photo and thought – well, what would you think about that?The way you do when you have spent twenty years with someone, and they are no longer there, except in your mind and heart. And I swear he winked at me. I stopped short and stared at the photo, jolted out of my fugue, then remembered my visual quirk, and started laughing.

Bill had a real quirky sense of humour. He particularly liked pulling stunts to knock people slightly off-balance, then laughed merrily at their confusion while they tried to extricate themselves from his subtly laid trap. The following photos were Bill clowning at Wimbledon Sewing, in gear borrowed from a Scottish friend.

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As a young young man before his career as International Sales Manager (industrial sewing machines, Willcox & Gibbs) swallowed up all his time he had dabbled in amateur dramatics. He told me an excruciating tale of when he had been acting Othello, in Othello, in an amateur dramatic production in Portrush, Northern Ireland in the seventies, he had reduced the house to hysterics by dropping his trousers in the middle of a particularly poignant speech. Not the Olivier interpretation then.

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“I’m free” (Are you being served)

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“They don’t like it up ’em” (Dad’s Army)

It was only after his death I realised you do not really understand what a person’s life means until it is finished. His family background was awful. The love of his grand-mother, a devout Christian country-woman was his life-line, who allowed him as a child to stay with her when he wanted, and kept any money he earned from odd-jobs safe for him, so his family couldn’t steal it. Apart from that he had no advantages in life, nobody helped. His achievement was entirely his own work.

And if you walked into a room filled with people and there was an uproar of laughter, you knew you had found him.

 

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