Sunday, May 3, 2009
In loving memory of Andrew Matthews, 1951 - 2009
Dad was a man far too complex to be summed up in a few words, and this is one of the most difficult things I have ever had to write, but I felt I had to at least try and return the favour for the amazing speech he gave at my wedding a few months back, which he made look easy.
Regardless of how you knew him, one of the things most people will remember about him is his sense of humour. He had an acerbic wit that was not always politically correct, sometimes inappropriate and at other times just plain rude, but I’ll smile every time I think of him laughing, even if I disapproved of the joke.
I learned a huge amount from dad, one of the first things was never to judge a book by its cover. In the 80’s, he’d go into pubs in the city in his biker’s leathers, with his long hair and piercings and strike up conversations with the stock traders at the bar. They were always amazed when dad chipped in with information about recent trading and offered his opinion on the state of the economy, and after a frosty start, welcomed him as part of the group. What he didn’t tell them, was that he used to memorise a few paragraphs of that day’s Financial Times and drop them casually into the conversation, to make them think he knew what they were all talking about.
Dad’s ability to retain facts like that was second to none; whether you needed to know who played drums on a Bob Dylan B-side or the quickest route between two London landmarks and the name of each pub along the way, Dad was your go-to guy. Fantastic if you were on his team in a pub quiz, but a total nightmare to play Trivial Pursuit against.
He was like this until the end, even from his hospital bed he would open his eyes and pipe up to correct our conversation about music when we thought he was asleep. He loved holding court with all his visitors and chimed in regularly with little nuggets of hilarity, like only he could. On one visit, dad was speaking slowly and deliberately, with the precision of a man trying articulate his final wishes. He told me; “Hayley, I’ve got to......I’ve got to.....” and I waited, enthralled, for the sage advice that my father was to pass down in his final days. He finally finished: “I’ve got to....give you your Christmas present, it’s in the cupboard at home.”
Thankfully, not all of his conversations dealt with issues like where he’d stashed our Christmas presents and Laura and I both had the opportunity to spend time with him alone before he passed away. I think this is one of the few benefits of having an illness like dad’s and I’m thankful for every minute we got together. What’s important to me now is to celebrate dad’s life, not mourn his death and to remember the immense love and unshakable commitment he had to my sister and I. Finally, and most importantly; his motto: Illegitimis nil carborundum, or in English: don’t let the bastards grind you down.