"The most difficult thing I've ever done", I thought to myself as I cycled back tonight, pondering yesterday evening's performance. Then I realised that it actually wasn't. The most difficult thing I have ever done was take a deep breath the day before yesterday and walk into the room in the hospital where my father lay, dead. Yes, that's him in the picture on the left. Less than a week ago, taken on "my" Rhine beach, and looking disgustingly healthy. I am lucky to have seen him in the end times, and fortunate beyond words that when it came, we had time to gather the entire family together to support each other. This is really and truly a blessing beyond measure. For us, the tears spilled into irresistible dark humour, until we even managed to make my poor bereaved and grief-stricken mother laugh. Death nil, family one (or at least one-all, upon further reflection).
The Call came late on Tuesday. I tried desperately to get over to England on Tuesday evening, but nothing doing (despite ending up with the phone number of the poor man whose car I hijacked in desperation trying to get to the station). Had to settle for a ridiculously early flight on Wednesday. Such times are when you deeply appreciate your friends. I can't say how wonderful mine have been in the circumstances. To cut a long story short, the man whom I loved and respected more than any other finally gave up the ghost (not without a fight - despite a massive brain haemorrage his body refused to give in for quite a while. Stubborn old bugger.) the day before yesterday.
However I had a performance of Macbeth yesterday. My mother pointed out that Daddy would have had my guts for garters if I wimped out (not to mention that the theatre would have had a bit of a problem, as so few people have ever sung this role, and it would have been a miracle to find someone who could (a) sing it at such short notice and (b) throw themselves into the intense and violent direction), so back I flew in the early hours of yesterday, again with the logistics smoothed considerably by the generosity and kindness of family and friends, and girded my loins for the role.
To the quite exceptional support of friends and family I have to add that my colleagues were wonderful. Forewarned not to gush before the performance (sympathy would have made me cry, and it's simply not possible to sing when your larynx is in a knot), there was so much love and support offered after the performance, amidst tears and hugs - I am lucky indeed to have such people in my life.
So. Difficult times, but the consolation of the love of family, friends and colleagues, and even of knowing that, when the chips are down, I can perform. Strangely appropriate that it was my father who both threw down that challenge, and also supplied the qualities I needed to face and overcome it.
Guy Hawksworth Randle, 10 July 1937 - 1 June 2011.
Daddy, I shall always love you.