Neville John William Day 7 March 1922 - 26 November 1990
Dad’s little known speech impediment
December 1985 and I returned to England from Singapore for Christmas holidays, along with my Asian born fiancée so she could meet her future inlaws. It was her first visit to Britain.
Dad and Mother collected us from Heathrow.
"Why are all the trees naked?" Asks my fiancée along the way. I explained the temperate climate phenomenon of seasons. Neither Dad nor Mother said anything.
Dad, a highly intelligent and compassionate man, but must be said not exceptionally well travelled, at least not outside of the UK. Impeccably brought up by a middle class family with a long, long lineage in Wisbech, Cambridgeshire, to whom people with strange complexions were something of a novelty. Therefore requiring observation, although polite but generally sideways on and with one eye half closed. Fenland style. Conversations always conducted in English. Just spoken more slowly and louder, much louder. Ensuring that one's verbally accosted victim fully understands.
Arriving at my parent's Snettisham, West Norfolk, home we were duly marched upstairs to unpack and with strict orders from Mother to be downstairs by three thirty pm sharp, for tea and cakes.
We had just endured a sixteen hour non stop flight, along with two hours added each end with emotional farewells, a couple of hours disembarkation, Draconian and hostile immigration interrogation, followed by a further three hours travel up to Norfolk. Twenty five or more hours awake and an eight hour time difference. All we really wanted to do was sleep. Mother though had other ideas and Mother did not take prisoners.
Polite taking of tea, with little pinkies extended, was conducted in the drawing room with the family silver and in shy, near silence. Only interrupted when Dad quite respectfully introduced the subject of weather and asking what it was like in Singapore. My fiancée responded and explained to Dad that every day is exactly the same in Singapore. Hot, humid, sticky, with brief intervals of sunshine interspersed with usually violent thunder storms and torrential rain. No exception. Singapore does present a weather forecast on the state controlled TV but it never changes from day to day. Singaporeans assume it is solely for the benefit of tourists and those stopping over mid-way in transit between London and Sydney, Australia.
Dad appeared to be in shock but knew better than to state what was obvious to him and that everyone would be much better off living in Norfolk. I would concur. Despite risking wrath from the malaise of today's 'woke' or PC brigades.
Tea thankfully over with little pain, we made our excuses and said we really had to sleep now. Everyone politely stood and Dad smiled, looked amicably at my fiancée and said,
loudly and we can only assume so that the neighbours in the next street and beyond could clearly hear:-
Obviously unaware of my fiancée's A Grade Oxford and Cambridge syllabus A level, passed a decade earlier in Singapore.
Back up in our room my fiancée said "What a lovely man your Dad is. A shame about his speech impediment."
She fell asleep before I had a chance to explain.
Chris Latham-Smith 2022.
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