Neville John William Day 7 March 1922 - 26 November 1990
Dad and the not a Volkswagen
On 29 June 1987 Neville Day was diagnosed at Addenbrooke's Hospital, Cambridge with early stage Motor Neurone disease.
He was given a prognosis of just eighteen months. That he lived more than twice as long was a testament to the quality of care both Mother, a retired SRN, along with his home visiting care nurses provided, and of course Neville's own resiliance.
To say he bore his incurable, terminal disease bravely would be a gross understatement. Dad never complained, he never grumbled, it had little effect on his sense of humour.
The family took the news terribly. It was impossible that a man as fit and healthy at just sixty six years old could be given such a sentence.
Over the coming months an array of equipment was moved into the Day's by now not insubstantial home, a converted and internally modernised former Railway Hotel in Snettisham, Norfolk.
We sought second , third and fourth medical opinions but the results and the prognosis remained the same. The local authority surprised us by offering to provide a new bathroom on the ground floor, with specialist lifting equipment, wheel chair ramps and wider than usual doorways. At their total cost of £15,000. We were amazed and grateful and accepted.
Dad even responded to a Chinese woman from King's Lynn who claimed she could cure everything from acne to terminal cancer, using nothing more than acupuncture. The lying fraudster took thousands of Pounds from Dad and if I had my way I would have prosecuted her. Doing everything in my power to ensure she was given a lengthy prison sentence. Not for her callous theft but for preying upon a dying man by giving false hope. She knew damned well she was taking his money and giving nothing in return. It took a lot of persuading by the rest of the family for me to abandon my intention. My family even accused me of being racist. In that regard at least my family were right. I was, and with good reason and I freely admit it!
A pair of care nurses were provided and who took turns to see to Dad's needs. The screams, squeals and giggles emanating from his new bathroom proved he wasn't going to go without at least some fun. He generally re-emerged the same way as he had entered, with a broad grin.
Shortly after his diagnosis Dad decided his manual gearbox Volvo 240, and which astonishingly for a heavy car had no power steering, was no longer suitable. Being too heavy to handle for his gradually weakening arms. So Dad started searching for something better. Dad had always wanted to own a Jaguar but Mother ruled that out. Again on her warped basis that Jaguars were 'common'. I suspect Mother was a victim of watching too many tacky gangster movies from Sheperd's Bush film studios, where all the villains drove MkII Jags!
The fact that Her Majesty the Queen was sometimes seen driving a Jaguar just two miles further down the road at Sandringham failed to convince her otherwise. The fact that my company provided me, her son, with one as a company car and also that her devoted, adored and highly successful brother, director of a household name public company, drove one too, all failed to convince her.
Dad and I sat for hours pouring over car magazines searching for something Mother approved of, and which wasn't 'common'. Finally we came across the Saab 900 Turbo.
Automatic gearbox and naturally with power steering, air conditioning, power everything. I showed Mother a photograph. With my thumb over the maker's name.
"Ah, a Volkswagen." Mother exclaimed. "I like Volkswagens. What do you think Neville?"
Dad replied. "Yes, I like Volkswagen's too." And so it came to pass. The Saab 900 Turbo was ordered, delivered and it went like stink. Dad was delighted. I don't think Mother ever walked around the back of the gleaming metallic powder blue rocket on wheels to see the badge. She probably wouldn't have understood it anyway, even if she had. Bless her. 'Turbo' was after all proudly displayed on her vacuum cleaner!
Chris Latham-Smith 2022.
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