I Thank You, I Am Proud of You and I Promise You

As it is Father’s Day  I wanted to share my eulogy from his funeral a few weeks ago.

Happy Father’s Day Dad!

First thing Dad, more people have turned up to your funeral than my wedding so you did well there! Rest assured that I’ll make sure that in future people will always say 1,000 people came to Marcus’ funeral and Robbie Williams sang Angels. You know what I mean dad.

I want to thank my family and friends, who have supported me recently, in particular Sandie without whom I could not have managed to do it all over the past few weeks. The bad times definitely show you who really cares.

Ironically you were one of the only people I knew who didn’t have a Facebook account, yet there is a group with 170 members dedicated to you.

It is a testament to the man you were that so many people have sent messages and raised money for today. Special mention to the WOMAD crew (in particular Steve, Angela, Geoff, Soly, Dick Vernon, Jack, Stevie and so many more), WOMAD which turns out is not only the World Of Music and Dance but also the world of friendship, love and generosity. We are forever grateful.

I want to quote a few of the notes left on the Facebook page (I’ve edited them a bit) because the world needs to know what a man you were. One thing is for sure, you were definitely one of the boys:

  1. “You were a true friend; a rascal; a good laugh in the good times; dignified when times got tough. You were never slow to tell anyone who gave you the opportunity how much you loved your family and how proud you were of them and their achievements. You often wore your heart on your sleeve, which brought you gentle ribbing from your friends and family, but NEVER derision or dismissal. You were – and still are – a truly unique individual who enriched our lives, and will be sorely missed. Thank you for having been MARCUS; a larger than life figure who I’m proud to have known.”

 

  1. “a WOMAD legend gone, clearly he will be greatly missed”

 

 

  1. “a true legend, who had a lot of fun. I learnt a lot from Marcus, most importantly always wear sunscreen”

 

  1. “Raise your glasses for an amazing man, we will miss you madly thank you for all the good times and exceptional company RIP mon ami”

 

 

  1. “In a festival world full of characters you sir were a giant. Always on hand for a chat, a joke a 4am call out across site or fist if needed. Old school rock n roller and a real gentleman. The world is a poorer place without you Marcus. I am sure campfires will echo with tales of your exploits for years to come. Rest easy man. “
  2. “WOMAD will never be the same”

Nothing will ever be the same to be honest.

How many people have the honour of knowing their dad was a legend, so unique and so unforgettable? Lana, George, Max and Tallulah, we had our extraordinary dad, I know he wasn’t perfect but man he tried. And Lana Banana, you did him proud, you were there til the end, something I couldn’t do and that’s because you’re an Armstrong, we all are and man am I glad I never changed my name. George and Max, you have clearly inherited his physical abilities and strength, George you look more like him every day (in a good way!). Max, whenever I would ask how you were, he would say “Max is lovely”. Tallulah, one of the only full size pictures he kept was of you, he was so proud of you and always told me how well you were doing at school.

He loved us all so much, may you never doubt that.

Dad kept 2 cards: a fathers’ day card from Tallulah and Michael Eavis’ invitation to his 70th birthday at Worthy farm. These were the loves of your life, your family and your festival family

 

Dad, this is what I am thankful for, why I was proud of you and what I promise.

I THANK YOU:

  • For taking us to festivals and opening our eyes to what an amazing world it is out there
  • For giving us all a love of music from Dire Straits to Burning Spear to Tracy Chapman and Tom Petty.
  • For a non-conventional childhood
  • For introducing us to such a wide variety of people
  • For not being a dad like any other dad
  • Showing me what passion means, your passion was working at festivals and you made it happen.
  • I thank you for Teaching me that if you walk in somewhere like you own the place, they’ll let you in.
  • For not judging me and just being there when I needed you a few years ago.
  • For coming to Berlin to my 21st Birthday party, you made up for forgetting my 18th birthday! Of course, in true Marcus fashion, you made one of the waitresses give me their staff t-shirt as a souvenir
  • For instilling in me this strong will to live life to the full. Carpe Diem.
  • For all the laughs and fun times: for example when we went to Twickenham to watch England and every time you got up to get another beer they scored so you missed all their tries. For having a mouse stuck in your leather trousers. For shouting out loud at my graduation when someone was receiving a degree in medieval grammar or something “ I bet he’s fun at a party”. Man you were fun at a party dad.
  • Thank you for offering to take care of Arabella on Xmas day when she was only 1 month old and just wouldn’t stop crying. Not everyone would take that on, I’ll always be grateful for you coming in my room where you heard me struggling and offering to help.
  • For giving me health and safety advice when I was stuck in a hotel during Hurricane Sandie. If there was one person I would have been happy to be with at that time, it was you because you would have made me feel safe. Nothing scared you. You were a true man.
  • For some of the most magical moments of my life like standing in the crowd at Glastonbury when Robbie Williams sang Angels, that’s a big deal for a 16-year-old.
  • My friend recently told me “you’re amazing Adele and it’s partly thanks to your dad”. What else is there to say.

 

I always tell the story how one of the only times in my life when I’ve been really irresponsible was when I decided to have a party in my hotel room in Abu Dhabi. Tony Paiton told me “ your dad would be proud of you” I knew this meant it would end badly! But man, was it fun. Story of your life basically.

Now this is the hard bit for me. I know you never thought I was proud of you but I really was dad and this is why. I would not have changed you for a thing, you made us strong.

 I AM PROUD OF YOU:

  • for taking me to buy my first bra at John Lewis, I ended up with a lacy red thing that probably wasn’t appropriate for a 14-year-old but you tried your best.
  • for having the strength to drive Lana and I back to Heathrow and put us on a plane to France so many times. That can’t have been easy, you were a better man for it.
  • all your certificates that used to hang in Brenda’s at womad
  • For being able to walk into any pub and make friends at the bar. The dodgier the better. From Rastafarians to Hell’s Angels, you had friends from all walks of life.
  • For giving me the courage to walk around my school in France wearing my England rugby shirt that I am wearing today whether England had beaten or lost to France at the weekend. You didn’t care what people thought, I’ll never forget when you came to visit me in Berlin and wore your “fast as fuck” hoodie.
  • Once at Glastonbury I watched you with my own eyes avoid a massive crowd crush by climbing on the top of a bridge and redirecting 10s of thousands of people.

 

  • Most importantly I am proud of you for showing us what to live authentically means. Very few people manage this and if I can live even half as authentically and true to myself as you did dad, I will be proud. Needless to say “work hard, play hard” was invented with you in mind.

 

I PROMISE TO:

  • always have smoked salmon and scrambled eggs on Christmas morning
  • drink pints in your honour
  • try and make you even more proud of me than you were
  • dance in the mud all night at Glastonbury (talking of which if anybody has ticket, come and talk to me J), to take Arabella to WOMAD and by the way she wanted to say she loves you Granddad
  • make sure all your children stay in touch with each other
  • to put my happiness first as you told me to do.
  • go to New Orleans where you always wanted to go
  • watch every France versus England rugby game religiously for the rest of my life
  • To not look back and to be happy.
  • And I finally I promise to be one of those people, who has stories, just like you did because sensible can be wrong sometimes.

 

Very few people can say “ if I die tomorrow, I’ll die a happy man because I’ve done so much in my life”, you said that and you meant it. It gives me great relief to know you died happy and typically under your own terms. As per Mark Twain (thank you Adrian): “The fear of death follows from the fear of life. A man who lives fully is prepared to die at any time”

Over and Out, it’s time to switch the radio off.

Linking up to Honest Mum’s Brilliant Blog Posts

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You Were Amazing Dad or Therapy Through Blogging

This time last week I was in Mauritius with my mum and daughter making the most of our last day in paradise. It was hot, the only worry on my mind was “will the taxi turn up on time tonight for the airport?” and I was completely relaxed after a great 10 days of not doing much.

This morning I’m sat on a train going to Dorset to start dealing with funeral arrangements for my dad, who died a few days ago. There are so many worries on my mind that I can’t even process it all or sleep past 6.30 at the moment.

About 6 hours after he died, I thought “I’m over this, I feel fine” , people have probably written essays on that type of reaction. It must be some kind of defence mechanism and it’s probably not very healthy. I’m not over it and I’m going to write about it. Some people might not understand why I want to make my feelings public but I know it’s going to help me and frankly at the moment I really don’t care about being judged. I’ll post as many photos on Facebook as I want, go out as much as I want and just deal with it however I want to.

What makes me sad the most is that he couldn’t live his last years to the full due to pain and illness, that’s a shame. I’m the eldest of his 5 children and I was lucky that he gave me away at my wedding and met my daughter – my brothers and sisters won’t have that and that’s painful. If my youngest half sister graduates from university, I’ll make sure I’m there and unlike dad, T I promise you that when they are handing out a diploma for a slightly boring sounding degree I won’t shout out “I bet he’s fun at a party!”. I think this was before he fell asleep and Granny had to poke him because he was snoring so loudly…


Yep that was typical dad (typical of him, he definitely wasn’t a typical dad in good and bad ways) – he spoke his mind and didn’t give a damn what anybody thought. What was also typical and sometimes comical (and sometimes very annoying) was his ability to exaggerate a fact…indeed dad was not perfect by any means and had an uncanny ability to “enhance” the truth. He worked at festivals and clearly met famous people but which ones he “saw” versus “met”, I’ll never know and now I don’t care.

In times like these you start to see the influence people had on you. My love of rugby comes from him, I didn’t inherit his love of Chelsea FC though (#arsenal) nor his love of Stella, man that stuff is disgusting.

I do love a festival though and I will forever be grateful for all the summers I spent working and having fun at festivals, it seriously enriched my life. The people I’ve met, the music I’ve heard, the experiences I’ve had at festivals are a big part of my life and I will always be thankful for that.

There is so much more to say, so many more memories and mixed emotions. I forgive you for forgetting my 18th birthday (and some others…) you came to Berlin for my 21st so that made up for that.

So what was amazing about my dad? He embodied our surname “Armstrong” – he worked outside most of his life and could do work guys 20 years younger couldn’t, he had tons and tons of friends from hell’s angels to a disabled guy, who he looked after at WOMAD and made sure he had a pass to the site every year to people he used to play rugby with and what seems like half of the UK’s festival crew. Anybody who met him would always remember him, he really would help people if he could, he was flamboyant and fun and I recently discovered that he said years ago “if I die tomorrow, I’ll die a happy man” and that gives me great comfort.

He lived most days like it could be his last, this did mean not much sleep (which eventually caught up with him) but he had more good times in his life than 50 average people put together.

I get my belief in “carpe diem” from you dad and I’ll do my best to live life to the full (I might just be a bit more reasonable and sleep more!).  The Armstrong show must go on.

The Highs and Lows of the Past 24 Hours

Lows:

  • Getting up at 4.40AM to go to the airport
  • Not getting what you wanted out of the work trip
  • Getting home at 11PM
  • Seeing your daughter for 30 mins in those 24 hours
  • Break your favourite glasses ever in 2 at the airport
  • People staring at your sellotaped glasses
  • Spending £££ on new glasses
  • Buying lunch then realising you had brought lunch in
  • Wanting to take your mum to the Seychelles as she’s always dreamed of going back and realising it is just too expensive
  • Storm Doris causing the cancellation of your train home
  • Not realising the trains had been cancelled until you got to the station and it was PACKED
  • Getting home to a wine free house
  • Hopefully nothing else

Highs

  • Seeing your friend/client blossoming as a pregnant woman
  • Walking along Lake Geneva in the sun
  • Beer and crisps at the airport (it’s the little things, especially when everything is shit!)
  • Getting on the Heathrow Express with one minute to spare
  • Man at the opticians managing to temporarily glue your glasses back together so you can work and see until the new ones are ready 
  • Being told your vision has got a tiny bit better (I’m telling you it’s the little things, I’ll take anything at this point!)
  • Being lucky enough to live somewhere where there is the overground and the tube so you can get home despite storm Doris
  • Trying on the new bargain sale clothes you ordered and then fitting perfectly 

I’m kind of exhausted, drink anybody?!?

How To Have a Stressful Morning With a Toddler

  1. Wake your toddler up, which is always a bad sign as they are bound to be tired
  2. First warning sign is the first thing they say “I want to stay at maison” (this use of 2 languages distracts you and you don’t realise what’s about to happen)
  3. Tell toddler it’s time to go to nursery and put their shoes on, they run away faster than Bolt
  4. Manage to get their shoes on, go to brush your teeth, come back and said shoes have been taken off in record time and toddler is now hiding
  5. It’s 7.47AM
  6. Pick toddler up and wrestle the shoes back on to a background of screaming
  7. Toddler is now very angry and attacks you like an enraged cat
  8. Tell toddler to calm down and be nice, toddler looks you in the eye and starts shouting “my glasses”, whilst trying to rip them off your face
  9. Strap toddler into buggy
  10. Walk outside, hair ruined by wind

Happy Monday everyone!

A Mum’s Guide to the Office Christmas Party

Some background information: my party is tonight, I used to always take the next morning off, now I don’t work Fridays but my daughter doesn’t go to nursery either

Stage 1: carry a ton of stuff to the office, various tights in case one breaks (mums are organised like that), a second outfit choice in case you’re not “feeling” choice number 1 and all sorts of makeup you never use and that you’ve had for ages.
Stage 2: strategic lunch choice as you know you won’t eat for ages and the whole “lining your stomach” thing is actually true and very needed when you have to look after a toddler the next day
Stage 3: spend the afternoon getting slightly more and more excited and wondering at what time it is acceptable to go and get ready
Stage 4: getting ready, the tradition is my office is for the girls to go and get ready Together in the biggest bathroom in the building. Every time a random person from another office comes in , they are always quite shocked by level of noise and stuff everywhere. Getting ready involves outfit choice (see above), trying to make yourself look as good as possible despite your lack of makeup application skills, the big glasses or no glasses debate and lots of laughing and “you look amazing”. Yep we all scrub up pretty well!
Stage 5: strategic drinking, my plan is always to only drink champagne and white wine and NO SHOTS. Who you sit next to is also very strategic and most importantly always aim to get the last train home, this reduces drinking time.
Stage 6 (the next morning): famous bloody last words, is it really morning? Why is there makeup all over my pillow? Of course you can watch telly whilst mummy just sits with her eyes closed drinking tea and trying not to be sick…

My Third Letter To My First Daughter

Cheeks, in less than a week you will be 2 YEARS OLD, needless to say these were the fastest 2 years of my life. I’m writing this so I remember what you were like and to try and embarrass you and maybe make you cry when you’re older and hopefully read this.

I’m going to start with my favourite photos of you of all time.

Look at those cheeks! Look at that smile, you’re really cute. I can’t resist, here  are some more (mummy is obsessed with taking pictures of you!):

 

I’m not sure where to start, you might want to know what you are like…well you are quite the character. You are EXTREMELY independent, “me do it” is one of the things you say the most. Determined is another characteristic of yours, if you don’t want to do something well basically I have to force or bribe you. For example yesterday, we went out for a walk and you were wearing your “bellies” once you realized there  were no puddles outside so you couldn’t do “splash”, you decided you would stop walking and just stand by a wall:

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I had to pick you up and carry you down the road. The power struggles are a daily occurrence, usually involving not wanting to go in the buggy or hold my hand in the street or let me brush your teeth etc etc. Sometimes it makes me want to scream (and sometimes I do but clearly it doesn’t help the situation at all), sometimes people give me pitying looks in the street and sometimes I’m actually quite pleased you seem to have such a strong character but I don’t think we’ll know if this is your personality for ever for a few more years as it is also quite typical behavior of other monsters your age.

You love the following:

  • dinosaurs
  • playing catch
  • watching telly (mainly Frozen, Shrek 2 and Bing)
  • having a bath
  • doing chores – helping to cook and stirring things is a particular favourite
  • having tea parties
  • having your own seat on the train
  • feeding the ducks
  • doing anything by yourself basically!

You definitely have your habits and know what you like, this is what happens on a typical day:

  • wake up and chat straight away, you always have something to say, nowadays it’s usually “Elsa, Anna?”, you could watch Frozen all day, mummy bans you in the morning but every evening you watch it. The morning is for Bing and Postman Pat, you used to love Bing more than anything, Elsa has taken over

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  • You then come running over to sit on my knee, the minute you notice I have started eating breakfast and basically proceed to eat as much as my breakfast as I will let you
  • When we leave for nursery, I have too force you into the buggy by bending your legs, EVERY SINGLE DAY
  • Your BFF is called Maya, you are both so happy to see each other every morning
  • EVERY SINGLE DAY you whine when I leave you at nursery but are then fine within a minute
  • EVERY SINGLE DAY you come running up to me when you see me in the evenings as if you hadn’t seen me for weeks, it’s the best part of my day, sometimes the best part of my week. You cheer me up, wipe away any work or life stress and make me happy EVERY SINGLE DAY
  • Nowadays, you insist on walking home in the evening, this is fine as long as you hold my hand…
  • To be honest you are quite easy in the evenings, as long as there is Elsa and milk everything is fine until it’s time to brush your teeth…

This is the bit where I get a bit less objective, here are some of the things you do that make you “you” and make me think that you will probably turn out to be quite clever…

  • You started smiling at 3 weeks old and haven’t stopped since!
  • You have taught yourself some of the words to the Frozen songs, here you are in action:
  • You never forget anything and remember the most random of things – for example a few months ago we went to a new pub one rainy Sunday  afternoon and you had apple juice. Over a week later, we went past that pub again and you started shouting “juice, juice!” outside the door, I don’t know how you recognized the front door, to this day you still ask for juice when we go by that pub…
  • We were folding washing recently and you remembered that a nightie I was folding belongs to “mamie”
  • You know how things are “supposed” to be – if anybody doesn’t take their coat off and walks past the hallway, you are very quick to remind them!
  • You know how to have a good time! You were recently dancing for ages in a local pub even though nobody else was!
  • You have compassion and empathy and it is very sweet and makes me proud. Talking of mamie, when she had to leave for the airport a few weeks ago, mummy was very sad and you saw this on my face, came over, gave me a hug and stroked my back, my heart skipped a beat. It was so sweet and probably the only thing that could have made me feel better.

I could go and on and on about you, all I want you to know is that I couldn’t love you more if I wanted to (and I am sure daddy feels the same), you’ve been one of the most challenging parts of my life so far because I want to do the right thing and sometimes that means not screaming or getting angry when you just will not do something you need to do – I had never realised how difficult it could be to deal with somebody that only weighs 12 kilos but is stronger than me in many ways!!! Stay the confident, funny, lovely girl that you are, I am already so proud. You are not only challenging but you are very fulfilling too, you were definitely missing from my life.

I also want you to know that even when mummy escapes, it’s not because I don’t want to be with you, it’s because I need to be with myself for a while and with other people and come back a happier mummy (the below pic is from the day I came back from Ibiza, 12 hours before mummy was dancing under a flight path and some of my makeup is still visible! You can also spot some of the grey hairs that have appeared since your birth…)

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What do I hope for you in the future?

First of all, I hope you get to travel and go to some of my favourite places in the world such as New York City, Ibiza and France . I hope you have great friends like I am lucky to have, I hope you get to live in different countries like I have but unlike me I really hope you do a job you are super passionate about like some of these ladies. Mummy has a great job but it’s not my dream job (that’s having a cooking programme on TV in case you’re wondering…), maybe you could be the first female President of the USA? I just want you to be HAPPY and have fun, lots of fun. As one of mummy’s good friends says “the first rule of fun is to have more fun” , which is very true.

Mummy loves you and will be there to guide up, dance with you, pick you up when you fall and high five you when you reach the dizzying heights that I know you are destined to reach. Carpe Diem Cheeks!