It was wonderful to get a call from my father Bob Skinner this afternoon, reporting that he was in his cabin on P&O Cruises’ Ventura, about to set sail for Spain and Portugal.
Dad will be 96 in November and this is his first holiday in three years. It comes just six months after he moved out of his care home and into his own flat in Penarth, Wales.
Dad and I were talking about his father this week. It was prompted by my return to his childhood stomping ground of Wandsworth, London. As I walked over Wandsworth Bridge to my first work summer party since 2019, I realised I was very close to where my grandfather Frank had worked as a crane driver in the 1930s. Frank operated a steam-powered crane that ran along rails on the banks of the Thames at Sparrow Wharf. One awful day his crane toppled over and my grandfather was trapped as boiling water dripped onto him. Fortunately he was freed.
Dad told me that his father featured in the national press after Italy invaded Abyssinia in 1935. Frank featured in photos of two barges named Italy and Abyssinia. He was on Abyssinia and was throwing stones at the boat named Italy. It would be fun to track down the images in the newspaper archives for 1935.
Sadly Frank died in 1942 in his early fifties, but happily Dad has inherited his mother’s long-living genes (Nan was almost 103 when she died in 1994). Long may he enjoy his zest for life.