On Friday 24 March, we said farewell to my wonderful father, Bob Skinner. Here is the tribute that my son, Bob’s youngest grandson Owen, gave at the lovely funeral service at Penarth Methodist Church, conducted by Rev Catherine Lewis.
Growing up, I have always felt close to Bob. Despite living two and a half hours away from him and Owy, I still saw them enough to develop a deep and loving relationship with them as my Grandparents. I would always look forward to those precious visits to Wales; some of my favourite memories at Windsor Court, their old flat, are of us watching ‘Happy Feet’ in front of their TV, learning how to use their stair lift, and playing the game ‘Shut the Box’ in their living room.
As all of us here will have experienced, COVID disrupted all of our lives when it arrived, but it never stopped Bob. At the age of 93 he was able to crack the great enigma that had been troubling the older generations for years: How to use Zoom. Instead of losing precious time with Bob, we were able to see each other twice a week through a screen, and he was able to watch our dog, Rufus, join the family. In late 2020, Bob was struck down by the virus, and we thought it may be the end. Nevertheless, Bob never gave in, and was able to relentlessly fight the disease whilst still being able to deliver regular Zoom calls to us. If Bob is known for anything, it is his fighting spirit.
After a stressful few years, we all found out the good news: the restrictions that had prevented us from seeing our loved ones were lifted. As the Pandemic finally came to an end, travel bans were lifted, and Bob was able to pay us a visit in Chalfont St Giles last March. It was incredible seeing him in the flesh again, and Bob was able to see what was happening in my life. With the help of my Mum, he visited my school and my sailing club. As a result of the trip I have one of my all-time favourite photos of Bob: him pointing contentedly a frog-shaped bin at my sailing club. It was so nice to see him so full of life at 95, and his visit was one I will remember forever.
As well as being a technology master, as I mentioned earlier, he also had a great way with words. After writing his daily blogs during the pandemic, he curated a beautifully written book- ‘Pandemic! My Care Home Diary’- which let everyone else see life through his eyes. This is the introduction of his book, as his voice is the one we should hear today.
Bob’s Intro to Pandemic! My Care Home Diary, 2021
The journalist and historian Sir Max Hastings inspired me to write this book. In March 2020, as the coronavirus pandemic swept Britain, he recognised that we were beginning a dramatic chapter in our history. He appealed to people, whatever their writing skill, to start a daily diary. He said it was important that our children and future generations should have a vivid picture of a unique time in British and world history.
Sir Max was right, and I am glad I took his advice and started recording everyday life in my care home during the Coronavirus pandemic. How I wish my mother, born in 1891, had shared her own experiences during the Spanish flu pandemic a century earlier, which sadly claimed the life of my uncle shortly after he survived the Great War trenches.
This is my account of an unforgettable, traumatic yet often inspiring year. I have written it for my family, especially those still at school or nursery: my youngest grandson Owen and my great-grandchildren Mylo, Rosa and Claudia.
The team at my Sunrise [Llys Cyncoed] care home in Cardiff play a heroic role in this drama. They have been magnificent. Their care, kindness and friendship have made my lockdown life a pleasure, bringing sunshine to a stormy 12 months.
I could not have completed the task set by Sir Max without the skill and patience of my son Robert. He edited the daily blogposts and later helped me turn the diary into this book.
As a dyed in the wool newspaper man, I have been amazed writing this book how many advantages today’s reporters enjoy in researching and writing their stories. They have information on almost every subject at their fingertips, thanks to the internet. I have had the same advantage in writing this diary. It has made the task a pleasure.
Care homes have been under the spotlight during the pandemic, often for tragic reasons. I hope that my story serves as a tribute to carers young and old, in Britain and around the world, who have selflessly seen us old people through this frightening and dangerous year. In the immortal words of the Great War poem, we will remember them.
Cardiff, July 2021
Bob was a great force of nature, all through his life. Surviving through a war and a pandemic, and powering through the horrors of Vigo, he really was one of a kind. Our lives are better because of you Bob, and we will remember you.
This is one of three tributes to Bob from his funeral service. Read the others below:
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