David Pointon’s funeral at Great Yarmouth Crematorium on Thursday June 13 was a special celebration of his life.
This tribute to him by his daughter, Alex, was read by the Rev Martin Upton:
I can remember when, as a teenaged student, I attended a philosophy seminar where the debate had strayed onto the ‘nature-nurture’ question, and the lecturer told us all that there was a time in every child’s life where they realised that their parents were not infallible. This was new to me. The father who promised to teach me to play the guitar but had only succeeded in singing the first line of There’ll Always Be An England before the dog joined in howling and barking, and who was devoted to a whole host of unfunny comedy: Monty Python, Kenny Everett, films with orang utans and Burt Reynolds in them; Terry Wogan’s spoonerisms abut the cast of the film Grease and the latest episode of Dallas; had always seemed to be fallible in the extreme. In fact, as time progressed I came to have the opposite realisation; Dad was a remarkable man. He was the boy chosen to represent the Scouts in America, in spite of having claimed to have caused his father considerable embarrassment by covering the ‘P’ and ‘O’ on the side of a patrol vehicle; talented with his hands (albeit in a style influenced by Tom from The Good Life), who could paint, sing, draw, engrave and silver-smith. Our house was adored with pictures he had drawn or painted or odd things he had carved or decorated, and his parents’ home was similarly crammed with things that he had produced as a youngster. Throughout my childhood, our hometown was peppered with signs that he had painted for local businesses, and further afield there were house names and numbers on walls, gates and fences in his distinctive style.
His distinctive style wasn’t confined to his creative output, either. As well as journeys spent luxuriating in the comfort of the boot of his Peugeot estate with Russell and a trio of dogs including a standard poodle, we were often to be spotted cruising around the streets of Gorleston-on-Sea in a Triumph Spitfire; Dad and Russell in the two seats, while I perched on the boot with my legs behind them. These were the outings where we treated the neighbourhood to various country and western classics at a volume that I’m sure was forbidden by law, and Dad’s vocal performance did nothing to enhance Love is like a Butterfly, Della and the Dealer or When You’re in Love with a Beautiful Woman. Perhaps such noise pollution could be overlooked when you had already crammed a child into the luggage compartment of a two-seater vehicle.
Russell and Dad always had their shared love of caravans, boats and cars in common, but to focus on these things is diminutive. Dad was a teacher and a researcher; he was an academic and a thinker. Many of our conversations, including our last conversation, were about books. I loved books when I was a little girl and whenever I mentioned something I was interested in reading it was almost certain he would come home the following day with a copy for me from the bookshop. This included the things he disapproved of – mainly Enid Blyton – and the things he also loved, like A.A.Milne (especially when Willie Rushton read Winnie the Pooh or Jackanory) and Lewis Carroll’s Wonderland books.
He told me that his favourite book from boyhood was Gadget City. Gadgets seemed an unlikely focus for a book from the early 1940s, but it turns out the book is a science fiction story based in ancient Alexandria. This may be less surprising, as Dad’s love of gadgets was enduring. We were the first household that I knew of to have a microwave, and a dishwasher, not to mention the Betamax video and a giant box with a remote control attached by a wire which brought Ceefax to the ancient living room TV. He provided us – but really himself – with the early Atari games console and the ZX 80 and 81 – with voice console and tiny, baffling printer. It wasn’t all good, though – we were never allowed to miss Tomorrow’s World. There is little wonder that for a decade his phone and iPad have been out of his hands less than those of the average teenager, and he has been nothing short of evangelistic over his video doorbell.
He often claimed that he re-read A Christmas Carol every yule, too, and the idea of him taking inspiration from the flawed human character who learned, before it was too late, to change his ways and atone his past, certainly resonates with me and Dad’s last couple of decades. When he told me he was going to vote Liberal Democrat – or possibly even Green – in the early noughties, I knew he’d made some quite profound bid for redemption.
As a boy, I know he’d also loved the George Bramwell Evens Romany books, to such an extent that he named his last dog, Raq, after the canine companion of Romany. Raq had been with him through quite an evolutionary period of his life, so it wasn’t surprising that he was devastated at his loss. He had more loss to contend with than he should have since this century began: his Mum (to whom he had been a good son) died on the day of his best friend’s funeral, his big brother died far too early, and so, of course, did my own big brother. At all of those funerals, it would be Dad who was standing up at the front, making a tribute to the life of whoever it was. As I write this I still don’t know if it will be me who reads it.
What I do know that if he heard this today, he would be keen to debate that ‘nature-nurture’ question with me, and he would tell me he had won ever if his intelligence and wit hadn’t proved his point (which would undoubtedly be the opposite to whatever I claimed). This would be true even though I believe he did come to accept that you can’t always control, or understand, everything about life. Hence my choice of Cottleston Pie for the end of this service – something funny, silly, deceptively clever, and ultimately extremely profound.
One of David’s former work colleagues, Jean Matthews, commented: “[It was] so relevant that Martin led the service, having experienced the happy and sad times in David’s life”. The Rev Upton presided at Russell’s funeral at the same crematorium and also at the wedding blessing at St Benet’s on the Norfolk Broads for Pip and David in August 2018.
Here is Martin’s eulogy at David’s funeral:
We gather with many mixed emotions. A real roller-coaster, one moment remembering an amusing incident, then suddenly being struck by the loss. There is, naturally, sadness [and] grief. We may feel regret or anger, relief or disappointment, or even guilt. Our heads may be saying one thing, while our hearts say something very different. But there is still Hope. And, of course, thankfulness for all that there was in David’s life.
We must recognise and express these emotions. That’s what the tears … and laughter…. are for. Jesus wept at the death of a friend – so it must be OK for us as well. But the Bible also tells us to give thanks in all things. Not denying pain and sadness, but giving thanks for who David was, what he did and what he meant to you. The Bible reading (Ecclesiastes 3:1-8) spoke of ‘Time’, a dominating factor of life, but one which can be used, as we will see.
David’s mother was from Nottingham, and his father originally from Lincolnshire, but his police career had taken him to Sheffield where big brother Mike and David were born. David went through primary and Grammar schools there but, setting a scene, was also involved with – amongst other things – the Scout movement, even representing the North of England at a Jamboree in North America in 1958.
For David’s Teacher Training, Alsager College specialised in Design, Technology, Art and Crafts and honed some of his many natural skills. [This] was followed by taking a job at the school for the blind in Sheffield, gaining the appropriate qualification to teach there. Pupils included one David Blunkett….
He and his young family moved to Norfolk, to the East Anglian School, in 1974. I remember them well after I joined the school in 1976. Alex is with us today, but no parent should have to lose a son: and Russell was only 45 when he died. I also remember Jason the dog, the Christmas parties, playing Crib at break, a raft race, trips to Thurne and all sorts of other events. But David’s career developed too. For professional reasons and in support of a colleague, David trained as a Teacher of the Deaf – and gained his Open University degree. He also fitted in time to serve as a Councillor on Yarmouth Borough Council.
From there he moved to Norfolk Sensory Support – as deputy head and then head of service, based in various offices around Norwich. I don’t think that early on he had envisaged spreading his influence into Africa, but the plight of blind children in The Gambia generated a massive effort to supply many things they needed – including driving minibuses across the Sahara and left a legacy of change for good among the many pupils there.
Retirement brought a return to Yorkshire – but not urban Sheffield [but] rural Wensleydale. Much quieter, you may think. There are schools there which need encouragement. There is a parish council, the Dales Countryside Museum, the Institute of Advanced Motorists, the Kennel Field Trust, the North East Mercedes Benz Club, the Yoredale Art Group, glass engraving to do. This didn’t however end his links with Norfolk – friends and, of course, the boat at Thurne, with regular visits supported by work in his Wensleydale workshop, where he also made Remembrance poppies. He was so happy to have married Pip last year, and have the blessing at St Benet’s.
Just a quick personal tribute, to show David as a loyal friend. He borrowed a car trailer and drove over to Gloucestershire to rescue my broken-down car – and my wife and four-month-old baby too, of course! (He was a big fan of his Peugeot 505 Estate.)
So there are many things to be thankful for. There are good memories. There is thankfulness and hope.
That reading from Ecclesiastes tells us that there is time for everything – but doesn’t say when it is – although David certainly filled his effectively! But it ends with ‘a time for peace’. After such an active life, with his closing years as a Quaker, and his final hours at Thurne, that is so appropriate. As their [Quaker] Advice says: “Try to live simply. A simple lifestyle freely chosen is a source of strength.”
David became a close friend of John Warren through attending the Quaker meetings at Bainbridge and Countersett. Pip chose the following poem by John for David’s funeral. It was read by Allan Sharland who had been friends with David and his brother Mike since they were all teenagers.
Over the hill the grey road climbs
And the wind blusters over the hill
Tumbling the trees
And the grey road winds
Where hedges curve in ragged lines
And cærulean blue the bright sky shines
Where the road climbs over the hill
And I will go where the grey road leads
With the wind in my face at the crest
Where the curling road goes down and on
To the far blue hills in the west
And birds in the wind
Wheel and cry
The great elms bend, and creak
And the road goes on
And so shall I
To those far blue hills in the west.