Dedicated to Henry John Vincent Roberts
Born 13 August 1937- died 5 April 2016.
Soldier Freddy was never ready,
But Soldier Neddy, unlike Freddy
Was always ready and steady,
That’s why, When soldier Neddy
Is outside Buckingham Palace – on guard in the pouring wind and rain being steady and ready,
Freddie – is home in beddy.
It was once observed, “the person who can bring the spirit of laughter into a room is indeed blessed.” If this be the measure of a good life, then Dad was indeed blessed.
Dad’s humour was subversive, subtle, obvious, anecdotal, deadpan, farcical, high brow, low brow, ironic, satirical, slapstick, self-deprecating but ultimately kind, compassionate, inclusive and connective.
Dad recalled reading Steele Rudd with his father, which he later shared with us on camping holidays. In his last days, when communication was difficult, he still chortled to stories of Dad and Dave. Playing bass with Dave in the St Andrews orchestra, didn’t we laugh when we realised that the bass section comprised Dad and Dave.
Known as the late doctor Roberts, we assumed this was a result of Dad still wandering around the home office in his pajamas as Denise and Marlene arrived at work, but it was actually his curiosity. Dad was a collector of stories and spinner of yarns, each person who entered his medical rooms had a story waiting to be told.
Family gatherings were characterised by the retelling of stories from throughout his life. Who could forget the yarn of Grandpa springing the Churchie students from North Queensland planning to release their box of baby crocodiles into Norman Creek?
Our childhood was comic immersion in the Goons, Charlie Chaplin, the Three Stooges, the two Ronnie’s, Monty Python, the Pink Panther, the Goodies and the delicious impossibility of James bond movies, perhaps Dad’s secret alternative life?
One of Dad’s final acts was to ensure that his grandchildren had a copy of Spike Milligan’s “Silly Verse for Kids”.
When Mum and Dad named their two dogs, the girl received the elegant name Chloe, whilst Dad’s choice for the boy was Neddy. (Which did cause me to speculate as to what our names might have been if dad’s imagination had been given free reign!)
As a respectable medial specialist, Dad wore the expected suits, but played with his exotic collection of ties and socks. In his personal time, this translated into hats and t’shirts. (That infamous lobster hat!)
The Roberts home at Chatsworth Road was a chaotic place full of laughter, creativity, ideas and sometimes tears. Who could forget Dad’s quirky items adorning his desk, bedside table and scattered throughout the house? The coffee mug collection, the dancing lobster, the frog trio playing music, the stress cow, the wooden pig etc
Gwen and John created an expansive, loving home that could accommodate our friends. My school friend Vanessa recently observed:
“Walking into your house early evening, so full of laughter and activity, and there was your dad lying on the floor, eyes closed, listening to classical music — I can’t say for certain what, but something BIG like Mahler or Wagner. I thought he was such a cool dad. It gave me hope that life in the suburbs didn’t have to be all mundane!”
Dad had a gift for making the ordinary extraordinary and it is an honour to tell his story now.
Raising a glass in honour of you, my father, for a life well lived.