” She’ll know that I was waving”

I was saddened that my kids never met Dave. They’d have liked him and he would have liked them. It was n’t to be. In a sort of flat spell after his death just a couple of weeks ago I spoke to my daughter in far away Los Angeles where she and family live ( I thought about calling it far fetched LA at first, which is close to the truth ) and she was comforting and interested in Dave and Mo. She’d heard about them but never met them.

Dave and Mo lived in a flat above a butcher’s shop on one of Altringham’s main shopping streets, it’s probably a smart shop now. The flat had two floors and in the living room it had a couple of large windows overlooking the street, one which was angled so it looked down the street.

This may well be the window in question

In a small room off the landing Dave had papered the entire room with one of his silk screen posters. a slightly pop art poster of some kind that just repeated around the room. Also on the walls were some of Dave’s 3d artworks, some paying homage to his beloved Manchester United. Cut outs and constructions, all very impressive to us newish art students who he befriended. Dave and Mo’s place was really something else, as we used to say. Their beloved cat slept most days in the small pop art paradise room in a spaced out kinda way. Cool cat.

Mo went off to work every weekday to the workshop in Central Manchester where her designs were made with her business partner, they employed a few people to cut and make their designs there. It is said that she was asked to go and work for Ossie Clark the then famous fashion designer, but she turned him down, Dave saying that he would have been forever in her creative shadow.

In the living room, there was a large table and every back copy of the Sunday Times colour magazine making a massive page tower. Photos on the walls and others of Dave’s designs and artwork. The table used to sit around and talk art, football, or football and art, and occasionally one of Dave’s legendary stories about someone he worked with, always told without malice and generally with a very smart punchline.

Each day when Mo went off to work, she walked down to the corner of the street towards the rail station, turned back to the shop and waved enthusiastically at that first floor window. He standing in the window waving back. Every single day. He said, when I witnessed this on one occasion, that she could n’t see him even with her glasses on but ” she’ll know that I was waving”.

They moved out of the flat some years later and went to live in Marsden in the Pennines. Together they restored one of Marsden’s oldest houses giving it the style and feel that seemed to come naturally to them. Mo gave up the central Manchester workshop but never gave up designing and drawing. The poet laureate lives in Marsden but Mo and Dave lived down the road.

Mo died a few years ago, struck down by cancer, Dave said that she looked like a thirty year old when she died in her early sixties. The nurses said to him ” We could not believe it”.

Dave always said that Mo was taken with him because of his uncanny resemblance to Alain Delon, the 60s French film star heart throb. It was something she found impossibly amusing and generally responded with a simple but telling: “Yes Dave”

I’m just back from Dave’s funeral. I wrote the first part of this on getting the news about Dave. The following is a sort of journey to Huddersfield that I took to say farewell to him at his funeral.

Find yourself a seat on the train to Yorkshire, lucky I was and got one, then when they all evacuated the train at Birmingham I moved to a window seats with three empty ones around me. Train suddenly less busy, but always a risk on who might get on, not just next to you, but opposite. Stopping at Derby I was suddenly surrounded by black t shirted rock groupies, two hairy metal fans opposite and one female goth like figure over the other side, all speaking in a language of Eastern Europe. All wearing similar t shirts with the legend Dark Funeral. I thought about commenting on the appalling typography they were wearing, but it was a quickly passing thought. Dave would have seen the joke. Turns out they were followers of this Swedish Rock band. Look them up if you can bear it, the lead singer sounds like he has had a complication after a throat operation. They got off at Sheffield like me, they to find their next dose of satanism in the City of Steel, and perhaps some strepsils. Me to get on to Elsecar on the stopping train.

A night with son and family, before continuing along the stopping line train to Huddersfield. The train really did stop at every gatepost on the way to admire the view. Out into the bright sunshine of the front of the massive porticos of Huddersfield station to meet my old college friend Alan who had travelled up that day from London. A Yorkshire lad who lives in Shepherds Bush. Is that better than the Anlaby Road in Hull. Who knows?

Wonderful sculpture of Harold Wilson, and in a great spot on the magnificent station concourse.

We had time to take a coffee and refreshments at a nearby cafe, after skirting the brilliant sculpture of Harold Wilson in the sunshine. The thought of us having a Prime Minister these days from Huddersfield seems to be the stuff of fairy tales, but Harold was our man in the 60s, the time when we first met Dave. Alan and I went into memory mode as we recalled how much we enjoyed Dave’s company. Where he lived, how he and Mo lived, possibly how he influenced us.

Then into a taxi which had a permanent notice on the outside that said if we were sick then there was a minimum fee of £25.00 so we promised not to be and were driven to the Crematorium. On a hillside in nearby Elland we waited for our turn to attend. Meeting people we had not seen for some time we took our places inside, and discovered loads of people who had been under the influence of Dave. Lovely tributes from colleagues and friends were read. We said our fond goodbyes to Dave.

Then to Marsden. Our driver this time was a neighbour of Dave’s who kindly drove us over where we had an informal get together in a small cafe, set aside for this very event. All this lovingly organised by Tanya, a former student of Dave’s and Hazel, who took over from Dave at the college when he retired and who also was very much helped by him. Dave and Mo made people more aware of their potential. Dave always would proudly tell people about how good other people were and just how successful they had become, and he would then tell you how good you were, and how proud you should be of your achievements.

Two of Dave’s good friends died young, Jim, a college friend of mine, and Tony, one of Dave’s contemporaries and a former tutor of mine on my pre diploma foundation course at Manchester. They both died leaving wives and young families. I’m still in touch with Jim’s widow and yesterday met Tony’s. Both tell the same sort of story of that time some years ago now, and how Dave and Mo made sure they were alright in every way they could. Another guest at the funeral who worked for Mo in the workshop, told how they helped her get back on track at college, priming her for interview and helping her too. Giving her the confidence to get on.

The place buzzed with people talking about this extraordinary couple who made life for all those who knew them more interesting, attractive,friendly and possibly most of all, amusing.

Back on the train for Alan and I and an hour or so to kill as we watched trains thundering through Marsden station. “ I thought you said they were every half hour “ said Alan “ …They are I responded, they just don’t stop”

Eventually one did and we parted company at Huddersfield, him for the fast train to Leeds and London, me for the stopping train to Elsecar. Beautiful evening, relaxed thoughtful trip back before the bedlam of grandchildren. Very glad I went and lots to think over.

Blossom on the trees in Elsecar

2 thoughts on “” She’ll know that I was waving”

  1. Love to read your story. Dave sounds like a great fellow , you too!
    Lots of reminders of familiar places too.

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