In this, as in so many other things, Dad solved the problem for us.
It transpires that several years earlier, as a writing exercise, he wrote his own obituary. He had previously, on the request of his friend Mike Graham that he send their old school friend Wogger Brian something to cheer him up in hospital following WB having had a stroke, sent this to Mike. Mike was good enough to contact me after Dad's death and ask me if I'd seen it. I hadn't. He sent it to me. I laughed harder than I had for a long time. I sent it to Jon. He laughed his socks off. Did we dare to read it at his funeral?
You bet your arse we did.
b. 1942 – d. 2042
Or in other words: He came – and he went – and in between … nothing
Mick Bott was born in a mining village in East Kent in 1942. By all accounts, while still in his pram he was shot at by a German fighter pilot. The pilot missed – to the subsequent regret of many. He attended the village school where he learned reading, writing, fist-fighting and some arithmetic. He was regularly beaten, usually for laughing at inappropriate moments (an unfortunate habit that was to resurface regularly in later life – particularly at funerals). He went on to Grammar school, where he continued to suffer regular beatings (only with bigger sticks), continued fist-fighting (only with bigger boys), and narrowly escaped expulsion. He learned very little, but took perverse pride in his towering success as a truant. Here, he was aided by an innate ability to create plausible stories at the drop of a hat, and a God-given talent for bare-faced lying (skills which were to serve him well in later life, when working for the European Commission). The brief periods he spent within the school buildings were devoted largely to improving his skill at cards, thus enabling him to fund a youthful penchant for Fremlins Double Elephant brown ale and Capstan full-strength cigarettes. Nevertheless, by dint of several hours of study at the Valsania café (a local bordello) he was able to leave school with some sort of qualifications, to start work in the local library on the day before his eighteenth birthday.
Here, despite a tendency to return drunk in the afternoons and swear at the borrowers, he passed a happy six months and became engaged to be married (an error he put down to a youthful inability to distinguish between true love and unbridled lust). At the age of twenty-five, however, he met and married Beverly, who confounded the predictions of friends and family alike by remaining at his side for four decades, and providing him with two splendid children. “She stayed with me,” he would boast, “for nigh on forty years – I couldn’t live with me for a fortnight.”
By this time, attracted by visions of untold wealth, he had joined Her Majesty’s Customs and Excise service, where he spent thirteen years in what he claimed was “the best kid’s job in the world” on account of the wide range of businesses - from oil and cigarette companies to diamond dealers and furriers – that he was employed to rob. Nevertheless, he spent most of this time – not entirely coincidentally – gauging casks of imported wines and spirits and working in breweries, distilleries and the evocatively named “wet” warehouses.
In the end they made him settle down to control the Kent coast between Dover and Ramsgate, (where he failed utterly to prevent the arrival of some 3,000 illegal immigrants per year), the Hoverport at Dover (which subsequently went bust), the UK’s regional seat of Government under Dover Castle (which they closed down) and a small oils warehouse (which was later uprooted by the Dover Harbour Board). In any event, by the time the UK joined the common market he owed its government almost exactly one million pounds (long story) and was nevertheless bored; so he got a job in Brussels at the Commission, took up the law, and spent the next thirteen years taking Member States to court for telling lies. This task he compared to shooting very large fish in very small barrels – with a very big gun.
There was, however, a limit to the fun to be had from it, and – in the mistaken belief that it would prove more exciting – he turned to writing EU law and negotiating its enactment. Finding himself in this capacity unable either to thump opponents or run away from them (the only two weapons in his armoury), he compromised by suffering two heart attacks – and surviving them unharmed (again, to the regret of many).
Another thirteen years having passed, he moved to Canada for two years, ostensibly to advise the federal government (which confounded its many critics by consistently ignoring his advice). Returning to Brussels, he found what he was pleased to call his life’s work in tatters, took a view, and retired. It was at this juncture that his wife walked out – cause or coincidence, who can tell?
Only now did he discover his true métier. By dint of shamelessly stealing the work of fellow members of his local writing club and selling it to unsuspecting publishers, he was able to accumulate a considerable fortune which he devoted to an old age of unmitigated debauchery. “It was”, he said, “either that or golf.”
He was to die on his hundredth birthday, drunk, penniless and smiling, in a Shanghai brothel.
It’s the way he would have wanted to go.
Cheers, Dad. If you're raising a glass this weekend, raise an extra one to my dear dad.