James Reginald Beck
8th July 1920 - 23rd September 2011
Reg Beck was a quite amazing man. He fought in World War 2 in the Far East, was captured by the Japanese and held in two prison camps. Whilst he was treated appallingly in both he would only tell people stories about one of the camps. His experiences in the other one were so bad that he kept them to himself, with the only manifestation of his memories being night terrors he would suffer from for years afterwards. On return from the War he married his childhood sweetheart Phyllis Rose, who had waited for him patiently. They settled in Cambridge with Reg becoming a car mechanic. They had two daughters. Marian would eventually become a senior nurse at a hospital in Bury St Edmunds. Yvonne would become a Christian minister with her husband Ian.
Ian and Yvonne had a son. Up until he was 16 he would spend many holidays with his grandparents in Cambridge. Reg would take his grandson to Duxford where he would also work on restoring vintage aircraft. Grandfather and Grandson would go to the cinema together, play Gin Rummy together, and have a lot of laughs together. As a grandad Reg loved pranks. When his grandson was young Reg put a plastic turd in the hallway and told his daughter that the boy had done it. His grandson thought Santa came to visit every Christmas, not realising it was grandad all dressed up. For many years Reg and his grandson were very close.
When the grandson grew up they grew apart, but not through anything going wrong. Reg lived in Bury St Edmunds whilst the grandson moved north, ending up in Manchester. Opportunities to see other became lesser. They had a great time together when Reg visited Manchester for Christmas 2009. He spent Boxing Day in Worsley with his grandson and his grandson’s girlfriend, his daughter Yvonne and her husband, his three great-grandchildren (to whom he was "Old Grandad") and his grandson's girlfriend's children. It was a wonderful day.
And then there was Reg's 90th birthday party in Bury St Edmunds during the summer of 2010. The last time they would see each other, but a great family day full of laughs and mickey-taking.
When his wife Phyllis Rose died in the latter part of the last decade Reg found a new lease of life. He had spent several years caring for his wife whose life ended in a long, drawn-out decline into dementia. He loved her but the sense of relief when she passed on was shared by the whole family. As he turned 90 in July of 2010 Reg had a girlfriend, a wide circle of friends, and remained amazingly active. He still drove his car every day. He went away on holiday with his pals, often to crown green bowling competitions (he remained a demon bowler to the end). In his 90th year he bought a Freeview box, a mobile phone and a CD player.
On Sunday 18th September 2011 Reg drove home to Bury St Edmunds from a holiday on the south coast. He didn't feel 100% but thought nothing of it. Four days later he was in hospital with pneumonia, heart failure, liver failure and kidney failure. He felt no pain though and kept his family and the nursing staff at the hospital amused with his razor sharp humour. It was clear by day five that he wasn't responding to treatment so the hospital consulted with the family. Yvonne and Ian were called, jumped in the car in Manchester and drove as quickly as they could to Bury St Edmunds. Reg, still lucid and light-hearted, kept asking when Yvonne would be arriving. Reg spent a happy hour from 3pm til 4pm with his daughters and their husbands. Around 4pm Reg said he didn't feel too great and would like some rest. Ian prayed with him, then the family left for an hour so Reg could sleep,
He passed away peacefully around 5pm.
Although I didn't see him much over the last 10 years I spoke to him regularly on the phone. I am glad I didn't see him before he died. The memories I have of him from my childhood, and from that wonderful Christmas in 2009, will not be tarnished by having seen him in a hospital bed hooked up to machines.
Rest peacefully grandad. You were the best. Xxx
I spent much of September reconnecting with friends. Whenever I’ve been in a relationship I’ve been lax at giving the great many friends I have the time they deserve. It is also a mark of true friendship that those people are always there when you need them, unconditionally. Thank god for that, as I called on several of them that month.
I spent three weeks hanging out with my good friend Tony. I wasn’t in the best frame of mind when I arrived on his doorstep. He went above and beyond what you could expect from a host: making me feel so at home in his beautiful apartment by the canal. He fed and watered me and cheered me up when my head went down. We had a few evenings out together, including one that is already legendary with his pal Wayne. And his girlfriend ironed my clothes. Tee hee. What more could a man ask for?
Barchetta’s whirling dervish
I spent a couple of weekends in the company of the bald genius that is Fred Barchetta. He took me to see Manchester City play Wigan at the Etihad Stadium, much to the chagrin of my employers and red friends. We had an evening at Chez Barchetta drinking beer, eating pizza, watching Rush DVDs and playing his drums. We took his kids up the pier at Southport and had a fit of hysterics in the Hall of Mirrors there. I haven’t known Fred long but he is already one of my closest pals.
Many other mates had to put up with me in September. There was a quiet night in a pub in Little Lever with MickPaz, an early morning and breakfast in Leeds with Matt and Ellanor, and an all-nighter of Guitar Hero with Captain Ron and TerrBerr. With Tony and Dan I went to see Robin Trower give a masterclass in effortless bluesy guitar at the Band On The Wall. I took a couple of clients-who-have-become-friends to Manchester United to see the Reds teach Chelsea a lesson, a day that included a huge carvery lunch and several glasses of wine at Lancashire Cricket Club before and after the game.
Another day, another dinner – this time with Mary at the Midland Hotel
On the subject of food my waistline has taken some pain in recent months. My job involves a lot of corporate entertainment, and that usually involves eating out. And I am rubbish at saying no or having small portions. In September alone I dined at the Slug & Lettuce, the Malmaison, the Village Hotel (twice), Hotel Indigo, the John Gilbert, Milan’s, the Midland Hotel, the Pearl, Pizza Express, Bar 38, Radjoot and the Hilton. I’ve noticed my shirts getting tighter and the breathing room in my trousers rapidly disappearing. Time for some exercise.......
Of course corporate entertainment has to have an end result: bringing work in for the building contractor I represent. Three months in and I am absolutely loving my new job. Its hard work as the construction sector is still on its knees, and frequently involves long hours, but I seem to be doing well. The sign of success in my job is if the Estimating Department is at full pelt. My immediate boss is the Estimating Director and he hasn’t been able to take any leave since I started. And he will struggle to take any before Christmas at the rate I’m bringing tenders in.
Working hard at the RICS Dinner
There were many other simple pleasures during September. A weekend with my parents, a Rush tribute band to see – this time my friend Woody’s group Counterparts, a thrilling drive across Woodhead Pass on my way to a meeting in Rotherham, and the discovery that my car has a slot for an SD card meaning I no longer have to juggle CDs around. In October things that put a smile on my face included a colossal night of partying at the RICS Dinner in Liverpool, the look on my daughter Ashleigh’s face as she opened her birthday presents as she turned seven years old, and a hysterical night with colleagues and clients at the Red Bull pub in Stockport. My grandad’s funeral was sad in one sense but a happy occasion in another. I got to spend time with my extended family, most of whom I see rarely. Now that granddad has gone we will all have to make an effort to see each other as the main reason for doing is no longer there.
The last two months have had their personal challenges but I approach November in better shape. There is much to be done in the run-up to Christmas. A truism is that time seems to speed up as you get older. It seems like 5 minutes ago I was basking in the Indian summer sun that greeted the now annual week of the best weather that arrives in early September. Now I am planning festive work parties and figuring out how I can get everything I need to do done in the nine weeks before my company shuts down for two weeks.
Like everyone I just want to be happy. Challenged, motivated and excited by my work; content, comfortable and relaxed in my personal life. It’s a balance that sometimes feels elusive but I know it’s there, and when it all comes together I feel I have everything I could ever need. I sense that finding and keeping that balance will be a major focus for me as time marches ever onwards.