RIP El Tel

RIP El Tel

We’ve had a dearth of death these last few weeks.  Bowie, Rickman, Glen Frey…now Sir Terry.

And whilst death is a fact that we all accept – particularly as we ripen and mature as humans – I can’t help but feel a deep dark sorrow for our collective loss.

I didn’t have a particular affection for Terry Wogan.  Unlike Bowie and Rickman, he doesn’t rank in my Top Ten Men.  But I did have a great fondness for him.

I grew up with Terry Wogan.  He was the constant presence in the car during our morning trips to school. My father took us on his way to work in Birmingham.  Radio 2 was his preference, not mine.  As the driver, however, my father over ruled the tastes of his two daughter passengers – so we were subjected to a daily dose of Terry, babbling along in his light-hearted way.

This proved a great relief to me.  I had a very strained and difficult relationship with my father at the time, who I considered to be an over bearing, bad tempered, controlling bully.  His attitude to women was Victorian and he treated my mother appallingly.  But as the sole provider for our family, he endured a job he hated to foot the bills and for this I always paid him due respect.

Our school runs were conducted more or less in silence. Being the eldest, I sat in the front whilst my little sister had the luxury and anonymity of the back seat.

So it was left to Terry to fill the gaps, which he did with aplomb.  There was something very correct about Terry Wogan.  He seemed to be a solidly reliable and safe pair of hands. He knew exactly the right thing to say, in exactly the right tone at the exactly the right time – always slightly self deprecating.  Somehow he embodied what I now recognise as middle England values.  He was quick with the one liners that summed it all up in a neat but heartfelt and pithy sentence.   He became our national treasure because his outlook shaped a generation of listeners. My generation.

During these trips, the only time my father and I exchanged anything near to a conversation was when Terry ran one of his competitions, my dad and I competing with each other to be the first to chip in the correct answer.  I invariably won, the questions being sufficiently low brow to register below my father’s intellect.

My father died two years ago next month.  In the intervening years since school, dad and I managed to forge a strong, close and loving relationship – which made his loss all the more painful because, in hindsight, I now understand how much I grossly misjudged him.

So to me El Tel will always be intrinsically linked with my dad and those morning school runs.

His death makes my father’s the more poignant.

RIP El Tel.  And thanks for being my friend.

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