Tuesday was a typical February day on the north Dartmoor edge: grey, rain threatened but instead a cold damp seeping into your bones. 2.00 in the afternoon, and the road into South Tawton lined with cars; in St Andrews, the parish church, standing room only. A congregation of more men than women, in black suits rarely worn. A lot of people had been in the pub over lunch, but there was no buzz, little chatter. We were there, with, or so it seemed, most of Moretonhampstead, for the funeral of Roy Smaridge.
Roy was our builder. He had been born, he told us, just up the road from South Tawton, in Taw Green. We found this out as when we had thought of moving in 2006 (posted about in A lot can happen in seven days). The house we looked at had been in Taw Green. Roy, when he heard, commented, “You wouldn’t have liked it much: that house was always damp”. A builder’s comment.
We had known him from the time we moved into Moretonhampstead in 1997. He had then been living here: a jobbing builder, a retained fireman, and one of those people that either you liked or you didn’t (or perhaps it was he that liked you or didn’t). Whichever, we liked him from the start, and over the years he and his boys have lovingly rebuilt and repaired the house: bedrooms, bathrooms, dining room, hall, walls, roofs. There are very few bits of it that he has not worked on.
And the sadness is that those plans we still have for the house, and had discussed with him, will now be for someone else to complete for us. I always joked with Roy that our house was his pension: now not required. His yearly gift of a Christmas hamper to us might have raised the children’s eyebrows, but it was just part and parcel of the relationship. And he touched our lives in more ways than one. Roy had been on the shout when Holly had broken her femur up on Mardon Down, thrown off her pony: with the nearest emergency ambulance either Okehampton or Exeter, the Fire Service are our first responders.
We were in north Norfolk when we heard the news: somehow very apposite as it seemed that we were usually on a distant bird reserve when Roy called from work on the house. “Are you sitting down? Good. We have had to dig out the dining room floor” or some such piece of less than welcome news. And here we were, sitting in St Andrews with all those other people whose lives Roy had also touched.
And his boys brought him into the church to Madness’ One step beyond, and at the end of the service he left to Don’t let the sun go down on me.