|My father, Richard (Tim) Dening, bequeathed me the
task of disposing of all the papers which he had amassed throughout his life. This was no
inconsiderable task, as he was a veritable squirrel and saved just about every piece of
paper he or anyone else could conceivably be interested in in the future!
Sorting through those papers has been a real eye-opener for me. The range of
his interests and the breadth of his knowledge was simply staggering. It has allowed me to
know him much better now than I ever did. In one single half hour of sifting through a
large box of his papers, I travelled the gamut from the 'Aquatic Ape' theory of human
evolution, to the manifesto of the Euro-sceptic, UK-based Referendum Party; articles
discussing whether Jesus Christ had been an accomplished Yogi, adept at reducing his
bodily functions to minimal operation; ending up with human brain composition and the
pluses and minuses of various prison systems!
Growing up was always interesting, because of this passion of his
for so many different things. Family chit chat around the dinner table was never dull. My
mother is her own woman and had her own opinions on things and so we were always exposed
to interesting and different ideas and ways of looking at things.
His true passion was natural history and he loved the natural world
in all its forms. I owe my own love of natural history to him. We would walk through the
bush and he would point out interesting plants or insects and tell me fascinating and
unusual facts about them, piquing my own interest. It is thanks to him that I am also a
He and my mother both loved to travel and see new places and meet
new people. Being the youngest, I was usually fortunate enough to be taken with them on
their peregrinations and so discovered that the world is a big place, full of interest. It
is usually accepted that it is the task of parents to worry about their children as they
discover the big, wide world on their own. However, in our case, it was usually the
children wondering how their parents were faring, especially when they embarked on their
adventurous overland trip from India to the UK!
He was a caring, family man and loved his daughters and his
grandchildren when they came along. He was always game for a bit of fun. My husband and I
would return from Hong Kong on leave every few years and we would share our time between
the 'in-laws'. Tim was always prepared to spend time with his grandchildren, whether it
was biking, swimming in the sea or discussing the merits of a particular ice-cream (of
which he was very fond!).
Two incidents particularly stick in my mind which I think sum up his
take on life. On one occasion, we were all on holiday together on the Isle of Wight. We
went to a theme park for the day to amuse my two sons, Sam and Luke. This included a
'Luge' ride where you climbed aboard sled-type vehicles and careered downhill on a
cross-country track until you arrived at the bottom. Tim shared a car with Sam, who was
about 8 at the time. On the way down, they were going at such glorious speed that they
came off on one of the corners, but merely picked themselves up and continued on down. Sam
had no idea that this was not really intended to be a part of the experience and was fired
up with the fun and excitement of it all!
On another occasion, we were again all on holiday together and had
gone to a large indoor swimming pool with lots of adventure slides and tubes. At the end
of one of the tubes, there was a lifeguard tasked with making sure that everyone surfaced
safely in the pool receiving people after the final drop from the tube. I remember how
indignant Tim was when the lifeguard, fearing for his elderly charge's life, hauled him
spluttering to the surface after what seemed like several minutes under the water to those
of us watching. He protested that he had only been enjoying the view from underwater!