The daily papers bear obituaries of great lives newly ended. And, daily, great lives end unremarked by the media. Today my father-in-law died. He was 86. And because he was, without celebrity, a great man, I want this small corner of cyberspace to be dedicated to him.
He was vivid character. His hair, boot-black into his 80s, was rarely cut and flapped in a tall, wild halo when he strode the Derbyshire peaks. He would confound waiters with riddles and break solemnly and unexpectedly into rhyming verse. He had a curious allegiance to Izal loo roll and tinned potatoes. He pedalled a frenzied mile each morning on the exercise bike at the end of his bed and when he opened the front door to us he would perform a sweeping bow.
He was an insatiable intellect. He would court opinions on the Winter War over breakfast. Because his mind was never channelled by a national curriculum or a university degree, it ranged freely over arts and science and he devoured books on mathematics and vintology as avidly as the whodunnits of PD James. He taught himself the piano and played his own composition with electrifying zest, his long hair tumbling as his fingers flew.
He was a generous spirit: in terms of money and outlook. His last action before a stroke paralysed him was to order surprise presents for his grandchildren and his first faltering words when we visited in hospital were to ask if they had arrived. His philosophy, when his children were grown, was that any life decision they made was the right one by him, and his sense of honour avoided gossip. If he disliked someone's deeds or character he declined to discuss them - unless they were politicians.
He was a contented soul. Happiness, I always thought, was something you strove for, or was bestowed on you by wealth or circumstance. He taught me that happiness can be extracted from the here and now. His small flat, his sudoko puzzles, his weekly pint and his beloved Peaks were his bliss. When age assaulted him he refused to complain. He gleaned the best in people and he knew how to count his blessings and those infectious skills are perhaps his most valuable bequest of all.