“I believe that if I should die,
and you were to walk near my grave,
from the very depths of the earth
I would hear your footsteps.”
Benito Pérez Galdós
I’ve known for a while now, months really, that the time would come that I would have to make this speech but, even with time, knowing what to say about Paul Martin and putting into words what it was like to have him as a dad really isn’t easy. As I’m sure most of you here today can appreciate, he was a very unusual man. But this was part of what made him so special and unique. He had a truly remarkable gift for drawing people in and making them feel like they wouldn’t want to be anywhere else. Everyone he ever met, even the staff at the local Tesco’s, were instantly charmed by him. Whenever you went to a restaurant with him he would have the staff eating out of the palm of his hand within five minutes. He was brilliantly good humoured and welcoming. All the people I’ve spoken since to since he became ill have talked of his hospitality and charm. He was always engaging, he always had a full fridge of food and a glass of wine on hand for any visitor, be they friends, family or a neighbour just passing by. He was a master of making conversation and puncturing awkward moments. I’ve never seen anyone so good at making people feel at ease and enjoy themselves. I found a quote which I am paraphrasing slightly but which seems perfectly appropriate for him: “while we are mourning the loss of Paul, others are rejoicing to meet him behind the veil.”
As we all know until the last few years of his life he enjoyed a drink, a trait he has certainly passed on to his children. I’m sure his own friends will be able to tell me their stories of his glory days but I can tell you as his children we probably put him to bed as many times as he did to us! Censored highlights include the time he came down at 8 o’clock one Sunday night to make us breakfast, digging out all the breakfast bowls even though we were, in fact, about to go bed. Or all of us being at a restaurant in the Lake District when a fellow diner overheard our conversation discussing his antics the night before and made a point of coming up to congratulate us on a splendid evening’s entertainment. ‘Most enjoyable,’ he said. That was Paul Martin, entertaining people even without meaning to.
However, the most overwhelming memory of Dad growing up was having amazingly good fun. Nothing compared to being little and spending the weekend with him. Every Saturday morning we would go swimming, have something to eat and then zoom off in the car to go on one of his famous walks. As children we were always so proud to have such a cool dad, driving around in his sunglasses playing the latest music and making everyone laugh. Between the three of us we probably have every song he ever played on those car journeys. The song we are going to play for him later, “No More I Love You”s by Annie Lennox comes from a moment which encapsulates his eccentricity and fun. We’d nagged him to take us to Banham Zoo for weeks and he agreed, but as we got there we weren’t allowed out of the car until we sang along to the opening (“dubi dubi dub dub dub, aaah”). We all stood our ground but eventually we did as we were told and sang along as he threatened to drive away. Trust me, Dad, we’ll never need nagging to sing along again.
More recently, memories of spending time with Dad meant cosy weekends spent being fed and watered on the sofa with him and Angie waiting on us hand and foot. It was always such a treat to take time out from uni, work or nights out to spend a couple of days at his flat eating mountains of amazing food, watching one of countless TV programmes or films he’d recorded onto the Sky Box. Then the next day off to whichever chain restaurant he had a voucher for at the time, of course swiftly followed by a lengthy walk. Words cannot describe how much we’re going to miss all this and how hard these empty weekends will be to fill without you here.
Dad was a true Martin and was truly his father’s son. The main characteristic of this is to be hugely adventurous and slightly mad. He always dreamt of being a pilot and fulfilled this ambition. Although we came along too late to experience that, it never stopped us having our own adventures. I can’t even begin to count the number of miles I, Lizzie, Laurie, Angie, Karen, Stuart and everyone else must have covered with him on those epic walks. For my own part, every single corner of London I cross carries a memory of Dad, his presence is with me on just about every street. It seems like there’s no square, park, pub, market or museum of this city we didn’t go to together at some point. This gene hasn’t been lost, Dad, and we’ll carry on the walks and drives and adventures, remembering everything you ever taught us along the way.
The last thing I’d like to say on behalf of me, Lizzie and Laurie, as we never got a chance to say it, is what a truly amazing man you proved to be in the last few months of your life. You dealt with the most appalling diagnosis of cancer with dignity, good humour and a bravery I’d never thought imaginable. For a man who a year ago would have described having a simple injection before a holiday as an ‘operation’, you took everything they threw at you in your stride and were strong till the very end. Despite the horrific effects of chemotherapy the first time round you went through it again. And even when the effects the second time round were worse still, just a few days before you died you were still talking about continuing the treatment. Even at the end when you could barely speak or move you were still trying to carry on as normal and make conversation like you did your whole life – asking how I was, what I’d been up to, if I needed any money… You really proved yourself to be a father that we can be proud of and inspired by. On behalf of your babies, I promise we’ll make you proud, carry on the best of the Martin traditions and never forget you. Love you matey.