We’ve had an astonishingly sad winter at The Three Spaniels in that we tragically lost my Dad, Mick Solly, on 21st December 2020. This was the Winter Solstice, quite fitting for a bit of an old hippy!
My Dad was such a treasure, there really are no words to sum up how much he meant to us, but I’d like to share a little with Friends of The Three Spaniels in his memory so here are the words I read at his funeral, slightly modified as many readers will not have met him. I hope to leave you with an impression of his character, he really was the kindest and best of men and we were so very lucky to have had him in our lives.
There’s so much I’d love to say about my Dad, he was so interesting and had so many different pastimes over the years, but I’ve got to be brief (not my strong point) so here are the best bits.
I’ll start with some of things he made me:
When I was 3 or 4, Dad made a beautiful wooden train from scraps at the factory where he worked, I still have it on the bookshelf in our living room.
When I was 5 or 6, he made an amazing, fully rigged sailing boat, from an old pair of jeans, fig twigs from the garden and lollipop sticks! Crewed by Paddington bear and C3PO, we had many happy sailings at Kearsney Abbey.
Around the same time Dad made me a fabulous fairy fancy dress outfit with superb Swallowtail-butterfly wings.
When I was a teenager he made me turn everything off at the wall in case of electrical fires!
Some of the things he taught me:
How to light a fire with a magnifying glass;
How to track and stalk deer – just to look at them of course!
What magic mushrooms look like!
How to canoe, how to shoot a bow;
And how every living thing, no matter how small, has a place in our world and deserves respect and compassion.
He often saved unfortunate creatures and nursed them back to health; a young fox, a collared dove, a bedraggled parakeet who managed to stay for 3 years. A feral kitten who became Dad’s bestie for nearly 20 years. Most recently a squirrel who gave Dad and his workmate Lorraine the run around in one of the Co-op store rooms, much to the amusement of their colleagues who stood watching.
Some of my best memories include;
Looking for wildlife in our urban garden, in the wilder parts of St Peter’s churchyard or out in the King’s Wood, under stones, logs or corrugated metal, and looking in the pond with a torch at night to see what the newts were up to.
I remember Dad waking me in the middle of the night – I think I was about 7 – to show me a beautiful cactus flower in the greenhouse that flowered once in a blue moon and would be gone by morning.
I loved listening to hilarious tales of Dad’s teenage mis-demeanours with his mates and his brothers...
I remember often staying up til the small hours with Mum and Dad, hand sewing mediaeval costumes the night before a re-enactment.
I remember sitting under a bivvy in the forest, with Mum, Dad and my friend Claire, drinking tea and waiting for the torrential rain to ease up.
I remember Dad and I canoeing along the River Stour by night at Fordwich watching the Daubenton’s bats hunt across the water.
I remember how proud Dad was – or was it relief? - when he gave me away at my wedding; and how proud I was of his lovely speech that same day; he wasn’t accustomed to public speaking.
For those of you who didn’t know him, here are some of the things he himself enjoyed.
My dad loved nothing more than spending time in the woods, off the beaten track, rain or shine, day or night; always with sandwiches and plentiful supplies of tea!
Or perhaps his best thing was a canoe down the river with Mum and their dog Kitty, stopping for a picnic on the way.
Or simply sitting quietly alone in the garden – his or ours – taking in the natural world around him.
I will miss reporting wildlife spottings – Dad was always thrilled by any encounter with nature; from the tiny but beautiful ruby-tailed wasp to the stunning white stag in the woods at Challock. I still tell him about my own daily sightings – I probably always will.
I will miss sitting with him on a fallen tree in a woody glade, drinking tea and flicking wood ants off our jeans!
I am very proud of my Dad; he was so kind and compassionate, so knowledgeable and wise; wickedly funny, sometimes cheeky, often stubborn!!
He was talented and creative, turning his hand to many things from making toys for me, and mediaeval clothes, or painting beautifully detailed and imaginative pieces of art and tiny lead figures. He even tiled the bathroom once with some degree of success!
But above all he was the most loving husband and father anyone could hope to have.
He trod softly on the earth. He lived life his own way but never to the detriment of others; he was always a gentleman – in jeans!!!
So... if you find yourself one sunny day, in that forest clearing, or on the river bank watching the water sliding gently by, take a moment to remember Mick Solly who truly loved those places.... who knows, he may well be there beside you. 🙂