Twenty-eight years have passed since I sat in my mother-in-law Helen’s kitchen. We were bickering over something trivial. The room was huge and tudor-beamed, and we were at a long oak refectory table, where many enjoyed the Jacobs’ family hospitality, often given to down-and-outs as well as old friends. I was six months pregnant with my first. There was a knock at the back door, which was odd.
Helen got up to see who it was. A young policeman stepped into the kitchen and removed his helmet. He asked for me by maiden name, and I proudly and chirpily responded that I had changed it with marriage.
Then he told me that my father had died.
I’ve never been one to hold back emotions, although while I howled, I do remember thinking I should not, for the sake of my unborn. The policeman started to cry too. I can’t remember what Helen did – undoubtedly she tried to console me.
Dad’s only form of identity was a letter found in his pocket. I’d written it a few days earlier, inviting him to Helen’s farmhouse where I and my young husband were living.
My father was a goldsmith and horologist, and his name was Anthony John Fox. With such a surname, collections of fox images and ornaments are inevitable. I have many, but the main is my middle name, which I took a few years back by deed poll – his surname – my maiden name.
It was the day after Dad’s sixty-fourth birthday. Apparently, he’d seen some lads spraying graffiti on a Clerkenwell street. He shouted and gave chase, but his heart couldn’t take any more. He was in the middle of his third divorce. He was sure his wife’s lover (the two children’s piano teacher) was a pedophile, but who would believe a cuckolded man?
Twenty-odd years later, that piano teacher (who eventually married my stepmother) was imprisoned for pedophilia – my half-sister, Antoinette, one of his victims.
A.J. Fox – 20-2-1921 to 21-2-1985