The operation was set to start at noon so I headed in to see my father for quarter past eleven. In he wandered on his crutches wearing the most ridiculous surgical stockings and dressing gown. His garb invited ridicule but given the gravity of what was to happen I held back.
The "day room" in which we met was communal and so there was also an elderly couple where the wife was set for an op and a middle aged man who broke the elephant in the room by saying that we are all in for the same op are we not? They were. And there then followed a detailed discussion of their symptoms, diagnosis of this particular form of cancer and other matters. My father and I exchanged knowing looks - these are not matters a gentleman discusses in public.
By half twelve it was pretty clear that the Shipmans were running well behind schedule and so it was agreed that I should go back to Shipston to wait. I can tell my kids that I love them and even my wife and of course I tell my cat Oakley every day. But that is not the sort of thing my father's generation say and he is not a touchie feelie sort of guy. But I volunteered the words, "just in case please know you have been a great father" It is true. He brought up me and my two sisters on his own from when I was eight and little N just five.
Rio Ferdinand is on TV tonight talking about how he has to be mum and dad and I feel for the guy. But it is a bit harder when you are not a millionaire - may father would get up at 4 AM to mark exam papers to pay the bills. He has always been supportive and there for me. So he is a great father loved by his children and grandchildren. My father denied that he was a good father, showing an unusual modesty, and then told me I was a good son which I denied more vehemently. We agreed that we hoped that we would have the same conversation another day.
The Shipmans really were on go slow. I called at 4 PM and was told no news, try at 5. At 5 I called again and got the same response, try at 5.30. Finally at 6 I was told that he was awake and being wheeled out into Intensive care. By the time I got there at 7.30 he was cracking jokes with the nurses and laughing away with them. He is on painkillers but happy and will, fingers crossed, go to a normal ward tomorrow. The posh Shipman who Dad had bonded with earlier warned me there could still be complications but so far so good.
Thank you to all who have sent best wishes and to those who prayed for my father. So far, God is listening.