One of my father's great talents was his ability to rub along with all sorts of people. I'm sure part of it was his accent - West of Scotland - which in England, in a Farfraesque sort of way, made him difficult to place socially. Not that he was a pushover. Shortly after arriving in Coventry with his heavily pregnant wife he was insulted on a bus by a boor moaning about Jocks coming down South and taking the locals' jobs. Like his son never one to suffer fools gladly, he told the idiot that he'd have had no need to be in England if the English were up to the mark themselves and menacingly invited him to reconsider his opinions!
Part of his job involved managing the city's retail market. It brought him into contact with all sorts of interesting people and he numbered amongst his work pals a Jewish market trader who had been in military intelligence during the war and a East African Sikh who arrived in the UK with just the shirt on his back after losing everything in the Ugandan expulsions. For Coventry this was pretty cosmopolitan!
Perhaps the most interesting of his acquaintances though were the travelling showmen who came to the Whitsun and Summer Fairs on Coventry's Hearsall Common. These guys led a tough and independent life. Travelling around the country with their families, stalls and attractions, their livelihoods entirely dependent on the vagaries of the weather. I remember one of them, a young and rather charming man called James Mellors coming over to our house when I was about 8 or 9. What impressed me the most was that he had a sports car - if I remember correctly a maroon Triumph Spitfire. What's more he took me in it on a trip to buy cigarettes at the local off-licence and even bought me a bottle of pop!
The Mellors family are a Nottingham fairground dynasty and it was James Mellors that risked his shirt in the 1970s to buy one of the first really big elevating Paratrooper rides. Because my dad ran the Whit fair for the city I always managed to get a ride on one of his big machines for free! I was just a child and I'd really forgotten about him until the other day I came across this story. James Mellors now heads a substantial entertainments business and has plans to build a 100 meter Robin Hood statue with viewing platform and restaurant somewhere on the outskirts of Nottingham. I imagine the recession, not to mention the planning authorities, will have put a brake on the scheme but, still, it is a kind of crazy magnificent dream. I hope he eventually manages to build it.