David Parkin goes to the pub and has a Mone

I told the gathered guests that Tony was something of a hero to all of the family in Britain and not without reason.

An accomplished sportsman, he was a talented swimmer and rugby player who came close to being selected for Great Britain’s Olympic water polo team.

He was the first person in the family to go to university and get a degree and those of us since have never got anywhere near the qualifications he achieved.

Having trained as a civil engineer, he left a successful career in Britain to travel to make a new life in Canada in 1963.

As I said in my speech at the celebration of his life, the world today seems a much smaller place.

We think nothing of travelling to another continent on holiday and making video calls to people on the other side of the world.

When Tony Smith travelled to Canada 60 years ago he went by boat – my Mum remembers driving him to Liverpool for the transatlantic crossing – and sent letters home with news of his new life because telephone calls were so expensive.

And what a life he built in his adopted home. We drove across a bridge he helped build during his trip.

I write a few words and stand up and talk at events. Actually creating and building something is a real achievement in my book.

Tony was also my godfather, that’s him standing behind my father at my christening in the photo above.

Tony met his wife Lene, whose family had emigrated from Denmark to Canada, at a party when her brother John realised he had invited too many women and so asked some young Englishmen living in a nearby apartment to join them.

Tony and Lene enjoyed a great life together, travelling to all four corners of the world and their daughter, my cousin Lesley, is a real credit to them.

I told guests at the celebration that whenever my uncle and aunt came to the UK for a visit, having these glamorous people with transatlantic accents was like a bit of Hollywood arriving in the East Midlands.

I assured my Aunt that this was very much because of their attractiveness rather than the lack of glamour in Derby.


WE flew from Leeds Bradford via Dublin to Toronto with Aer Lingus which was a positive experience, once we left the rainy and windswept runway of the Yorkshire airport.

I was intrigued to see whether the passengers who fly from Leeds Bradford Airport in the winter are any improvement to the rabble I see during the summer months.

Not really, just swap the three-quarter length trousers, vests and crop tops for anoraks and puffa jackets.

And they still enjoy a pint and an alcopop at six in the morning.

Some traditions never die.


Apologies for the lack of a blog last week.

The plan was to write one but the trip to Canada got in the way and when I realised that I would have to get up at 2am to write and send the blog then discretion became the better part of valour.

I figured that readers would forgive me and I thank you for doing that – and also not one of you sending me a message to say they missed the blog last week.

This is my last blog this year and so can I wish you a very Happy Christmas and healthy and successful New Year.


FAREWELL then Glenys Kinnock.

The former Labour minister, ex-MEP and wife of former Labour Party leader Neil Kinnock died earlier this month aged 79, six years after being diagnosed with Alzheimer’s.

I only met her once, in a restaurant in Strasbourg.

On a trip to the official seat of the European Parliament, I joined a group of regional political journalists to tour the building and meet representatives from the UK and Europe.

What I remember is that this collection of hard-boiled political hacks  (I was the lightly poached member of the group) were most excited about the opportunity to meet Glenys Kinnock who served as an MEP, representing Wales in Europe from 1994 to 2009.

Over traditional Alsatian choucroute garnie sauerkraut and crisp white wine from the region we listened to this charismatic character who brought a touch of glamour to the often dry and dull political world.

What became clear very quickly was that the image that the press had painted of her as being a manipulative, meddling power behind her husband when he led the Labour Party, was unfair.

She went on to be made Baroness Kinnock of Holyhead in 2009 so she could join Gordon Brown’s government, serving as a Foreign Office minister.

Glenys Kinnock enjoyed finding her own political voice and became a passionate advocate and supporter of Europe, Africa and the United Nations.

What I also remember about that trip to Strasbourg was also sparking a diplomatic incident over Cliff Richard.

Any dinner involving a group of journalists can involve unusual subjects and colourful stories and this was certainly one of them.

I don’t know how we got on to discussing veteran pop star Cliff Richard but probably fuelled by too much Riesling I expressed my opinion that I’m not a fan of his music and find him a little too holier-than-thou.

What I hadn’t counted on was that the political editor of the Wolverhampton Express & Star was the chairman of the Cliff Richard fan club in the Black Country.

Did I fight my corner and triumph in the debate that ensued over the merits of Sir Cliff?

No, I apologised and repented my sins.

In fact, I’m writing this while sipping an Amontillado sherry and listening to Mistletoe and Wine.

Have a great weekend and a wonderful Christmas.

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