Albert Burnett 1911 - 2002
I suppose I have been putting this off. The fifth member of the family group I have been writing about for the last few weeks is the youngest of the group - Albert Burnett : my father. It is now seven years since he died and although he had a long and happy life I still miss him. I miss his quiet assurance and I miss the way that he could interact with life with the minimum of friction. He was an amiable man, a pleasant man, a good man. He was a nice man. He could be annoying - he could worry for England and he would insist on getting places at least three hours early. My brother and I once created an international unit of waiting time called "The Albert" which was flexible and depended upon the event being undertaken but the basic law said that you always had to be where you were going 2 Alberts before you were due there. When I do something to mildly annoy my family like worry if they are five minutes late or fuss to make sure they have got their keys and phones they will say "You get more like your father every day". I argue and complain, but secretly I take this as a tremendous compliment.
Albert was born on the 25th June 1911 and therefore he was just six years old when the family photograph was taken. He must have had some artistic talent when he was young because my grandfather managed to get him taken on as an apprentice to a sign-writer. But this was 1925 and the new Education Act was being rigorously enforced and a School Inspector came and took him out of work and sent him back to school for the final three weeks until his 14th birthday. By the time his birthday came around the sign-writers job had gone so Albert was taken on as an apprentice fitter and spent his entire working life as a maker and mender of machines. For the last thirty years of his working life he maintained and repaired the machines that wrapped Mackintosh's Quality Street sweets in their coloured cellophane wrappers. The photograph shows Albert proudly sitting in front of a splendid machine that looks as though it could have flown to the moon but in fact could merely wrap a chocolate toffee finger in its gold wrapper.
Albert met Gladys, my mother, on a day-trip to Cleethorpes in the late 1920s. They discovered that they were both from the same part of Bradford so when they returned home they started seeing each other. This was the age of long courtships, an age where you had to try and save a bit of money before you thought of getting married and so it was 1936 before they finally got married. They were together for 66 years : a marriage which was happier than most and which eventually brought them two children - my brother Roger in 1943 and me in 1948.
I suppose the family became the centre of their lives - I cannot remember many friends who were not part of the wider family. They rarely went out in the evening and their lives centred around their house, their television, and trips out into the countryside in a whole succession of vehicles. When they first married they would go off every weekend on their tandem, exploring the countryside around Bradford where they lived. Later the graduated to motorbikes and their territory expanded to the entire country. By the early 1960s my father had got his first car and I can remember endless holidays touring from campsite to campsite in England, Scotland, Wales and Ireland.
Even towards the end of his life my father managed to get hold of a "mobility scooter" and would go for tours around the little estate they lived on. According to my records, I took the final photograph in 2001 when my father was 90. I can still remember the day as though it was yesterday. By then he couldn't walk very well at all and I had to help him out of his flat and onto his scooter. It was a cold day and I was worried that he might catch a chill or that he would get stuck and not be able to get home. I was determined to run behind him and make sure he was OK. By the time I had locked the flat door and turned around I spotted him in the distance. Still travelling on. Still doing things his own way with a minimum of fuss. Still wanting to get wherever he was going 2 Alberts early.