Tribute to my Father, Wayland Young

My Tribute to our Father Wayland at his Memorial at Christ Church Spitalfields, London 12/12/09

Now I am come to praise my father Wayland
– or rather, our father, who art now in the chalk earth downs of Wiltshire,
and also in the sun, the rain and the wind that ripples through the leaves and sails,
in the laugh of an infant and the slap of a wave
and the arc of a gull across the sky..

Mere words are small, for the mysteries of life and death
and for the hollow loss that our physical, emotional selves have been feeling.
There is really very little to be said

I could say that I miss him
and am made of him
and that he’s changed in form..
Our Wayland’s there – not here.
Becoming ancestor.

One of the strong ones
who brought us here to this time, this place, these ways
and may be remembered always…

I think our dad was one who tried,
and oftentimes succeeded,
in good company
to honour dignity and truth
and our natural lust for life.

Progeny of priests, and pirate admirals, a sculptor and politician
Son of Bill and Kathleen,
younger brother of Pete,
husband only of Liz,
father of Easter, Emily, Mopsa, Thoby, Louisa, and me,

Grandpa of many, becoming great,
friend, colleague, inspiration,
and generally good man to countless unnamed others.
It’s strange, and good, to have parents known beyond their circles
– to share the wisdom, joy, and sadness.. and the mystery

No one here has the full picture, no words can sum him up,
there are thoughts and prayers for him today in an LA Buddhist temple,
in India, in Africa, Australia… one quoted:
“When Wayland would tell stories of his life, he was for me like ‘that low door in the wall… which opened on an enclosed and enchanted garden’”

The picture I offer too is partial,
that of a child and rebellious but devoted daughter.
By the time I came to know him
he was statesman, chairman, spokesman, writer, editor,
activist and mentor, walker, sailor, linguist,
lover of the sun and water and land,
maker of fires and protector of old stones,
wise to the birds and wind,

a traveller in mind and word and body…
he was born quite lucky, with reasonable wealth if not always health
and grew up situated and partial, tetchy as the best of us,
but always interested, erudite, appreciative, concerned, and open-hearted when he could.

Iridescent, said one tribute,
that came from the Parliamentary Office for Science and Technology,
an organisation Dad helped to create,
educating lawmakers about such very practical matters..

It’s an unusual inheritance, to be raised
with the ways of banning female genital mutilation discussed over dinner,
and a prime minister over for tea,
knowing landmarks like this church and St Pancras wouldn’t be here now but for Dad,
in the 1960s he ensured there were stopping places for travellers,
there’s even a rumour he made a call that let the Rolling Stones play in Hyde Park.

Where our uncle Peter worked to create conservation areas
Wayland and Liz worked for arms control,
pushed government to avoid the ‘dangerous precedent’ of paying people not to pollute
saying instead that industry everywhere needs to plan for systemic nature protection.
Had this sane approach been adopted since the 60s
more potential guests might be here today.
Several now are across the sea in Copenhagen,
still trying to make polluters pay …

Oh it’s not just Eros been denied, as dad knew well,
but the straight talking, life-giving whole of life
from which we take so much without giving back
and of which we are so much a part.

Our father’s name was Wayland Young
and with our Mum, Elizabeth
and also Nanny, Ellen,
he tried to show not only us, his Young,
a good Way to be in this Land.

Wayland is an old name,
Wayland the Smith,
From the myths of these our Northern lands.
A craftsman, son of a sea-giantess,
blessed with a talent for beauty,
he was trapped and made to work,
but given feathers, flew high, and escaped…

Among his last words, that strange dark sacred night that Dad departed:
‘shall we go up’?

When I was small and walking in the park ,
I would often seek out feathers – ‘a feffa for my faffa’.
Each feather I see now reminds me of my dad..

…that kind and clever man who gathered us up and shaped us,
challenged and frustrated us,
encouraged and protected us.
Some of his jokes may have been the worst
but he made the tastiest chips in the world
and welcomed our strangest friends.

And giving, loving, loving so
his wife and friends and family
and homes and place and history,
and justice, and wholeness, and peace,
And music and writing and books and ideas, and young people having fun
and democracy and that really interesting new person he met just last night…,
holding fast to what is good from the past while glorying in the present…
and welcoming the best of the wondrous new.

We may remember him writing, at work in grand old buildings
in conversation over a fine long dinner
maybe sailing an Italian lake ..
or walking, always walking (a writer needs to walk he said)
in Kensington Gardens or the welcoming Wiltshire downs
or soaking up the sun like the beneficent Leo he was
– the family would say he only need look at his passport to get a tan..

In his last years,
during the ‘long goodbye’ as some would call dementia,
many trees in the park would become the ‘most beautiful’,
the dog, the ‘friendliest ever’,
people, the ‘cleverest and nicest’ too.
The core of him, as it reduced , was ever kind, and warm, and funny

He’d dive deep into memory
or the music of Bach, or Faure
eyes closed, entranced.. delighted..
or play his fine strong piano while we readied to go out
or dance, drinking wine and chatting for hours
before settling down with Liz.

At times he would lament decline
and weep for other old people,
the lonely and the destitute
who lack the comforts he had.

Other times our Dad would quote a Yoruba man
who, when asked what something nearby was,
had told him simply ‘Nachar’.

Dad died at Beltaine, early May,
time of wild fertility, when heart fire burns so fresh and strong
that one day one old, old, worn out, patched up heart,
just couldn’t take it any more, and stopped.

That was the heart of a bright-eyed blond and baby boy,
child who became the man we knew and loved,
and mourn and celebrate today
so much more than these few words can express…

There aren’t many men around like Wayland.
In fact, from this year, there are none.

But what there are, is the millions of us,
his friends and family, colleagues and allies
and more that I have forgotten to name.
however it is that we knew or knew of him, and came to be here today,
we each of us embody and reflect his same mission to connection
with that source from which we all came,
and to which we will eventually return.

And while we live, and strive, and love
tell our tales and honour the ancestors and dance
He’s with us, and among the others passed this way.

The shine has now gone from our Wayland’s eyes,
And that is difficult to know,
but bluebells their colour
will grow in the west woods
at the time of year that he died.

Thank You.