My father
Thursday, 22nd February 2018

Cringleford Cringleford

My father John Sidney Smith died this evening. Oscar Wilde quipped that "All women become like their mothers. That is their tragedy. No man does, and that is his". For me there's a certain truth in that.

My father was a major figure not only in British Origami circles but worldwide. See an Origami focussed obituary. He not only folded models, knew key people, but also contributed to the theory of origami and its use in areas like therapy. I can just about fold a paper aeroplane unaided.

Wedding Wedding

My father had taste and talent in music. He won a prize for playing on the cello at school though he favoured instruments like the acoustic guitar and mandolin. Despite my parents' efforts I failed on a range of musical devices from recorder through clarinet to balalaika (the last after being taken to hear a Russian balalaika orchestra visiting Norwich).

My father had taste and talent in art. He won a prize at age 17. He was drawing pictures up to the end of his life. He could talk wisely about Turner and van Gogh and Bauhaus. I'm proud to have some of his artwork on our walls. I never got further than painting by numbers. At art lessons in school I was one of those put in a corner and told to play with modelling clay.

My father was a keen photographer, who was not afraid of digital image manipulation. He started an audio-visual group at one camera club, and worked hard on producing multimedia presentations. I remember fetching him back from his visits to the Cambridge camera club. I like taking pictures, but am really grateful for auto-focus.

Dad Dad

He worked hard to provide for his family. He studied statistics in evening classes which took him out of a drawing office to a marketing role in Vauxhall Motors, and then to working for Reckitts and Colmans in Norwich (which is why I grew up there). He edited the Institute of Statisticians journal at one stage. Statistics was one of the mathematical disciplines that stymied me when I read maths at university. I wish now I had studied a language but that's another matter.

He worked in the early days of computers at Colmans in Norwich. He got me first programming on Texas Instruments calculators, and then urged me into my computing career, seeing computers as the coming wave. I am grateful for his pushing, software has been a good career for me.

I remember the special occasions of my childhood like the cinema forays. We would dine at a Chinese restaurant by the multi-storey car park, on exotic dishes like birds nests. And then we would see films like "2001", "Battle of Britain", and the "Sound of Music". For me seeing a film at the cinema is still special. He introduced me to films like Kurosawa's "Seven Samurai", and Jacques Tati's "Playtime" and "Traffic". He expanded my horizons.

Sunset Sunset

He also introduced me to Eastern thought like Zen and koans, to the deeply significant Winnie the Pooh books, and Lewis Carroll's playful works. To Science Fiction like Asimov and Clarke, to detective fiction like Edmund Crispin and Dorothy Sayers. We had magazines like the Scientific American and New Scientist. The latter had an article on the Oriental board game Go once, and my father got us playing that. I'm still playing Go forty plus years later.

We had some great caravan holidays - ranging from being stuck in muddy fields on Mull to nearly floating down the river at Freshwater East. These were still early days for caravaning, we camped in rough fields at times. caravan turning over once. We also voyaged to Switzerland and America and Italy and Yugoslavia. For these holidays he would marvellous scrapbooks of pictures and tickets and descriptions. My tribute to those scrapbooks is this website.