Welcome to our all-too-infrequently updated little blog about goings on at Art Van Go - art suppliers to the stars.

Saturday, 19 June 2010

A Tribute to Phil

Those of you who are regular visitors to Art Van Go studios, will already know of the sudden and  unexpected death in March of this year, of Viv's dad, Phil Arthur.  We felt that it was only right to pay tribute to Phil, as he had such a great 'supporting role' in Art Van Go.
The following tribute was read by Viv at Phil's funeral -

My Dad was a big man - maybe hard to believe for those who only knew him in the last few years -but he was!  He was strong with a strong handshake that was there right to the end.
His hands looked strong - Mam says it was one of the first things that attracted her to him - but he could be so gentle.  As small children we can remember Dad gently stroking away the pain, or soothing us to sleep.

Dad was away for several months at a time during our early years but he would return with presents from his travels.  As a marine engineer he was involved with the sea and ships all his life.  After serving in the merchant navy during the war, part of it transporting aviation fuel around the Mediterranean, he became one of the youngest Chief Engineers of his time.  We also know that Dad was involved in ground-breaking projects like the transportation of liquid gas by sea on the Methane Pioneer in 1959, and later on the Methane Princess, but the times he loved to talk about most was of early voyages to sea up and down the China coast on a little ship called the Volcella.

This small steamship - the engine room was apparently so small "they had to have condensed milk in their tea" - it's Chinese crew and the adventures he had (most of which we could only guess at) - probably gave Dad his love for all things Asian and Oriental.  He loved Chinese, Japanese and Indian food long before these sort of restaurants were common in Britain and he taught himself to cook using individual spices and lots of garlic.  Our friends reckoned they could smell our house long before they reached our front door.

Dad was an engineer through and through.  If it had a motor or an engine he could repair it.  We had a fridge, bought second-hand in the States and shipped across in the fifties and thanks to Dad's determination was still going strong 40 odd years later!

As an engineer it was always function over aesthetics.  If Dad could repair it what did it matter what it looked like, and he certainly wasn't going to buy a new one!  Almost anything could be held together with enough carpet-tape or lashed with plenty of string.  He took the same approach to personal first-aid.  Using anything to hand whenever he drew blood from the slip of a knife, screw-driver or hammer, he was rarely seen without carpet tape or string and rag dressings.

Dad was always there for us.  He helped so much with Art Van Go, even though he did think it was a madcap idea of mine that wouldn't last.  He would help with the van, and together with Mam would travel to different parts of the country helping to build and set up stands at shows.  Even in the last few weeks he has been bottling, packing and cutting products for us.  Whenever we were feeling overwhelmed with work Mad and Dad would be there, like the cavalry coming to the rescue to help out.  This is the 21st Anniversary year for Art Van Go and I know he would have loved to be part of the planned celebrations.

My memories are full of noise - that could be fiery arguments between me and Dad - but mainly of laughter!  Dad could so easily be brought to tears with laughter, either because of a story he was trying to relay or a joke he was trying to tell.  He rarely got to the punch line without having to struggle.  In truth he really only knew about 3 jokes - all shaggy-dog stories that have now become part of family folk-lore - but we would always end up in agonies of laughter because it was all in the telling!

Dad loved cartoons, especially Tom and Jerry;  he loved Shirley Bassey; he had a love-hate relationship with golf; he loved good food and good whisky and sharing the craic over a couple of pints, and we know he loved us!

Dad was very careful with money, and he was stubborn, but he was also silly, funny and loving.  He loved life.
My Dad is a big man - I am proud and I love him! " 

      *   *   *   *   *
 


I'm sure you'll agree that was a fine tribute, to a fine man.

Phil had always been so fit and healthy, but in recent years had suffered from heart trouble - angina, and a heart attack resulted in him having a triple by pass - but he came through the operation with flying colours, and appeared to have a second lease of life.  His breathlessness had gone - he had bags more energy and was able to walk further.  So it was with great enthusiasm that he and Joan, Viv's Mum,  moved from Orpington to their new home in Knebworth.  The family were looking forward to spending more time together,  and made lots of plans for the future, but sadly this was not to be.

Phil was supportive of, and involved in, Art Van Go from the time it started, and in fact it was a loan from Phil that enabled Viv to get the business off the ground.  And he continued to be totally supportive until the end.

(Incidentally, the photo of Phil, on the Order of Service above, was taken by Kevin in 1989, the year that Art Van Go began.)

Speaking as someone who worked at Art Van Go, I could see that as much as Viv was proud of her Dad, it was clear that he was immensely proud of Viv, and of what she and Kevin have achieved over the last 21 years - so maybe Art Van Go was not such a hare-brained scheme after all!
Personally, I will remember Phil as a kind, hardworking and witty man, who never refused a cup of tea, and had the most wonderfully infectious chuckle. 

Finally, as Viv said in her tribute to him, in the late 1950's, Phil was part of the Technical team which brought about the ground breaking development of transporting liquid gas by sea, in "Methane Pioneer" - a ship that had to be converted for the purpose and later, the Methane Princess.  It's a bit of a long shot, but Viv would love to know more about it, but a search of the internet has so far been fairly fruitless, other than the technical aspects of it.  We're just hoping that someone out there, who had some connection with the ship, or the project, or knows of someone who was, reads this and gets in touch. 

Rest in Peace Phil.

                                       


7 comments:

Wild Somerset Child said...

Thankyou so much for sharing this - it is all to easy for 'the general public' to forget what goes into setting up and running a business, or the human stories behind what we, as customers, all come to rely upon. Ann (Somerset Miles)

debsmuddle said...

A lovely tribute

JenHen said...

What a wonderful, moving tribute to Phil. I am honoured to have met him, albeit briefly, last year.

Kaffie said...

I agree with the other comments made. Thank you for sharing 'A Tribute to Phil'. You have some lovely memories throughout the development of Art Van Go. I am a distant customer and always look forward to meeting you at shows.
Best wishes
Cathy

Caronita said...

What a lovely tribute Viv, it really brings your Dad alive for those of us who never had the privilege of meeting him. I do have one friend who was in the merchant navy and will ask him if he knows anything about the vessel.

Steve Estill said...

Was his ship a Shell Tanker called the Volsella? It would have been about 32,000 dwt - small compared to modern tankers, but quite large in its day. I sailed on other 'v' class ships as an engineer in the late 60's, early 70's. I have a friend who may be able to help with research into the Methane Princess - he's become a bit of an archivist of Shell Tankers details. I'll get in touch and see what can be found.
Steve

Steve Estill said...

Just another quicky so I can get follow up comments! sorry.
Steve