The most important memory I have of my father I keep in a silver cigarette case.

He was born in 1928.

His fondest regret was being too young to fight in the thick of WW2.

He joined the Royal Marines and was present when the Japanese surrendered in 1945.

He always felt that he had somehow missed out.

He wanted to be a hero and I think he might have been if he had been born sooner.

But then I would not have known him.

We were never totally close but we had a secret signal, a ‘man to man’ thing that was called the ‘thumbs up’.

My father caught Leprosy in Palestine after the war.

They brought his body back and I visited him before the cremation.

I kissed his forehead.

It was cold and reminded me of the wax fruit my mother kept in the bowl on her dining table when it wasn’t being used for dining. 

His right hand was badly decomposed, all of his fingers were gone, apart from the thumb, which was pristine.

I had a knife.

The most important memory of my father I keep in a silver cigarette case.