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Tribute to Dad


Tribute to Dad

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									A Tribute to my Father, David Philip By Kate Philip
Delivered at his funeral, held at St Saviour’s Church, Claremont, Cape Town, South Africa, 20 February 2009 Malcolm Hacksley has beautifully captured David’s contribution to public life and publishing. It’s my honour to pay tribute to him on behalf of the family. But in trying to do so, I realize once again that disentangling these identities is really not so easy in my family. For most of their adult lives, David and Marie treated life as a joint venture and an adventure. Courage, yes in abundance; but their passionate support for what was right and their opposition to what was wrong was always underpinned by an irreverence that allowed them to retain their joie de vivre through it all; a sense of chutzpah; and even in the darkest hours, there was always laughter, always warmth, and a most amazing sense of camaraderie in which, so often, David and Marie were in cahoots with their authors, in cahoots with other independent publishers, to make space for ideas, to publish and be damned. And it wasn’t just political books, although these were key; it was also about publishing poetry in the full knowledge of the red ink it added to the bottom line; embracing a children’s literature for Africa because it was enough with buttercups already; it was Ah Beg Yaws, and A Fynbos Year. It was about fanning the flames of ideas and insights originated here, under our blue skies, born from our experiences: it was a celebration of all dimensions of our Southern African reality. This week has been one of wrenching sorrow and many tears, but there has been no shortage of laughter or drama in the Philip household either, and that is as it should be and as it always has been. For Jane and me, all of this is part of home, part of who our parents are: and part of what we want to honour, as an expression of our love for David, today. At the same time – central as all of this has been to David’s life, one could as accurately say, with no contradiction and in the same breath, that family and friends were always at the centre for my Dad. He had a remarkable ability to make deep and enduring friendships at every stage of his life; and even though he chose again and again to take the road less traveled, always forging new bonds and new friends in the process, he never lost sight of the paths he’d trodden to get there, nor the people he’d known and loved along the way. Ill health debilitates the spirit also, and so it has been for David over this past while. For us, his release from an ailing body has in turn released a flood of memories, and as a family, we have felt his power returning. We take great joy in these memories of David in full strength and full spirit, as we celebrate all of his life today. And the memories flash by: Dad dancing on the stoep as a bad impersonation of Zorba the Greek, David the raconteur and after-dinner speech-maker; his lesser-known talents as an after-dinner singer (the song ‘One Fish Ball’ comes to mind); tennis on Saturdays, more sunsets at Rooi Els than anyone could count; Dad peeling white peaches with a knife and fork; and of course, the annual ritual of the Frankfurt Book Fair – every single year for no less than 25 – a time of international engagement and exposure on which David absolutely thrived, and earned huge respect in international publishing circles.

Along with these trips came the stimulation of the side-travels to Greek islands, to Bellagio, Jerusalem and so many other places for which Frankfurt was such a marvelous excuse. But from all this and so much more, I want to pull out what I think is probably, actually, the most iconic memory, and one that so many here will share. It’s the ritual of the drink on the stoep. The drink on the stoep came into its own after David Philip Publishers was formed, because of the need to mark the daily transition from Arderne Cottage as ‘the office’ to Arderne Cottage as ‘home’ again. But the drink on the stoep transcends any one location: it was as important at Rooi Els, or Norfolk Place; in fact, almost any place at all will do for this ritual and how it has come to symbolize the time David has always taken to connect with family and friends. Dad would initiate this ceremony by setting aside whatever he had been working on, and announcing that it was now time for a drink on the stoep: and in so doing would end - or all too often, merely suspend - the work of the day – but for at least an hour or so, attention would then shift to a rite of communication that so many, in the end, have shared. It was a moment of pause in every day; a time for the bigger picture to re-assert itself in the midst of stress and pressure, for a bit of wit and repartee, in which David and Marie compared notes and reconnected each day, but also embraced with such manifest delight the company of those who could join them there. For us as a family, this predictable daily rite of communication made Dad a remarkably accessible and engaged father and then grandfather; always ready to place us and our lives at centre stage. In all of this, David and Marie were, as you all know, a truly remarkable partnership, and truly remarkable parents. It cannot always have been easy to live, love and work as closely as they did, but they managed to use this to strengthen what was always, anyway, a great love: and the fact is, they just enjoyed each other’s company so. They laughed at each other’s jokes and sparked each other’s intellects. They could share an irony with a single glance across a crowded room; but most importantly of all, as Marie expressed it: ‘David has not only been at my side for 55 years, he’s been on my side for all of that time too.’ And as we all know: she has also been - most fiercely - on his. As a family, we want to thank so many of you here and from far and wide for the love and support that has poured in over these few days. In particular, we want to thank Dr Guy Parr and Dr Joe Tyrrell, without whom we may indeed have been forced to gather here somewhat sooner than today; to all those at New Africa Books and DPP – past and present -- and for the support and help from Norfolk Place and St Saviour’s Church. In closing, a brief anecdote: On that day of days, on Monday, I took a call from the undertakers. ‘Was your father a big man?’ they asked. ‘Yes,’ I said: ‘My father was a very big man.’ David, hear us now: We, your family, salute you. We are celebrating your life - a life so well lived. We are so proud of all that you have been. And we love you so very, very much: now and forever. David, Dad: Hamba Kahle

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