The small, unassuming accountant quietly unlocked the front door of his semi-detached Wolverhampton home and went inside. It was about 6am, some time in the early 70s.
"Where on Earth have you been?" asked his wife.
In a fairly befuddled state, honesty seemed the best policy, so the accountant said: "I've been out drinking with Slade."
"What? All of them? Noddy Holder, Dave Hill, Jimmy Whatshisface and the other one?"
"Absolutely. I've got these albums they brought back from America. Look."
"OK then, what do you want for breakfast?"
I may have taken a liberty or two with the story (it could have been 5.30), but it makes me smile. The accountant was my father-in-law Ray who died in Kirkwall's Balfour Hospital last week at the age of 80, having taken his battle with Parkinson's Disease to extra time and penalties.
There was a wee bit of the devil in Ray. As recently as last month, he raised one last defiant fist against his failing health, ignored a Sally-imposed ban and went on a treacherous, cliff-top walk with his eldest son Stephen to view the puffins at Westray's Castle Burrian, grinning all over his face on his return.
I first met Ray properly one Boxing Day maybe ten years ago. As a family gathering wound to a close, Sally disappeared out of the room with the words "my dad doesn't really do small talk." Left alone, we eyed each other warily before I burbled something of little consequence. I was 38 years old and I'm not sure which of us felt more awkward.
What I didn't learn from Ray himself, I quickly learned from his family. He was man of rock-solid principle and political passion, a lifelong standard bearer of the communist cause, campaigning against injustice and inequality in his own quiet way all his life. He was devoted to his wife Marion and, in hindsight, he never got over her death from Alzheimer's disease three years ago.
Partial to a pint and a glass of malt, he was keen on his music with a taste that ran from Tom Paxton to The Dubliners, Bessie Smith to Cabaret and then, more alarmingly, Dr Hook (he is the only person I've had to ask to 'turn that bloody noise down'). A big believer in audience participation, Ray wouldn't exactly sing along, but he certainly liked a good growl in time to the music.
Ray didn't believe in any kind of existence after death, but he and Marion live on through his children Stephen, Martin, Alan and Sally and an ever-growing family of some of the best people I've met.
I'm glad Ray decided to make our move to Orkney his last adventure, even if there was rather more 'last' than 'adventure', and glad that we got beyond the 'awkward' stage and got to know each other. I'll miss him. Cheerio matey.