Since our father’s death, it has been comforting to read the many letters of condolence our mother has received and the obituaries written about him. It was clear he was a popular man and one whom everyone saw in the same way: a gentleman; generous and gregarious; immaculately dressed and possessing a mischievous sense of humour.
As we are sure readers of his regular articles in this magazine and in the Gibraltar Chronicle will attest, he was also someone who was dedicated to Gibraltar and promoting its best interests. But most of all, people have commented on how important his family was to him and as such, we’re grateful to be given this opportunity to say what our father meant to us.
We think back to Gibraltar and the holidays we had in what he always called “the tourist paradise of the Western Mediterranean”, sometimes kissing the runway on arrival! Happy days spent playing on the beach at Catalan Bay following scary drives in our grandfather’s dilapidated Hillman Imp; drinking Fanta out of brown bottles at the Yacht Club; eating churros (which we were told you could only eat on a Sunday) and seeing who could be the bravest when having our photo taken with the apes or being buried in sand.
One of Tabitha’s strongest memories is Dad’s passion for Gibraltar, which he could discuss and write about endlessly. Having had a healthy disregard for the ‘Gibraltar problem’ as a teenager, it’s been interesting to read his interviews (on the rockjottings website) with many prominent UK politicians. As a civil servant, she can see what a dedicated and successful lobbyist he was. He also relished Gibraltarians’ successes, avidly following Albert Hammond, John Galliano and Christian Hook.
Dad also developed eccentric collections, resulting in an extensive assortment of apes in our downstairs cloakroom, wind-up nuns and monks on bookshelves, and every wall covered in Gibraltar prints. Embracing the eccentricity could be a challenge as a young teenager, but Dad’s enthusiasm for life and ability not to take things or himself too seriously marked him out, including stimulating a round of ‘no-hands puddings’ at Tabitha’s graduation dinner or when I had started work in the City commencing a trip to the Varsity match with a bottle of red wine for breakfast!
Some of my happiest memories are of winter Saturdays spent driving to and from school rugby matches where he would come and support me home and away irrespective of the weather. I can see him now sat on his shooting stick, in his sheep skin coat encouraging me and passing on his experience from having been having been a very talented rugby player in his youth.
We’d spend the car journeys talking about politics and his experiences at work spent travelling to the Middle East and other exotic places; something that has heavily influenced me in my personal and professional life as a lawyer. But most of all I remember singing along to the Monty Python music when Sports Report came on the radio and never quite understanding why he supported Wolves when the classified results were read out.
In later years, our father’s grandchildren gave him great pleasure. Whether it was deciding to spend his 70th birthday at Euro Disney, so that he could delight in their excitement at dressing up and visiting the Magic Kingdom, or hosting meetings of his curry club (Raj’s curry house being the favourite venue) and awarding certificates as each new level of heat was completed, he’d always make sure that they were entertained and felt loved. Grandchildren also provided a fantastic outlet for his sense of fun. He was an amazingly inventive developer of rules and rituals: marching the grandchildren down Main Street at light infantry pace; waking them up at 6am to watch BBC breakfast news; rigorous times tables training; being doused in aftershave after a shower; and eating ‘tucker’, bowls of nuts and pickles as a morning snack.
Little did the grandchildren know that it was he who told our mother to give them the pocket money they always got when they visited, and they will also miss his regular emails sending press cuttings about their schools or other things he read in his work that reminded him of them.
Finally, Dad has been a fantastic husband to our mother, Brenda, showing both of us the importance of a strong marriage. One thing we’ve never understood is their devotion to medical dramas like Casualty – but this seemed to help dad deal with his own illness with great humour. And it is this latter quality which made him great to visit and spend time with, right up till his last couple of days. He really enjoyed spending his last month in Gibraltar, seeing his friends and being in the place that he loved the most.
Michael Brufal – father, husband, friend – we salute you!
Tabitha and Jonathan Brufal