Written by Sophie Scott


I lost my dad and found him in The Guardian

After Sophie Scott’s father died, she often found herself thinking she saw him. And then she actually did.

Sophie Scott and her dad

Sophie and her dad in 2006 and (below) in 1968.

My dear old dad died three years ago, after many years of ill health and a final devastating and painful journey. It’s an ordinary tragedy and no less terrible for being both predictable and a way of taking his pain away.

It’s also not unusual for the grief-stricken to see and hear their lost ones, so I haven’t been surprised to find myself ‘seeing’ him in different places and faces. These things happen – my brain misses seeing him and it probably always will. Time passes, and I have found ways of coping, as everyone does. However, one thing I was not expecting was to actually see him again, albeit in a piece of art.

“The more I looked, the more it seemed to have to be my dad – the mouth was right, as was the posture, the tinted glasses, the huge ears, the ridiculous hat.”

I was having a sneaky parental long bath on a Sunday morning last summer, a bath in which I anticipated getting to actually read something, so I took the recent Guardian magazine with me. I opened it at the Big Picture feature, in which a bit of text described the large photo in a double spread. It was of some men waiting in a queue. I was idly looking when I realised I saw something very familiar – someone very familiar – indeed.

The man sitting down reading a paper in the middle of the shot was my dad. I thought, well this can’t be my dad, as he’s dead. I checked the text, which said that the photo was of men waiting in line at Lords cricket ground, in 2009. He was alive in 2009, which made it feasible, but as he lived in France I still could not see how it could be him.

Sophie and her dad in 1968I showed the picture to my partner, who felt that the mouth was wrong. But the more I looked, the more it seemed to have to be my dad – the mouth was right, as was the posture, the tinted glasses, the huge ears, the ridiculous hat. His shoes. His ‘smart’ coat and shirt. His beautiful, aged hands.

I snapped the picture on my phone and sent it to my brother, who was pretty sure that, though Dad loved cricket, it wasn’t him. I put it on Facebook, saying look at this lookalike! My cousin commented that even when he zoomed in, he was fooled into thinking it was my dad.

Hours later, I got my mum on the phone and she agreed that she couldn’t see how it could be him; he hadn’t been to the cricket for years (meaning, since before I was born). I sent her the picture anyway – what an extraordinary lookalike!

She rang straight back. It was him: she recognised the men standing behind him. They’d come to the UK for my son’s birthday and his friends had taken him to Lords. As is clear from the photo, he hadn’t noticed the camera.

The picture is by David Levene, a Guardian photographer, and he had chosen it as his favourite from a selection of his pictures being exhibited last autumn at Foyles. How truly joyful to find a lovely candid shot of my dear old dad, out and about and doing something he loved, in this beautiful photograph. He was a sales rep for much of my childhood and always seemed to be away from home. Since he died, I’d had the weird feeling that he’s been away, travelling again. Finding him in David Levene’s picture feels oddly like he’s come back home.

See David Levene’s photograph featuring Sophie’s dad here.

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Written by Sophie Scott

I am a cognitive neuroscientist at UCL, and I study brains, voices, speaking and laughing. In my spare time I try to turn theory into practice with science based stand up comedy. @sophiescott