Gradually all of my siblings got married, went to Uni, got flats etc, so by 1976 I was an only child myself. I hated the experience. My parents would dispatch me in the summer to my brother Frank or my Sister Catherine. They would look after me and keep me entertained. They had families, so there was someone to keep me amused. But most of the time, I was just on my own and did not really enjoy that period. In 1977, I discovered punk rock music, developed a group of teenage friends and all of a sudden, our house became a hive of activity. Whilst my brothers friends had been largely local lads from the Church, my lot looked like visitors from another planet. I will long remember my Dad returning from work and saying "I just saw a girl wearing a dustbin bag and a plug around her neck walking up the broadway". He thought this was hilarious. A minute later, there was a knock on the door. It was my friend Mandy. My Dad nearly fell off his chair. As ever my parents were full of hospitality and offered Mandy some dinner. She duly scoffed it down. Without being asked, she cleared the table and did all the washing up. She then proceeded to clean the whole kitchen. We went out later. The next day my Dad apologised for his comments about Mandy and announced that she was a lovely girl. He added that "if she got some decent clothes and learned how to do her make up she'd be really pretty". I explained that this was the trendy look. My sister chimed in saying that Dad should really mind his own business. Another thing that shocked him was when our singer, Pete was going through his skinhead phase. He had a new girlfriend, Deb who was also a skinhead. Pete turned up with Deb and my Dad, not expecting a girl with a crew cut, asked "Pete, do you and your mate want a cup of tea?". Pete was outraged "That's not my mate, this is Deb, she's my fiance". My Dad was stunned, but simply replied "Sorry Peter, does your fiance want a cup of tea?". He asked me later "Why would anyone want a crewcut. I had to have one when I joined the army, but I hated it".
Despite all of this, my folks loved having all of the waifs and strays we accumilated around the house. Unlike most of my friends, my parents took the time to get to know my friends, make them welcome and help them if they had problems. When I consider some of the things we got up to, in hindsight I am gobsmacked by their tolerance and generosity. My Dad was often intriguied by our shenanigans. One time, he caught Paul, my bands bassplayer, attempting to sabotage the van of another local band. When my Dad quizzed him, Paul explained that a member of the band had robbed his girlfriends sister of her holiday money. Dad was suitably outraged and assisted Paul in the act of sabotage, ensuring the van was completely knackered.
Years after, I was talking to my mum about the period. She said that she used to love my friends coming around. She said that once she'd got over how odd a few of them looked, she realised that they were a lovely bunch and would do anything for anyone. My parents realised that the world had changed and in the late 1970's the country held little prospects for my generation. Young people felt alienated and felt let down. They responded by helping me start the studio, which gave some sort of outlet for some of this energy.
As my own children reach the same stage, I have tried to be the same in my dealings. A couple of years ago, I wasn't getting on too well with my eldest daughter. Nothing serious, but she was going through an "It's not fair" stage. Recently when my son had a similar short period, my wife heard her saying "I used to feel like you do, but when you see how some other people's Dads act, you soon realise you are lucky". Like my parents, I don't want to live in my childrens pockets. I just want to be there when they need me and I want their friends to feel that they are welcome in the house. It's the only thing I can really do to repay my parents for the way they tolerated me and my friends.
When they go, I know I'll miss them!