Sunday 16 June 2024

The Sunday Reflection #15 - Why I can't be doing with Fathers day

Good times - Sis Caro, Me, Dad
Of all the 'festivals' in the year, this is the one I like least. Don't get me wrong, no one is more in awe of their father than I am, or misses them more. For me though, the day to do it is my Dad's birthday, 1st April. A special day that I always miss him like hell on. I don't want to share my Dad's special day with the rest of the country. I have no idea when Fathers day first started in the UK, I don't recall celebrating it when my Dad was alive (He passed away in 1987). Since 1995, I've had children of my own. I've always tried to discourage them from celebrating it. I see no points lining the pockets of card companies or buying me stuff I don't really want. In truth the reason is I don't think I measure up to my Dad and I would never compare myself to him for this reason. 

There are many ways that I feel that my Dad was a man who was unique. He only had two years worth of formal education in the outback of Australia, yet he passed officer exams in the Royal Australian Air Force, flying bombers in World War II. He was shot down, taken POW, escaped, made it back to the UK. He started a very successful business, had six kids, all of whom are very smart (apart from me, I was always "The thick one", the one who didn't go to Uni or get any education after school). He was an excellent sportsman. A good cricketer and a handy boxer, winning tournaments in the RAF. He was also a bit of a hardnut. Legend has it ( and scalliwags in Burnt Oak who worked for him and knew him in his prime confirmed this) a local gangster came down to try and extort money from him. Dad picked him up and threw him in the incinerator where they burned waste. No more threats. He could mend anything. Fridges, ovens, cars, bikes. All I could do was bugger them up. He was funny and miscievious. At a charity banquet at the Town Hall, he was sat next to the Mayor. To my mothers horrors, he distracted the Mayor and nicked a sausage of his plate. As for lessons. He taught me a few. When I was a kid, I was scared by an episode of Dr Who and the monsters. He picked me up, told me that he was going to show me the scariest monster in the world. He told me to shut my eyes. He took me upstairs, then said "Do you want to see the monster now?". I said yes. He said "Open your eyes". I looked at myself in the mirror. He said  "The only thing you should be truly scared of is what you may do if you take the wrong path". He then told me about the German guards in the POW camp he was held in. He said that they were all good, decent men, but fighting an evil cause and most of them didn't even know. He said what the Nazi's did was a million times worse than any monster had perpetrated. 

When he died, I couldn't have been more shellshocked. It came completely out of the blue. He had an anuerisym and died suddenly. I simply couldn't believe it. I was 24 at the time. It had never occured to me that he was mortal. I had believed he'd always be there. About three months before he died, we went for a game of snooker, a curry and drunk a bottle of scotch. It was probably the only proper adult conversation we had. By this time, I had a decent job working for BT, as we built up the studio. He told me that he had to apologise to me. He said that he'd thought I was a complete let down to the family for a long time. He simply didn't understand my obsession with punk rock music. He'd thought that the band was trivial nonsense. He thought I was as thick as a plank and unemployable. He'd also thought I was rude and argumentative. He also thought I'd never get a girlfriend. 

He opened up and said he'd been wrong on all counts and he couldnt be prouder. He said that when he finally saw the band (in the summer of 1985 at The Grahame Park Festival), he was amazed how good we were. He was also amazed by the way I engaged with a bunch of scalliwag children who were set on causing trouble for the bands. A couple of other bands had their sets ruined. I offered them a pound for the one who did the best dance. They boogied through the set. My cousin, who was a missionary priest had come down with him. He said it was the most joyous thing he'd ever seen in England, commenting that he thought such fun only happened at African carnivals. He told me he was wrong to dismiss it. He was aolso proud of the work we were doing to build the studio which was starting to gain a good reputation. He was also proud that I'd got a job doing difficult technical things for a blue chip company and was earning good money. He said that he'd never seen it coming, but had realised that he'd realised that I was simply unmotivated at school etc. As to being rude and argumentative, he said he'd also realised that this was very much because I wouldn't take bullshit. Finally, he told me that he thought I had excellent taste in girls and that he'd been wrong to think no one would go near a slob like me. 

We laughed about all of this. He told me that his biggest regret was that this was probably the best chat he'd had with any of his children when they were adults. He told me that he found it incredibly difficult to treat us as peers. He said that he always found it hard to take what we had to say seriously. I asked him why. He said that with his daughters, he felt incredibly protective and wanted to make them happy. As for myself, Laurie and Frank, he found it difficult not to find fault in what we did. Even though my brothers were forty at the time, he couldn't stop himself finding fault and found it difficult to keep it to himself. I asked him what his biggest criticism was and he said "You know, the thing that really gets me about your brothers, is I really don't think they know how to enjoy themselves". I then asked about me. He replied "Oh, you like to enjoy yourself far too much but so long as you pay your way, I can't criticise that". He then said "You know, I've spent my life trying to get your mother to enjoy herself and she's spent her life trying to stop me spending all our money". We both laughed. 

Dad was going off to Florida shortly after this. We made a promise that we'd drag Frank and Laurie out and have a proper boys night out. Curry, beer, scotch and hangovers. It never happened. I never saw him again. 

God only knows what my kids will write about me in 37 years, if I dropped dead tomorrow. I hope the majority of their memories will be happy ones. For Birthdays, Xmas and any other celebration for my Dad, I'd always ask what he wanted. The answer was always the same "A big smile".

God Bless you Dad, wherever you are. I will remember you tonight, when the False Dots are playing at The Dublin Castle in Camden. If nothing else, you gave me the gifts of fun and love. 

1 comment:

Anonymous said...

Wonderful celebration of your Dad on Father’s Day even though you prefer to celebrate his life on his birthday. You have written such lovely heart felt love for your Dad which I have enjoyed reading very much. The best thing he did for me was to arrive at my house on my wedding day in his big white car and take me and my Father to the church. Thank you for sharing