On me dad
28th September 2008
Hello, I’ve just entered the 21st century. The other week, after watching a documentary called 9/11 Hotel on video (yes, video), my old-fashioned cathode ray TV went **POP** and filled the room with fragrance de burning plastic. It was ten years old and was bought for me by my kindly grandmother (thanks gran) when I moved out of her flat and moved in with my mate Naughty Nick.
Yesterday my new, exciting Sony LCD arrived. And guess what? I promptly put my back out trying to lift it onto its pedestal. Unable to move I lay curled up on the floor for what seemed like fifteen minutes (though it was probably closer to fourteen) before, fumbling with one hand I was able to pull a pad of paper off the desk above me, my mobile phone tumbling down with it. I whimpered briefly down the line to a loved one before, realising I didn’t want my front door bashed in, finally hauled myself into a chair. This has happened to me once before and after a quick session with my osteopath I’m already on the mend (she sorted my back, too – boom-tish).
This is, of course, of no great interest to you, dear reader. But what is does do is provide me with the opportunity to tell you a story about my late father (who was, ironically, always on time – I hope that doesn’t seem in bad taste. If it does, I guess that’s my prerogative. Anyway it’s true. He was neurotic about timekeeping – though he was not, in fact, neurotic). I seem to herald from a family of show-offs and circus strong men, though I myself am more the former. My half brother, David Wordsworth, is the same. David, nearly twice my age, is also the spit of our dad, albeit six inches taller.
The other day we were having dinner when he told me a very funny tale about our father that in a small way connects to my tale of biting off more than I could chew vis-a-vis the telly. Afterwards it made me realise that some of us, when summoned up in conversation, are fondly – and best – recalled through a series of anecdotes. This I believe to be true – but there is more: some people, my father being one, put the art into their lives – think of Oscar Wilde, for example, who is invariably explained through apt-quotation and timely one-liner – even on his death bed (“It’s me or the wallpaper – one of us has to go”) – perhaps half-knowing such stories would live on. It is a knack for self mythologising and there is, I believe, at the very least a semi-conscious quality to it. My father, dare I say something of a Fleet Street legend in his time, was known for his cute quip. It was he who coined the phrase, ‘a legend in his own lunchtime’. You could fill a book with similar and they’d all be gems. Anyway after pontificating for so long about the nature of man-as-anecdote, I have decided to tell you an additional story to the one I was already going to impart. What a lucky bunch you are. Oh frabjous day! Calloo! Callay!
Tell us one then
The story my brother recounted went like this: in 1985 he and our then-70 year old father strolled together into a pub in the Welsh border town of Oswestry. The moment they entered the establishment the landlord looked up, screamed, “YOU’RE BARRED!!!” and my father fled, followed by my somewhat confused brother. It transpired that twenty five years previously, when my father was living in the area, he had attempted to lift a glass table with his teeth, only for it slip from his tobacco-stained tooths and smash on the floor in front of him. The landlord at the time barred my father for his costly behaviour. Twenty five years later the landlord had clearly neither changed jobs nor forgiven my dad who, with his devilish beard, distinctive gait and quite possibly fishing waders, would have been easily recogniseable despite the ensuing years. Without wishing to fill in the gaps for you, the notion of a 70+ year old man remaining barred twenty five years after the event and being informed of this the very instant he enters the pub is an amusing one, to me at least.
(please forgive the insertion of this picture. It is my father and me c.1980. I’ve used it before – I think twice – on my website but I love it so much I can’t resist. I may yet use it again before this blog is done)
Prepare yourselves, this one is distinctly embarassing
When I was about fourteen I was sitting at the dinner table with my parents and, so I was reminded recently, my schoolfriend friend Tm (clearly I’d erased his presence from the occasion). It would have been perhaps 1987 and for those of you who lived in England at the time and were sentient, you may recall that squirty cream was all the rage. We’d already polished off the main coursewhen mum brought in the pudding. It was, let us say, fruit and merengue. Tim would have used the cream first, followed by my mother. It then came to me who, getting my aim slightly awry, proceeded to shoot the squirty cream across the table in an unmistakeably orgasmic fashion. It was at this point that my seventy two year old father, in a plaintive voice, said, “I wish I could do that.” I have never laughed so much in my life whilst simultaneously feeling ashamed and wanting to spit or be sick and wishing that my friend from school hadn’t been there. I seem to recall my mum laughing uproariously too. Dad would often make remarks about his, ahem, increasing inability to be, ahem, unable. Still, twas most funny.
(a further pic of my pop – unrelated to the story above – fishing in 1981 in Llanrhaeadr-ym-Mochnant. That’s right, the Llanrhaeadr-ym-Mochnant)
Why go on? Why indeed. I think I’ll leave it there. Oh, if you wish to read an essay I’ve written about my dad click here.
Thanks and much love