I feel very fortunate to have you as my Dad. In the words of Frenchie from Grease, my go-to film for advice as a teenager, she said to Sandy: “The only guy a girl can rely on life is her Daddy”. Many friends of mine have had strained, often absent, relationships with their Fathers and I have always felt fortunate that not only have we always had a solid family unit, but that you have always been a key part in mine and my big bro’s life.
You are the backbone of our family unit, you grew up as the only male amongst your three sisters which provided you with the ability to be a modern man, despite growing up in the 50s. With close relationships with my Aunts you have always treated women as equals and never displayed one iota of male chauvinism. You grew up in a post war Britain with a doting Mum and a tough Scottish Dad, who must have been an incredible role model. I remember Grandad as a big burly (to his grandchildren – soppy) Scotsman, who told us how he was in Berlin at the end of the war with the Scottish Fusiliers and brought home a Nazi flag from a German HQ to present to Nan as a trophy, only for her to swiftly throw it in the fire in disgust! You told us, that as a child, how Grandad walked home from work one night and took a short cut across some train tracks only to be knocked into a neighbouring field by a train, but still managed to walk home explaining to Nan when she enquired about his bruises the next day, ‘that it was just a wee knock’. How do you live up to a man like that? But you know what, in my eyes you do and more.
I have always envied how your 20s were spent in the ‘swinging 60s’ and as a promoter of bands you were at the forefront of rock n roll music, and you remember what you did as well! You managed to wangle concert tickets for The Beatles during their heyday only to pass them to my Aunt’s as you didn’t want to sit through 2 hours of fans screaming! I love the story of how you met Mum, which could easily be transferred into a film script. How you saw her arrive at a house party you were at with friends and found that the understairs cupboard of the house had been converted into a shelter during the Blitz with a seat and a light. You then engineered ‘a game’ for one of your mates to persuade Mum to meet you in there and when she did she was quick to make her excuses to get out, only for you to pursue her over a series of dates instead.
You and Mum have always had a rock solid relationship, providing me with a foundation to want the same for myself. It is often said that your choice of boyfriends can often mirror a man similar to your Father, well it was hard to find a man to match up to be honest. I know you were less than pleased in a couple of my ex’s, but never intimidated them or tried to sway my decision, but maybe just hinted how I could probably do better. They often told me that ‘I don’t think your Dad likes me’ so I think you conveyed your feelings subtly to them. I can’t imagine how hard it must be to see your little girl become a woman and bring home boys and it wasn’t until I met my hubby that I saw you actually relax around one of my boyfriends. Although, the circumstances were not ideal as I had asked hubby in our early weeks of dating to collect me from my wisdom teeth removal operation. What I/and he didn’t bargain for was the amount of anaesthetic I would be given and the lack of stitches they would give me, resulting in him collecting me from the recovery room to find an extra from The Thriller video dribbling blood and making a Zombie like moaning noise. And this is how he meet the parents, holding a blood soaked towel to my face as I stumbled into my house!
You worked long hours when we were kids to provide us with the charmed life that we had. I don’t recall you as an absent father during my childhood, even though Mum was a stay-at-home Mum whilst you would work 12 hour shifts as a Supervisor in a paint factory to make ends meet. I think it didn’t feel like you were absent because when you were not working, even though you were shattered, you would be our play mate devoting your last stores of energy to me and big bro. As we grew older and Mum worked part-time, you were ‘in charge’ of dinner preparations where me and big bro would mouth ‘corn beef hash for dinner then?’ as Mum headed out the door. But we loved our corn beef hash smothered in HP sauce, washed down with a glass of milk and followed with a KitKat.
You have always had a silly sense of humour to make us belly laugh as kids, from doing the ‘turkey trot’ dance to encourage our dog to go mental, to your legendary Max Wall impressions just to make us giggle. You are one of the most intelligent and knowledgable people I know and you and big bro have a Stephen Fry type ability to retain information and converse in a humorous and intellectual way. I can remember how excited I was to get my job at The Daily Telegraph as it has always been my mission to make you proud of me. I desperately hoped that you would regard me as able to talk about current affairs and would often have a read of the broadsheets on my way home, to ensure I was able to impress you with my take on the Middle East crisis.
You have always a knack for psychiatry, a profession I think you would have flourished in. With my sometimes short temper and a knack for feeling very paranoid and easily hurt in situations, as a teenager and even today ,you are the only one who can instantly diffuse my mood and make me see a situation from an objective point of view. You have always been able to give sage advice in a calm manner and provide a shoulder to cry on for many.
As a Day Centre Officer for a bulk of your career, you transformed the lives of many adults with learning difficulties, treating them as ‘normal’ and guiding them through essential skills without patronising them. When you created a gardening group of autistic adults to landscape gardens in the local community, you brought your willing troupe of gardeners to my house. They would hang on your every word as you patiently demonstrated how to create flowerbeds and educate on weeding. And when they didn’t achieve what you wanted you didn’t lecture but just allowed them to find their own way.
I love that you are now retired and I am seeing more of you and watching your relationship with the grandchildren evolve. Your grandkids look up to you the way I used to with Grandad, they all beg to spend one-on-one time with you and I love that. It is easy for a Mum and daughter to become firm friends, as I have with Mum, as we share so many similar emotions and hormones! However, it is often tricky to mirror that closeness with a Father as there is often a need to impress. I look forward to our relationship evolving, I will still strive to make you proud of me even though I know you are, still seek your advice on a regular basis and still try to keep up with you and big bro on your post Newsnight debates. I love you Dad.