Thursday, June 18, 2009

If you have to blame someone, blame him

For anyone that has ever met me, spoken to me, twittered with me, innocently flirted with me, been at the sharp end of my increasingly caustic tongue, watched in bemusement as I walked down the street with bare feet, or been totally confused by my eclectic taste in music, this blog is for you. Not strictly true, as I am writing it for my Dad, it being Fathers Day and all, but you get my drift.

You see, it's my Dad's fault I am what I am. He is the man that made me, shaped me, taught me wrong from right (and how to bend that definition), gave me my values, but let me pick which ones to ignore. I realise you are going to need some proof, so join me as we trawl through the memory banks for tales bookmarked Dad aka Rocky aka Roadrunner (both work nicknames?????)

He has always been a bit of a smoothie, which meant something completely different back in his day, I do not have a delicious mixture of blended fruit for a father. He met my Mum in a Dance Hall when he was out with his mates one night, and according to him, she was wearing a mini-skirt so short my brain won't even let me imagine it. He was fairly sure she was out of his league, but gave it a try anyway (tried to blag it were his exact words I think). After a while he came back to his mates triumphantly, as Mum had agreed to go to the Casino with him afterwards. There was only one snag, Dad was skint, and so he had to borrow some money off his mates, otherwise he would have looked like a proper mug.

My Dad was a printer by trade, which meant that we were never short of paper and pads in our house. You can't explain to kids how much of a luxury paper was in those days, but we had a house full of paper in every shape size and colour. He was also a part time Assistant Manager in a pub up until I was about five. I have vague memories of sitting in the pub and being spoilt by the punters, but Mum reckons most of the things I remember aren't quite true (like being in the pub when Mum went into labour with my sister), so I will just skip over those bits.

Life wasn't always plain sailing for us as a family though. When I was about nine, the way printing was done started to change, and Dad got laid off. I remember sitting at the top of the stairs listening to him tell Mum, it must have been such a hard conversation to have, especially with three kids supposedly asleep upstairs. He always made sure we did not go without too much though, we still got our chocolate flake every Friday evening, and as for ice cream, well as far as I was concerned Dad had the best, best mate ever.

He shall remain nameless for legal reasons, but he was a Security Guard for Wall's, the biggest ice cream maker in the Country. Every third Friday he would turn up with a huge brown sack, full to the brim with tubs of ice cream and boxes of ice lollies. If Wall's made it, you can be sure it would be in the sack. Also in the sack would be a huge lump of ice that, or so we were told, would burn our fingers if we touched it. Sometimes that lump of ice would impress me more than the ice cream. It actually took three days to melt once it had been dumped in the garden. I did wonder if leaving it in a place where tiny inquisitive hands could grab it, was a better option than running it under a hot tap. Nevertheless, I could quite often be found sitting on the back step sucking on an ice lolly, watching the younger sibling of the iceberg that sank the Titanic, and waiting for it to melt.

He soon got a job working for Fords as a Docker (or Stevedore as he likes to be referred to when travelling in posher circles), but as that involved driving all the brand new cars off the ships, it meant he had to learn to drive. He had always travelled around on a pushbike until then. Well, as a young man he used to have a scooter, but I think he packed that in not long after a drunk walked in front of him and Dad knocked him down. The drunk got up, dusted the dirt of his butt, and continued to wobble off down the street.

He used to pick me up from school sometimes, and I got to sit on the crossbar all the way home, far more exciting than any car ride as far as I was concerned. Our first car was an old bright yellow Ford Cortina, and my love affair with driving started about then. I would always sit in the middle of the back seats, so far forward Dad would have to move me just to change into 4th gear. I just wanted the best view of how everything worked, and all our ever changing surroundings.

His love of a good drink is fairly legendary, and he was always a funny drunk, rather than an angry one, although Mum bans him from Gin nowadays in case he gets a bit melancholy. When I was about 15, Mum and I had to drive him to a Christmas works party, he couldn't make his own way there because he had had a cartilage operation on his knee the day before. We helped him out of the car, gave him his crutches, and watched him hobble his way down the jetty towards the party, too proud to accept any help in front of his pals. It took him 10 minutes just to walk the last 100 yards. Mum looked a bit worried, but I was fairly sure his mates would look after him. I waited up with Mum in case she needed a hand getting him up the stairs when he got back.

At around midnight we heard a cab pull up, a car door open and close, and then a load of loud singing. We rushed to the door to quieten him down before the neighbours started to complain, although for my part I was more worried about my ears starting to bleed, he may be many things, but a good singer he ain't. We opened the door to be faced with Dad dancing full gusto, up and down the path, no trace of any pain. He grabbed Mum and tried to twirl her around, but Mum was having none of it. We eventually got him in and upstairs, with him constantly repeating the mantra "Do you know how much I love you son?" The way to correctly answer this is to hold your thumb and forefinger about an inch apart, and reply "this much". I think it is his version of infinity, although it did not matter how far apart the gap was, he always insisted you had it wrong. I would like to be able to tell you that he could still walk the next day, and that a whole bottle of Capt Morgan's Rum is indeed a miracle cure for all that ails you, but alas, I can't. I think it was about a week before he could walk again, although it only took until lunchtime for the first beer to be poured. Dad is a true believer in 'The hair of the dog' as a hangover cure, and to be fair it is the only thing that has ever worked for me.

Dad also gave me my love of Jazz, probably because it was the only music he did not try to ram down my throat. The Police, Frank Sinatra, Mike Oldfield, all people I refused to listen to as a kid, purely because Dad would try to make me listen to them. Don't get me wrong, I love all these acts now, but there was no way I was going to admit that my old man might know what he was talking about, especially as a mal-adjusted 14 year old. I used to hate it, if he actually liked the same artist as me. It is to his eternal credit that he never told me of his love of Madness, lest I stop listening to them, and deprive myself of some of the most fun concerts I have ever been to.

I have so many stories about my Dad, some funny, some sad, mostly funny, and always remembered with awe. Just the ones that moulded me into the Father I am now could fill an entire book, and maybe once I have a grip on the Wordsmith's talent I will write that book, but until then this will have to do.

Happy Father's Day Pops. Love you, hope I didn't make too many mistakes.



Nene said...

What an absolutely stunning post! Brought tears to my eyes, but in a good way. Your dad and mine don't have a lot in common, but my dad also used to work for Wall's (or the subsidiary in Denmark) and bring home loads and loads of ice cream and also the blocks of ice "that could burn you". My mum always stuck them in the tub...
Your writing is superb. Hope you'll write some books soon.

GuestBlog Me said...

As ever Jamie, absolutely brilliant, heartfelt stuff - the perfect amount of sentimentality.

The title is a kicker for me - I've always lived in the shadow of the parent's curse ("when you have kids, I hope they turn out just like you") but now I can reflect it back on the old man. It's definitely their "fault" we came out like we did. Smashing.

SereneBabe said...

Awwwwwwwwww! This is a favorite. Well done!

Debra Snider said...

Delightful post! It's touching without being sappy, funny ("a mini-skirt so short my brain won't even let me imagine it" - ha!), and full of slang I found entirely charming. Happy Father's Day to you, too!

Angpang said...

I think successfull marriages are based on bloke thinking girl is out of his league!

My mum and dad met either side of a shop window, she was the well-spoken girl doing the window dressing, he a common window cleaner. And she hated him because he teased her so much - even used to hide if she saw him in the distance.

Anyway, enjoyed this a lot, it really bombs along. Let us know what your dad made of it, and any chance of some photos of ma and pa in their youth?

Jillian said...

I too love margarita's only my story of having too many of them in Mexico resulted in my third boy who was conceived on the bathroom floor of our palapas while the other two boys slept in the main room.

BTW, now I know your secret and I, one of those traveling Americans, will be sure to reserve my chair around the pool by passing out in it the night before.

Why do traveling Americans always give us a bad name?

**ps- I love eminem but I hate pools.