Play-mate, teacher, mentor, confidante and advisor, are just a few of the things my father was to me. I was ‘daddy’s girl’ and followed him everywhere. He was never cross or too busy. He was a pub manager and we lived on the premises so he was always around, somewhere between our living quarters and the cellar.
Pub cellars were fascinating places. White-washed caves smelling strongly of beer and rows of wooden barrels cradled on racks to stop them rolling. The stone-flagged floors usually had coils of rubber piping connecting the barrels to the pumps in the bars. They must have travelled upstairs somewhere, of course, but at this time in my childhood I was more concerned about keeping my balance on the edge of the racks, stepping between the pipes without standing on them and not getting sprayed with froth when I was watching Dad tap wooden pegs into the top of the barrels. There were puddles of beer to avoid as well and I always managed to get splashes on my socks. I would keep him company and look after the chalk he used to write on barrels until he said it was time for me to go and see what Mum was doing. During those early years of my childhood, he made cots for my dolls, took me to the park most days after school and told me made-up bedtime stories about a rabbit called Loppy Lugs. Sometimes he would let me have blackcurrant and lemonade with a cherry, in a champagne glass.
As I grew up, my father taught me many practical skills from looking after my decent fountain pen to changing a plug and basic car maintenance. He steered me away from the lads in the vaults.
“You don’t want a boyfriend from this lot. They spend too much time in here drinking and playing snooker…”
Life was far from perfect. Looking back, I was a handful of a teenager after my mother died and I’ll always regret the times I let my dad down. None of it was intentional and probably not that bad by today’s standards but it’s enough to make me shudder with embarrassment and sadness. I won’t share the details.
“Life is what you make it.” This was the philosophy my dad lived by. He said it a lot and I heard someone on television say it recently. It sent me right back to a crisis of confidence I was having in my mid-twenties. Dad was there to listen and help me through it. Everything turned out fine and yes, life is what you make it. He told me not to let things get to me, tomorrow is another day and it won’t be as bad in the morning. I’m still learning.
He encouraged me to write. He enjoyed reading my poetry and stories. I like to think he would have been pleased with my achievements, especially having a poem and short story included in an Illuminations feature a couple of years ago. He was proud of his Manchester roots and who he had become. He loved Blackpool promenade and was at his happiest running the pubs he had there, particularly during ‘The Lights’ and missed it a great deal when he had to give it up.
Dad died when I was thirty. I’ve lived another thirty-plus years without him and I still feel his warmth, kindness and gentle influence that was the strength of our bond. I will always miss my father, my friend. He would have got on very well with my husband. Ironically, we met when he was playing snooker in the vault of what is now our local.
Father and daughterGiggles and laughter
Playing in the park
After tea ‘til dark
Catch me, Daddy!
Watch me, Daddy!
Push my swing high
Up to the sky
Squeals on the slide
Then run to hide
Behind the tree
Daddy, find me!
Giggles and laughter
For ever after
Pamela Winning, 2014
Thanks for reading, Pam xx