Thursday, 27 October 2016

Things My Father Told Me

My Dad was born in Blackpool in 1914, the son of a small eccentric mother and a talented musician father.  He lived to be 83 and had a tale to tell about almost everything.  He was a story book with a long lifetime of experiences that he loved to share.  When I think about his tales, it reminds me of the television series 'Friends'.  I could tell you 'The one about Palm Toddy'; 'The one with the flying ants'; 'The one about beautiful Anglo-Indian women'; 'The one where he met and proposed to Dorothy Lamour'; 'The one where he sold a seagull to a holidaymaker on the promenade'; 'The one with the séance.'  There are so many stories and so little time.  I have recounted some of the best moments from my childhood in a series of short stories and hope to interest a publisher one day soon ...

My father was gregarious, good with his hands until late on in life when arthritis made dexterity difficult. He was a fixer: A fixer of things and people. Dad loved life and he wanted everyone to be happy. On Christmas day in 1973, the bar was open until 2pm and Mum was busy preparing lunch for our blossoming family, four of us, her and Dad, our new Sister in Law, my brother's girlfriend. As usual, she had cooked a very large bird. The table was set in the dining room of the 16th century pub, the tree was beautiful and the family were assembling for pre-dinner drinks.

Dad handed me a brown pay-packet and said, "I owe old Bert some money and I want you to take it round to his house before lunch." I ran round as fast I could. The man who I immediately recognised as 'old Bert' was not seasonally dressed when he opened the door. He was wearing his usual old, grey, long coat and dirty, old trousers. He left me standing at the open door and went inside, sat down at his table and drank soup from a bowl.  He was alone, there was no fire in the grate and no Christmas in the cold, damp house. I asked him where his wife Winnie was and he responded, "Back in Wesham." Wesham was the nearest psychiatric hospital.  I gave him the wage packet and went home. I cried all the way.

When I got back, Dad was still just seeing the last customers out before lunch. He asked me what was wrong and I blurted out what I had seen. Then he went into the kitchen and did something extraordinary.  He asked Mum not to serve lunch for half an hour, poured everyone a glass of wine and left. When he came back old Bert was with him, still in his dirty old clothes. He set a table for him and gave him a pint of beer.  That Christmas 'old Bert' shared our family meal and my father's love for me. 

My father told me many things but the most important things he taught me didn't need words.

You told me ...

You told me that leaves show their backs
when it is going to rain,
You told me that the Mackerel sky
brings high winds from the sea,
You told me in Australia,
water goes anti-clockwise down the drain,
You told me tales of India,
of maharajahs, Sikhs and Ghandi,
but you showed me everything I need to know.

You told me about Blackpool
and the value of fresh air,
You told me I should wash my feet
as often as my hands and face,
You told me there were times
when life would seem unfair,
You said some folk won't like me -
that's just the human race
but you showed me how to shrug it off and smile.

You told me that you loved my mother
from the moment that you met,
You told me that you loved her
until the day you died,
You told me that I must not live
a life filled with regret,
I loved that when you listened
to Debussy, that you cried,
I know that there were things you couldn't tell.

And I loved you for the things you didn't say as well.

Thanks for reading. Keep smiling. Adele


Steve Rowland said...

A lovely tribute - wish I'd met your Dad.