If I remember correctly there was an Action Man figure in my Dad’s study, sat on a shelf, wearing nothing but his plastic underwear and one commando boot. If you pulled the string on the Action Man’s back he would give commands like: “Prepare to repel invaders!” or “I’m going in!”
I’m not sure how the guy with the sparkling eyes arrived in the study but he’s been defending those shelves for a long time. What a hero! And and Action Man is pretty cool too.
For Father’s Day I was going to send my Dad a funny card in the post, something about my Dad being the best one in the whole wide world, or maybe a funny joke about farts to amuse and entice a chuckle. That didn’t really feel like enough somehow, a bit lame or lacking in depth. Instead I’ve decided to rattle off a bunch of memories I keep fresh and untarnished in my special memory vault. If you’ve read or seen Stephen King’s Dreamcatcher, you’ll know what I mean.
Before we get started, meet my Dad, he’s the happy chap on the right, next to my sister.
The Cushion Pusher.
When I was in primary school my Dad had a CB radio in his study (we’ll get to the study later) where I would listen to a range of crazy and amazing characters chattering away. For those of you who have grown up with the internet, MSN, Facebook chat etc, think of a CB radio as the equivalent of an online chat room but using that old fashioned thing called “a voice” instead of a screen and keyboard.
We were members of a CB enthusiasts club and everyone had a nickname or “handle” to identify themselves. I was into LEGO at the time so my name was LEGO Lad, my sister was aptly named Dancing Queen as she was one helluva good dancer! I can’t quite remember what my Mom’s handle was, something Greek I think. Anyway, my Dad’s was the best name! My sister and I came up with Cushion Pusher!
It’s often difficult to separate what actually happened from how you remember things, so I’m pretty sure it was us who found the name. It was based on the fact that when he took a nap on the sofa there was always a cushion under his head being pushed around, over the arm or onto the floor. The CB radio days were good times. The club would get together for Fox Hunts, one person would drive off and give clues to their surroundings and the others would try to track them down.
Years later in my flat a friend of mine happened to mention he was a CB fan and it brought back happy memories. I got myself set up with a new handle, Kermit, and spent many fun evenings chatting to people over the air waves. In recent times things like online chat rooms don’t quite feel the same, sure there are laughs to be had but it’s detached without that voice coming through the speaker. So, I have my Dad to thank for that box of good memories!
The Trendy Dad.
When I started middle school my sister and I helped my Dad throw off his brown wardrobe and adopt a more up to date, trendy look. I’m sure he had a pair of leather mandles in his room and a creamy brown crocheted cardigan thingy with hippy written all over it. Out with the dull and in with the freshness, Nike trainers, Levi’s jeans, Lacoste jumpers….he looked sooo much better after the transformation!
Back in the day where mobile phones were futuristic and the internet was called ARPANET (Advanced Research Projects Agency Network) we spent a lot of time “outside” with our friends. What a crazy concept! We would bike over to each others houses, bike around the village, play football, build dens, go scrumping, get into mischief and actually get to know our friends’ parents.
It’s natural to compare and I found a striking difference between my Dad and the lifeless husks that occupied a chair in front of the TV at my friends houses. My Dad was (and still is) a very clever chap, with a quick wit, a very funny sense of humour and smiling eyes. He took an interest. When he listened you knew he was taking it all in, not half listening, half watching the TV.
Imagine having a bright, enthusiastic chat with your Dad then getting on your bike to go play at a friend’s house only to find a grey, lifeless man slumped in front of the TV, weary and bedraggled. Most of my friends had Dad’s that seemed to have forgotten about that thing called life. It was as if the world moved around them and they just sat in 1971, unable or unwilling to move with the times or accept the times were moving at all!
Not my Dad! He kept pace with the ever changing world, embraced life and when he sat down to watch TV it wasn’t because he couldn’t think of anything else to do, but because he chose to watch it. At school my Dad was the coolest Dad, and my friend’s knew that!
So at a time in my life where image was important, I thank my Dad for not being dull and grey but full of life, not just so I could be proud my Dad wasn’t stuck in the past but because it made him happy.
The Safety Dad.
During my early childhood my Dad was a tool maker, a very good toolmaker. When he was made redundant he trained in electronics and became an alarm engineer. I’m simplifying here to condense many years of hard work. When you’re young it’s not easy to understand what adults do with their time, or fully appreciate where the food on the table comes from. That’s not a bad thing exactly because kids don’t have that life experience to grasp that kind of thing.
My Dad worked long hours as an alarm engineer. Many times my sister and I would get up for school and tip toe around so we didn’t wake him as he had been out all night fixing people’s alarms after they had been burgled. He worked very hard to make sure we had a good home, and I now realise how being a single parent must have been very tough indeed. I remember one time where my Dad had to go out to repair an alarm in a neighbourhood renowned for violence, a scary place to go in the day let alone in the middle of the night.
I know he was worried because in our living room he practised slipping a crowbar up his sleeve so it could easily be whipped out in case something bad happened. That was worrying. I didn’t sleep much that night, wondering if he was okay, if anyone had given him hassle enough to use the crowbar. Violence doesn’t solve anything but sometimes defence is the only option.
I learned a lot about safety and burglar alarms from my Dad, so I thank him for arming me with that knowledge.
I’m doing a poo!
Oh the stories my Dad used to tell us about his adventures, some we would ask him to tell us over and over! One such story still makes me smile. The details are a big hazy but I still remember the gist of it. My Dad was installing an alarm, crawling through the loft space, dirty, hot, bits of cable and tool everywhere, you get the idea.
I don’t recall where the toilet was, in the loft maybe (I don’t know why I keep thinking about this loft) or just a regular toilet. Anyway my Dad was doing his work when he happens across a kid sat on a toilet, I like to imagine the kid swinging its legs and enjoying the moment, and my Dad looks at the kid and the kid looks right back. It’s a strange situation. The kid then says to my Dad: “I’m doing a poo!”
That story always cracked us up! I thank my Dad for his humour and wit.
Passion for writing.
My one true passion is writing, ever since an early age I was writing. I remember sitting in a tent in my Grandparents back garden, little notebook in hand, making up my own alphabet. I don’t remember what my Dad’s comments where but it was very positive. I remember reading incredibly dull books at school, thin things with pointless characters and grey story lines. Meh. My friend’s struggled to read to the end of chapter 2 by next lesson, but I would whizz through the story in one evening and then get down to some serious reading.
I’d grab a book from the shelves in my Dad’s study and read late in to the night. I never understood why my friend’s didn’t read, some were even proud of the fact that they had never read a book that hadn’t been given by the teacher. They watched TV instead, just like their own Dad’s!
When I was in high school I wrote a book on my Dad’s Apricot computer. It was called WISH. I was heavily into fantasy stuff at the time, Lord of the Rings and Terry Brooks were my thing. If I could read my book now it would likely appear amateurish but hey, everyone has to start learning their craft somewhere, right? I remember my Dad teaching me about the desktop, and what the icons did, how windows worked. Each night he let me sit and write a little more. I never sent it off anywhere or asked anyone to read it, for me the writing was the enjoyment, creating my own world filled with characters I had imagined.
My Dad was always reading something. He wrote a lot too. When I was older he gave me some of his short stories to read. It was fascinating to read a story that was every bit as absorbing as something out of a book shop. He has an excellent eye for detail and characters. His own passion for reading and writing inspired me to use my imagination more than any other influence. I just wish he could take time to enjoy writing again, he seems to spend way too much time fiddling and cursing his PC’s and working than on something I know he loves.
So I thank my Dad for showing me his passion for writing.
The Writers Circle.
In my late teens my Dad and I joined a local writers circle. It was a strange mixture of people, from the nervous and quietly spoken to the larger than life overly confident know-it-alls. Everyone had their own ideas of what constituted a good story. One guy felt it necessary to add the word nipple into everything he wrote and an elderly chap wrote in a very old fashioned and incredibly dull manner.
There was a very outspoken art teacher who, whilst reading out her latest uninteresting piece about her childhood, would do the most annoying gesture – every so often she would glance up over her pages at those sat around the table, but she didn’t focus on anything thing or anyone! It was so annoying to watch, like she had a nervous tic! There was a gay woman who I found very funny, but she seemed too keen to mention her lifestyle antics wherever she could.
I remember one heated argument between the know-it-all art teacher and my Dad about the subject of colour. He argued that without light there is no colour and we wouldn’t be able to perceive colour. She argued that it was all due to pigment and nothing else. It got quite heated. In the end they agreed to disagree, but I knew by Dad was right, not because I knew the answer but because he would never have been so forthright if he didn’t know what he was talking about. Turns out he was right after all!
After our meetings we would gather in the bar and discuss writing stuff in a less formal atmosphere, though there wasn’t much formality to begin with, it just felt more relaxed with a pint and a slouch in a comfy chair.
I have fond memories of listening to people talk about their craft and tossing around ideas, so I thank him for introducing me to a slice of society I never knew existed.
I’ve read how writers take many years to hone their craft. When I was young I figured this was something old unsuccessful writers said as an excuse for not being published. These days I’ve come to realise that life experience plays a big part in the craft of writing. I could always rely on my Dad to give me good quality constructive criticism for my writing.
He would take the time to make notes in the margins or make alterations. It was always a well balanced thing, he would point out the errors, spelling, grammar etc or how stuff flowed badly, but also highlight a chunk of text to show how good it was.
I could rely on my Dad for solid feedback, and I thank him for his time and enthusiasm.
I’ve been in many libraries and rooms chock full of books and other written paraphernalia but never have I seen a study as busy as my Dad’s. There are shelves of books both old and new. There are drawers of stuff, filing cabinets of stuff, stuff placed on top of other stuff in what could be described as a range of geological crags that if named would be called the Stuff Mountains.
He has a passion for PC’s and I’m sure he has 4 of them nestled amongst an army of electronic bits like volcano’s pushing up out of the ground. The difference between his PC’s and the common sort you find tucked away in the corner of a family home is that my Dad’s PC’s are often in various stages of repair. Bits of cable hang around waiting to be attached to something, hard drives are stacked in a pile, keyboards float amongst none specific stuff and the atmosphere is one of something big waiting to happen.
I’ve not been his study for a while so I can’t be sure what it currently looks like but I like to think things haven’t changed much. I like the organised mess, the stuff, the cables and keyboards because it looks like a busy haven of calm solitude. It’s a place where he can curse the damned machines for not doing his bidding, a place where he can sift through paper work, a place where his imagination rules the shelves and piles of stuff.
Not long ago I had a problem with my PC and called my Dad for advice. I took the sides off, fiddled and messed with the graphics card, hard drive, fans etc and followed his step by step plan to fix the problem. That was several months ago and the sides of my PC are still sat on the floor. I don’t have big chunky shelves of books in my room but I have cultivated a smallish bookcase with books, plasticine figures, incense burners, bits of stuff, photos, a Jelly Belly dispenser and my Paddington Bear toy I had when I was very young.
On the wall by my PC I have photos, artwork, maps and drawings. It doesn’t match up the seasoned foliage that grows in my Dad’s study, it is being slowly cultivated into a hive of organised mess. The point is that during my years of writing I have gathered around my PC a world designed to inspire me. I would rather have that than a sterile minimalist room with nothing but a pot plant for company.
And so I thank my Dad for growing his own space of wonder and fun!
On holiday in Tenerife we took a trip to Mt Teide, an amazing cable car ride to the inner crater. From there we hiked the craggy path to the top of the volcano. Of all the holidays from my childhood that day trip was easily the winner. When we arrived at the top, out of breath and sucking down lovely sulphur, everyone wanted a photo taken so we queued and waited for our turn. There was a guy there who kept referring to my Dad as The Chief: “Okay, Chief, you’re up next,” he would say. “Okay there, chief?” and so on. He wasn’t a tour guide or anything, just a happy chap with a sense of humour.
Yesterday I went on a research trip to the coast for my novel. I’ll blog about this tomorrow. My pal and I trundled down a rocky road for miles until we arrived at a wind swept nature reserve where people with beards and big backpacks can hide in hides and stare at birds all day. A path led through pine trees to a wonderful stretch of beach, pristine clean, beautiful, warm wind, blue skies and hardly a soul to be seen.
When I enquired about passes and fees etc in the visitor centre, a 50 something guy with a stubby moustache and big smile said to me: “Hey there chief, what can I do you for?” I immediately remembered the guy on Mt Teide and couldn’t help but smile back. During the course of our chat the guy referred to me as chief a few more times. By the time I was walking the path to the beach, taking photos and enjoying the scenery, I was a happy bunny! Memories are awesome things!
This time I thank the guy on Mt Teide for dubbing my Dad the Cheif!
Curry, wine and “Where’s he gonna sit?”
There are more than enough memories of my Dad to fill a hundred posts on a hundred blogs, like I said when I wrote about my Grandad, but there’s only so much I can realistically write here before even the most seasoned and determined blog reader will give a yawn and start checking their emails for something more interesting!
So I will wrap up this homage to my Dad by mentioning how he isn’t just an Alarm Doctor, writer, cushion pusher, adventurer, study growing PC enthusiast with an addiction to stuff. My Dad is a curry king, no, not that stuff you buy in a jar and add chicken to it. My Dad makes his curried delights from scratch, no stuff in a jar for him! And then we come to the wine, such wine! I’m not saying this because I’m biased but my Dad’s wine is superb! You can keep your store bought, mass produced, drink and forget junk if you like but my Dad has managed to bottle pure beautifulness! I’m sure that’s not a real word but it certainly is fitting!
Have you ever seen The Cannonball Run? A fantastic movie with Bert Reynolds, Farrah Fawcett, Dean Martin, Sammy Davis Jnr. Hilarious movie and well worth a watch. There’s a scene in it where Sammy Davis Jnr and Dean Martin are discussing their secret weapon:
Fenderbaum: We’ve got a secret weapon. God is our co-pilot!
The Greek: You’ll need him!
Jamie Blake: *God* is our copilot?
Fenderbaum: Uh huh…
Jamie Blake: Remember our car?
Fenderbaum: Uh huh…
Jamie Blake: Two seats?
Fenderbaum: Two seats…
Jamie Blake: Where’s he gonna sit?
Jamie Blake: Where’s he gonna sit?
I’ve lost count how many times that conversation has cropped up over the years between my Dad and I and my sister. Even down to the simple “where’s he gonna sit?” line. It’s one of those little things that brightens up the conversation and makes us smile.
Whilst writing this I’ve pondered how I would finish and sum up my thoughts about my Dad. Like my Grandad, my Dad is a kind, thoughtful, intelligent man with a funny sense of humour and smiling eyes. I have a lot to thank my Dad for, not just for inheriting his genes but for his nurturing, teaching, patience, strength, passion and positive outlook on life. He remains a deep source of inspiration to me. And because of all these things, and more, I wish him a very Happy Fathers Day.