Dad was “Old School.”
You know what I mean by that? Well, he was a man of his time. Born in the thirties, just a kid during the war, a teenager in the late forties, National Service and then marriage in the fifties.
Always lived in a “council” house. From the day he was born till the day he died. Owning your own home was for rich people.
He went to work and Mum stayed home and looked after the kids. Those were his rules.
On Fridays he would take out his pay packet and give her the weekly housekeeping money. The little that was left was his to spend on petrol for the car and a weekly flutter on the horses. Saturday mornings he would spread the Sporting Life across the kitchen table and pick out his fancies. At midday he’d sit down to watch “Grandstand” on the BBC and he wouldn’t move until after five.
He didn’t drink. Said he didn’t like the taste and that it gave him headaches. Just as well, because he couldn’t afford it.
He liked order, routine, didn’t like to try anything that was different. Things like Pizza, Curry and Pasta were all “foreign” food to him and he would turn his nose up if they were ever mentioned. A meat and two veg man was Dad and every day dinner had to be on the table at six.
Mum ran the house, that was her job. She cooked and cleaned and paid the bills and made sure that us kids were washed and dressed. Dad was out of the house at seven and back by five thirty. He’d wash his face and hands at the sink and then sit down at the table ready for his dinner. No one was allowed to speak during dinner and god forbid if we put our elbows on the table!
He wasn’t great at socialising. Wasn’t keen on getting to know the neighbours. Didn’t like people knowing his business. If Mum had a neighbour in during the day for a cup of tea, they had to be gone by the time Dad got home. If anyone knocked on our door in the evening they would feel his wrath, unless of course it was family. Not many “door to door” salesmen came to our house. We weren’t allowed to have friends round to play. He wasn’t comfortable having strangers in the house.
Us kids were in bed by seven thirty. A kiss goodnight for mum and a handshake for dad. We never made a fuss and we NEVER came back downstairs until it was time to get up in the morning.
At around eight thirty he’d be partial to a bit of supper. He’d look at Mum and say “Bit of cheese on toast?” She’d be up in an instant and into the kitchen to make his suggestion a reality. Every meal was washed down with a cup of tea.
At ten o’clock he’s go to the sink and have a shave and a “wash down”. He’d put Brylcreem on his hair and comb it into a side parting and quiff. I asked him one day when I was much older why he made a fuss of his hair before he went to bed. His answer? “You never know who you’ll meet in your dreams.”
That was my Dad in the fifties and sixties. Hard, firm, strict, regimented and maybe, just maybe one awkward bastard.
But time changes a man.
As the seventies progressed and us kids grew into teenagers he softened. Yes he was still strict and not someone you wanted to cross, but there was a warmth and compassion in him that I’d not seen before. He had time for us, played games with us, played practical jokes on us, made us laugh constantly. He was most definitely the head of the household, but just like a mature Lion, instead of stamping his authority on us, he was now more concerned with protecting and loving his pride.
By the end of the seventies, us kids had both got married and moved away. For the first time in their lives Mum and Dad were on their own. I think he found it harder than Mum.
On the surface they were fine, but I knew there were tensions. He was often “In one of his moods” as Mum would say and she’d be walking on eggshells. The slightest thing would set him into a rage that would last for days and even weeks.
But everything changed again in the early eighties. Grandchildren came along.
This once hard, stone faced man suddenly became a child. He adored these new arrivals. He sang them songs, made up stories, performed magic tricks, got on the floor and played games with them. In fact he did all the things that he never did with us when we were their age.
That was when my Dad became the man that everyone remembers. The generous, kind, happy, delightful man that all the neighbours got to know. The popular man at work that EVERYONE knew and loved. The man on the estate that people went to if they wanted to ask a favour or borrow a tool, or need help repairing their car or advice on just about anything. The larger than life polite man that all the shop keepers knew and respected.
He was a complex character. I was well into my thirties when I found out from Mum that he’d suffered from “Nerves” back in the sixties. That’s what they called it back them. In fact he suffered from Anxiety attacks where he struggled to catch his breath and was scared to leave the house. He also had depression from time to time and the doctors gave him tablets called Roche 10 to control it. These completely wiped him out and he would walk around like a zombie for days. After one particular episode where he saw the clock on the wall start spinning around like a Catherine Wheel, he decided to throw them away and deal with the problem like a man ( his words).
He would just “pull himself together.”
Yep he was “Old School.”
He died in 2004. The funeral was massive. In two days time he would have been eighty six.