On one of our daily trips to get a hit of caffeine I was enjoying watching Max flirt with a girl in the pram opposite when I started to hum along to the music in the background. I realised I knew all the words to the song, resisting the temptation to serenade my fellow addicts, I realised it was an old Buddy Holly song. Along with bad knitwear, an unparalleled thriftiness, a staunch refusal to wear a coat regardless of how cold England happens to be at the time and a consistent approach to label everyone on the telly a “prat”, Buddy Holly is one of the things I associate with my Dad.
My Dad had some fairly maverick approaches to parenting, none of which will feature in any of the How To Raise Perfect Children books that are available in all good bookstores. There was that quaint tradition that the children must swim in the sea on Christmas Day (not particularly extreme in Australia but in the North of England it would regularly snow, making it bloody extreme), not being a total sadist he would allow us a nip of brandy afterwards to warm us up (I was 5 years old). On a father/son sledging trip I was so cold that a passerby took pity on me and offered me a pair of gloves, I eagerly snatched at the gloves, only to hear “no thank you, my boy doesn’t need gloves”.
We would go to an Italian restaurant once a week for a family meal. On one occasion my Dad ordered the soup, nothing unusual there, he usually does because it’s the cheapest thing on the menu (told you he was thrifty), on this occasion though he had a mischievous glint in his eye. The steaming soup appeared and after the surly waiter had departed my dad reaches into his pocket and places a plastic fly in his soup. “Waiter, waiter, there’s a fly in my soup”, aah I see what he’s done here. The surly waiter reappears and looks aghast at the fly in the soup. My dad bursts into self congratulatory laughter only to realise that the waiter is apologising in Italian and the joke has been lost in translation. A tug of war ensues between my dad, the waiter and the bowl of soup. Soup is spilling all over the table and even at the age of 10 I knew that my dad had pushed the boundaries of acceptable humour. I don’t think we returned to that particular restaurant for our Friday night family meal.
Of course I loved all of the little bizarre traditions and quirks that my Dad thrust into our lives. He would teach me how to make bows and arrows and I would run around my grandparents’ farm trying to maim chickens. He constructed rafts out of drift wood and made sure that we only jumped ship once it was fully submerged in angry water. He once cut up a fur coat and stuck the fur all over me with glue in a bid to win best costume at the school Halloween party, he wasn’t to know that the combination of disco lights and a sugar filled child would combine to melt the glue and moult fur. I looked like a rabid hound by the end of the night, mine was by far the scariest costume, Dad couldn’t have looked prouder as I collected the prize!
In a nutshell my childhood was everything a boy could wish for! I loved my Dad so much and all I ever wanted to do was make him proud (don’t know why I’m using past tense, he is still alive, I still love him and I still want to make him proud). This caused me to panic, can I offer Max such an incredible upbringing. There is something about becoming a Dad that has made me quite self reflective, am I worthy of this incredible little boy. I certainly have a lot to live up to and I am sure that G-Paps (his choice, not mine) will be a good source of inspiration along the way.
Feel free to share eccentric dad stories here, who had the maddest dad of all?