I thought I would redress the balance given my post about my unloveable MiL. No, I am not going to write nice things about her. Don’t be silly. I said on the funerals post that she organised a good one, that is the nearest anyone will get to hearing me make a compliment about her. She could probably organise a good piss-up in a brewery too but a) she certainly wouldn’t pay for it and b) she would probably object to it on principle.
This post will instead, slag off my side of the family, ie my father. This, of course, is not the done thing. He was revered by many members of the family, looked up to for his business acumen, modest financial success, intelligence, wit, and – generosity. Perhaps I should have missed out everything except ‘generosity’ because that is probably what the family members were really interested in.
Not all members of the family looked up to him. His older sister and his mother bossed him around. One of the reasons I was wary of my MiL was a tale from my own mother’s past. My father had finally splashed out for a car (well before I was born), and they were going for a Sunday drive. As people did. Probably still do.
‘We have to call and pick up my mother first,’ my father finally confessed to my mother. I don’t think my mother could believe it. As a young couple, they had finally bought a new, ie second-hand, car – and when my father was telling his mother about it, there was an automatic assumption that she would be going along for the jolly too. Did my father have the balls to say no? No.
When my grandma (who wanted to be called Nanna because she thought grandma was rather ageing) died, there was about £160 left in her savings. The one down, two up, that she lived in was rented. The money was split between her four children.
‘I’ll take Older Brother’s share,’ said my father’s sister. ‘He’ll only piss it up against the wall anyway.’ He was in Australia where he had sensibly moved to some years previously, so I doubt he got to know that he was deprived of his measly inheritance by his Grasping Older Sister.
There was a small bookshelf that had always been intended for the youngest daughter, who lived in London. Grasping Older Sister took that too. There was much discussion around our kitchen table about how unfair that was. Did either of my parents do anything about it?
Little me resolved to sort it. I wasn’t very old at the time, but luckily, GOS lived sort of next door ish. I wandered up our drive and down their avenue and knocked on the door. ‘I’ve come for Little Auntie’s bookcase that Nanna left for her,’ I said ingenuously. I took it down the staircase, out of the house, paused to say thank you, dragged it up the street, started to get fed up with it, and finally brought it back down our drive.
‘I’ve brought Little Auntie’s bookcase,’ I announced proudly when I arrived home. I think my father nearly wet himself.
My father was an odd mix. It’s like he always felt he should have done more than he did, and took it out on the rest of us. After leaving the RN, he wanted to go back to sea – but who else would look after his mother? Yup, youngest son. So he stayed home. He was offered a job in rags in the Midlands and decided not to go because he thought he might fall out with one of the partners. Yeah. In retrospect, I wonder if his mummy had something to do with that one too?
He had to be in charge. (Wonder where I get it from?). When I was old enough, I worked with them on their market stall. When he got bad-tempered he would start shouting at my mother in front of customers. So when he hit the roof, I walked out. I usually came back half an hour later, but really, there was no reason for it in the first place and arguing in front of people like that with your wife is just deplorable and abusive. If he even started on me, he got the same treatment. I walked out while he had chance to cool down.
The control stuff was just unbearable. When a lad I knew asked me out in my early teens – we knew each other from standing at opposite bus stops – it was a no no. I mean, it wasn’t as though he lived in a council house, darlings, his parents owned their own perfectly acceptable detached house in a good street. Nope. Not allowed.
About the only boyfriend who had my dad beaten was the head boy of the local grammar school. ‘Well,’ said my father pompously, ‘you will bring my daughter home by some ridiculously early hour of course.’
‘I can’t possibly guarantee what time I will bring her home. In my role as head boy, I have a lot of duties to attend to on the night so need to stay late and your daughter will be quite safe with me. I will bring her home when we have finished at school. At whatever time that is.’
Ha! Suck that one dad. Even my mother was pissing herself. Boring head boy boyfriend had taken the wind right out of my father’s sails and left him speechless. Good one. We didn’t go out for long.
Then there was the adorable Viking gardener. I hadn’t thought of him as a boyfriend, more as a friend, but I was informed we couldn’t possibly take him out to lunch anywhere because of his Yorkshire accent. You’re having a laugh dad. And what sort of accent did you have? Huh?
My father didn’t work on Monday, Tuesday or Thursday. His working week was pretty short. Much what we all want really, a very nice set up.
His day would start with a disgusting fag, toast piled high with butter, and a very loud Yorkshire Radio Station. I tried to get up before him to have my breakfast in peace and tranquility, and not have smoke blown in my food or my face. Or loud Yorkshire Radio Station blasted into my ears. I took to taking them tea in bed in the hopes of keeping him there longer.
My mother grasped the respite once he had risen. She surfaced about an hour or so later. Apart from in summer when she got up amazingly early and had put on a wash, dusted, vacuumed and done everything else before 8am.
After breakfast time space invasion, my father would then pretend to do something vaguely work related. Either chatting to the staff in the bank/building society or going to pick up goods for work later in the week. And more chatting.
At 10.45 he returned home and expected coffee to be ready. This was ground coffee boiled up with milk. It was a rather sickly vile concoction so I demanded black coffee. My mother was naturally chained to the cooker making two types of coffee. She didn’t even like the stuff.
An hour or so later, he would wander upstairs and have a shave, infrequently a shower, and comb the hair over his bald patch. Sometime after 12 noon he would clear off to the pub for an hour or two.
He invariably timed his return for The Archers, so the bloody radio would be turned on again for an everyday tale of countryfolk or whatever it was billed as. I loathed The Archers.
Some meal times involved stealing each other’s food. Chips for example, were a prime target. Eating the food would degenerate into a stabbing frenzy as we both tried to claim as many chips from each other’s plates as possible. My mother sat in the middle helplessly, saying she didn’t think it was a good idea and forks could hurt people.
When we had chicken – he always had breast. He didn’t like chicken legs. There was no question of sharing round, no, he had as much of what he wanted and the rest of us picked up what was left. Inevitably my mother ended up with a leg. She liked breast too but did she ever get chicken breast??
I forgot to say he was usually at least ten minutes late for lunch. He was always kept talking by some inconsiderate punter in the pub. He only ever had a pint or two and a small rum (for which I blame the RN). My mother and I both knew exactly what he had drunk and it wasn’t what he told us.
Maybe what he drunk explained the bizarre behaviour after our meals. Naturally, with a full stomach and having had a couple of beers and a small rum, or rather more than that, he went to sleep in the arvo.
So then began a race up the stairs. If I got there first, he would drag me back down the stairs so that he could win. Small child is not exactly capable of returning the favour to 6′ 2″ man weighing 15 stone. Did it hurt being dragged down the steps? What do you think?
There were the love taps and pinches too of course. Nipping me and leaving bruises was fun. Slapping me and leaving bruises were just ‘love taps’. Hardly surprising the school medical officer called in my mother because she was worried about my bruises. My mother knew my father loved me, and explained that I bruised easily and played outside a lot in the garden. Truth is, I don’t think she had a clue.
As I grew older, it seemed to be excellent fun to tear away my bath towel to leave me naked. At which point, I started dropping the towel. If that’s the game, let’s cut to the chase. Naturally, I was chastised for dropping the towel that he was trying to tug away and for being so immodest.
Shall I mention how he used to ‘jiggle’ my developing breasts? All dads did this apparently.
I would always be his little girl, I was told. At least until I was 30. Daddy’s Little Princess?
But I got married before I was 30. Daddy still thought he was in charge of course. One day I disagreed with him. He threatened to hit me. Sadly for my father, his threat wasn’t interpreted too well by my partner who said: ‘You lay a finger on her and I’ll throw you through the fucking window.’ I didn’t get any more threats like that.
What else did he say in front of my partner? Oh yes, the
crass class one. ‘You’re looking rather tired. Must have been all that trashing around you did when you were younger.’
Honestly. What sort of misguided arsehole says that to his daughter? The same one who carried out all the appalling behaviour I have just described?
I have to laugh when other family members praise my dad and say how wonderful he was and how lucky I was. They really don’t have any idea what goes on behind closed doors.