My father died in the early nineties. A long time ago but too early on in my life – and my mother had already been dead fifteen years. I try not to feel sorry for myself but sometimes I do.
We didn’t always have an easy relationship. With similar temperaments – quick to fly off the handle, stubborn, prone to depression – we often rowed. Yet, most of my childhood memories involve him. Oddly, my mother, who was very much my favourite parent, barely figures.
At a time when my clothes were mostly made at home on the sewing machine or bought from C&A, he and I would go window shopping to the King’s Road. It was the sixties and my dream was to have a purple corduroy mini skirt with a wide, low slung belt like my cool friend Carolyn at school. In my mind, it was always summer.
Sometimes he would leave me in the car with the dog and a handful of sixpences for the parking meter to ward off any policemen when he parked on a yellow line in Baker Street, collecting one of the many cine films he made, from the developers. I would sit in the driver’s seat and pretend to drive and poke around in the glove compartment, happy as Larry. Doesn’t sound much fun, but for me, it was the stuff of Saturdays.
Other times he would take me swimming. He delighted in finding far-flung swimming pools and we went all over London, from Holborn to Harlesden, in search of the best places to swim. My favourite was the Serpentine, although I found the now archaic system of storing your clothes in a coathanger-cum-hanging basket in the changing room marquee that went up over the summer utterly mystifying, the attendants intimidating, and the water murky and cold.
I suppose he was giving my mother some time off by taking me out. What he was really doing was giving me memories.
I should have been nicer to him. We got along better after my mother’s death although I still got annoyed enough to chuck a glass of water at him once. I’m ashamed of myself, even now, years later. But he forgave me, as he forgave me everything. He always thought the best of me and believed utterly in my abilities.
I think of him often. When I use my metal ruler that was once his at work – I unintentionally followed him into a print-related job. When I make a cucumber salad. When I cut up an apple or peel an orange in one continuous spiral. So I don’t need the fake commercialism of Father’s Day, thank you.
But all the same I wish he was here, so that I could treat him to something he would love and say thank you.