Archive for August 20th, 2008

My Dad

August 20, 2008

I loved my dad but I was also scared of him. He ruled the home. My mother, bless her, was a doormat just like her mother had been, and we girls had a doormat upbringing. We would not dare to argue with my dad. Voicing an opinion? Good heavens, no!
My dad provided me with pocket money: sixpence a week until I reached my teens then it was half a crown. You could do a lot with two shillings and sixpence if you spent wisely. To give you some idea, sixpence would buy a bottle of pop with tuppence back when you returned the bottle. I had to earn my sixpence by cleaning my dad’s boots each week. I worked hard at getting them shiny, and I went the extra mile by scraping the sweaty gunge from the inside by using a fingernail. As much as getting the sixpence, I enjoyed the praise of a good job done. My doormat training was really good. I recall a rainy Sunday night, walking miles to various pubs to find him and give him the raincoat he’d left behind. Of course, my mum had sent me and my sister. Males always came first in our house.
My dad suffered an accident at work when a lorry backed into him and he was gassed on another occasion but there was no compensation that I know of. I’m sure he tried. He suffered from bronchitis and later became disabled with a kind of creeping paralysis. He struggled to work on his sticks for quite a while but eventually couldn’t make it.
Then the fun began! Trying to earn a living making leather bags and purses, doing up old prams and making them look new, repairing motors and cleaners, you name it, he tried it. Mother running all over to get everything he needed, my sister assisting with motors, me sewing aprons for the prams. Dad shouting and swearing when things went wrong, and they often did! Him screaming with pain at night, and we girls queuing up for hours to get him fish and chips to help him feel better. We hated to see our dad brought so low.
Eventually dad did up an old mechanical invalid carriage and that got him about a bit. He started an association of others with similar vehicles when the government began to provide them. Dad repaired the local ones. He set up his business in an old garage and took on a partner. He worked damn hard but made little money. At least it kept him occupied and gave my mother a bit of a rest, although she still had to clean the cinema across the road, and clean for a well off family a mile away. Money was always short, but my dad had restored his self-respect.
I had my dad’s in-growing toenail to look after. It was first soaked then I had the job of clearing all the stuff away from under the nail. His leg nerve would cause his leg to jerk and it sure did make me sweat! I cut his hair too. I rather liked doing that. It brought me close to him.
But I don’t ever remember laughing and playing with my dad.
I sometimes had a laugh with my mother. I did her hair for her and gently massaged her head and face. Later I made her clothes. We were quite close, although there always remained a certain parent-child distance.
(Of course a large chunk of my childhood took place in the wartime years of 1939-45 and everything was in short supply. So going without was quite common. I never knew anyone who went off on holidays, had a telephone or electrical goods we take fore granted. People travelled by bike, bus or train. Few people had cars and petrol, like everything else, was rationed. All this is written about in my illustrated book of childhood memories “When Phones Were Immobile and Lived in Red Boxes”. You can read the first two chapters by going to Magpies Nest Publishing.)