Fallible, Focused, Funny #father’sday

Three words for my father, dad, the old man, that ********* arse, silly bugger…

They do say that eventually you realise your parents have feet of clay. With mum it took decades to appreciate she might need an upgrade to stay superhuman.

With dad, I don’t think there was a time when I didn’t appreciate his limitations. From the curtailed curses if ever he picked up a screwdriver, through the panicked ‘Barbara…’ when left in charge of cooking/children/car and to the bemused ‘do I like garlic?’ asked of mum when offered something his mother might not have included in her limited range of beige ingredients.

Perhaps his true nemeses were his many cars, bought with manly enthusiasm and owned with a quisling despair. To see relief in its most undiluted form, you only had to stand by the driver’s window and watch him turn the key in the ignition and for the engine to start.

His best friend for many years, Les was the opposite, competent and confident in all things mechanical. When one 1970s disaster, an Austin Allegro developed a malignant cancer of the carburetor, Les came up with a cunning fix which required some sort of daily jiggling under the bonnet (you can see I have inherited the hopeless gene). ‘That works,’ Les proudly announced, before looking at Dad, standing a respectful one metre to one side and saying, ‘can you find Barbs and I’ll explain what’s needed?’

Dad had many other skills and propagating plants and veg were one such. He would arrive home from work exhausted, take off his suit jacket, change his shoes, take the coffee mum had made him and head for his greenhouses to decompress amongst his leek plants, tomatoes and primulas. After a short unsuccessful battle with his mother in law he was persuaded to sell spare plants and then grown veg, and such was his reputation people placed orders in the winter to ensure a supply. This pleased him mightily.

He was equally at home spending happy hours breeding butterflies and moths, latterly to help restock dwindling colonies in his beloved New Forest. In the 1970s the Forest had its share of hippy wannabes, magic mushroom aficionados and other otherworldly weirdie-beardies. Finding dad, his head deep inside a sallow tree, turning over leaves to see what was underneath, put him in amongst those legions and several visitors would give him a wide berth.

Odd that, because he was easily the most gregarious person I know. The British pub was designed for him and he’d happily go into any such establishment – of which, back then there were many – buy a pint of the local hop water and chat, both listening and regaling as the situation demanded. Oh how I would love to have inherited that ease with people. At one stage when my mother had launched a hostile takeover of the local WI, my father was prevailed upon to give a talk on the glorious nature of the New Forest or some such. He was an entertaining speaker, witty and informative and was universally well received. When mum, glad handing the silent power brokers in the Collective who ran the Hordle Women’s Institute asked one leading light what she thought, she paused and offered, ‘Your husband has a drink problem?’

Mum was stunned, ‘No, what makes you say that?’ (Other than you’re a mealy-mouthed bitch-harpie).

‘Every direction, every location was cross referenced to a local pub whose beers he appeared to know intimately.’

Mum hadn’t noticed. We’d all got used to dad’s directions, if stopped by some lost grockle (tourist). ‘Lymington? Sure. Head along here and second left past the Wheel – nice drop of Ringwood Ale – before veering right at the Monkey Puzzle – they keep a decent Wadsworths 6X, as long as the barrel has settled. Now you can either go straight on at the Crown – Courage pub, wouldn’t bother – or better take the narrow side road. Bit of extra but you pass the Ship and they manage to get hold of Harveys IPA which is worth the detour…’

Mum hadn’t noticed how this spilled over into his talk.

And humour? He wasn’t a stand up, destroyed jokes with aplomb, often offering the punchline half way through. But he was at his happiest, beer in hand with people taking the mickey out of his many inadequacies. Whether it was describing his experiences taking his latest car to the garage – ‘….he lifts the bonnet and stares before fiddling with some tube or wire. Then he makes these pained noises which are billing codes – every moan, 5 pounds, a sigh, 7.50, grinding his teeth, a tenner, with the possibility of an extra two if I want it in the same colour….’ – or shopping for a suit – ‘… sir has unusually long arms, doesn’t sir and has anyone mentioned how sir dresses – very continental…’ – Dad had some tale that would play on his own feebleness.

Perhaps his humour was best expressed through his poetry which he worked hard to produce, rarely pleased him and was loved by all for whom he wrote. This he offered me for one of my 40 something birthdays, as something to look forward to..

The Wrinkles Lament

When we gaze in the mirror while shaving

We mustn’t get too uptight,

Though the sight makes us weep

Beauty’s only skin deep,

Ad we’re bound to look better tonight.

*

Sparse locks on an over-wide forehead

Where once clustered nonchalant curls,

If dissuaded from roaming

By judicious combing

Just might deceive short-sighted girls.

*

We’ve always had finely drawn features

But the nostrils in that Roman beak

Which in wild youth would flare

Are now full of hair,

And constantly saltily leak.

*

Our eyes, which held loves sweet secrets,

Were mysterious, soft – dark as night,

Now they’re bloodshot and runny

And one’s a bit funny,

Looking left when the other looks right.

*

These firm chiselled mouths show good breeding

But today they can spoil our adventures

For though you feel sporty

It’s hard to be naughty

If you find you’ve forgotten your dentures.

*

Girlish breath in the ear was exciting

In our youth, we recall with nostalgia,

But now, poor old mugs,

If you blow down our lugs,

We’ll get an attack of neuralgia.

*

But it’s wrong to become introspective

That mirror can ruin our fun,

Let’s stop shaving today

Chuck our razors away

Grow beards – and think we’re twenty-one!

Naturally I miss the silly old sod, especially our shared walks and days together at the cricket and rugby. As I grew up, irritated and amused in equal measure by this self described contrarian curmudgeon I didn’t realise I was absorbing so many critical life lessons – don’t take yourself too seriously, treat everyone with respect and listen to what they say, family is all important, cars suck, value nature, don’t expect England to win anything and you avoid disappointment… these were subliminally bequeathed; in terms of specific advice, when I set off for my first job in the City of London he offered, ‘Brown shoes at the weekend, speak when spoken to and confess your farts…’ Solid advice.

Dad is currently next to his beloved Barbs, slowly fertilising a solid English oak tree. He may lack form these days but he is, to me, still a man of substance.

About TanGental

My name is Geoff Le Pard. Once I was a lawyer; now I am a writer. I've published several books: a four book series following Harry Spittle as he grows from hapless student to hapless partner in a London law firm; four others in different genres; a book of poetry; four anthologies of short fiction; and a memoir of my mother. I have several more in the pipeline. I have been blogging regularly since 2014, on topic as diverse as: poetry based on famous poems; memories from my life; my garden; my dog; a whole variety of short fiction; my attempts at baking and food; travel and the consequent disasters; theatre, film and book reviews; and the occasional thought piece. Mostly it is whatever takes my fancy. I avoid politics, mostly, and religion, always. I don't mean to upset anyone but if I do, well, sorry and I suggest you go elsewhere. These are my thoughts and no one else is to blame. If you want to nab anything I post, please acknowledge where it came from.
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47 Responses to Fallible, Focused, Funny #father’sday

  1. Happy Father’s Day! Thank you, for a at least wonderful remembrance, Geoff! Have also a wonderful weekend! xx Michael

    Liked by 1 person

  2. Erika says:

    What a sweet and poignant tribute, Geoff! Happy Father’s Day to you!

    Liked by 1 person

  3. Lovely tribute to your Father! Happy Father’s Day, Geoff!

    Liked by 1 person

  4. Mick Canning says:

    That’s a brilliant tribute, Geoff.

    Liked by 1 person

  5. willowdot21 says:

    A man and a woman of substance, you bring them both to life. Hope you had a good day. Got to share this it’s lovely.💜

    Liked by 1 person

  6. Pingback: Fallible, Focused, Funny #father’sday | willowdot21

  7. Wonderful Geoff, simply wonderful!

    Liked by 1 person

  8. trifflepudling says:

    Very nice, Geoff, bless him.
    My father had a variety of eccentricities and probably weaknesses (don’t we all have the latter) but he had an excellent way with words and told wonderful gently humorous stories – his timing was brilliant. We still often laugh at these, a great gift from him. He also had lightning reflexes even in his 80s, which I’ve inherited from him gaining the admiration of some young researchers a couple of years ago when my hand shot out and caught a vital small auto part before it went down a drain!
    Your dad has a slightly rueful and melancholy look, very expressive face with character.
    Happy Father’s Day.

    Like

    • TanGental says:

      You and me both. I’m sure it comes from years of grabbing at thinks that I’ve just knocked off the table or worksurface . You should start a blog reminiscing about your days in the trade with your parents.

      Like

  9. Jennie says:

    Geoff, I think your father would highly approve of your reflection. You captured him! I hope you hit the pub and drink one for him. Absolutely wonderful post!

    Liked by 1 person

  10. I love this tribute to your father, Geoff!

    Liked by 1 person

  11. This was a perfectly lovely tribute to your dad, Geoff, right up to the point when you mentioned fertilizing the oak tree. That was a bit TMI [smile].

    Liked by 1 person

  12. A beautiful tribute to your dad, Geoff. Thank you for sharing it and Happy Father’s Day

    Liked by 1 person

  13. JT Twissel says:

    You undeniably had a great relationship with your dad! Confess your farts … hum, that’s a toughie!

    Liked by 1 person

  14. Darlene says:

    A wonderful post about your dad. He obviously taught you well. Wishing you a fabulous father’s day!!

    Liked by 1 person

  15. petespringerauthor says:

    I think any of us would like to be known as “a man of substance.” Thanks for sharing your memories of your dad with us.

    Liked by 1 person

  16. Gray Dawster says:

    Memories such as yours live on in heart and mind, and add a richness that only you can fully appreciate.

    I or one certainly enjoyed reading your posting, thank you for sharing your personal thoughts.

    Have a fine Tuesday 🙂

    Andro

    Liked by 1 person

  17. noelleg44 says:

    Aw, such a grand tribute. Now I know where your sense of humor comes from – and I sense you butted heads with your dad more than once when you were growing up!

    Liked by 1 person

    • TanGental says:

      There was a period of about 2-3 years in my twenties when he wouldn’t speak to me, because I lived with my then girlfriend now wife and wouldn’t get married first. Once we got engaged he restored speaking relations and ten years later admitted he’d been a twat and regretted the strain it had put on mum and on his now much loved daughter in law. On me? Get over yourself, you’re just as stubborn as me, was his rejoinder. Probably true.

      Liked by 1 person

      • noelleg44 says:

        What a great Dad! Mine also had to apologize to me after a couple of bad arguments we had that lasted a while!

        Liked by 1 person

      • TanGental says:

        I learnt most from it I think because ever since they were small I’ve apologised to my children if I think I’ve been wrong or harsh. I know other parents, fathers especially found this hard, some sense it might undermine their authority but I’ve dads lesson to thank.

        Liked by 1 person

  18. Elizabeth says:

    Is being a curmudgeon a genetic trait? It seems so in my family and I wondered about yours after reading the terrific description of your dad.

    Liked by 1 person

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