During my teens I hated my father with a virulence that seems to be the norm in truculent adolescence. We almost came to blows on one occasion. I was thoroughly disrepectful and, once, disgracefully hurtful, when I snarled, ‘You are a nobody!’ Could anything be worse than that? Later Mum told me that he had been deeply hurt and I was riven by remorse.
My shame might have been a hundred times worse if I had reflected how kind he had been to me in earlier years. I wasn’t the typical working-class boy. A problem with partial-sightedness in one eye led to poor coordination and that made me quite hopelss in football and other activities requiring spatial skills. As I have said elsewhere we shared a love of walks and that led to a life-long love of the countryside.
By day Dad was a miner, and in the evening after tea he was off to the cinema where he had a post as general factotum – part assistant manager, projectionist, bouncer and collector of tickets. He claimed he needed the job to keep up us above the poverty line and he might have had a point. Mum was unhappy and felt neglected. He didn’t give up the job until I was thirteen and I resented his return to the domestic scene after such a long absence. This absence, it has to be said, had contributed to an element of neglect for my mother and myself. In some ways Dad had been more like a benevolent uncle than a father, even if he was with us all day Sunday. We even went to church together without fail every Sunday while Mum stayed at home to prepare lunch.
If Dad hadn’t had this evening job I might never have developed my great love of the cinema. I was lucky to have free admission to Dad’s cinema and another one in the group. I made great use of this facility and it opened up as great a possibility of enjoyment and stimulus as my books. Dad’s cinema was one of the second-run kind and specialised in older and continental films so I had ample opportunities to see the great Hollywood and continental classics. I believe my cinematic tastes were formed there.
Dad was someone who loved a good ‘argument’, a trait shared by most of the Celtic fringe. Usually the argument wasn’t settled by superiority of argument or intellect, the loudest usually won the day. Reason rarely prevailed. To this day I try to avoid these ‘discussions!’
Although Dad was what might be called a ‘man’s man’ he never smoked or drank, and I admired that. One New Year’s Day the owner of the cinema prevaled on Dad to have a large whisky. He told us that half an hour later his legs were buckling under him, he was so unused to drink. He also had a certain independence of mind in spite of subscribing to much of the dogma of the day. He was a stubborn defender of rambler’s rights and was constantly at arms with local farmers and landowners over legal rights of way. He achieved a few victories in that sphere and deserved respect.
In 1966 Dad was down the pit when he suffered a sever stroke – he was 48 at the time. We were told that he might not last the night, but miraculously he survived, but his life was never the same again. He had to give up work, and although for several years he led a reasonably independent life, he suffered sevral more small strokes which diminished his ability to cope. No more walks – that was great blow, and he couldn’t take his beloved dog for its exercise. Amazingly he lived on until the age of 79 – he must have been made of stern stuff. Dad and I drew increasingly closer over the years.
Dad and I shared a love of TV documentaries about history and science. He loved anything about volcanoes and earthquakes. He has been gone these last nine years but whenever I watch a documentary of that kind I feel as if I am watching it for both of us.
memories of my father.