As it’s Father’s Day this weekend, I’d like to take this opportunity to gush about my dad, just a little.
My dad is an inspiration to me. He wasn’t born into a life of privilege and wealth, he was the youngest of four children and lived in a pretty poor area, on the bread line all of his childhood. From the stories my grandmother told, my dad was a character in his youth, always leading his brother and sisters into trouble. My dad’s dad was a signalman on the railways and was very strict, my dad was often made to stand out in the hallway during mealtimes because he’d flicked peas at one of his siblings. Another thing that annoyed his father was his habit of singing at the top of his voice despite his father having been on night-shift.
During his childhood, my dad got into a lot of scrapes – in the ‘Oor Wullie’ sense – and frequently went among the missing. He saw the world as his playground – whether it was quarries, disused air raid shelters or some other forbidden place.
He wasn’t interested in education; when asked at school aged thirteen what he planned to do, he said leave as early as possible and get a job. Between then and leaving at fifteen, he was left to his own devices as the teachers weren’t interested in someone who wasn’t going to sit exams. It wasn’t that he wasn’t intelligent, he just had no use for academia. He wanted to be out in the world, earning money.
After leaving school he got a job and since then he has gradually risen through the ranks. He is now in a position that he – and his teachers – would never have believed possible. My dad is the poster boy for starting at the bottom and working your way up. He doesn’t have an O-Level to his name but he has far surpassed any expectations of him. My dad is an example of what you can achieve with hard work and dedication.
From the moment I was old enough to walk, I became my dad’s little shadow, a tomboy in the making. I remember building snowmen in the garden, finding creepy crawlies, helping him grow veg in his green-house, playing football and him teaching me to ride my bike.
Once, aged 11, I’d arranged with my cousin to watch a live Bon Jovi concert from a vantage point near Gateshead stadium but 2 days before the gig, I had my ankle put in plaster. I sat moping about at home until my dad said “Come on then” and drove me to sit in the car and listen to the gig. I may not have seen them but it was such a kind thing of him to do.
When I was learning to drive, he sat beside me for hours on end, trawling the north-east and getting practice before my test. As he became more confident in my driving, he’d let me put some music on and even one day wrote a sign saying “Help!” and held it up at passing pedestrians.
I have so many great memories. Like the time he drove me and two friends to Manchester to see Bon Jovi. He said he’d just find a restaurant and do some work while we went to the gig. Five minutes after the concert started, I got a text through from my dad saying “Got in for a fiver!” We’d paid £40 each. He still chuckles about that even now.
He gets angry if he goes past his usual ‘feeding time’ and when I was a teenager he used to accuse me of playing “psychological mind games” because I would come in, drunk, and inevitably make a lot of noise. He’s been a taxi driver and a bank, he’s spent countless hours in A&E departments. He’s been to swimming galas and football matches and he only ever missed one parents evening in the whole time me and my brother were at school – and that was because he was working away.
My dad, and my mum, have given me everything I ever wanted. I could not have wished for better parents.
Neither one of them stayed at school beyond compulsory schooling but they have encouraged and supported me every step of the way. From helping me with my reading and testing me on my spellings, they’ve been there. “As long as you’ve tried your best” still remains one of their favourite sayings. When I decided to quit a lucrative banking job to do a degree, my dad wasn’t overly happy. He thought I should follow his example and work my way up but when I made my decision, he supported it. And there was no-one happier on graduation day than my dad.
My dad is one of the earliest examples of ‘the new man’, he will do anything in the house. And when raising me and my brother, he had as much input as my mum. Both of my parents have showered us with love and affection; every night before bed even now, they say “Goodnight, love you.”
I don’t mean to make us sound like ‘The Waltons’, we’re not. We argue, we have disagreements and we fall out with each other. But I know that if I had a real problem, my parents (and my little brother) would be there for me.
My dad has had such a massive impact on my life. I’ve got his sense of humour, his love of films and, although I’m loath to admit it, I look just like him. I could sit with him for hours, watching ‘Bang, Bang it’s Reeves and Mortimer’ chuckling away while my mum looks on nonplussed.
He’s still an adventurer, he likes to go to new places and he often remarks he can’t believe how far he’s come in life – from quarries and air-raid shelters to America and the Caribbean. My dad is proof that the nice guy doesn’t always finish last – sometimes he deservedly comes first.
Happy Father’s Day.