"City dwella, professional fella…"

Today, I’d like to write about my Dad, but it’s obviously a very sensitive subject. He’s been passed over a month now and I am looking for some sort of closure, and perhaps I’m afraid that some of my memories might fade away. The spark of this was really because of the appointment Mum and I had with the funeral director this morning regarding his burial, which in turn made me late for work, which makes me think about my Dad and how ‘disappointed’ (not angry) he’d be because of his strict work ethic and how we shouldn’t miss work for anything unless we are missing a limb. Not even one of your eyes. A limb. He even went back after his first chemo treatment! This is probably what I would’ve said at my Dad’s memorial, if I had the strength that my brother did on that day — so if you’d like to read it, I’d like to share it with you.

My Dad was probably the best man for the job of being my Dad. I was a complete cow, in my teen years — ask my Mum — and whenever he’d catch me on MSN to my friends, he’d just mutter those immortal words, “Failing to prepare is preparing to fail”. Now, a 16 year old who wore nothing but thick black eyeliner, baggy jeans and a purple shirt everywhere, would never take those words too seriously, and thus, instead of revising for my GCSEs, I would carry on with MSN, MySpace and whatever else took my fancy. My Dad had made me take Business Studies, which I really didn’t want to do. I was far more creative than that, so we compromised and I took Graphics too. He didn’t gloat too much when I got an A in Business Studies and a C in Graphics, because that was my Dad — and I tried harder in Business to prove that I did prepare!

When I didn’t do too well in my A-levels, my Dad sat me down in the dining room, a room we don’t use too often, and asked me directly why he should be paying his money to send me to university, when I obviously didn’t care much about education. I didn’t really have an answer – I wanted to go to become more independent and decide what I wanted to do as a career, because, let’s be honest, an 18 year old has no real idea of what they want to do in life when all they’ve known is school and people telling you what to think. My Dad had forced me onto a lifeguarding course when I was 16 to follow on from competitive swimming, which I was ok at — I literally remember my Mum dragging me there, because I just had no interest in it. Again, he compromised that I could go to university, as long as I got a job down there to fund myself on nights out and such. University started on 17th September 2005, I had a lifeguarding job on 23rd September 2005. I kept this job all the way through my university career, until 1st July 2009. And this funded all of my nights out, groceries and whatever else I wanted during university, not to mention opening up swimming teaching and leading me to become a manager in a local swimming pool when I finished university.

I suppose those last two stories show how Dad used to compromise with me for, ultimately, the better.

When I started the managing job, Dad used to always say, “Is this the one? Are you going to be here for a long time?” and I’d always say “Yes, Dad. This is the progression from all the swimming stuff, it links in with my postgrad diploma in management. This is it.” But it didn’t go too well for me. It was just not my thing. Basically, the complaints outweighed the compliments and positive feedback, I am a pretty sensitive person and I would take these too personally. Most evenings, I’d come home upset. When this happened, my Dad was blasting out my CV everywhere. Twenty CVs sent out to different companies daily. It was crazy — he’d forward me the emails he’d sent and who to, bugging me as to whether I’d got any reply.

And then, the place where I’m at now called, I got the interview and was offered the position there and then. Although I’ve only been here nearly 3 months, it was a lot better than my last post of employment. The weekend before I started here, I got my hair coloured. Although it was only the roots of my blonde highlights, it looked a lot lighter than it was and Dad took me to get my season ticket from the train station. He went MAD. The train station was only 20 minutes away from us, but it felt like the longest journey ever. I hated Dad that night, because I didn’t see what the big deal was: it was only hair and the company had obviously hired me for my interview, not how I looked. But Dad didn’t see it that way. When I told him what the company was about, Dad kept saying, “This is more like it. This is what you’re about.”

Dad found out my work email address and I was soon bombarded with “How’s the job going?” emails. When I had a slight mess up at work, I called my Mum. Ten minutes later, I had an email from my Dad with suggestions and what to do in this situation, to which I replied “I’m fine. Thanks.” He wrote back, “I’m only trying to help 😦 ” and that was him, all over. My Dad, trying to help everyone else, whilst doing his job — and checking the weather in Tenerife, because he’d no doubt be there over the weekend! My Dad thought he’d made it out in Tenerife when he walked into a bar, and the barman, not only recognised him and my Mum, but was already pouring my Mum’s Barcardi and bottled coke as they were walking in.

One thing that really stands out when thinking of my Dad is his love for live music. He loved playing his guitar. And he loved me singing whilst he was playing. My Dad had one guitar lesson, and that was when he’d been playing for years and he never went back. He taught himself every chord and would figure out songs like Dido’s “White Flag” or The Killers’ “Somebody Told Me”. He’d just figured out the chords for “Country House” by Blur, which he claimed was written about him. “A city dweller, professional fella, thought to himself, ‘woops, I’ve got a lot of money'” being the first couple of lines!

Dad’s love of music was so diverse. He’d claim he hated us, putting Kiss 100 into his radio, but he’d come in from a cruise in the Polo, humming some dance track, although he was Rolling Stones’ number 1 fan. Whenever I hear an Oasis song, I will think of my Dad. He got us tickets last summer and, although a cup of wee landed on my head, he was a huge fan of their music – he’d already seen them! We used to play “Don’t Look Back in Anger” as one of our ‘everybody, get out: the party’s over’ songs and I think it was apt at his service. He loved that my brother and I had such a crazy taste in music. My brother would be playing ‘Play That Funky Music’ by Wild Cherry from his speakers and I’d be playing ‘Boiler’ by Limp Bizkit from mine, and although he didn’t appreciate particularly my phase of music, he’d enjoy the house to be full of music. When I left home, I would often visit my parents’ house after work, where he’d have The One Show on the TV and I’d sing the theme tune to him. Or the Two and A Half Men theme tune to him, because he loved it — or he was just saying he did! I’m sure Dad thought I was weird half the time!

To this day, I don’t think I ever saw my Dad really hate anyone. Of course, he would say things behind people’s backs (who doesn’t?) but he’d always make you feel like you were his friend, even if he wasn’t your biggest fan. And I think it takes a lot to do that. My family and I have heard so many stories of how Dad used to check if ‘people were alright’ or lend them a helping hand if they weren’t — truly selfless.

My brother and I have heard so many stories B.C. (Before Children) that have had us in stitches. One about my dad being chased by a polar bear, when he was 16 years old and serving in the merchant navy, another regarding the Indian stock exchange bombs that got closer and closer, every time he told the story… There have been some lines that have been belters, that we haven’t even heard before, like “If they’re talking to me, they’re not dealing with the oppo!” The weird thing is I can picture him, saying it!

A couple of things I will truly miss about my Dad. His crazy laugh, that sounded like a machine gun whenever something had truly, truly tickled him. His guitar practice in the conservatory, because ‘it had the best acoustics’. His sabbatical, when he was meant to be taking time off, but had Bloomberg on one television and Sky News on the other. His short, stubby fingers, which made us question how he would play chords when his fingers couldn’t reach around the neck of the guitar. The way he used to say my name whenever I did something truly unbelievably disastrous or broken a diet.

Ultimately, his advice.

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