I was just reading a couple of random posts on a blog I had not previously visited. T W Dittmer I read a couple of posts about his mother and his mother in law. (Both strong women). I come from a long line of strong women myself. I have written about my own mother before but not on this blog maybe I shall reblog it here someday soon. Thinking about my strong mother and both my strong grandmothers, I realised that I do not often talk about my father.
As a child I adored my father, probably due to the constant tickling battles we had. I am sure that my memories of life with my father at that stage in my life are somewhat different to my mother’s memories. I was the eldest of three children, my two brothers and I came in quick succession (all three of us born within 2.5 years). Our parents both fairly young themselves were 18 and 22 respectfully when I arrived. My father hadn’t yet settled on any career, moving from one job to another, in a way moving around with his work was made easier due to us living in a static caravan that could be moved from one county to another. (I am not sure how this was done at the time as I was far too young.)My parents had been given the caravan as a wedding present.
My father had grown up the son of a family of means (the family money had been lost before I was born, I believe this was down to my great Uncle who I never knew ). He was a descendant of J G Ingram Rubber manufacturers. Who first made the toy balloon among other items that are still in use to this day. My father was born in 1939, my grandfather (a sound recordist) was away on military service for much of my father’s first years, leaving his wife and small son to build a life without him (just as many other men did during WWII). In 1948 aged just 9 this young boy was sent to Newells Preparatory School, Lower Beeding in Sussex as a boarder. This was followed by Ardingly College also in Sussex. By the time my father completed his education and returned to live with his parents his little sister was away at boarding school Rightly or wrongly I always felt that my father had grown up not knowing what family life was all about.
My dad was always very good with small children and old people. He loved playing with us when we were small (later with my three boys). He also liked to help old people, this became very evident later when he had his own business.
When I was a child I remember many outings to visit historic places, or walks in the woods. I never forgave my dad for his interest in home made wine. He had us kids picking the ingredients from the hedgerows. Nettle wine was bad enough but the time he made dandelion wine was just too much for a girl brought up in a small village, where everyone knew that if you picked dandelions you would wet yourself! How cruel could a dad be?
Other things I remember from those days were his interest in boats. He built his own boat in the back garden, when it was finished it was too big to be taken down the side of the house. I always wondered how he got it out of there (one day I got home from school and it was gone). I Only found out in recent years that he had hired a crane to lift it over the top of the house.
By the time I was a teenager we were no longer so close. The family dynamic had changed. It was as though my mother, brothers and I were a family unit and our father was just someone who lived with us. It was at this time that we kids gave him the nickname Old Peculiar which we had to change to Theakston* to save his and mother’s feelings.I don’t remember being an awful teen but maybe I was. I don’t remember having teenage tantrums or falling out with my parents. What I do remember is the distance between us and our father. By the time I was 16 I would do things to push my father to provoke a reaction. I was always terrified that one day I would go too far. For years I would ask his opinion on a variety of things from my latest hairstyle to my pregnancy (when I was 25 and unmarried.) He never did give me his opinion, he would tell me my options but never how he felt about anything.
He didn’t tell his work colleagues that he was going to become a grandfather, I was hurt by that, but he was great once my son (prodigal) was born. Over the next few years we became closer again. He was the one person I could rely on when I had problems with my child/children. Not long after I had my third son my father moved away to run his own business (a newsagent/ grocery store) in Highcliffe with the help of one of my brothers.
Although my parents were living apart and essentially leading separate lives they remained married and stayed friends, if anything this distance brought them closer. They shared evenings out to the theatre, or meals together. I would take my boys to visit but always came away feeling that we had been in the way. It was only after my dad died from a massive heart attack 26th January 1995 aged 55 yrs 41days that his friends told me that he had adored me and my children. He apparently loved my visits, it is just a pity that he never let me know.
He had only been running his shop for 2.5 years when he died but it was a great tribute to him that the funeral directors were inundated with requests that his hearse should make a slow path down the main street before heading off to the crematorium in Bournemouth. The Undertaker in his top hat and tails walked down the high street ahead of the hearse with my mother, brothers and I following in the limousine. (Our partners and other family following behind in an assortment of cars) the street lined with people who had come to know and like my dad paying their respects as we passed. My dad had made quite an impression on the people of Highcliffe during his short time there.
It was in March of that year that I fell pregnant with son number four. Oddly he was due to be born on 16 December (my dad’s birthday) I have always said that my brown eyed fourth son was sent by my brown eyed father as his gift from heaven.
*Theakstons a Brewery in Yorkshire.