Thursday, July 3, 2008

Families remind me of fathers

I spent four days in Byron Bay recently (well Bangalow to be precise - AKA God's country). The main reason was to be there for Mrs R’s birthday but I also had a meeting about a website I am writing the text for. Nice work if you can get it.

Mrs and Mrs R have possession of my goddaughter, my best (small) boyfriend and, now, my new favourite poochy friend called Louis Vuitton. I am proud to say that, while Louis was named by his four-year-old owner, it was Mrs R and I who came up with his surname while we were in New York. We felt that, because he was a tad plain at the time, he needed a little help in the élan department.

I am now proud to report he cuts a fine and gorgeous figure although he did smell remarkably similar to a jar of duck fat I picked up from the Essentail Ingredient not so long ago. Don’t ask me why. Regardless I am in love and, while I will respect everyone’s privacy in terms of photos, a few ones the witness protection programme would allow are shown here.

Spending some time within a little family unit got me thinking about my own family. One night recently when sleep wouldn’t come I got to thinking about how much I regretted not eulogising my father at his funeral. I could never have done it; too much of a blithering mess. As I get older, however, he begins to loom larger than life as quite a pisser of a bloke and someone who, though very traditional in so much of his attitudes, was quite odd in his own day-to-day ways.

So here, for my own benefit, are a few of the best things I remember about him, 10 years too late perhaps:

1. He was the man who had the common sense to drive off on me one day when, aged around 15 or 16, I came out of the hairdressers with a style that involved a flat top on top, shaved sides and a bob at the back. Help!

2. He grew up in Ireland on a farm. Farm people are not meant to hold animal life too dearly. Dad put a notice in the paper when our rabbit died. He was the one who killed it. (Admittedly it had myxomatosis.)

3. He had gout but he didn’t say much about it. He just cut pieces out of his shoes where they pressed on the sore areas.

4. He brought us home a sheep for a while. We lived in a suburban housing estate. The sheep was black; we called it Teddy (as in Teddy Bear). He used to walk it. On a lead. Around the block. I was in my early teens. No I was not embarrassed!

5. Dad loved grooming. Born in more recent times I think he might have been a good stylist or hairdresser. He was a big bloke and, in my day, he always wore overalls (ironed sharply by Mum, of course) but he’d stand in the doorway of the bathroom and talk to my sister and I as we did our makeup. He often commented on what we wore, how our makeup was done, even what perfume we chose (“smells like a brothel in here” was his most common observance there). My favourite photo of him involves him sitting in the backyard in the afternoon sun quietly plaiting the hair on one of my dolls.

6. Dad wasn’t much of a reader. He left school at age nine and used to sit in a tree, smoking, and watching the others kids walk to class. The only thing I ever saw him read were those old school cowboy books in paperback. Yet he supported and encouraged me in any of my pursuits. Once, when some mad woman got me involved in a Sylvia Plath poetry reading, Dad drove himself and Mum into Greville Street to a tiny airless bookshop to listen while I stood, like a wanker, in front of a buch of poor sods, to read from The Bell Jar. My God! What a man.

And people ask me why I don’t have kids.


shemovesinmysteriousways said...

Hello beautiful Mrs U. Perhaps you catch me on a melancholy moonslide, as yesterday the great Mr V would have turned 65 had his fate been different. It's never too late to reminisce, and find yourself ever so vividly back there - and no, get your mind out of the gutter, despite our Rockwiz conversation I'm not thinking of little Croatian sausages. I'm thinking more of a little table and chairs by a window, looking out through net curtains on a concrete driveway, where the J's next door would steal anything not tied down. And a beautiful man, with twinkling cheeky blue eyes and a wonderful laugh would tell me stories, ditties, tales - much I probably would have understood better if it weren't for the accent, alcohol (his or mine?), toothlessness, and my own teenage arrogance. But I loved the rhythm, the joy, the merriment and the laughter. Where 'fuck me pink jacqueline' back then would make me giggle outloud as much as the rabbit obituary story did just now. I remember a man who argued with bouncers to get his underage daughter into 18+ hotels, drove us all around Melbourne at all hours of the night, towed a caravan to and from the coast for many years - and especially that year when Mr V wasn't there to do it. Most of all I remember a lovely man, who made me laugh, accepted us all for who we were and who we dreamed we would become, and who's love and pride in his daughter(s) was blindingly evident for all to see. Love to you and yours, Mrs J.

Mrs Underhill said...

Mrs J! I did not know you were called SHE MOVES IN MYSTERIOUS WAYS but how perfect that name is.

Thank you for sharing these memories with me. And thank you for letting me know such an important milestone has passed by so recently. I will play Rod Stewart's Sailing this weekend as a tribute.

You remember such great other moments yet you don't throw in the Blackberry Nip episode in my bedroom??? Not one of our finest moments.

Fuck me Pink reminds me of his other great saying - SUCK A TITTY - which he would say while pulling his hairy nipple out from behind his singlet. Wonder what the politically corrent/Jim HEnson hating police would say to that now.

ANyhoo - thanks again for the comment and it's nice to know you're a reader.

Stay Gold Mrs J and look after the pins at the snow this season.

Dreamweaver said...

You did him proud. I only spent a little time with him, but his kindness, tenderness and gratitude to me for the small things I did for Marie was large, like the good man himself.
We are all flawed and cracked. It is through these fine cracks the light shines through.

Love you.