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Rock Maze
  • Writer's pictureNeil

Echoes of my Father

Many a True Word Spoken in Jest

Being a matrimonial kleptomaniac gives one certain privileges. However this privilege comes with a caveat. Take care not to go too far. A quick laugh for me can be uncomfortable for others. Something that thankfully hasn’t happened too often, at least I think not.

Sometimes, in despair my father used to tell me two things; “Your temper will be your downfall “ and, depending on my age “girls/woman will be your downfall". I’m not too sure he was right but he wasn’t completely wrong. Anyway Tricia, on occasion, often when the vin rouge had been flowing, has witnessed me putting my arm around a girl/woman and tell them I think I’ve found Mrs Bate number 4.

And that got me thinking. How picky am I with that pronouncement? Well to start with I realise I'm on sticky ground here but I blame my father all those years ago! It may have been helpful if he said to me “You know Neil there are many different gender identities, including male, female, transgender, gender neutral, non-binary, agender, pangender, genderqueer, two-spirit, third gender, and all, none or a combination of these. One of whom will be your downfall”. But thankfully he, like me kept it straightforward. So the only people who qualify as Mrs Bate number 4 are female for which I make no apology.

Let’s be clear here, regardless of my length of tenure, there isn’t a vacant position or ever likely to be. I think, like a game of pontoon, I’ll stick. I’ve got both my queen and an ace. But for the sake of explanation there has never been many candidates. But there are a few. Some very special people in our lives that, under not such restrictive times, would be physically not just spiritually walking alongside Tricia and I every step of the way. You are all Mrs Bate number 4.

As for “your temper will be your downfall" I’ve had my moments. I think I have a very long fuse. Recently I've felt angry much more often. I wonder why? Rarely has that fuse burnt all the way to explosion. It either fizzles out along the way or never gets lit at all. Either way it’s a slow burn which unsurprisingly makes the explosion all the more dangerous. On the few occasions (in my lifetime we’re probably only talking single figures) that the explosion has come, time slows down, I become deliberate, eloquent, determined and unremorseful. The very worst version of me there can be. Someone I particularly dislike. I guard against the explosion. Hopefully it’ll never happen again but each time it has, my father’s words enter my head and I take heed.

Remember the old MK3 Ford Cortina I had with the rally car engine? Well here’s a temper story. It was a couple of years after the traffic light/police chase incident. The car was, by now, pretty battered and ready for scrapping. My friend John and I were gradually getting inebriated at the Bowjie Inn at West Pentire. Back in the day it was also a night club. We spotted someone, a well known thug, wearing a jumper (well it was the late 70s) that looked surprisingly like John's. We weren't about to confront him, we simply went to the car to see if John's jumper was where he left it. My car had been properly rifled through. His jumper amongst other thing was gone. Luckily my wallet that I couldn't, on a night out trust myself with, was still hidden under the drivers seat.

We were angry. I’d entered the zone. The thug, I still remember his name, had a very nice customised Ford Anglia, which no doubt he was proud of. It was very conveniently parked in the carpark. John and I drove home in a significantly more battered car.....

Rather than launch into another of my tangents I’ll regale you with another couple of minor driving confessions. Whilst visiting friends on a new housing development in Newquay I parked in a parking bay that had apparently been self allocated by a neighbour to himself. This chap had already caused significant unrest amongst his neighbours. At some point during the evening he arrived home and, in a foolhardy manner, blocked me in.

Some time later, in the early hours of the morning, it was time for me to leave. It was simply bad luck for the neighbour on two counts. One; it was me and two; I was driving a Series 2A Land Rover. Now an old Land Rover has 3 gear sticks. One regular one, one to engage 4 wheel drive an one to engage low ratio. I simply reversed out of the parking space and drove home.......

Spookily for this next confession I remember the year. It was 1977. The year of the Queens silver jubilee. I was driving a very rare Citroen Ami van. Unusually, for such a small vehicle, it was fitted with a tow bar. On this occasion, in Surrey, I was reversing with some care into a parking spot between two big beech trees. An audacious driver in a mini drove into the same parking spot.

Grrrrrr! Oh well. I kept on going until I heard the crunch. Oops!

My father wouldn’t be proud of me I’m sure.

But he would be smiling because he was right.

Dad often enters my thoughts, especially those weeks and months towards the end of his life. He would often tell me how much he missed mum who died about 10 years earlier. Dad, like me, had a terminal illness. Unlike me he didn’t wake in the night or early in the morning knowing there was safety, security and love sleeping alongside. Unlike me he couldn’t just ask for a cup of tea. He either had to struggle to go to the kitchen or wait until a carer or family member called. Unlike me he didn’t have social media to keep in touch. He had a TV and a phone. He phoned me every night, sometimes in the morning, often both. I reckon I spent 7+ hours on the phone talking to dad each week.

One of my brothers, who lived nearby, called in to check on him twice a day. His wife did all his clothes washing. Another brother helped with his shopping. I, after my diagnosis, sat with him for hours. Mostly both of us sleeping in front of the telly.

Towards the end he needed help even when he drank from a cup. The choice we had was between sitting close, maybe holding his hand and with our other hand supporting his cup. Or give him a cup only for him to invariably spill his drink then help to wipe up the spill. I always chose the former. I gave him whatever food he wanted rather than expect him to finish his sandwich before he could have his dessert. He must have been lonely, frustrated and scared.

Sometimes I’m lonely, frustrated and scared, but it doesn’t last long, I have Tricia, the rest of my family and friends. I have social media and if all else fails I have the phone.

No one wants to travel this path alone. I know I don’t.

Whenever anyone questioned the many hours I spent on the phone or sitting with dad I would say “We'll miss him when he's gone"

And I do!

Coffee Club 9 Feb

Time: Feb 9, 2021 10:00 AM Universal Time UTC

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I think that was the citroen ami van I reversed into your knee in Lanivet, folding the back door and damaging your knee. You didn’t get cross at all!


Feb 09, 2021

I couldn't agree more. X


Very moving blog today Neil. Loneliness and aloneness is playing a huge part in these long pandemic months, thank God for close friends, family and modern communications.

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