My Father In Reflection
03/07/1938 – 18/10/2018
The series is a journey of reflection and a final honour to laying the ghosts and demons that have been with me since l was five.
Originally l had planned to show one entry a day with regards this series about my Father – there is enough literature from him to fill his own blog. I urged him late last year to consider writing a blog as he might’ve found it more rewarding than continually writing one story six different ways and then self-publishing to produce ten copies for friends and family whom only 20% actually read the content. I was 10% of that 20%.
It wasn’t that my Father couldn’t write, he could, but he failed to be able to invoke enough emotion with passion to make his particular story come alive to a reader. The story was about his all time love Jeanne [name changed]. They were together for 5 years. My Mother and my Father were together for 30. I am not a Son who cried when my parents divorced, they in my eyes, were not paired as a couple, so they should never have married. My Father after the divorce tried to tell me that his new French lady was the sparkle to his galaxy. Ok, so be it. Who am l to criticise that? If that’s what you think, you believe, then live life for now, l told him.
But as l have gone and am going through his life in the written word, l did admire and still do his tenancity and determination for trying to get the books published – a very Aspergian trait is dogged determination, something else he and l shared and if he had taken the time to acknowledge his Son would have learned. He had 213 rejections from established publishers on his manuscripts for one book alone! I am not quite sure how many would have continued after that. But his one failing was that unlike me, he did not heed the advice proffered by those houses. He couldn’t understand that the ‘story’ wasn’t viable for the market and in the end, re resigned to simply self-publishing the ‘love story’.
Jeanne and my Father split up after five years together, there were many reasons for that l personally believe. My Father at that time was still a young man at 60, but it was like time stopped still for him in 1998. And so from that year to 2018 he was stuck in time. He never moved on.
Had my Father chosen to write on a topic that didn’t require that ‘loving emotion’ he felt compelled to interject into his books, l do believe hand upon heart that he WOULD have been published. He was extremely knowledgeable on many topics, whereas l don’t believe he was that experienced with love and that showed clearly in his written works. But on battlefields, military history, cricket and football and even Churchill – he was your go to guy. But he never wrote on those things in length.
As this series progresses we will see a lot of his writing, and for the first time many of his stories if not all of them will be seen by none of his friends and none of his family, bar myself. For the first time, he will get published and seen by a bigger readership. For the first time, my Father will have his own blog of sorts.
I don’t mind doing that. I did love the man, l did care about him, we just, well, we weren’t close, we were not like other Fathers and Sons. In many respects we had grown apart because the truths of life seperated us, and we both allowed that to happen. Me, because l did tell the truth, and him because he didn’t like my honesty.
This story of his that follows, is one of the reasons l started this journey in the first place -it is my Father talking and writing, and actually not lying but being honest. This is the Father, l didn’t always see, and didn’t always know.
Note: My Father was not and was never a pilot.
Where Would I Be Now??
“Who am I? What am I?
Where am I and does anyone else give a toss?
Don’t know, don’t know, don’t know, and no, no one gives a bugger.
I am, or have been, someone’s son, brother, husband, lover, cousin, uncle, father and grandfather. But that is defining me by reference to others. Can I look inwards more subjectively?
I dunno about that.”
“Am I happy with myself? Christ no! Whose fault is that, son? Your own fault, my old mucker, your own.”
I wonder how it started. I do not know why, and as I grow older, the answer moves further away, even if the desire to reach that answer becomes more imperative. How did it all start? Well, as the late George Harrison sings, ‘if you don’t know where you’re going, any road will get you there’. I had absolutely no idea what I wanted to do when I was going to school. Oh yes, I had the usual boyish ambitions, I wanted to play football for Manchester United and Northern Ireland, and cricket for England. I still do, but haven’t heard from Sir Alex or Nasser Hussain lately, so I suppose my chance has gone.
My dear mother, God bless her, wanted me to become a priest, but, as I have said before, the pull of the opposite sex, if you will excuse the pun, was stronger. I really wanted to be an Air Force pilot, like I really wanted that. It was a burning, overpowering ambition. My parents opposed it, they said because it was a precarious occupation. In later life I suspect it was because they hated the idea of my serving the Crown in the Royal Air Force.
When I left school, with no prospect of going to University, that project was ditched and I decided that I wanted to be a policeman. Now this was better, but only marginally so, as the folks did not regard the RUC as a suitable career for a good Catholic boy, who might have been a priest. My then girlfriend, Sandra, a flame haired lovely, was the daughter of an RUC sergeant, and tried to persuade me. Had we stayed together longer, she would probably have succeeded. Our breathless, celibate and pure relationship waned and I was packed off to join the Metropolitan Police, God bless their institutionally racist socks.
That took eight years of my life and I enjoyed it while it lasted. I wasn’t a bad copper, although that is only my view. A number of East End villains would testify the opposite. A year in the Melbourne Police followed. It was one of the worst years of my life. Nuff said. The love of my life followed, the RAAF, for six years. Concern for my wife’s health forced me to resign my commission, though she has a different view on that. Six years at General Motors was followed by twenty-three at Mobil. In the course of my time with them, I visited 122 countries, most of them on business.
I am now retired, for three years and so we are back to the start.
I was married for thirty years and have been divorced for fourteen. It wasn’t all bad, but a bloody great deal of it was, very bad. I love my kids and my grandchildren.
What would have been different if I had taken another turning at any of the above points?
Well, had I joined the RUC I would have been involved in the Troubles and perhaps maimed or killed like so many of those brave men and women. Perhaps I would not have the immense respect for that force which I do have, had I actually served.
And if I had joined the RAF I would probably retired as a flight lieutenant at thirty-eight years of age and spent the rest of my life flying ancient aircraft into warring hellholes in Africa. I don’t really fancy being buried in the Democratic Republic of the Congo, do you?
And the Met? Probably ended as a sergeant, retiring at forty-four years of age, and sitting out the next fifteen or twenty in a security job somewhere. Which is what you did do, old boy, wasn’t it?
And the Royal Australian Air Force? I think I would have ended up a Wing Commander, the Provost Marshal, and the holder of the BEM. Well, all the others did.
And my marriage, what of that? Regrets, yes, I’ve had a few, as Mr Sinatra used to sing. It wasn’t all her fault, of course. We were both to blame. There is no point in allocating percentages, it doesn’t help. And I did have my wife to thank for our children, and indirectly, our grandchildren. And even more directly, for Jeanne. If I had stayed married I would not have met Jeanne, and if I had not met her, I would have turned up my clogs without knowing what love was really all about. Sorry, put your hankies away.
So, on balance, I suppose I would still have ended up where I am. Am I happy now? No, but at least, I was once.
Written by my Father B.M