In My Father’s Words
03/07/1938 – 18/10/2018
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