My Father In Reflection
03/07/1938 – 18/10/2018
I never really knew my Father as he was more chameleon than Dad, if you follow my meaning. He was a different person to different people – in fact what he did was quite clever – he observed you and then became the person you wanted and expected to see. He then became that person for you. Now that was fine if you were not his actual family, as in his Son, Daughter or wife – because the person you saw was the real person and that person, wasn’t always that pleasant.
But because of this chameleon like personality no one except those much closer to him, knew who the real man actually was. He was a social entertainer, a socialite although the truth is he couldn’t stand his own company and preferred the company of others, but not always his family. He only preferred the company of others when it suited him or more importantly they could offer him something.
I now have access to his inner mind through his diaries and his written word, and this series will look at the man l never truly knew. For years l always wanted to get to know the other side to him, the hidden side.
This series will cover that journey. The story at the bottom of the post is written in my Father’s own words.
My Father did lead an active life, he was a very busy man – he was a copper in London as well as Australia, and he did join the RAAF and he was involved in some high brow activities due to the very nature of his job in the Airforce. It was joked about at one time to those who asked what he did that if he told them he would have to kill them! It would scare people – but was it true? To the degree of killing someone, no!
He led a life that many would be envious of – but he was never happy with the life he led. He did have an extremely attractive wife who not only loved him, but adored him for a large portion of the years they were married. He did have great kids, who were polite and courteous to not just their parents but to everyone they met. The children were mostly brought up by their Mother – who lived for her kids.
But he was NEVER happy with his life, his wife, his children or his work. He would always tell people that he was a pilot who flew jets for the Australians. Was this true? No, he never once flew any jets although he did work around jets and their pilots and he was stationed in Malaysia in Butterworth, at a time when the Vietnam war was at it’s most aggressive. But was he involved in the war itself as in directly? No, he wasn’t.
Yet as said, despite having a good supportive family, a good career and a life many would be enviable of – it was never enough.
Was he a good Father? In my opinion no he was not. He never really wanted children, only really having them more for status. Was he an attentive and loving husband? No, he had an attractive wife once more for the status of it. With my Father everything was for something else, it was always for show.
My Father who would always tell others that he was modernistic in his thinking, he was anything but, he was however an antiquated traditionalist, who was a sexist as much as a chauvinist, a racist as much as a homophobe – to say he had undesirable traits is an understatement. My Father was a brutal man who thought not twice of beating his wife and becoming an overly stern and hard disciplinarian to his Son.
My Father loved telling people stories, he liked to impress people and was oft the centre of attention at parties, he would openly flirt with other women in front of my Mother, and thought it was funny to have young ladies fawn over him to ‘make her jealous’. He was also an adulterer. But above everything – he was an avid storyteller and wouldn’t think twice in order to embellish a story to mix a lie or two into the words to make something more adventurous or even spicy which l failed at times to comprehend or understand when so much of his real life was so adventurous.
His life was simply never good enough for him.
A Working Man In My Prime
In 1983 I met Prince Charles. He asked me to introduce the members of my all female team. Good thinking, sir. They were all much prettier than me.
1985 I met the Queen Mother. She said, “Thank you dear.”
Also in 1985, I was introduced to Jacques Chirac, then the Mayor of Paris and subsequently twice President of France. I replied, in French, to his address of welcome to my group and he subsequently informed me that I spoke French with an English accent.
In 1989 I met Mrs Thatcher. She informed me that she had a dreadful toothache.
In 1970 I had been within touching distance of the Crown Prince of Japan, later Emperor. He didn’t say a word.
None of these occasions devolve any importance or merit upon me. I was in the process of doing my job.
My job, at most times during my life defined who and what I was and what I have become. In retrospect I could perhaps have been a better husband. That would be for others to determine. Maybe I could also have been a better father although, in my subjective thinking, I probably was not too bad at that job. I was, or had been ‘A working man in my prime,’ in the words of Van Morrison, who had been and probably still is, an awkward bastard from Belfast. A bit like yourself I hear people say.
I haven’t even mentioned my brief liaison with Petula Clark, an even shorter relationship with Barry Knight of Essex and England and Nigel Mansell, Formula one champion.
And yet, it was only because of a mistake that I was ever in a position to meet any of the great and good I did meet. The mistake was made by my father and mother.
At the age of fifteen I was a fairly bright if rebellious student at Grammar School. I wanted to go on to Queens’ University Belfast to get a degree, any degree, and join the RAF as a pilot. My mother wanted me to be a priest. I didn’t. Neither of my Nationalist, Republican parents wanted me to join the forces of the Crown.
As it happened, the arrival of my baby brother, Patrick, fifteen years after me, and nine years after my sister who was supposedly the last child, put an end to all of these plans. We couldn’t afford it; I had to get a job.
My Dad, who carried the plate around at Sunday Mass, spoke to some of his mates in church, and I started work in a beer bottling company. I hated it. I hated the smell, the noise and the crudity of my fellow workers and the vast drinking of beer. None of these led to my being let go. Having sent a number of full bottles cascading onto the head of a workmate was, I was asked to consider my future.
Dad, once again, spoke to his mates and I worked for over a year with a confectionery company. Very nice too. Three quid a week and plenty of sweets to boot. I departed when I was asked, on Friday evening, to work on Saturday. I told them I was playing cricket and had given my word. My employer gave me his word, which was ‘You’re fired.’
After a short time on the dole I found my next job myself. I became a dispatch clerk in a wholesale hardware company. I enjoyed it a lot, met some girls, and lasted eighteen months. I left to join the Met Police, to the chagrin of my girlfriend, Sandra, whose father was an inspector in the RUC.
I served eight and a half years in the Police, had a few adventures, was not corrupt and became a hard nut. I left with my wife and baby son to migrate to Australia.
I had been recruited in London, by the Victoria Police and became a copper in Melbourne. The Victoria Police was what I imagined the Met had been like in the 1930’s, unimaginative and boring. The boredom was relieved by the penchant of the police to fire their guns at youths nicking cars, a habit which somewhat disconcerted other road users.
After about nine months, I obtained a commission in the Royal Australian Air Force and would have lived happily after, had it not been for my wife. She had agreed to migrate to Australia, had agreed to my joining the Air Force, but had turned against both ideas. Fickleness, thy name is woman.
Despite this I stayed almost six years and enjoyed it more than anything else I have ever done. I believed, in what both the RAAF and I were about, believed 100%, which was handy.
Along the way, I had picked up a few clues about the security business and spent five years as security manager of a large car manufacturing plant in Melbourne. It was well paid, not overtaxing and I had a company car. Again, life was sweet, but my wife decided she wanted to return to the UK.
I agreed and off we toddled, the reverse journey of twelve years previously, but this time with our souvenir of Australia, our eight year old daughter.
God, for reasons best known to himself, continued to smile on me. Thank you, God. I started work for Mobil Oil and stayed for twenty three years until Exxon bought us out, gave me a lot of money and told me to bugger off.
In the meantime, my wife and I had parted, and no one has occupied on a permanent basis the space she left behind.
While working for Mobil, I had, so to speak, moved up the ranks and in my final years I was responsible for the company’s security in Europe, Africa, the Middle East and the former Soviet Union. Exciting times to be in the business.
During my dotage, believing that I still had something to offer, I continued to act as a consultant, mostly in the Middle East and Africa including one marvellous stint of six months on a contract in South Africa.
I believe that, professionally, I wasn’t bad at what i did. Unfortunately, my private life was much less successful. Maybe I got things the wrong way round. Van Morrison, please take note.
Written by my Father B.M