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.
Did l know that my Father had used dating agencies and resorted to the likes of the Telegraph? Was this something new? I knew he had after Jeanne left his life gone through a very distorted view on life and had at one point made a pact with me … that if he was to suddenly no longer exist on the planet, it was a result of depression and suicide and that l was to understand and not be judgemental!! Good lord Dad l remember thinking, of all the things l could judge you on and now l am to be held to a pact of understanding and not to judge you?
I told him to NOT do that, that life could still go on, that if he tried too hard to find someone he would never find anyone, but equally if he didn’t at least try to move on he wouldn’t know if there was someone out there for him. I was struggling with the attitude he was holding for Jeanne. At the time he was very cagey why they had split up. I only literally learned a few months ago that it was because of this ‘Them or me’ supposition as in choose your family or me Mexican stand off – but whilst l thought at the time, okay that carries some water. Since doing Dad’s paperwork, l have discovered things about that relationship that doesn’t sit with my Sister’s explanation.
Originally l had thought that maybe my Father who had been abusive to my Mother during their marriage of thirty odd years, had perhaps ‘struck Jeanne’, and this was why they had split up after such a short time? I had met Jeanne once, and once was enough to know she would most assuredly not tolerate that behaviour. There was also something in one of Dad’s books that made reference to something similiar. I didn’t dislike Jeanne, l didn’t know her, and you cannot really properly assess someone after one meeting that lasted an hour.
But what l have come to realise is that perhaps my Sister had a bigger role in this relationship collapse. She only had to mention something and it was hers and she was and l can now officially state quite a drain on my Father’s finances. He was a fool for the things she demanded of him and he paid for! Perhaps the line was more along the lines of ‘It’s me or your daughter!” That would make more sense, especially given how much resentment there was between my Mother and her daughter for example.
My Sister could manipulate my Father literally around her little finger, and did so, and l do think now that there may have been some jealousies exchanged here, especially on time. My Father would not have tolerated that at all. If l had been an only child, l very much doubt for one minute he would have hesitated in giving into Jeannes so called demand.
In the process of the probate paperwork in the last few weeks, l came across a number of old Wills of my Fathers, and one of them many years ago, left everything only to Jeanne, and we as his children were nowhere on the scene! After they split up, it was only my Sister on the new Will! No mention of me at all. So l knew that l was somewhat unimportant in my Father’s life, that was a new discovery. The last Will, as in the one that deals with now, my Sister and l are both on it as executors and l know that came about, because when it was drawn up in 2016, my Father told me he did so because he didn’t entirely trust his ‘darling daughter’ but also he didn’t believe he had been terribly fair on me over the years. That’s pretty damning, and a huge change from previous years.
However as l have learned l have had to watch my back with her and exert my five years senior to remind her that there are actually two if us on the Will!
But back to Dad’s dating, the problem is as you will read, was that my Father was very ”judgemental” but also had decided that it was NEVER going to work if he couldn’t have Jeanne, it was literally that simple!
Having spent some time on the dating scene not as long as my Father admittedly, l can understand all too well the problems faced with the ;lying’. My Father l think would have done remarkably well at this – because he was truly fabulous at both lying and embellishment and l am not/was not. He had 132 replies … during my assorted 9 month period of ‘dating’ l had one date, speaks for itself doesn’t it?
This is my Father’s tale of such tidings! I haven’t changed the descriptions he uses, because l know from past experiences that women also assess in a similiar fashion. Is online dating a meat trade, yes l think it is, and l think it always has been in truth.Dating for some people, women and men alike has always been a difficult game! It certainly was for me. If not for Suze l could well have been a bachelor for the rest of my life! And if Suze and l split, l most assuredly will be!
We were, I suppose, poor as a family, as I was growing up. But this was only in comparison to today and not to other people at the time. We had a roof over our heads, we had clothes to wear and we never went short of food. Both my parents worked and did their best for their brood of four. My mother, especially, wanted us to achieve things in life that my father did not consider too important, though, to his credit, he did not oppose.
My Dad sent me to boxing classes but I was a big disappointment, as I could never skip. End of my career as a pugilist. Mum sent my sister to ballet and singing lessons. She couldn’t sing a note and was a tad on the heavy side for dance. All right, she was more than a tad. I went to elocution classes, to learn to talk proper and to acting school to become the next Laurence Olivier. I took part in one production, playing a policeman. Type casting indeed. To this day, I remember my lines. Well, if you are being picky, it was one line. “Hello, hello, hello. What’s going on here then?” Hardly deathless prose.
I fluffed my one line and my career in amateur dramatics was over. So Larry remained unchallenged, at least by me. It was not my only brush with the thespians. No, thespians, dear. In 1986, I danced with Petula Clark. I suppose to be completely accurate, she asked me to dance with her. It was in Madeira where I had been responsible for security at a Retail Conference and had worked closely with Pet, Michel Le Grand and their entourages. It was the first dance after her stunning performance on stage. She just came over, took my hand and we danced, alone on the floor, while the punters applauded. She also kissed me, here, on the lips. She was charming, sexy, petite and fragrant and I was totally smitten. Perhaps she was too, but we were both married. She never phoned me afterwards. I hate that, don’t you?
Pet had a song called “Romeo”, the opening line of which was “I studied Shakespeare when I was at school, I thought Romeo was a pet.” The Bard had a great deal to say about a good many things and most of it made sense. Somewhere or other he said “All the world’s a stage and all the men and women merely players.” Well, he sure as hell had that right, and that is the area of amateur dramatics I’d like to address. By the way, for the less gifted among us, that was from ‘As you like it.’ I checked!
I got divorced at the age of fifty, after thirty years of marriage. I was fifty-six when I split from Jeanne. These were very raw times. For many reasons, I needed a woman in my life. After such a long time married, or in a relationship, how in hell does one begin again? It ain’t easy, baby. You can see that the elocution lessons paid off. Work was one option, but it seemed that all the attractive ladies had been spoken for. No surprise there, then. Friends introduced me to various divorced or single friends. For both parties it was a bit like sizing up meat displayed in a butcher’s shop.
It was the Daily Telegraph that provided some hope. Kindred Spirits was designed to introduce single people to each other, safely. Well, if it’s in the Telegraph, it must be OK. The system was simple and free. You recorded a message on a special phone number and a small ad, listing your attributes, appeared in the paper’s Friday edition. People who liked the ad phoned a box number to listen to the full two minutes. If they liked what they heard, they left a message with their phone number and the advertiser phoned if he/she was interested.
It was now that my second acting career started afresh, but whether as comedy, tragedy or farce, I cannot say, even now. I try to be objective when I say that I didn’t deliberately tell lies, but it is important to sell ones self. Some of the ladies I met may just have oversold themselves, and acting on both sides was critically important.
I was overwhelmed by the sheer numbers of folks out there who are lonely and frightened. Maybe I was naïve. No, certainly I was naïve. I answered quite a number of female ads and saw a number of girls/women/ladies. They were a mixed crew. Some were just, and openly, looking for a free lunch or dinner. Some were trying to prove a point to themselves or to their ex-partners. Some could hear the ticking of the biological clock, but most were scared and lonely. None was the person I sought, and they had reciprocal feelings about me.
I decided that I would advertise and stitched together my own two minutes. I had 132 replies. I was staggered. The parameters which I had set out in respect of age, locality and interests were totally ignored. The age range was from 19 to 70; and replies came from as far apart as Salisbury and Glasgow. There was even one from Vancouver, in Canada. She had read the Kindred Spirits ad on the web. This lady was English, living in BC, divorced, and returning to live in UK. We did eventually meet in Covent Garden and she acted as if we were engaged, holding my arm and moving up close and personal at every opportunity. We had one date.
I realised that some of these actors could have been prosecuted under the Trades Descriptions Act. The language was being turned on its head. 40ish meant 49. Adventurous was sleeps with anyone. Sociable ditto. Average looking ugly. Womanly figure fat. Large frame, read very fat. Voluptious was hugely fat. Athletic figure-no boobs. Emotionally secure read on Prosac. Old fashioned and/or Christian meant no sex.
I went out with a French girl called Liz, who told me off for exchanging pleasantries with the Kiwi waitress. She compounded this offence by lighting up a cigarette in my Jag, without so much as a by your leave, kiss my ass, or anything. In my Jag! Another one dater.
At the end of this sad and disturbing period in my life I concluded that the person I sought already existed and was out of reach.
My second venture into the world of Amateur Dramatics was as unsuccessful as the first, but took a lot more time. As Shakespeare might have put it ‘All that glisters is not gold.’
Written by my Father B.M