Fathers Day and the Green shoots of an Apple Tree

DadSunday, yesterday as I write this was Fathers day in the UK and I thought I’d take a few minutes to look back at my Dad who died in, well, I was going to write the year but was it 2000 or 2001? Can you believe that, I can’t even remember the year he died!

The thing is, the year isn’t really important, what matters is that he’s no longer here and what’s worse is that me and my old Dad spent a lot of time not getting on with each other and that was a lot of wasted time, time that neither of us will ever get back.

My Dad and I were from different generations. Dad was born in 1928 and he was part of the World War II era. A time of shortages, of national emergency and an uncertain time when you weren’t sure if you or your loved ones were going to make it through that next air raid. Christmas for my Dad, he once told me, was an apple and an orange and maybe, just maybe, an out of the blue present like a tin of lead soldiers that were, of course, second-hand. Anyway, perhaps that’s why he couldn’t really relate to TV obsessed youngsters like me and my brother who were given a pillow case full of gifts on Christmas morning. In the seventies when I was a teenager my long hair and my denim outfits didn’t sit well with my Dad either who used to put a tie on to take the dog for a walk!

Anyway, the good thing is that when something really dreadful happened to me in my late twenties I told him about it rather than my Mum and instead of the usual moans and groans I had come to expect, when the chips were down he stood up and supported me. I’ll always remember him saying to me ‘don’t worry about your Mum, I’ll talk to her.’ It always seems to me looking back that that was the start of our relationship proper.

I describe my Dad pretty accurately in my kindle book ‘Floating In Space’. He was a big man but he was quiet and cat-like too. Everything he did had the same qualities of quiet and calm. He worked for the Manchester Highways department building roads and pavements and every day of his working life, come rain or shine, he set out for work on his old pushbike. One day the gears on his bike stripped and he took it in to the bike shop for a repair. They couldn’t fix it there and then so Dad had to borrow my bike to get to work the next day. What he didn’t know was that at the time there was a new craze -the chopper bike- and as I couldn’t afford an actual chopper bike, I had bought a chopper seat for my bike and fitted it the previous day. Looking back that bike looked pretty ludicrous and later I reverted to the normal seat but I can still see my Dads face as he pulled my bike out of the out house where it was stored and then me and my brother watched as this middle aged man set out for work on his hybrid chopper bike!

For fathers day many years ago I bought him an apple tree to plant in his back garden. When I turned up late on the Sunday my Mum was really pleased to see me and said that my Dad apparently was feeling a little neglected that day as until then, neither me nor my brother had turned up to see him.

We planted the tree in the back garden and years later, whenever I looked at that tree it reminded me of him. Of his quiet ways, of his ‘lets get on with it’ nature, of his spirit so like my Mum’s really of never letting anything get them down. Imagine my feeling one day last year when I looked out of my Mum’s back window to see the tree had been chopped down! I was seething and was all ready to get on the phone and give Manchester City Council some major grief when Mum told me she had asked for the tree to be cut down. What on earth for I asked?

Well, my Mum is a little unsteady on her feet and the tree was crowding her washing line and she was worried about falling over. So, she got the council to chop it down. It was clear she didn’t see the tree as I saw it, as a sort of living, growing, monument to the man I had given it to many years ago. Still, last time I was there, only last week, there were green shoots growing from the stump. The tree had beaten the man from the council and its indomitable spirit was still alive. I am sure my Dad, who loved nature in all its forms, would have smiled.


If you liked this post why not try my novel, ‘Floating In Space’ set in Manchester 1977? Click the links at the top of the page for more information.

Personal Heroes and bonne sante

Picture courtesy wikipedia

Everyone has their heroes, writers perhaps more so than other people because it’s our personal heroes that inspire us or perhaps even make us want to write. I come from a working class area of Manchester called Wythenshawe and when I get a bit down and look at my pile of rejected screenplays, essays and novels that seems to get bigger monthly, I wonder if I will never make it to the big time as a writer. That’s when I think about four working class northern men who did make it big, who worked hard at their craft and had incredible success. They weren’t authors but musicians; the Beatles!

One hundred percent northern through and through, John Lennon, Paul McCartney, George Harrison and Ringo Starr became the Beatles and didn’t just make it to the top of the hit parade they reinvented the pop music industry and their genius as both writers and performers will live on as long as music is listened to.

Many moons ago when I worked for a cigarette vending company I used to visit a small pub in Woolton and the owners of the pub were two retired ex shell tanker drivers. They were both friendly guys but one in particular was outgoing and talkative and if he was on duty at the bar we would always have a good chat while I sorted out the cigarette machine. One day we got onto the subject of the Beatles and Lennon’s working class background and I was surprised to hear that Lennon’s house was just around the corner. Woolton is a very pleasant middle class suburb of Liverpool and I remember thinking what? This is where Lennon was brought up? John Lennon always struck me as a typical working class guy and his image as a sort of working class hero led me to assume he had a background in a rough and tumble area of Liverpool, like the Dingle where Ringo was brought up. The truth was different. Perhaps Lennon fermented the working class hero thing, perhaps the fault was mine, I just assumed something without knowing the facts.

Driving round the corner I found Lennon’s old house, 251 Menlove Avenue. This was where Lennon lived with his aunt Mimi from the age of five. He was living here when he started his first band, the Quarrymen and also when he met Paul McCartney. Lennon’s life was one heck of a journey taking him around the world with the Beatles and finally to New York with Yoko Ono where he was shot and killed in 1980.

This blog is about personal heroes and I’ll introduce you to more of them in another blog but for now I’d like to finish by wandering off the subject and returning to that pub in Woolton.

I’m not totally sure but I think the pub was the Derby Arms and the owner, whose name I cannot remember told me a story about the death of his father. His father was an old chap, a veteran of the first world war and had picked up a habit in France of always having water with his meals and he would always raise his glass and toast ‘bonne sante’ to whoever he was with.
My friend went to visit him in hospital on his deathbed and asked the nurse how his was. ‘OK’ they replied ‘but a little dehydrated. Try and get him to drink a little water’
In the hospital ward the son passed a glass of water to his father’s lips and the father murmured ‘bonne sante’ before passing away.


So to all you who are reading, let me wish you ‘good health’ and if you enjoy my writing  why not take a look at my book. Click the links at the top of the page to buy or for more information.

On the bridge

It was me that found you on that lonely road that night

I spied you on the cameras around midnight

You looked cold on top of that bridge,

I suppose you thought you’d see things in a different kind of light,

Way up on the bridge

In the middle of the night.

The ambulance was on stand by anyway

And I know you had your problems

If only you could have let on, hinted to someone

Maybe you wouldn’t have given us such a fright

But I prefer to believe you were coming down

And that you tripped or were nudged by the wind

It’s a sad place to die in the middle of a road

No one heard you call or shout

And darkness came when the lights went out.

 

 Image

Its a really tragic thing when death occurs on the motorway. Even though the individual will not be known to us the sadness is still there, knowing that we were unable to prevent this tragedy.

My freedom of information request to the UK highways agency revealed that there were 652 suicide attempts on the motorway in 2013;

https://www.whatdotheyknow.com/request/motorway_suicides#incoming-523298

652! That’s a heck of a lot of distraught, sad people.

The Cat from across the Road

sam2ed

 

 

Everything seemed in order, I suppose, to die

It was a warm enough day;

Certainly

 

The sun shone and birds sung

Even though birds would cause a feline heart to race

Normally

 

I’ve had my fill of life

Of tit bits and cosy sleeps, sometimes in next doors shed

Informally

 

And I’ve had my chases and midnight hunts

And I’ve always remembered my owners and left them a mouse or two,

Naturally

 

A last cuddle would have been nice

Still, all in all it’s been a good life, and I’ve loved it

Enormously

 

I’ve always liked this tree

I can keep my eye on the birds and the sun comes down

Warmly

 

So now I’ll just close my eyes and die

And go on to the next of my nine lives

Expectantly.