Friday, 2 July 2010

Dutch, Swiss, Gypsy or Yorkshire

I remember, as a child, walking the long paths up to the mountain to throw arrows with my Dad: 'Dutch Arrows' he called them; long, straight branches cut from trees, finger-thick, skinned, sharpened, playing-cards stuffed in the end for flights, with a notch cut at the end.

We'd take our bootlaces and tie a knot in them, fastening it around the arrow's notch - pulling the line taught up the length of the arrow, then throw them into the air, watching them whistle along and fall into the Roman quarry. I may recall inaccurately because I was a child, but it seemed like these arrows could go a couple of hundred yards. We fished lakes and rivers until we saw the sun rise over more than a few; we climbed rocks together.

For someone who was away a lot, he did his best to be there. He always had something for us to do when he was around. I wanted for nothing, and my friends seemed a little envious of that. People remarked how close my father and I seemed. It wasn't true. We did everything together, but the old man never let me in. All I ever got was the stoic veneer.

However good it must have looked to the neighbours and family, it wasn't real. I might as well have been fishing with a mannequin. I never once remember my dad kissing my head or hugging me. I learned a thousand little things from him. I can hunt game, I can fish, I can light fires without matches.

I remember watching Ray Winston in 'Nil by mouth' launch into the tirade about his father and it really hit a nerve. I don't want to be that kind of dad. Just 'being there' isn't enough. I want to do more than just 'tick the boxes'.  The one thing my father didn't teach me is how to show love to your children. I guess that's one I'll have to figure out on my own.