Monday, June 18, 2007


The day of my father's anniversary, when I started thinking about him (well ok, it was Ray Davies, and Days who got me properly started - and Dumdad for reminding me), was the day we went to Germany. I started the week thinking about him, and spent it remembering fil. We came back the day after the anniversary of my father's funeral.

I like patterns, they form the ebb and flow of life somehow.

Another pattern is that in a few weeks I'll be forty two - twenty one years ago my father first fell ill.

He died shortly before another big birthday, my thirtieth.

This year isn't a big birthday year. It isn't even a big anniversary year - his tenth came and went without my feeling the need to talk about him.

Perhaps it is because the ebbs and flows of my life have taken me first into a career in publishing, during the period when he recovered from his heart bypass and lived a happy retirement in Shropshire, while his death propelled me into my next (and most important) career of motherhood. Now, as my children grow old enough for me to look at the world, I am starting a new career as a writer.

Patterns. Ebbs and flows.

Or maybe just so much baloney... (I do know I get carried away).

Maybe the reason this has come out now is that he isn't here to see my first book published. But without him, it never would have been.I spent so long searching for him, wishing I could find him. And now, I think I realise, he has been with me all along.

My favourite character in Pastures New has echoes of him, and my current heroine is about to launch an a life change after losing her dad. The experience of losing my own seems to be part of my writing. The experience of knowing him, is what makes me do it.

And always, always, when I see gold roses, or look at the stars, I think of him.

To end on a funny note.

My dad was spontaneous and often rather barking. He had a habit of putting a notion in your head and then wandering off, leaving it festering for a while.

The house we lived in was full of creaks and whispers. He had a huge imagination, and so do I.

I think this story sums up what connects us, in the end...


Did you hear that noise? My father says poking his head round the door.

I am sitting in the dining room of our house, studying for some exams. I hate this room. Being as the house faces north, it is always cold. But more then that, it is the room where both my grandmother and aunt died. I always imagine ghosts. Don't be silly, says my mother, if there were such a thing as ghosts, they'd be friendly ones.

Even now, though at seventeen, I am spooked by this room. But it is the only room where homework gets done, so here I sit.

Father and I are alone in the house, but he is just about to go out.

I could have sworn I heard a noise, is his parting shot, as he bangs the door shut.

I am completely alone now, and the house creaks more then ever. I have the dining room door shut, but I can hear every single shift of a floorboard.

At the top of the stairs is a step which creaks.

It creaks very loudly now.

I am the only one in.The top step is creaking....

No. It isn't. Don't BE stupid.

I try to concentrate on my work.

I hear another creak. And another. It sounds as though someone is coming down the stairs.

Don't be silly. It's just this house. It always rattles.

But the creaks don't go away. They come more frequently and more loudly then ever. There is someone in the house with me. AND I AM ON MY OWN...

I am feeling sick with terror, no amount of concentration is going to cram any more knowledge into my head about Martin Luther.

There is someone coming down the stairs.

They are coming towards the door. The only way out of the house is through it. What am I going to do?

Then it comes to me. In a moment of quite mad insane glory. There is a shillelagh hanging in the kitchen. If I climb out of the window, and run round the back of the house and grab it, at least I will have a weapon.

So feeling only faintly idiotic, I throw myself through the window, and in panicky haste, go and grab the shillelagh. I walk through the house holding it aloft.There is no one there.

Now I feel truly idiotic.

I go back to my books and sit with the shillelagh on my lap.

Some time later, Father returns.

Everything all right while I was out? he asks.

Fine, I say.Sometime later I secrete the shillelagh back into the kitchen.

Did he know?I have no idea.

But I never breathe a word.

The shillelagh also has a guest spot in Pastures New. Now I know why...


Dumdad said...

And 42, as you know, is the answer to the ultimate question of life, the universe and everything. So you'll know then....

Jane Henry said...

Of course it is. I should know that having listened avidly to Hitchikers when it was on the radio. My children love the film, particularly the dolphins. Another pattern perhaps...

granny p said...

These father pieces are wonderful. Hope you will do some more. Good luck with the run too..xx gp/p

granny p said...

meant to add - how the twin stuff reverberates too. My twin avoided confrontation with our dad - I was the one provoked it...