Saturday, June 16, 2007


You're not going out in this?

My father stands in disbelief as I ready myself to get on my bike and cycle it to Euston Station. The weather is abysmal and it's seven miles away.


Tomorrow I'm going to Liverpool. The only way to get my bike there is to send it by train. The only way to get it on the train is to cycle it to Euston. The rain is streaming down. I don't really fancy cycling down the North Circular in it, but I don't tell him that, of course. Besides. What other choice is there?

The tension that has been simmering all summer between us spills out into a furious row.

Don't go, he says, but I do. Slamming the door shut. Certain, with all the arrogance of youth, that I am right and he is wrong.

The bike and I make it to Euston in one piece, I am absolutely sodden when I get home. I know I should make up with him. I am leaving home tomorrow. Never go to bed on a row, is his motto, and normally mine. But I am still too angry.

All summer long he's been needling me about my reading list. That'll teach me to take a degree in his subject. Have you read The Faerie Queene? Lucky you, you're going to study Anglo Saxon. You'd better get on with that list you know, otherwise you'll be behind from the beginning... On and on he goes. It's getting on my nerves. I wish he'd just leave me alone.

My twin gets none of this of course. Lucky her, she's not even here. Besides. He knows nothing of Biology.

I love my father dearly. But I hate it when he forgets to be my dad and tries to teach me instead. I don't like the two roles muddled, and I am defensive and snappy. He just wants to help and is hurt and angry back. Usually we tiptoe round each other and avoid confrontation. For my father when roused is unpredictable. I hate rows and am a past master at evading them. But, that last day he pushes too far, and I let fly. Why then? Why couldn't I wait one more day? It is the only time I ever let him goad me into a fight. And I am too proud to say sorry. So I don't.

We have a tense drive to Liverpool the next day. I am map reading for the first time and accidentally take us off the M62 a junction early, and he bites my head off. But eventually we get there in one piece. My mother and twin wait in my room while Father drives me to Lime Street to pick up my bike. I am taut and anxious. Will he start another row?

That bloody bike, is all he says, but then laughs his way through a Liverpool traffic jam. He's so unpredictable. I want him to apologise first, but this is as far as he can go. I meet him halfway, but I still can't bring myself to be the one to make peace, and it's an uneasy truce.

We get my bike back to my hall, have a quick cup of tea, and then they say goodbye.

Lucky you, says my father as he climbs in the car. I wish I was on the brink of a whole new life. Lucky you.

I don't feel lucky as I wave them goodbye, and walk back down my dark forbidding corridor, where all doors are shut to me. I feel miserable, heartsick that our argument is unresolved and terrified of the new life that awaits me.

He thinks my terror was indifference. He has yet to tell me the story of his mother, so I don't understand that he is jealous of my chances.

The rain falls solidly those first few weeks. Every time I get on my bike it seems to rain. I am perpetually drenched.

Slowly though I make friends, and begin to enjoy my freedom. But my course is hard. Much harder then I'd anticipated. And there are bits I really hate.

How's the Anglo Saxon going? He asks when I ring home. I can't face telling him, knowing how it is his favourite subject, I've barely attended a lecture. Education is wasted on the young.

I am often homesick, but pride prevents me from taking a trip back home. Pride and a determination to punish him.

I'm appalled by how cruel I was now. I wonder if he minded.

Eventually I make it home for Christmas. And he is there. Same as ever. Giving me a big bear hug.

Everything is as it was.

We never row like that again.

But I still haven't read The Faerie Queene.


Dumdad said...

Nor have I.

Jane Henry said...

I haven't read Clarissa either... I took that home one Christmas and thought, naah... too long. My English lecturers had a game of which classic have you embarrassingly never got round to reading. Those are two of mine. Along with: Anna Karenina, War and Peace, Les Miserables... etc etc.

I take great comfort from knowing that even Stephen Fry claims to know nothing!