MY father never read to me. Not once. He never played with my brother and myself as children and never took any interest in our schooling. I don’t have a problem with any of that.
He didn’t really want kids. My mum wanted four. They compromised and had two, which to be fair to my dad was more of a give on his part, though I suspect one of the unspoken parts of the agreement was that he didn’t have to bother with us until we were old enough to pursue his interests.
The regular cry of “Dad, dad, will you play a game with us?” was generally greeted with a “not now, I’ve just got home from work” — even if he hadn’t.
His three hobbies were cricket, football and the working men’s club and he made sure they would become, to varying degrees, my interests too.
My initial lack of enthusiasm for sport dismayed him, but when I finally got the bug at five-years-old, my relentless pestering of him to play cricket or football with me reduced his passion somewhat.
A game of penalties would usually result in a 5-0 victory for father over son and any game of cricket would, after he patted the ball back to me a few times, feature him smashing it out of sight so several of the few minutes allotted to the game would be taken up by its retrieval. I would arrive back panting form having run across the field to get the ball, only for it to be bashed out of sight again a minute later. When it was my turn to bat, a couple of slow balls were dutifully sent down before he skittled my stumps with a delivery far too pacy for my five-year-old self to deal with.
We eventually played in the same team together, his competitiveness and will to win coupled with an ability and confidence far greater than mine, undoubtedly causing him further disappointment. I was never going to play for Yorkshire.
Even my drinking was a let down. He was quicker than me and if I got a pint behind in the race to down four in an hour at the workers’ after his factory shift finished at 10pm he would ask what was wrong with me. Conversely, if I drank too much I was given a telling off. A lose-lose situation.
As he got older he mellowed, and I like to think he noticed I had taken on some of his competitive spirit and single-mindedness, despite his not being alive long enough to witness my own spectacular 10-0 thrashing of a six-year-old at penalties. Yes, that’s 10-0, not 5-0 dad, and he was six, not five.
I will take that solitary victory — he was also better than me at tennis, snooker, pool etc — with the knowledge that all the things I might have beaten him at he wouldn’t have played against me.
I will take it because I am exactly the same and thank my father for teaching me that sometimes it’s actually the not taking part that counts.