As an avid follower of the Suburban Bushwacker, it wasn’t long before I picked up on his link to really quite an odd blog, ‘Shit My Dad Says’.
SBW, in my experience, doesn't link to tosh so I thought I'd wander over.
Basically, it is just some young man pasting in all the crazy stuff his Dad, obviously one of the original Grumpy Old Men, has said to him. Now it looks like there is a book and a film on the way. Brilliant, and good luck to you young Justin, your Dad sounds great.
Anyway, it got me thinking about my Dad. He was lean and very mean when he wanted to be and, as an ex Sergeant Major, had the razor sharp wit that used to verbally flay even the cockiest recruit or over arrogant young officer and continued, post service, to be aimed at anyone that irritated him, especially me.
He started off in the King’s Own Rifle Brigade and then transferred over to the Ordnance Corps. He ended up as the Stores Materials Control Manager for British Gas with offices in Derby, where he built the National Strategic Stockyard (and I learnt to drive), and the Natwest Tower in London. I started in the Light Infantry, one half of the Light Division that subsumed the Rifle Brigade and was then commissioned into the Ordnance Corps so had unwittingly started in his footsteps.
When I pointed this out to him his reaction was simple. ‘So you think ending your days working for the bloody Gas Board is some kind of achievement?’
Judging by the number of people who turned up at his funeral, the lovely house and pension he left our Mum, yes Dad, I think it was.
There was a massive intellect there that never had the chance to flower. He could quote any passage of Kipling you cared to mention and once recited the Ancient Mariner while driving well over the speed limit all the way from Leicester to Newcastle. He was Captain of the British Army Trials team and could shoot the balls of a gnat.
When he was a kid, his Dad dumped him off in a pub in York where he slept under the counter before making his way back to Liverpool and ended up carrying his younger half brother on his back through the burning blitzed out streets to safety. He lied about his age and joined the Army as soon as he could. I never met his half brother, Trevor.
Oldest sons can never do right. We are expected, especially once the younger siblings arrive, to be blessed with a maturity well beyond our few years. How many of us are guilty of the same? The nagging doubt you may have bred a mutant retard; the neighbour’s kid is walking, what’s wrong with ours?
Well, speaking from experience, nothing actually. I was perfectly content to dribble porridge down my face and shit in my nappies. I wasn’t going to crawl, let alone walk to reach a bunch of coloured blocks when I knew that patience would be rewarded by these ‘big’ people eventually bringing them to me. I was too young to realise I was surrounded by dizzy aunts who spoilt me rotten. It was only when I saw something really interesting, like a scorpion, that I felt I just had to wander over and have a chew. That got me loads of attention.
My earliest recollection is sitting on my father’s lap behind the steering wheel of some car driving through Tripoli. He was dead keen that I would do well but, being a Sgt. Major, he was sometimes a bit colourful with me.
I was devastated when my father died so suddenly. I had left the Army and opened a motorcycle dealership in Germany which grew until I went international and opened another in Bratislava. I never really earned much money out of that outlet, my customers were basically the local Mafia but God, was it fun. I would run a Mercedes panel van all the way down Germany, through Austria and then be met by these hoods at the border so crossing was easy.
I’d build the ‘bikes up, usually in the car park of whatever night club the big man owned and then we’d go racing around Bratislava at quite frankly, really scary speeds, across greasy cobble stones first laid when the place was part of the Austro-Hungarian Empire until His Highness was satisfied that I had sold him the very absolute pinnacle of unbeatable hot snot.
The business turned out to be sort of self sustaining as each ‘boss’ realised he had just been upped by his nemesis down the road and demanded something even more crazy from me. I felt like an arms dealer selling to all sides, one of them was bound to get pissed off with me in the end.
So I invited my Dad along.
He was due to retire in six months but there was no way he was going to spend his twilight years with his feet stuffed into slippers, hunched in his wingback sipping cocoa.
'You are running empty vehicles back from Russia’ he said to me one day.
'Not Russia, Dad, Czechoslovakia’
'Commies, same thing. Bet you they’ve got loads of antiques over there'
'I want to be an antiques dealer when I retire and if I have a son too stupid to get loads for his returning vans, I might as well cash in'
So I contacted the Boys and next trip, my Dad rode shotgun in the truck.
We got to Bratislava, met the gang, built up their bikes and then, because they really, really respect older people, especially father’s of colleagues, fell over themselves to help my Dad out. First with a selection of Italian birds that had me exploding in my Y fronts, and then with what he was really interested in, antiques.
There was no real open commerce but there were always those places were simple folk could flog the sort of stuff they didn’t need anymore. We would walk in, score what we fancied, and then let the boys do the negotiating. Once I had the temerity to ask the shop owner the price before leaving it to the minder and she told me X Squillion Dollars. The boy went in, came out, told me not to do that again and the price was 50 bucks. For a Viennese wall clock. I say boy. He was built like a brick shithouse.
When it came time to go home, all our loot was concealed in the footwells of a fleet of Ladas complete with mothers and suckling babes under the feet of whom was concealed the stock for my Dad’s fledgling Leicestershire antique shop.
In those days the length of the queues waiting to cross a communist border was measured in days, not miles. The man squished into the cab between me and my Dad directed us into the oncoming traffic and, at the head of a convoy of Ladas we hurtled at the border. Cartons of cigarettes sailed out of the window landing in the arms of border guards as easy as we sailed into Austria.
Two weeks later, my dad was found dead in his workshop having died of a massive heart attack while carving a garden bench he had made.
Even now I dream about him sometimes. For seventeen years I have only thought of him fleetingly. I miss him like hell and obviously it hurts if I think about him too hard. But while reading the shit that young Justin’s Dad says, I started to remember all the grief my dad gave me. I loved doing things with him and he obviously liked to have me along because he took me with him everywhere, into his office, down the armoury letting me pick up pistols and SMG's, helping him work on his cars but God help me if I did anything dumb. Actually, I think everything I did was dumb because my ears always seemed to be ringing from some flash remark of his.
So, here are just a few:
I asked you for a fucking ring spanner not an open ended you dozy bastard, don’t you know the difference?
Well stick your finger up your arse. That's a ring. Then stick it in your ear. That, in your case Son, is open ended.
What the Fuck are you doing?
I’m sorry, Dad, my dick itches like hell, I was just scratching it.
Well try washing it more often… By the way, I hate men who lie. You’re a wanker so just admit it.
C'mon Dad, tell me about the scars on your arms
OK Son, I was riding a motorcycle across the desert when an Arab shot me
Christ Dad! What did you do!!!
I fell off
OK, Son, indicate right and just ease up to the junction... Is it all clear, Son?
Ok, Go!... That's it, now I know my son is a genius!
Only you could stall a fucking automatic!
Look, Son, it's dead simple. Look through your windscreen. Tarmac, blue sky? Good, accelerator. Big fucking mountain of earth and trees? Bad, brake. Can you grasp that? Maybe I didn't explain enough about what that bloody great round thing you're holding does...
Dad! I qualified as a Marksman!
I can hit a running Arab at two hundred paces, your Mum says you can’t even hit the toilet bowl so don’t give me that shit.
How long did it take for you to make Corporal, Dad?
First or third time son?
What did he call me?
I didn’t hear Dad.
Look, I’m the deaf sod around here, what did he say?
He called you a Wanker, Dad
Right, that’s it
I don’t know Dad, he looks pretty big to me.
That’s alright Son, if he takes a swing at me, you stand in the way and I’ll get him while you’re going down.
Don’t worry Son, you look like a fit, young bastard so he’ll go for you first and then while he’s kicking your teeth in, I’ll get him with this.
Christ, Dad, that’s a starting handle!
Yeah! Beats the shit out of a Karate chop.
Fuck! Shit! Bastard Fucking Hell Christ Almighty!
Bash your head on the chassis of the car again, Dad?
It’s your fault, you little shit!
By bringing you a cup of tea?
You should have brought it five minutes ago.
So you’re an Officer now Son?
Well you know what Officers are, don’t you?
Leaders of Men?
I didn’t ask you what officers are supposed to be you stupid sod, I asked you what they are!
Don’t know, Dad
Lighthouses in the desert, Son. Very bright but fuck all use.
Don’t give me that one about officers and maps, Dad, I am brilliant at map reading
Well, keep that one quiet, Son, or you’ll get the map, fuck up one day and prove me right.
So you're going to be a motorcycle dealer, Son?
What do you know about motorcycles?
Everything you taught me
Don't blame me, Son, there's a hell of difference between everything I tried to teach you and what you actually fucking learnt.
Why aren't you coming to see me Son?
I got the auditors coming around, Dad.
Fuck 'em. Auditors are the bastards who get an all expenses paid trip to the battlefield in order to bayonet the survivors.
Of course I am doing OK, Dad, I just got a brand new convertible for my wife
You selfish bastard, you never thought of getting me a good deal like that too?
What the fuck is that?!!!
It's an SL Mercedes Dad.
A GERMAN car?!!
Yeah Dad, I like them.
OK. Give us the keys, you can drive my VW Passat.
Stop! STOP! You've gone too far, GO GO GO! Around the block. NOW! FOR FUCK’S SAKE! Who taught you to drive?
What the F… hang on Dad…alright, we’re coming around again
THAT’S IT! Slow down, SLOW DOWN! Christ you’re such a dick.
Hang on a sec Dad, you just got me to break every fucking traffic law in a communist country just so you could take a photo of some tart in a short skirt?
Believe me Son, when you get to my age you’ll realise it was worth it.
Why are you such a grumpy old bastard, Dad?
‘Cos it beats the shit out of being nice to idiots.
Does that have to include me, Dad?
Like I said. Idiots.
God I love my Dad so much. Pity Dominic and Alexander will never get to meet him in this life.