Fairly safe in the knowledge that my Dad doesn’t ‘do’ social media, and therefore is unlikely to ever see this, I though I’d tell you a bit about my Dad.
He’s not a playing football, rough and tumble kind of Dad. He never was. He had a book lined study, one where we were expected to knock on the door before we entered. To be in trouble with Dad was to really be in trouble, though he rarely raised his voice. His disapproval was quite enough. Dad was teacher where I went to school and friends were all a little afraid of him. An archetypal Victorian Dad. Strict, in many ways. But I’ll tell you two things.
My Dad once said “You’re not well read, but you’ve been well read to”. And he’s right. He read to my younger sister and me till we were about 14 I think. We started with the usual things like Winnie the Pooh, The Lord of the Rings, and we read the children’s classics like Kidnapped and Treasure Island. My sister had all the Little House on the Prairie books. I think the last book he read me as a teenager was Nicholas Nickleby. Moonfleet was one I remember as Elsevier Block dies in a shipwreck at the end and my sister was inconsolable. At her request, he read it again a while later and tried to change the ending. She insisted that he finished it properly, which he did, and she was just as distraught a second time.
I love to read to my children. The twins are now old enough to have chapter books and we’ve just finished The Butterfly Lion. It made Robin sad. Daisy is harder to move. My eldest daughter is a book worm and devours books in a way I never did at her age. Even so, I know from my Dad that being read to is a very different thing. It was lone time, and time to paint pictures in my mind while he read. I’ve just finished reading her Goodnight Mr Tom. I cried more than she did when Zach died, even though I knew it was coming.
The other hugely important thing that my Dad did for me was to teach me about paintings. He’s not artistic himself, though I suspect he could be if he tried. I’ve seen his drawings from when he was at junior school, before the boys and girls were divided; art for the girls; technical drawing for the boys. In my teenage years Dad and I used to visit art galleries and look at the collections of old paintings. He taught me how to read a painting; how a painter would lead your eye across a painting. How shapes and shadows and blocks of colour were all there to pull you in. It’s an unusual thing for a father and teenage daughter to do; but I never really liked doing the things that usual teenagers do. We still do it now, Dad and I. There was a lovely family holiday this year in Vienna for his significant birthday and we played hooky a few times. I remember a game we used to play – still do! – where you have to choose a favourite, the silliest, and the one you’d like to take home.
So, safe in the knowledge that he won’t read this, I want to say that I know how very very lucky I’ve been.