Sunday, 13 June 2010

CLEAN AND SERENE

I met my father at Heathrow Airport when I was 22 years old. Out of the blue I received a call to go and see him. I had never spoken to him in my life. I snooped through old photograph albums staring at this glamourous looking man. Strong blue eyes, beautifully dressed with aquiline features. The look of dark handsome youth glancing back at me; my mother smiling at his side, pretty, young and blonde outside the church in Chester Square, Belgravia, London, where they got married.
I met him and although now an old man I knew it was him, sitting alone in the corner of the Excelsior Hotel with a drink, slightly tipsy with only slightly faded good looks. I was told by my mother that he was an alcoholic, and that I should not drink or take drugs, because this terrifying disease was in our family. I rarely if ever do. Actually I am luckily allergic to booze and drugs, therefore have no desire to smoke dope, sniff cocaine, take sleeping pills, or drink rare wines, even though I have tried each one of these things. They are stamped "deadly" in my brain forever. My mother said she had left him because he had given her a black eye, knocked two front teeth out and lived with a gun under his bed. (As a journalist in Beirut in 1959 - a foreign correspondent - he had to be ready for anything.)
I saw a man with style before me, smartly dressed in a suit and tie with clever, piercing blue eyes. I checked immediately his hands, was he mine? I had always wondered why I had such big hands without the beauty of my mother's. Only when I am thin do they have any form of female elegance. I understood, his hands were manly and mine too. If I didn't grow my nails they're the same. I knew he was my DNA, and I felt safe for a second. He asked politely about me in the way fathers do when they are not interested. He turned to me and said, 'You had better write, with your heritage and with so many writers in it, and artists." And I realised I should. It took twenty years - until he died - when I decided to take passion to the Apple Mac and try. And that's when I finished Cloak and Dagger Butterfly, a book of poetry based on an important love story.
My father. I have always imagined having a fatherly figure around me, somebody who will take over, help me sort things out and fix a plug. I like the idea of big strong arms that can guide me. I want somebody who is helpful but not a slave to my needs. I have now realised that I am better totally free of patronising comment. So often those big arms are the prison bars of life and the dampening down of the imagination and freedom. Of course it is nice to share breakfast, walk together and laugh, of course it's good to see museums, read poetry together, go for a ride, but I had only three male influences in my life and two were distant and one I never met. Thank goodness for my grandfather - who taught me about Shakespeare, opera, films, lighting and tomato-growing - and the valuable lessons of my uncle, an aristocrat with good stature and dress sense, who gave me a love of riding and an eye for my weight and health. Last week, I had lunch with him and he was distressed that in his mid seventies he was having to let out his suit two inches. He looked incredibly dapper, immaculate, sober and clean. That is the sort of man I admire, that is what I need.

1 comment:

laura emily said...

This post reminds me of the family which I did not have, but reinforces how lucky I am for the special individuals who influence me everyday. Thank you Amanda :)

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