Friday, 15 May 2009

Into the twilight zone

Philip Larkin put it so eloquently when he said that: "They fuck you up, your mum and dad."

Yesterday was a 'being fucked up again' day, as I visited The Parents.

First, I discovered that my father was to be at home for the entire day. Oops. Bad planning. He usually has some business to conduct, which avoids us having to sit in the same room together for any longer than a bit of polite conversation about football can fill.

However, he went straight back out to walk the dog. During which time, my mother had me explain to her how to switch the subtitles off on a DVD, and also showed me a bit of footage from Saturday's Rugby League Challenge Cup tie between St Helens and Catalans – or at least, the introduction to it. BBC presenter Clare Balding was talking about a new public sculpture in St Helens and my mother wanted to know if I knew anything about said scuplture. She also noted that, on seeing this at the time, my father had been concerned with only one thing: "She's a lesbian". Yes, I could imagine the judgmental tone.

Then he returned, left the dog and went back out for the papers. On getting back once more, he came into the living room and sat down, immediately starting to peruse the Methodist Recorder. My mother took slight umbrage – a guest also being present – to which he launched straight into a rant about how he wanted to see if the publication in question had anything in it about how "the BBC wants to put a Sikh director in charge of Songs of Praise ... it's dumbing down Christianity! ... " etc etc.

I waited until a break in this angry rant, before noting: "Nice weather we're having," which took some tension out of the situation.

Then, a short while later, he observed the book that I'm currently reading and which I had taken with me, Clarissa Dickson Wright's autobiography. He nodded sagely, and commented knowingly: "I like her. I read once that she said that, when he was a student, she thought that Tony Blair looked at the pretty boys a lot."

Oh yes – Blair might have been a warmonger and Dubya lapdog, but the really bad thing about him is that one could intrepret a comment as saying that he was gay.

At which point, I felt the need to slap down this sort of idiocy as quickly as possible.

"Oh for goodness sake: if you can't find something serious to criticise Blair for, other than a gossipy piece of tittle tattle implying that he might be gay or bisexual, then you've got as much of a problem as being more concerned that Clare Balding is a lesbian than that she's the best thing that's happened to BBC coverage of Rugby League for a long time!"

This, fortunately, shut him up. But this has to be done every time at some point. More than once in the last year, he's sat at the dinner table, banging his fist on it and shouting about how: "Brown and Darling are a pair of communists!"

To which there is only one possible answer: "Oh stop talking bollocks, Dad."

Yesterday, after I had established that I wasn't there to listen to his bigoted stupidity, he calmed down and we managed to get along politely until I left.

Indeed, I became useful. After he'd sat in front of the telly, pointing the remote at it to no avail for at least 10 minutes, it was me who had to make the rather obvious suggestion that he call the service provider. In retrospect, it was not entirely surprising when he walked into the room again, his mobile stretched out to me, so that I could do the geek speak with the service centre. And for a second call that had to be made.

Daughters have their uses when you can't even tell which is the DVD player and which is the digibox (after how many years?), but clearly they never know anything about 'morals' or politics and have to be lectured the rest of the time.

I survived.


But when I sat down on the train back to town, it was with the realisation that, even though the day was not a complete torture, I was mentally exhausted.

That Larkin bloke had it right. It's a wonder I have a working brain cell or a shred of intelligence left.


  1. You have courage to speak up and not go along with your father's bigoted nonsense. I think your relationship with your father is probably as good as it can be under the circumstances. You are able to speak your mind without vicious arguments between you, so that is good. You are a kind daughter to keep in touch with your parents.

  2. Thank you for that, Revised.

  3. Syb, is it wrong to laugh at this post? You just tell it with warmth and humour and I can't help but be amused.

  4. No Gem – it's not wrong at all. Indeed, it's probably the very best response to it. :-)