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Interview With My Father
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Interview With My Father
Interview I did with my father for university. Not sure if non fiction writing is a strong point with me.
[1,465 words]
Tamsin Butler
[October 2009]
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Interview With My Father
Tamsin Butler

My father

What do I actually know about him?
Well for a start I could describe him. I studied him whilst in a quiet but traditional pub (he told me it’s like the one’s he went to when he was younger). He looks out of place here, he looks like Santa wearing trousers and shoes, a green v-neck jumper and a caramel anorak with a light dusting of dandruff on the collar. He’s got what looks like a pillow stuffed up his jumper and a pointed white beard where he twists it without thinking. His big slug eyebrows over hang his sludgy green-brown eyes. His cheeks are speckled with black hair and feel like sand paper, his lips, my mum described as fish lips, because he looks like he’s pouting all the time. He sits in front of me with his arms crossed and resting on his belly, in a defensive way. I notice his trousers are slightly too short showing his light brown socks and his chubby ankles. I sometimes hear people laugh at him saying he looks like a fat Santa, Uncle Albert, or Big Ron from Eastenders. When I was small I used to say he looked like a tree with a thick brown trunk and a green body. He still looks like that now! He may not be the most fashionable or good looking father but he looks easy to talk to and cuddly like an over stuffed teddy bear.
Ok what else…well most of the stuff I know I’ve found out from his records, he was born just before the war and has five o-levels and he now teaches chemistry A-level at a local college. He used to be in a jazz band, he only fell in love twice and he lost his finger whilst working for McVities. That was also where he met my mother. He’s a single child who was born in sheppards bush to a working class family, he increased his status to middle class but still says Thursdee and pepmint when talking, he can also speak cockney rhyming slang. He is a very personal person and only occasionally tells me stories of his past, you have to ask him direct questions to get him to talk. In the pub I order him a traditional ale and myself a pint of cider. This is strange because although I am legal to drink it’s the first time I’ve drunk in front of him and it’s the first pint his little girl had bought him.
“When I was your age I was in a jazz band” he starts after a gulp of his pint that sounds like a drain, “there were about five of us who went to school together, we were quite good in those days, they’re nearly all dead now”.
He says this without any feeling as if it doesn’t bother him, you can see in his eyes that is does, he just accepted it as part of life.
“We were often hired out to do gigs at weddings and parties, so we would pack all five of us and the instruments into Dave the drummer’s bubble car. The double bass would be stuck out of the sun roof!”
I remember the picture I saw of him with his band, he was twenty-one with a banjo in one hand and a beer in the other. He even had hair and no beard, he says his hair fell out when he had children.
“I remember we played a gig where the bar was free, so we took advantage before we played but the trumpet player was so pissed he fell of the stage” he chuckles as he says this. “The organiser refused to pay us because we were so bad so we took our instruments out to the car but left the cases, we sneaked back in and filled them with bottles of alcohol then left. No one noticed! The bass player did the best out of it because his case was the biggest”
I didn’t realise my dad could be so cheeky, he’s always been just my father.
“Were you always that naughty?” I ask, wanting to hear more.
“If you think that’s bad you should have seen me at school!” he smiles, more to the memory of his past than at me.
“When we were at secondary school I found a passion for science. In the library you could find all kinds of books about pretty much anything, so we looked up explosives. You could get the ingredients that you need easily then because they were seen as not that dangerous. We found one that if made in small amounts would create small explosions on impact, a bit like fire crackers”
An image of my father blowing up toy soldiers in the garden comes into my mind and I almost snort my drink on him.
“It came out clear when we made it, so we spread a very thin layer on the floor of the corridor at school. When anyone stepped on the floor it caused the explosive to explode and cause a small bang and a spark. The person walking would try to walk faster or run which made the explosions faster”
“Weren’t you ever caught?” I ask somewhat amused
“Nope. Not even when we did worse!”
“How could you do worse?”
“Well, we got a class detention for talking and were made to stay after school. We found this terribly unfair as they were meant to give us twenty four hours notice. We had a few mechanics in our class and we knew the teachers car who had given us detention, so after detention, which wasn’t supervised, he came back to find his car on the roof.”
“How on earth did you get it up there?”
“As I said we had some mechanics, so in our two hour detention we all pulled the car apart, carried it to the roof, and reassembled it. It only took us two hours. He demanded we tell him who was responsible but we all stuck together and he could do nothing about it. I don’t know how he got it down though.”
My father now sounds like a teen rebel. Nothing like the little fat chemistry lecturer sitting before me.
“I was always good at taking things apart and putting them back together. When I was very small about five I had meccano. It was metal and I spent hours playing with it” he begins.
Finally a childhood story that doesn’t involve mischief, I am so wrong!
“One evening my parents went out to a friends for dinner so my grandmother looked after me” he continues “she spent most of her time in bed because she was will, so I was left to play. I used the screwdriver from my kit to undo our new vacuum. I wanted to see how it worked.”
If I tried that when I was young my parents would have killed me, I think to myself.
“I undid it methodically, arranging the pieces in order so I knew where they went back, I was studying the pieces when my parents came back in. I had my back to them and didn’t notice them arrive. My Father was about to shout at me when my Mother told him to leave me to it, she could see that I was putting it back together in the right way. I put it back and it worked better than it had before, my father was proud of me.”
He doesn’t talk about my Granddad much so that’s nice to hear.
The last story he is willing to tell me before he ventures back to the bar is about his grandmother and him.
“I remember one time when my grandmother was staying with us, she took me to the shops, she said she would buy me some sweets. I declined her offer and instead persuaded her to buy me a quart of eight inch nails. They cost the same but they were better than sweets to me.”
I’m starting to think my dad had a very strange childhood, full of destruction and mischief but then he was a boy.
“My grandmother thought I was mad but bought them for me. Once at home I used some of my fathers old wood and built myself some simple steps using only eight nails. They were very strong and very useful. When my friends and I played forts, we used them to climb walls, they became steps to a castle or a rocket and even my parents used them round the house.”
“They must have lasted a lone time” I reply, shocked something of my fathers worked well.
“Yes, they were definitely worth forfeiting my sweet ration for, they were much more fun”
With this he gets up and almost waddles to the bar. I smile as he walks back with two pints in his hands, hopefully he is going to tell another story.




"Lovely stuff. forget that our fathers did have a life before we came along and were children once too. " -- kate kerrison.


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© 2004 Tamsin Butler
September 2006

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