It's Father's Day and the perfect time to remember a great man who certainly did his best, both in wartime and for the greater length of his life, as a dedicated family man, a father, and in many ways a guiding light from childhood.
|Birthday boy ... Dad entertains grandchild Caellin on his 85th birtday.|
Let me introduce my Dad, Eric, a good man, who relatively suddenly found himself with an increasing brood as his hometown came under intense bombing in the early Second World War.
As the fashion was back in my early years, he was the disciplinarian in the household. Heaven help you if he felt the need to act as executioner.
|Count down ... Robert Donat and Elissa Landi in the 1934 film version of The Count of Monte Cristo. Thanks to Wikipedia. By United Artists - Photoplay, April 1936 (page 52), Public Domain, https://commons.wikimedia.org/w/index.php?curid=64730783|
For any stage of childhood, to be 'smacked' is a truly horrible experience.
The blows were painful but perhaps worse was the criticism of the executioner, the condemnation in his voice.
Thank heavens society has grown out of that fashion. Of course, back then bombs were falling all around, and I don't doubt that the atmosphere at his workplace in the Spitfire industry was exceedingly tense.
But at heart he was a good fellow, and really courageous.
On the lighter side in a part of Southampton littered with bombed-out houses, he would entertain the growing family with one of his passions.
He was entranced by home movies, made his own, and borrowed some splendid old films.
Robinson Crusoe was one the family saw often, and another that stands out in memory is The Count of Monte Cristo.
The imagination was certainly needed to enjoy the performances, for Dad's 9.5mm cine projector did not have sound.
Of course, the films were subtitled, but perhaps after the early years weaned on air raid sirens, and the booms of exploding bombs, an additional magic felt present in those quiet evenings with only the projector's ticking for sounds.
It's decidedly ironic that the film that stands out most in my memory should be the tale of an unjustly incarcerated man.
As my attempts to get justice continue, it is reassuring to know that Dumas' story, in the words of Britannica, ... 'offers an unusual reflection on happiness and justice, omnipotence, and the sometimes fatal haunting return of the past.'
As a tribute to Dad's memory, I have begun reading Alexandre Dumas's novel, which is even more enjoyable after those odd cinematic nights.
Dad's dynamic side
And there was my Dad's dynamic side. With a handful of very young children, he arranged fares to New Zealand for a maternal grandmother, her son, my mother, of course, and four little, well, brats.
We left our terribly bombed home city to somehow reach out-of-the-way Tilbury docks and began the enormous journey to the other side of the world.
When the family arrived, at last, my father changed from his aeronautical work to engineering in hydro-electrics, having to live away from the family for many, many months while a temporary town was built in the King Country bush, where conditions rewrote the definition of basic.
Even so, he lived to his nineties.
A very happy Father's Day, Dad.