Friday 14th September 2018
Reading time 3 minutes 03 seconds
To an adolescent there is nothing more embarrassing in the world than a parent – Dave Barry
My ‘other’ Mum was from South Africa and a real force of nature. Anyone who knew her loved her and those who knew her well, loved and feared her.
Her father, who was in the equine trade, had once tried to tame a wild stallion and a method he had learned was to hit them on the jaw. He tried it and a single punch later killed it. Although a product of his genes she didn’t need her fists as a single look would have done the same job.
My Dad is from the East End of London. He sprayed cars for a living and his place of business was an arch below the railway track running towards London’s Liverpool Street. He was a working-class bloke not from the wrong side of the tracks but from under them.
One day my Dad took his lady Horse Racing. It was a posh affair, so they dressed up to the nines and because she was being treated like a lady my ‘other’ Mum was excited. Dad was not known for his romantic gestures, and I can tell you that the apple hasn’t fallen far from that tree.
My Dad generally owned cars that had seen better days. His car at the time was given to him because a “geezer owed him a score” which in this instance made the car overvalued. The journey to the races was out of the ordinary as it was made without them, or the car breaking down. My old man pulled up to the valet parking section.
Valet parking seems strange from a British viewpoint. Someone to park your car for you? How would you be able to complain about lack of available spaces?
Anyway, I’ve since learned that Dad didn’t want to traipse across a muddy field and valet parking was closer to where he wanted to end up. He wasn’t trying to be impressive, he just didn’t want to get his best shoes dirty.
The vehicle was a 1975 Chrysler* and looked as though it had been used multiple times in the Blue Brothers car chase. The Valet did not have an impressed look across his face. My Dad gave him a friendly ‘Cockney Hello’ and was asked to hand over his keys.
Keys? This ‘Motor’ didn’t’ have any keys so my Dad handed him a big screwdriver.
The valet looked confused.
My dad not known for his patience told him to jam the screwdriver in the ignition, turn it a bit and she’ll start.
Any delusions of being posh evaporated and my step mum burst out laughing and spent the rest of the afternoon, and her life, giggling about it.
The valets tip consisted of a fist full of copper coins, stored in the glove box, with the words “Get Yourself A Drink”. The valet later treated himself to a can of Double Diamond.
Like most children I always found my parents stories embarrassing and shameful.
• Why couldn’t we have a nice car or at least one that had a key rather than a screwdriver?
• Why did my step mum have to tell tales that made the pair of them look silly?
As I’ve aged I’ve realised how wise they were. For example, a car is just a functioning device and it doesn’t matter what it looks like or even if it has keys. It is there to do a job. In the same way a story is there to entertain.
I’m realising more and more the importance of the joy you bring to others and my parents were masters of that. I recently read this poem and unlike most poetry this one made sense and sums up how they lived their lives and how I try to live mine.
Have I done any good in the world today?
Have I helped anyone in need?
Have I cheered up the sad and made someone feel glad?
If not, I have failed indeed
– Will L. Thompson
*A footnote about the Chrysler.
It was stolen which meant happy days indeed as the insurance value was more than the score [£20]. Sadly, whilst walking to the police station my Dad found it abandoned one street away.
Picture: An old French comedy street