Good old Fucking Fred!

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My dad was a real gent. Raised modestly by quite staid parents he was always a courteous man. The most I ever head him swear in my entire life was to say “hell`s bells and buckets of blood.” Honestly. My father never swore.

Dad used to wear a cap while out walking with his dog Dinah. He would think nothing of doffing his cap to any person he felt to be of superior social standing to himself. This included the vicar who was at that time enjoying a full blooded affair with a married parishioner, the local primary school teachers some of whom were horrible, racist people who didn`t like children very much and our GP Dr. Hernan, who was a chronic alcoholic and whose wife had massive hoarding problems. My mother said that Dr. Hernan`s wife had newspapers going back to the dawn of time standing in huge, impassable columns all over their flat above the surgery on the Warwick Road.

My dad`s subserviant attitude used to infuriate my mother along with the myriad of other things that infuriated my mum about dad.  My father attended grammar school until he was 14 and was a clever man, he spoke fluent French and was a good all round academic yet he never felt comfortable with his peers. He much preferred to spend his time with working class men who smoked Park Drive, drank pints and called their missis “the wife”. Mum never understood this, she was not a frequent fan of live and let live, she was a huge social snob, intolerant in some situations and often referred to dad`s mates as `the peasants.`  Imagine what trouble she would have been in today!  I think mum thought that my dad`s friends took advantage of his soft nature, which they probably did, but hey, it`s a free world.

When dad was 65 he suffered a major heart attack which floored him.  After he had recovered he took a sedentary job as a telephonist in a local printing factory called Morcats. It was at Morcats that dad became great friends with a man called Fred, or Fucking Fred as my mother always referred to him.  People often accessed our flat around the back and I still have clear images in my head of my mother standing at the kitchen sink and gazing up the garden path muttering, “Here comes FF” as she angrily piled the dishes on to the draining board.

Dad had a need to be liked and in order to meet this need he would go out of his way to help people like Fucking Fred while sometimes neglecting the needs of his family, especially my ma!  They say we marry people who remind us of our parents. Apparently we do this in order to try and unravel the complicated relationships our parents had and make some kind of sense of them. In that case – I definitely married my dad. My ex old man has many friends who remind me of Fucking Fred. There`s Fucking Dick, Fucking Edward and Fucking Patricia to name but a few. Recently my ex cooked seventy curries for Fucking Dick. It took him three days to prepare them ready for a big birthday party. F.D. said thank you, apparently. My ex also does a fair bit for Fucking Edward including taking his flea ridden dog for long walks around Elmdon Park. Does F.E. ever take my dog Alfie for a long walk? Not bloody likely. As for Fucking Patricia, two years ago Tony rented her an allotment next to his. He pays £75 a year for her to enjoy the pleasure of sitting in the summer sun with him, drinking beer. I imagine that every now and then a happy sigh escapes her lips as they gaze at the weeds and brambles inhabiting their joint allotments and never grow a bloody thing. I view the arrangement he has with F.P. a bit like a horticultural escort service for OAP`s.

Who am I to make a judgement on the people my ex old man chooses to be his friends?  He`s a grown up. Yesterday I got quite cross and said so. I`d asked him if he felt like a mooch around all the charity shops and he turned my suggestion down saying that he was too hot and too tired. Half an hour later he had been beguiled sufficiently creatively by Fucking Patricia to go and pick her up and give her a lift down to the allotments. Then I realised how daft I was being. If that`s what he wants to do with his time why should I be offended? We`ve been divorced for twelve years now, we have our own separate lives and our own separate circle of close friends. Later, I apologised to him for being so grumpy, I explained that old habits die hard and that is all my responses are usually based on – old habits. He didn`t seem to mind and there is so much about him to care for and love.

I adored both my parents, I loved my pa`s gentle humour and I loved my mother`s ascerbic wit and her acid tongue that`d thin slice ham at a hundred paces but I don`t want to become bitter as I grow older like my mother did. So God give me the wisdom to keep my opinions to myself and let my ex old man enjoy being comfortable with himself, having a laugh and feeling at peace with just whoever he likes. That`s what it`s all about. 🙂

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