Friday, 3 September 2010
I loved Amsterdam, it was so relaxed and such good fun. Have you ever heard of a ‘prostate knocker’? Apparently it is a very popular tool in the gay community, which by choice still remains one of life’s mysteries to me. It’s just with ‘prostate’ high on my agenda right now, I couldn’t help noticing one of those things for sale in a shop today. My prostate is still suffering from the ‘knocking’ it took from that bicycle saddle yesterday, and that was not in any way pleasurable!
Now on the Ship back to England but no WiFi on board so can’t send the blog until tomorrow. I managed to leave a quick message via my mobile phone as the signal died rapidly when land faded out of site. The journey back should be a dream in contrast to the outward trip. The sea is like a mill pond and we have upgraded to deck 8, near the front and top of the ship. Basically just about as far away from the engines as we could get and still be on board. Should get a good night’s sleep before we disembark at around 10am tomorrow.
Back in the cabin now and what a night’s entertainment. A young lad called 'Sharky', who just happened to have his guitar handy, joined the ships entertainer and he was just amazing. Some people can just pick up a guitar and they don’t even have to think, their hands come alive, well he was like that. I have a guitar, that's as far as I've got!
So, you’ve heard about my Mother, but what about my Father. Mum, Dad, Mother, Father….was never sure what to call them, or to refer to them as. Strange to say, but I can’t remember calling them anything, but I must have, surely.
My Father died over 20 years ago now, and when someone dies, everyone remembers them so very differently. It’s almost as if history starts to change before your very eyes, and as years pass by it changes more and more. If that happened over 20 years with my Dad, you can imagine how the story of Jesus changed in over 2000 years! Maybe this blog is a good thing, because it is a record of many of my thoughts and feelings, a permanent record as such. When I hear my brothers Paul or Andre (or sister Jacqueline) talk about my Dad, it’s as if they are talking about another person, not the man I knew. Paul has done a lot of research into my Dad’s background and family history; total credit to him. But what should I believe? The facts that Paul has researched or the things that I remember being told by my Dad? I have to believe what I was told because that settles easier on my mind.
He was brought up part of a very middle class family, loved his Flemish Mother and hated his Father, who was Walloon. He told me he had a sister but records don’t support this. He went to a very strict Catholic school in Belgium and in general, had a very rough childhood mentally. At 15, he lied about his age and ran away to fight in the Spanish Civil War (1936). After that he joined the French Foreign Legion and eventually became embroiled in the 2nd World War, fighting mainly on our side! After the war he was allowed asylum in the UK, he could not return to Belgium for reasons that are unclear. He was one of the most intelligent men that I have ever known; yet during my childhood, mental illness dogged him throughout. He was agoraphobic and reclusive but that was the tip of the iceberg.
He never harmed us physically in any way but it was only on leaving home that I realised, we had not experienced a ‘normal’ upbringing. He lived in his room and we rarely saw him. He would either be reading books or asleep during the day, then at night he would go to work in a factory as an Engineer. We were scared of him as kids but not in a scary way, because he would never have harmed us. His voice or glare was enough, and when we heard him coming we all just scattered and disappeared anywhere, quietly and very quickly. He had ‘pet’ names for us all; mine were bastard, beanpole and imbecile. When he died I spent several days with him in the hospice and that was valuable time. He told me that he just didn’t know how to deal with kids and apologised for our childhood, in his own way. He left me in no doubt that the credit for our upbringing should go completely to our Mother, though he did joke that we should be eternally grateful to him for providing the DNA that prevented us from being fully Irish. I held his hand as he died, it was the only time I ever really remember touching him. No, that’s not entirely true, we did start to shake hands on meeting as adults. I admired him and all that he had gone through and I would give anything to just chat to him again, to get to know him a little better now that I am more confident and worldly myself. I was asked if I would like an inscription entered into the book of remembrance at the crematorium where his ashes were scattered. I just asked them to put in the book, ‘a remarkable man’, because I thought he was. When I die one day, I would like to think that I will be with him again.