The One Thing For Which I Never Forgave Dad.
My uncle, Robert Mercer, was a real Spit Pilot who died at the Battle of BritainClick thumbnail to view full-size
An act that still hurts after 60 years
Why I never Forgave Dad
When dads were given out, I got the booby prize. I won’t go through how he lied to my mother to win her away from the decent bloke she was married to. Well, one thing: he passed himself off as a Royal Air Force Spitfire pilot…in reality, he was a jobbing builder! It was too late when she found that out; the good bloke had gone, taking her first son, and she was pregnant with he who would one day have the avatar “Diogenes.”
Dad was no star, and that’s an understatement. Sometimes he brought money home - whatever was left after his frequent sojourns at the ‘local, or the entertaining of his many tarts. But WW2 was well under way then, and he had to join the war effort or go in the forces for real. Not dad! I don’t know how he wormed his way out of it; arrant cowardice didn’t cut much water with the War Department, as Hitler was studying plans of the Home Counties wondering where to build his mansion after he had defeated the annoying British.
The “war-effort” meant you went wherever the government decided your labor was needed. We went from Wantage to Oxford; Guilford to the coast at Broadstairs where dad was actually given a menial job at Manston Airdrome; the place where he had pretended to be once stationed as a pilot! Mum always told that tale with a bit of a wicked grin.
After the war, we settled in a house bought by my mother’s father, and dad continued as a builder and decorator, as they were called then. He soon got a lousy name with customers for cheap work and from occasional employees he failed to pay. (One infamous incident was when all the paint he applied to the landmark North Foreland Lighthouse fell off in 2 months!).
But dad was a star in one department. The young wives he met along the way. Tall and fairly good-looking with a good line of blarney, he began a series of destructive affairs which earned him the sobriquet, “Shagger Pete,” and had him being chased by the wives and their furious spouses alike, some of which hit the local papers. “Woman Chases Man Down High-Street With Bread-Knife” was one such, which I read in a cutting many years later. Another “Local Antique Dealer Punches Man in Court Club.” Evidently, poppa had grabbed his wife’s rear end.
“Shagger” often took his frustrations out me in the shape of hidings with a leather belt; some, no doubt, well deserved, but others as a result of too many pints of bitter on a Sunday morning.
Looking back, it was easy to see he hated me and hardly once contributed to my life in a positive way. No days out, no gifts, no holidays. No affection at all and no promises ever kept.
I don’t know how, but the marriage hung together until I was 12, although my mother, too, introduced me to a couple of “uncles” who must have stopped her going bonkers living with this serial seducer, albeit a large frog in a small pond.
Funny how as you get older, all the past comes into focus again.
During my long life dad played no further part…he married again and had a daughter, but they didn’t stay together. There were years and years when I heard nothing from him. I went down to see him in 1981 only to find he had died 3 days previously; the stamp collection he once said “would be mine one day” was nowhere to be found. The council asked me if I would be interested in paying the $500 for his funeral expenses as he had died penniless. I suggested they hunted down all the lady pensioners of the parish he had once pleasured and passed the hat round. That ended that.
But do you know the only thing I still think about and cannot forgive the bloke for was my Hornby Train.
Yes, turn over in your pauper’s grave, you swine, you know what’s coming.
The one thing I desired almost more than life itself had been a Hornby Electric Train Set. They were very expensive even then, but mum told me if I was good I would get one that Christmas - of 1948 I believe it was. I was nine years old.
Angels could not have been better behaved, I went around smiling at everyone, offering to help around the house, and dancing with glee when no one was looking.
I don’t know how I endured the wait, but Christmas Day finally arrived. I was awake all night, I’m sure, and ran downstairs to the tree on Christmas morning. There were a few presents. But nothing that looked like a train set. I tore upstairs just to meet mum coming down.
“Is it there” I gasped.
Mum sat me down. I’m so sorry,” she said, “You father couldn’t quite afford it in the end, maybe next year.”
“But you promised” I cried, distraught with loss and shock…
…So I never got my Hornby set, did I dad? “And don’t you think it was mean of you to have bought it three weeks before Christmas for me, but then given it to Gilbert Hobbs, whose mother you were screwing!?”
Mum finally admitted this when I was in my late teens and she always said it was one of the reasons she finally left him when she found out herself later.
So, sorry Shagger Pete, I hope Gloria Hobbs had a little snapper between her legs and it was all worth it! I also hope the fires are nice and warm where you are and you are kept awake with sounds like the shrieking of train whistles. I forgave you everything else, but not giving my precious train set to that squirt, Hobbs!
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