Monday, 4 October 2010
Reasons to be cheerful, remembered
I blogged the other day, amongst other things, about a nonsense rhyme my Dad had made up when my sister and I were younger. I was reminded of it by a misheard lyric and it was just one of many things that day to make me smile. (Actually, that one made me laugh out loud at the memory!) And that got me to thinking about the stuff my Dad used to do, and in some (many!) cases still does that keeps him in touch with his silly side.
(It has already been commented, by the way, that I don't need to do a silliness course, having inherited a definite silly gene from my Dad and exhibiting it frequently at home and at work. My boss has even been heard to say, when asked what things about me he particularly values, that it's my irreverence. At least I think he said irreverence, but it might have been irrelevance! Which reminds me of Viz now I come to think of it - Roger Irrelevant, He's completely Hatstand!)
Anyway, enough of this stream of consciousness and back to my Dad. As long as I can remember my Dad has had this delightful silly streak to his personality. A lot of the time he's an incredibly serious academic, able to talk at length about any number of subjects, including of course his professional specialism, Roman archaeology. His love of language is palpable - the fun that can be had with the English language, but also the root and connection of all languages. At times it can be frustrating, I can still vividly remember bringing home my Spanish exam from school and showing it to him. At which point he translated it - perfectly, of course - straight off and never having been taught Spanish in his puff!
But this post is about his silliness not his intelligence. Every birthday and Christmas my Dad would (and still does) decorate our cards with his cartoons - each of us has our own figure, with haircuts and other characteristics updated to keep up with our ever changing styles. I think he first started doing them while he was courting (what a fantastic word!) my Mum and would leave drawings on her notebooks in the University library. She has always been a Mouse in his cartoons - her cartoon hairstyle has remained unchanged in the over 50 years they've been together. It's still styled in the beautiful '50s inspired ponytail she had when they met even though she hasn't worn one for at least 40 years. True to his silly streak, however, the bit on her cartoon figure that gets updated are the various scars and injuries she's acquired over the years! One day I really must scan and publish the vast collection of drawings I've accumulated. I don't think I've ever knowingly thrown one out.
His silliness wasn't/isn't confined to drawings, however. I can well remember the tales he used to tell us on long car journeys to keep us entertained. Stories appearing entirely from out of his own head - like the electricity pylons that were actually naughty giant children who didn't come in for supper when their Mummy called them, or the snake become stone wall for some other similar transgression. Now I think about it, the stories were always highly moralistic and thinly disguised parental instructions!
And then of course there were his nonsense rhymes and word games. The only one I can remember with any clarity is the Porcupine one quoted by my sister in response to my earlier post. I only have impressions of them left otherwise. I do remember the names he made up for us and for Mum when he used to send us postcards from his summer work trips away from home - Euphemia Bracegirdle (Mum), Beetle (me), Monkey Face (big sis - sorry!) - and many others!
Which reminds me of the postcards - I'd forgotten them. While my sister and I were away from home for the first time at University he used to send us religiously every week a postcard so that we would have a little bit of home with us while we were away. Aw, sweet! I hear you say. And it was, but the thing was, the postcards were complete nonsense. The ones to my sister told a story but were never sent in order and missed huge chapters. They were doubtless filled with strange people with fantastical names. The ones I received were equally silly. But do you know what, he never ever missed a week.
For these and many many other things, I have spent a very pleasant half hour thinking about the silliness of my Dad, and thanking him for passing just a little bit of it on to me! Whoever said puns were a low form of wit, clearly just wasn't very good at them.