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Wednesday, 13 September 2017

Me and aviculture

Earlyish on Tuesday we leave the house to Julie, our cleaning lady, for breakfast at Tesco's The Cafe. It's better than it sounds, the talk is often wide-ranging. Yesterday, with VR's help, I asked: had I been a good father to my two daughters?

My view tends to be pessimistic. But am I, in fact, equipped to answer? History can be hard to interpret.

I'm about eight, riding my bike on a dirt road past an urban farm. Hens run across the road and one is briefly entangled in my front wheel. I fall off. The farmer is on to me immediately. A fat authoritarian figure in a flat cap, about ten feet tall, laboriously records my address in a tiny notebook, warning me of legal wrath to come. As he writes the hen I hit, minus neck feathers, re-crosses the road with a censorious look. I blubber, out of control.

I ride home, still blubbering, confess all to my father. He's highly amused, says jokingly he'll counter-sue on behalf of my damaged trousers. I'm appalled by his laughter but my terror at this experience of the adult world quickly dissipates. Was that good parenthood?

My suspicions are it's the sort of parenthood I practised. Excluding my mother I grew up in a male environment with two brothers. I wasn't prepared for daughters and I sense my reaction was rough and ready. We're good friends now (I think) but is this despite those earlier years? Did I depend heavily on VR to smooth things out.

I don't know, I'll never know. When fathers describe the bond they had with their daughters I close my eyes and ears. Are some male embryos endowed with good fatherly instincts? I doubt I'm the one to ask.


  1. Yes, that was good parenting. Your dad refrained from taking you back to the farm and demanding that the lout slaughter the chicken before your young eyes, present it to you drawn and plucked, and pray thanks that his late chicken hadn't broken your head.

  2. MikeM: Hey, that's terrific. Bloody terrific.

  3. Mentioning chickens and daughters in one blog post. Interesting combination.
    Superficial impression, I admit. Obviously, you are writing about so much more. Your father's reaction was really decent.

    So after all these years (you are the one going on about your age), you still worry whether you have been/are a good father? Seriously?

    I always picture fathers to be so much more relaxed about their impression, esp. on daughters, than mothers. Occasionally, I have been a difficult mother to my daughter but she has a big heart (she got that from her father) and is all forgiving and generous (characteristics she must have acquired elsewhere). I can sleep at night. I think.

    The question really is: Have our daughters been good to/for us? In my case: Totally, completely, life saving. I hope ditto for you.

  4. Sabine: There's a difference between reflecting on something and worrying about it. We breakfast at Tesco to escape the series of mini-upheavals that having our house cleaned involves. Discussion is a reasonable basis for passing time and parenthood is a subject I share with VR. Also her upbringing differed widely from mine and she is frequently astonished about what she regards as the barbarism I experienced.

    To me the creature illustrated is a hen not a chicken. The Americans don't seem to differentiate. Chickens are small and yellow.

    Both daughters have reached the stage of looking after us and I'm grateful for that. As to whether I looked after them the jury's still out. I don't sleep much o'nights but for a dozen different reasons, some of them beneficial.