This is the weird thought I had the other day when we went to see my dad and step mum for a few hours. While we were there, my dad became quite animated at one point talking about the periodic table and how different chemicals combine to create various compounds. We also talked about how batteries work. I’m not sure this is the usual type of family-get-together small talk that most families engage in. But ours does. It is the norm.
When I was growing up, I thought my dad was in a category of his own. A category of high-level geekiness. In my mind, he was a mostly self-taught intellectual (although he did do a Open University degree, more about that later) with rather high-brow interests: science, maths, motorways, meetings, politics, electricity and books. Although we shared a love for books, mine tended to be the Beano and Enid Blyton books. His books were from the part of the library which gathers the most dust. The other topics that seemed to interest him seemed terribly dull and dry to me. He didn’t seem at all like my friends’ dads.
However, many years later, and with the benefit of hindsight, I have come to realise that I am more like my dad than I thought. Perhaps I always had a latent dad-likeness but it only blossomed as I became a grown up. Here follows is the evidence. Since leaving school I have learnt to love maths and physics a little more. I’ve read a few books on both topics and I absolutely love the annual Christmas lectures at the Royal Institution. I found our talk about the periodic table quite engaging. I think Radio 4 is better than music. I am loath to admit it but I have an odd perchance for motorways and roundabouts (there are so many interesting ones out there). I don’t think I have inherited this quirky interest from my mum. It must be my dad.
I look forward to meetings. I am a parent governor and I secretly quite enjoy the three-hour long (and the rest) meetings in which we get to discuss some very complex educational issues. It really is very interesting, honestly! Politics gets me quite fired up these days. I spent far too much time during the big Brexit debate doing a lot of debating. That’s my dad in me. I’m sure of it.
And these days I don’t just read fiction. I have three books on the go at the moment: Patrick Kelly The View from the Train, Owen Jones The Establishment (admittedly I’ve been reading this for months) and Elizabeth Strout My Name is Lucy Barton. All of which are brilliant. I’m also reading the latest Modern Painters and Aesthetica. Oh, and I’m dipping in and out of Vitamin D: New Perspectives on Drawing. That’s quite geeky, right?
As I mentioned above, I remember my dad doing his Open University degree when I was quite young. My memory is a mix of early-morning BBC2 programmes with hairy male or female presenters wearing flares, books, more books, papers, books, and a ceremony in a big building in Birmingham that scared me. But watching my dad spending so many hours learning had a huge impact on me. It gave me a determination to get myself educated. I really wanted that university experience. I had a yearning for it and I did get there (twice now).
So the best legacy my dad left me (and my mum too as she also read voraciously and spent a part of her adult life learning and re-training), one which is more exciting than roundabouts and electrical circuits, is a thirst for knowledge and a desire to never stop learning.
So I need to say just one more thing to end this weird thought: thank you, dad!
Now time to decided which of my four books to read before bed.