My father’s holiday voice…..

This blog is a re-launch in effect; so I’m including a few posts of which I’m particularly proud. 🙂

‘My father had a special holiday voice. My father wasn’t someone that you could describe as a jolly person really, though he wasn’t particularly grumpy, but neither would you have called him life and soul of the party. He would be the one laughing at my Uncle Dai’s jokes. Or shaking his head in disbelief at one of my Uncle Mel’s great stories. Nevertheless, on holiday he would adopt his holiday voice.

Despite having achieved middle class salary and social status, his aspirations were modest: whilst his colleagues first ventured to foreign climes, we went to Bournemouth or Torquay, or Eastbourne. In later life, when his retired colleagues travelled further to Peru, or China, my father wanted to go to …….Bournemouth or Torquay, or Eastbourne. The significant thing about these holidays is that they were all virtually interchangeable. My summer holidays consisted of a stream of bed and breakfasts with interchangeable families around us at breakfast. Different places though had different places of interest to visit. I remember persuading my father to play the king size draughts on the pier at Bournemouth. I really wanted to play chess, but my father was not up to a match that would be followed by a large audience: bit too high a profile for him. I remember visiting Stonehenge and having the obligatory picture taken of me appearing to push stones apart in Samson like pose: the British equivalent of the Leaning Tower of Pisa photo! That was my Dad.

Nevertheless the holiday voice is the thing that stood out most of all. Every morning on holiday followed the same routine. My father and I would go to fetch the morning paper. On the first day of the holiday we would head off to a newspaper shop, and we would return to that same shop every morning of the holiday. How my father knew there was a shop there, was a mystery at the time: did he recce the location beforehand? Or did he reckon that there must be one somewhere? In flights of fantasy, I imagined that this might have been something pre-planned through his Masonic connections, and formed a way of communicating with the dark powers whilst away from base. Or maybe not…. Anyway that was what we did every morning. We would see the same people at approximately the same place every morning: and every day my father, quite a shy man, would greet these total strangers with his holiday voice But the greeting! And that voice!?

The greeting was simply “Morning.” And the voice? Ah, the voice! This was what transformed this phatic exchange into something significant: friendly, positive, a celebration of life at the sea side. This was not the habitual sullen ‘Morning’ of a man going to work: or the cursory greeting from a member of staff at a hotel. This was a joyous thing. The delivery went “mornING!” The first syllable relatively low to enable the voice to leap virtually an octave to the climactic ING!- spoken with a wide open mouth: a smile which echoed his sentiment. Fantastic.
Of course, there were some days where given the British climate, we would get caught in the rain. On these days I would run ahead taking shelter to watch my father, who never ran in his life, walking very quickly towards me, with his special fast walk. This entailed walking briskly whilst both arms performed different motions: one would pump pack and forth furiously as if he was an extra in Metropolis. The other arm however, would simply stream out behind him, like a rudder, giving him direction: its importance implying that without this stabilising influence he might career out of control and hurtle into a nearby display of rock and postcards causing untold havoc, and severe damage to essential holiday supplies. But the voice was still the same whether he was walking at a leisurely pace, or steaming along like a racing yacht.

The funny thing is that only a few years ago I found myself doing that same greeting, beaming at total strangers like some drug crazed hippy: frightening! But as to the walk, I don’t think that I’m ready for that………… not yet.’

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