Sunday, June 17, 2007

Mon Père, Ce Héros (Happy Father's Day)

The Humphrey family out for a meal.


I've been a bit of a rubbish son. My dad doesn't have a father's day card, and it looks like he won't get it till tomorrow or the next day.

But, inspired by Andrew's posts about heroes and Lauren's recounting of her nana's time in London, I thought I would try and resolve the whole caboodle and write something I've been meaning to write for a while.

Something about my dad.

It took me quite a lot of time when I was younger to realise just who my father was as a person. He'd was the one who spoke authoratively about a wide range of topics when I was younger, was 18 in 1966 (bloody brilliant, eh?), loved Cream, 'knew a little bit about a lot', worked in advertising and was just 'my dad'.

But all of that changed when I was about fourteen. My gangly adolescent self looked admiringly at my father's bag of oddly designed implements and went to a knackered shop with a few mats and yardage markers outside. Inspired by my dad's enthusiasm for the game, I took up golf, started to go to the driving range (being a lefty, I was hitting balls the wrong way round according to him), simply enjoying being there, watching us get much better one day and worse the next, as is the way of all things.

Gradually though, we started to improve. I'll never forget parring a par three my first time out on a proper course, despite shooting a cricket score, or the look in his eyes when we'd both walked off the 18th.

From that point on, my relationship with him irrevocably changed; we weren't just father and son, but we were competitors. Not versus each other, but versus the elements, enjoying the ebb and flow of wandering around green patches of countryside. I think I grew up a little bit from that point. I realised that my dad was more than just 'my dad'. He suffered from imperfections just the same as everyone else.

He could swear like a sailor, really, really wanted to win and do well (he still does, and his eyes still light up when talking about his latest round), and was Mike Humphrey, husband, father of two who suffered from the same worries and concerns as I did, whether it was at home, work or about the future.

Above: Puckrup Hall, our local course.

Fast forward five years, and I'm in the second year of University. I've not touched a club for a little while, and I'm on a driving range - and it's not going well. Left, right, left. Like watching a perfect army march illustrated by hooks and slices through the air.

I think to myself 'This isn't surprising'. And it isn't. I've had a few bad moments on a course, and every time I come back to it, it makes me more cross. I'm too competitive, too used to being a reasonable player to serve up this crap.

Yet I still go back there once and a while.

I'm teaching one of my best friends from University the game. We talk a bit, shoot the breeze, and despite my poor performance, I begin to enjoy myself again. Naturally, I talk about my dad, explain a bit about him and his love of the game and life in general. All sorts.

It's then my friend pipes up. 'You really respect your father, don't you?'

And I have to stop.

I nod and say yes, but the question's been planted.

I think about it a little bit later on in the evening, and rethink what I should have said:

'Of course I do. He's shaped how I am today. My manners, my strange little regional ways of pronouncing things (as dad lived all over the country when he was little), and my BBC English accent. But it's more than that - he's my friend, someone I trust above all. I call him when I'm not sure of what to do professionally. I can really talk to him, and he just gets it.'

Fast forward another four years to today.

I've not played golf for a few years and....oddly, I'm in the same profession as my father. He's an account handler (the MD of a regional agency based in Cheltenham), and I'm an account planner.
And it's not just a case of 'doing what dad does', a cop out because I didn't know what to do.

Far from it. I tested and rejected a lot of career paths before this one, and dad was there, not forcing me to do anything, offering guidance when I considered my potential choices, and allowing me to be my own man. I won't lie, when I finally chose advertising and realised planning was the career for me, he was (and still is) delighted for me.

Which makes me very happy, and bores my mother and sister to tears when we talk ads, which we'll do over a few pints at our local. Golf has much the same effect, but I think that's just a prewired Humphrey male trait; to talk far too much about our interests to the point of boring the rest.

I won't lie to you, my dad is my personal and professional hero. Through him, I learnt the importance of common sense, of trying your very best no matter how good or bad you are at something, and never, ever giving up on something you believe in and really, really want.

Professionally, he loves leading a pitch, presenting good work and making clients happy. Personally, he loves being dad, who both my sister and I can rely on. Such is the measure of the man, I still call him whenever I'm making a career decision.

He shaped my childhood and he still does today, albeit in different ways. I couldn't have wished for a better role model.

So dad - have a happy father's day. I'll try to remember to post my card on time next year.


Anonymous said...

Great post Will, poignant and heavy hitting stuff.

Doug said...


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