The Power of Parenting

2022 ended on a very sad note for my family. On September 13th my 87 year old dad fell over in his kitchen and broke his hip. 

Despite clearly being made of very strong stuff, ultimately he never recovered fully and passed away on December 15th.

This blog is dedicated to the man who taught me to be a feminist and a writer, without even realising what he was doing.

My dad was born in 1935, four years before the start of WW2, into real poverty and hardship. He was the eldest boy of six children, and my Nan was, in his words, heavy handed with the copper stick. He told me once that there was only one pair of shoes which he and his brothers had to share, so they took it in turns to go to school. Apparently being poor was no excuse for not being shod and you weren’t allowed in if you were barefoot! Elitism strikes again.

To supplement their meagre food supplies he learned to hunt. Rabbits and pigeons were poached from wherever he could catch them. I suspect the odd pheasant and deer were on the menu too, but the local Duke’s land was well guarded by the gamekeepers. 

The advent of supermarkets and convenience stores did nothing to halt his hunting ways, and so when I was old enough to hold a small rifle, he taught me to shoot. I clearly remember wedging my Sindy doll in the fence at the bottom of the garden and taking pot shots at her! If any of you remember, Sindy did have an overly large head! Great for target practice.

He took me rabbiting with lurchers and ferrets, he showed me how to fish and how to train a dog to retrieve. Sometimes we would go with his friends and their sons. I heard the term tomboy, but I never applied it to myself, because I never felt like a boy, I was just me, and that’s how my dad treated me too. 

When I was 9 I started at the local middle school, it was 1977. We had flares, platform shoes and The Bay City Rollers, equality was, however, very much on the back burner. Much to my absolute surprise, girls weren’t allowed to wear trousers as part of the school uniform. Obviously we hadn’t been able to at primary school either, but I had clearly grown out of white knee high socks and woolly tights always fell down! Trousers were the way forward, and practical too. 

Cue my militant father, with his help I compiled a petition outlining why the girls should have as much right as the boys to wear trousers.  I managed to procure the majority of the girls’ signatures and some of the boys too. The outcome was a partial victory for women’s rights! We were to be allowed to wear trousers for the Autumn term. Hooray!

I have never understood why as women we have different rules to men, I just can’t fathom it out. But I put this mindset down completely to my dad and I can’t thank him enough for it. I am the person I am because he taught me that my own determination and drive to achieve something isn’t curtailed by my gender. As a writer, I feel that I have stories to be told. The amount of women that I have listened to, who have told me their stories is phenomenal. I want to get those stories out there because change is not wrought in silence. 

“As for my girls. I’ll raise them to think they breathe fire.” - Jessica Kincaid


Griselda Heppel said…
Your dad sounds a wonderful person. I am so sorry for your loss. It must have been particularly hard to accept the man who’d been so strong and such a fighter all his life weakening suddenly like that. And what a brilliant father, teaching you survival and encouraging you to be just the person you are. Super post, thank you for sharing this.
Susan Price said…
I send sympathy too, Carol. It's very hard to lose a loved parent.
A lot of your post rang bells for me. As a child, my Dad took me on long walks and taught me how to trespass-- the right way to get past a barbed wire fence, for instance, without getting entangled. Once in, how to tell if anyone else is nearby (you listen to the birds).
I don't remember him ever catching anything but he told me things he'd learned from his father and grandfather about stroking fish, setting snares, using weighted throwing sticks...
I took all this as simply interesting tales. It wasn't until I was quite adult that I suddenly thought: Hmm. Was it my fore-fathers delight on a moon-lit night...? If they were, good for them -- and good for your dad too.
Peter Leyland said…
That's a great story about your Dad Carol and about your trouser protest in the 70s. I was then at an Educational Priority Area Comprehensive School where there was no uniform, but the girls were forbidden to wear trousers. In my first year the girls decided to go on strike about this, left the school and congregated on the playing field across the road. It worked and the senior staff gave in. I still have the newspaper cutting somewhere. Great to read about your own success with this issue and your tribute to your Dad.

Thanks for sharing the stories in your blog.
I'm very sorry to hear about your Dad. I think it's hard to recover from a broken hip as you get older. But what great memories! I thought my childhood was adventurous as we were always out playing on the beach and in the local quarry on our own, but yours was much more exciting!
Carol-ann said…
Thank you very much everyone for your very kind words.

Carol x

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