I don’t really have five Dads. I have one Dad, but he has developed a number of alter egos since he turned 60.
He has a default setting, but quite regularly deviates from this into one of his alter egos.
Dad #1 (Default setting): My Dad is 63 but thinks he’s 80.
Default Dad slopes around in hideous clothes, a jacket (indoors) and a woolly hat. He loves nothing more than doing nothing. He’s always in a rush to get everything out of the way so he can concentrate on doing nothing. He lives on Tesco pies, cheese sandwiches and orange juice.
He listens to melancholy country music and strums three chords on his guitar.
He has 2 mobile phones but has only just worked out how to send texts.
He listens to cricket on the radio.
He has a side table covered in photos of all our dead relatives.
He has a morbid fascination with illness and death, and every time he calls, tells me of all the illnesses his friends have and of all the people who have died.
He has also become obsessed with taking photos of people, but doesn’t have a camera, as won’t work out how to use one, so the whole family have photos that he wanted, which we have to get printed and send to him.
He spends 80% of his time as Default Dad…old before his time. The other 20% of his time is spent as Alter Ego Dad…
Dad #2: My Dad thinks he’s Mr Miyagi
Since 1990, Dad has been going to Karate. It’s good for him, keeps him fit, and he’s become best friends with his instructor, Muslim Mike- the IT Guy.
Dad has never bothered to achieve any belts, but he’s not bothered about that.
Recently he has been introducing other people to the Karate Club, but doesn’t approve of their technique and has taken it upon himself to critique their performance as if he is a Karate Master.
He has even started writing lists of all the things he feels people are not doing correctly and then tells them about their deficiencies outside of the Karate Club arena.
Obviously, he’s so confident in his karate skills, that he doesn’t fear any physical reprise for his meddling. Why would he, he’s Mr Miyagi.
Dad #3: My Dad thinks he’s immune to the perils of nature.
We have a farm in Ireland, on the West Coast. It’s the farm that my great Grandfather had and my dad inherited it.
It’s right on the coast and we used to have a private beach until the family sold some land to a Golf Course.
The Atlantic on the West coast of Ireland is freezing. Even in the summer. Invincible Dad insists on going swimming in ‘his bit of sea’ whenever he’s there.
In August, he called me from Ireland to tell me he’d been for a freezing swim and had hurt his back, so had been for another freezing swim to try to fix the muscle pain (like that would help).
Whilst having his swim, impeded by the back pain, he saw a head appear from the water, about 10 feet away. He stopped swimming. The head submerged and reappeared, 6 feet away. Then another bigger head appeared behind it. A male and female seal were investigating.
Dad got a bit freaked and swam away a bit. The seals followed him. Dad got a bit scared. He chucked a rock, not at them, but in the other direction, to try to distract them. It didn’t work. Invincible Dad then resorted to his failsafe seal repellent method; Splashing about, waving his arms and shouting “Fuck off, seals. Fucking, fuck off! Go on. Fuck off. I HAVEN’T GOT ANY FISH!”
That seemed to work. The Killer seals retreated, and Invincible Dad swam to safety.
He called me on Christmas eve to say that he’d been for a swim in the sea, the previous day. Following the swim, he’d been on the roof, trying to nail tiles back on, in 140kph winds.
I told him he’d better be careful, as the cold could give him a heart attack and/or hypothermia. I’ve made it clear that if he does die during one of his Invincible moments, and get washed up in America, he can stay there, as I won’t be going to bring his corpse back. He has said he’ll stop. He won’t. Why should he? He’s immune to the perils of nature.
Dad #4: My Dad thinks he’s Bear Grylls.
We have another house in Lincolnshire. It’s the house that my parents bought in 1972, and it was my first home. When they split up he moved to Nottingham, and my Mum and I moved to London. The house has been Dad’s weekend hideaway since 1981.
As it isn’t lived in, it is in a bit of a state of disrepair. I haven’t been there for 17 years.
The heating was run from a Rayburn, which is now defunct, so the only heating is the open fires, which we have in 2 of the bedrooms, the living room, dining room and hallway.
My Dad loves it there, and goes there at least every couple of weeks.
While he’s there, he often sets himself challenges.
A few weeks ago, in late November, he decided to live for a week, with no electricity, just to see if he could.
He had no TV, radio or music. No cooker or lights or emersion heater.
He used candles for light, so read his gigantic book of The Complete Works Of Shakespeare. He used the fires to cook and heat water for tea, and washing.
He lasted a week, and reckons he doesn’t see what the problem would be with living like this all the time.
In the summer, he decided to only eat what he had grown. He lived for a week on potatoes, cabbage, rhubarb and mint. No salt. No Pepper. No butter. No sugar.
After this week, he had more or less decided he should go and live off the land in Ireland.
He also walks straight past the bathroom, to go out of the backdoor, so he can piss in the hedge.
I’ve told him that living with only flames for cooking and lighting is ridiculous, considering he doesn’t have a smoke alarm. I told him that although his veg is healthy, he can’t have a diet with no protein. I’ve told him to stop pissing in the hedge, or one day a fox might bite his cock off.
He said he wouldn’t do it again. He will, though. Why shouldn’t he? He’s Bear Grylls.
Dad #5: My Dad thinks he’s Graeme Swann.
My Dad loves cricket. My brother and I also love cricket. My Dad’s proudest achievement is that he has spawned two children that love the five-day game.
He’s forever telling people I could bowl with both arms by the time I was 2, and that my bro is a ‘tidy little leg spinner’.
Most people wind down their sporting feats as they get older…not Graeme Swann Dad.
He had stopped playing for years but, approaching his 60s, he decided it was time to start playing again. He joined a team. He’s about twice the average age. They call him The Old Codger.
He now captains this Sunday Cricket team. He’s been top of the bowling averages for the last three years, with his slow off spin.
It makes him forget that he’s in his 60s and makes him feel like a 30 year old.
This is great, except when he tries to perform physical activities that the average 30 year old would find difficult.
Last time I went to visit (to see England vs India at Trent Bridge) he picked me up from the station…barely able to move.
When I enquired what ailed him, he told me “old age”.
This wasn’t entirely true. He had torn a muscle in his back whilst performing a caught-bowled on a county cricket player. Not an easy task for anyone let alone a 63 year old man.
I have told him that he needs to be careful, and that he can’t go around throwing himself through the air, trying to catch a ball, milliseconds after he’d bowled it.
He says he’ll be more careful. He won’t. Why should he? He’s Graeme Swann.
I’d prefer the alter egos were present for more than 20% of the time, as he seems a lot happier when he’s performing those roles. He won’t change though. As much as I try, I’ll never be able to teach my old dad any new tricks.