Andy Richardson: Hero, friend and captain, to the wisest owl in town
It’s a one-way ticket to grey hair and an empty bank account. Parenting is one of life’s illogical choices, an opportunity to discard your identity, ruin existing friendships, downgrade your career and sacrifice all that you’ve worked for and dreamed of for the sake of a dependent other.
A friend once told me that when you become a parent it’s the first time in your life that you realise there are people more important than you. That’s true. The scales fall from your eyes. Perspective changes. Selfishness packs its bag and finds another person on whose shoulders to rest.
It’s also the greatest thing ever and I imagine my dad realised this when he decided to start a family. He must have done, why else would he extend it with another, then another?
Freddie Hunt says not a day has passed during the past 27 years when he hasn’t thought about his father, James. Paul Weller talks about his enduring love for his father, John, who managed his son for 30 years and with whom he shares a unique father-son bond. It’s immortal. Not a day passes.
I’m fortunate. My dad’s still around. We talk most days. He’s the wisest owl in town. Throughout an unconventional life, predicated on creative decisions and following dreams, he’s been steadfast in his support, just like Weller’s dad, John.
When I think back to highs and lows, he’s always been there. He was across the boundary rope, heart in mouth, when I hit my first ball for six when playing cricket for West Bromwich Dartmouth under-16s. When relationships have disintegrated and tears have flowed, he’s been the one who’s told me it’s going to be alright. Though he might have been more risk-averse than his youngest kid son, he’s invariably been right.
The things he loved when he was my age – theatre, sport, music and the like – are now the things I cherish. If imitation is the sincerest form of flattery, then I’m all in. The things that were my dad’s hobby have become my working life. My living has become the things I grew up watching him do.
There were rows too, of course, when my teenage self rebelled against limitations imposed by those who knew better. How could he have lasted the course with a son who for two years at least was his own personal nightmare? How does love endure the worst and worst of times?
He looks ten years younger than he really is. And it’s not just his youngest son who dotes on him; an older brother and older sister hold him in the same regard, showering him with affection and expressing gratitude and humility for the lessons he has taught, the love he has given, the counsel he has offered, the warmth he shows.
I remember scoring my first book deal, in the typically circuitous route that I call ‘normal’. I’d been interviewing the brilliant and still-dearly-missed actor Pete Postlethwaite over a period of time, but had grown bored of knocking out 1,000 words on whatever he was up to. I asked him if I could write his book, he said yes – though really meant no, he was just being polite – and asked me to go down to London to see him in King Lear. I took my dad.
We did. We sat through a blistering production in which Postlethwaite reached new levels of brilliance then met him in the bar, when most people had gone home.
“What did you think?” he asked. I answered, truthfully, marvelling at his work.
Then he turned to my dad and asked the same question. He answered and went on to talk about the other productions of Lear he’d seen, offering remarkable insight and context. It was like watching a professor deliver an award-winning lecture. They talked, I stood there, marvelling at my secret weapon (thanks dad) and the beautiful actor who I grew to love and who later conferred the honour of letting me write his book.
As they wrapped up their chat, Pete turned to me and said I was on. I could write his book. This time, he meant it, he wasn’t just being polite. We drove home through London, the world’s greatest city at night time, past the landmarks of Parliament and Big Ben, in a dreamland. My dad hadn’t been trying to get the deal across the line, he’d just been being himself, doing the things he’d always loved doing, engaging in the arts, talking honestly about what he saw, treating people with reverence and respect.
He’s still doing that now; not just to actors and people off the telly, but to the milkman, the postman, the guy in the shop, his neighbours and his friends. An enthusiast, a truth-teller, a family man whose greatest love is his wife and the man who I call hero, friend and my captain oh my captain, he is the best part of me. Happy Father’s Day, old fella. We all love you.
Sorry, we are not accepting comments on this article.