Odd couple

0720/7th January 2023

Most mornings, I can muster the semblance of a reasonable mood.

Today I felt more inclined to box a few cat ears.

Even the bird seed went out late.

However, I was persuaded that getting out of the house would bring about improvements in my attitude.

Luckily, the camera survived being slung on the floor!

When sufficiently angry, I sometimes break things.

But I’ve not yet broken anything of value.

Camera falling on floor, was just further evidence of a bad start.

At the Post Office, nothing of interest had arrived.

All my life, mail has been important. In London where I lived until 1956, we had three mail deliveries daily. People didn’t call each other. They wrote quick notes which would reach destination within hours.

Having moved to Cambodia, my parents could hardly expect anything quite so prompt. They rented a PO Box and my father went daily in search of letters.

If something had arrived, he would emerge from the post office waving it triumphantly and then would sit in the car opening and reading it while my mother pleaded “let me see!”

If there was no mail, father would return to the car looking grumpy and muttering darkly: “nothing!”

Sometimes I think he preferred bad news to nothing.

Later on, at some expense, Dad got a subscription to the New Yorker which he always read cover to cover. Until the end of his life he kept that subscription and I think I may have heard more moans about its late arrival than about any other single subject.

Although until my parents came to live in the States, there were also perpetual moans about the overseas service of the BBC and the difficulty tuning in thereof:

“Damn Russians jamming again!”

When Dad lost interest in the New Yorker, I knew the end was near.

The two staples of his life, that magazine and Shredded Wheat. In Asia, in 1956, he will have had to make do with something else, although when my mother and I arrived six months later, she quickly made friends and before long we were benefiting from the American PX and I’m sure shredded wheat was provided.

Always with sugar and hot milk. But not too hot or Dad would complain about that.

In London, if his dinner was too hot, he had opened a window and put his plate on the sill.

Mother simply uttered another exasperated: “Smithy!”

For many years, my parents lived in Barbados where mail was delivered in the afternoon by a chap on a motor scooter.

Positioned in the office window, Dad got annoyed when the mailman was perceived to be late.

Everything was precision-timed by my father. When we flew anywhere, he expected to be airborne at the time listed as departure.

He would look at his watch as we taxied and give an update of how late we were.

Surely he did not get this from his time in the army? In WW2 things could hardly have been precisely timed.

Eventually, my parents returned to England which was cause for a whole new set of complaints. After Mum died, my dad came to live out in Washington so he could be near me.

It seemed awful that I did not share a residence with him, but it would have been more than I could endure. Running back and forth to his condo was punishment enough.

When he first arrived he was in my spare room and got his first look at a computer. He was 89. He decided he’d like to have one so he could get email and follow the cricket scores.

That Dad wanted to ’embrace’ technology was admirable.

The trouble was, when I tried to show him how to do things, he wanted to know why. Why did things work that way? What does this mean?

A techie would have been able to explain, but I had long given up, myself, trying to understand anything. Which made me a poor teacher.

Once Dad got into his email he would sit typing, pounding on the keyboard the way he used to on his old Olivetti which drove my poor mother demented.

“What is he writing all the time?” she would ask crossly.

My parents were the original odd couple.

5 thoughts on “Odd couple

  1. When I went to boarding school at the age of 12, I wrote a letter to my parents every second week. And they would sent me a parcel once every month accompanied by a long letter (that was almost better than the rusks and cookies that was also in the parcel) 😀. It’s good to have memories like you have shared now … sometimes good and other times maybe not all that great, but does it really matter?

  2. I remember sending letters and postcards which sometimes arrived the same day if I posted them early enough.
    I couldn’t have lived with my mum either, no matter how much I loved her. Spending all day in her company could be frustrating enough.
    Best wishes, Pete.

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