The One About When We Went To America brought back to mind a few of the phrases that our dad was wont to use, particularly at times of high stress, like for instance when you tried to get him to spend money.
The trip to America was supposed to be just for him and our mother, his hoy-palloy-ing with a millionaire in the players bar at Leeds Rugby League Club had resulted in acquiring two tickets for flights and accommodation for £7 a head, a bargain even in 1973 and he’d told me and Ned in no uncertain terms that we’d better behave ourselves staying home alone for those ten days – I was 16 at the time and Ned was 14 so it wasn’t such a big deal and there was always the threat that he’d get our Auntie Doris to come and look after us, I threatened to leave home if he did that so an uneasy truce settled the topic.
And then one evening when our dad was out playing snooker (like every other evening then) Ralph arrived at our doorstep to tell our mother that two spare tickets for the Vegas trip had become available at £7 a head and did she want me and Ned to go too.
Asking our mother to make a decision on how best to butter a slice of toast would be taking her out of her comfort zone of responsibility so asking whether she could authorise the spending of £14 out of the family budget was way beyond her comprehension, I think I sealed the deal by pointing out that I earned £7 every second weekend just by selling programmes at the rugby games for an hour, I may even have offered to pay for myself, she agreed, Ralph went and booked it.
When our dad came home from his snooker match he went crackers.
“Another £14 to find !!!” he bawled, “Do you think I’m made of money ?”
“Do you think I’m made of money” was always a favourite and as young kids we quickly learned that it was his natural response to any request for him to spend the stuff, “Do you think I’m made of money?” was the reflex reply to such things as “Can I have an ice cream dad?” so the question “Will you take us on a ten day holiday to Las Vegas and California dad?” in the winter of 1972 would definitely qualify for the “Do you think I’m made of money” kneejerk response.
“Where do you think you are, on your fathers yacht?” was another, “Can I have an ice cream dad?” would be followed by the sarcastic reply “Do you think you’re on your fathers yacht?” and of course the only thing that a five year old kid can reply to that sort of logic is “Yes, actually I do, can I have one then dad?” to which a slap around the back of the head would follow accompanied by “Cheeky bugger”
“You bloody idiot” was probably his most over-used phrase and accompanied almost everything that he commented on,
“Dad, I’ve spilt gravy on my trousers”
“You bloody idiot”
“Dad, I’ve completely wrecked your car”
“You bloody idiot”
…and “Ooooh thats dear” when told the price of anything, or “How much was that then” when you showed him anything that you’d bought, followed by “You can’t afford that” when you told him how much you’d paid, no matter what it was or how much you’d paid for it, even if it was free.
I once told him that I was taking my then-new wife out for a meal that weekend to a particularly nice restaurant.
“How much will that cost you ?” he asked as if it was any of his business
“About £20 a head” I replied
“You bloody idiot” he responded automatically, “you can’t afford that”
“How do you know I can’t afford it” I asked
“Because I pay your wages thats how”
…and I have to admit, on that occasion he did have a point.
Getting him to spend money on anything was always a struggle apart from very occasionally when he would surprise us all and bring home stuff that he’d bought where we’d never dreamed he would buy such stuff.
Like the day he walked in the house with a complete Wharfedale hi-fi system, Wharfedale being one of THE makes of top quality hi-fi equipment in the 1970s, he’d bought their top of the range amp, some very expensive speakers that were so heavy you could barely lift them unassisted, a record deck that took ages to work out the correct balances on the arm and a cassette tape player with more buttons and dial on it than NASA Mission Control at Houston, in one instant our dad had become a hi-fi enthusiast and we wondered if he had a fever or something for surely his wallet must be well and truly empty after buying all of this – but no, the Wharfedale factory in Shipley was one of his customers and he hadn’t exactly paid them for this equipment, more that he’d paid the security man on the gate for all this equipment, said equipment finding its way off the shelves overnight when the warehouse was supposed to be shut.
Like the day when he came home unannounced in a bright yellow Toyota Celica sports car, probably the last car in the world that you’d expect him to buy especially as he was actually considering buying an Austin Montego and some string backed driving gloves, “Bought it of an old jew-girl in Alwoodley” he explained, “It was her husbands and she didn’t know how much it was worth”, we never found out how much he paid for it but I suspect that it would have been considerably below market value for he didn’t actually like it, couldn’t get in or out of it without moaning about his back aching, but still, a bargain eh ?