Typing up that short extract from the Beryl Bainbridge story in the Penguin Book of Modern British Short Stories gave me a taste that I couldn’t leave alone. I did something I can’t seem to do these days. I took a book to bed with me. This poignant little tale demonstrated how a man can sometimes be side-lined in his own home. Thinks go on around him, when he is not there, because of him and in spite of him. It is easy to assume that the husband/father figure is too insensitive to realise what is happening. The Charlie in the title role of this tale is all too aware of his situation, “Perish the thought that our Alec should be the one to be excluded. I’m only the blasted bread-winner.”
I hadn’t given much thought to how women and children can shunt a father into the sidings until my “baby” sister sent me a poem she had written about our father.
My father went to work by bus each day,
some office on the other side of town,
to do a job that didn’t have a name.
Refused to raise his voice or make a fuss,
he used to have a temper we’d been told,
perhaps the competition was too much.
Told stupid stories we had heard before.
Weekends gave up his match to watch our film
and taxied us to parties in the car.
He never really seemed to have a say,
or voice his thoughts about our daily life
although we’d never listen anyway.
But at his funeral all these people came
and said they’d never see his like again.
If you want to read more about Charlie in Beryl Bainbridge’s story then you are in luck because teachingenglish.org.uk, a co-production between the British Broadcasting Corporation and the British Council has been kind enough, with the author’s permission, to provide the whole story online.