Words that flow...

Words and images - powerful elements of our everyday life. Most of the time we take them for granted, but sometimes something happens to make you aware of how important they are... and how thankful you are to have the opportunity to use or appreciate them. Here lies some of my words and pictures (which are untouched apart from cropping, unless I've said otherwise) - Please add your words to mine, and leave a comment. Thanks for visiting!

14 January 2007

That'll be ninepence!

(Dad and his mother were evacuated from Le Touquet in 1940)


14th January - Dad's birthday.

I was going to put on a poem I did about my dad today. The poem, however, didn't sum him up as I wanted to. In fact, I just couldn't find the words. But I wanted to say something about him today.

I woke up, knowing many years ago we would have been celebrating his birthday... Going through our customary 'hunt the pressie' (where we'd all shout 'warmer, warmer, warmer...' when he got close, 'Cold, no, freezing!' when he was far away, and 'Hot! Boiling hot!' when he was right on top of it :-D ).

*****

He would have been 76, had he lived. What a strange thought. I only ever knew him young, and most of the memories I have of him will be from childhood... He died just over 20 years ago.

Actually, although he died young, he died happy! For quite some time, he and my mum had planned to get into their camping van, and tour Europe. This wasn't a new idea... even though we had no money for bills or clothes, every summer when the fruit-picking season finished, there was cash in the bank... and into the camper (a huge, converted, bright orange laundry van called "Two ton Tessie") we jumped, and off we went - stopping as the whim took us, driving with the back doors open to let in the air, and often being mistaken as part of a french circus. Many a time, people came out and wave as we passed!

This next trip was different though - we four kids had grown up and had our own agendas. It was to be a holiday for just the two of them.

So, mum and dad had planned their trip, and awaited the arrival of dad's passport. They waited and waited. Then, finally, on the 2nd April 1986 his passport arrived, and with little time to spare before their planned departure. He was so excited. Now there was nothing stopping them... they were finally free of financial burdens (ever since dad had started an ornamental conifer nursery) and they wouldn't be tied to an itinery which revolved around youngsters. They were to have a kind of second honeymoon!

Unfortunately, dad died a very short time later that day. I suspect it was the excitement. But, how I see it now is that he died having just had good news. It is a better way to go than many others.


*****


But, that isn't what I was going to write about. I was going to say something about how he lived. This is what I remember him more for, and this is what's been crossing my mind today:

Dad had a saying "That'll be ninepence!" Did it mean anything? Not a lot, I guess. It was just his jokey way. If one of us handed him a broken toy, he would persevere in fixing it- whatever it took...and, no matter how long it took, when he proudly handed it back and we thanked him, he'd say, "That'll be ninepence!"

If we needed help with an essay or project, he had every National Geographic magazine since the early 1940s, and could tell you in which exact magazines there were articles to back up your work. He would clamber over the sofa to the top shelf, grab this one then that one, and hand them all down to you until you were stacked up in front. Then, with a twinkle in his eye, he'd say, "That'll be ninepence!"

If a shoelace snapped, or the schoolbag broke open just before school, or your favourite ornament smashed, or a music tape snapped... somehow or other he'd always manage to fix it... And it always cost ninepence.


(Married in a small church my mum's home island of Samso ['o' with line through], Denmark)


Whatever he did for any of us, he did with love and pride and the desire to give us everything he didn't feel he'd had as a child (emotionally as opposed to financially). And each time he could fulfil that desire, he charged us for it... The price never went up or down. Inflation had no say in it. From when we were titchy, to way past the years we considered ourselves full adults, the price was always the same. How he came to that amount I have no idea. It's not as if there was a ninepence coin. There was a sixpence (sixpenny piece, it was called) - that would have been more logical - but not nine....

The thing about it was that he didn't expect us to ever give him ninepence - he'd have been horrified! It was his way of closing the contract so we no longer owed him, I think. I don't know. Maybe it was his way of putting it on a 'the deal is done' sort of level...

So, these were the predominant thoughts that ran through my head all day.... his soft-spoken voice, and eyes crinkling as he smilingly toted up the cost... "That'll be ninepence"

I could write so, so much more about my dad and his eccentricities, but today I just want to remember that loveable, giving, caring, wonderful man, who would do absolutely anything in the world for us, no matter how huge, nor how long it took, and would want no more thanks than this imaginary charge.


(Dad, Mum, Jim and Michael)

© Annelisa Christensen 11:05 pm

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18 Comments:

At January 15, 2007 2:17 pm, Blogger red-dirt-girl said...

Hello girlfriend!! Happy Birtday to your Dad and a belated one to you too!

Where are me hankies??????? this one got the tears rolling again....so sweet a remembrance.

He sounds like such a fun dad - a bit of a kid himself. The photos are wonderful - a right, handsome couple (now I see where your beauty comes from!)

I especially love the part about Tessie the orange van.......how your family would jump in and like gypsies just follow the whim of the moment. I always wanted to run away and join a circus when I was little..........I would have thought a life like this to be so very much fun!

love ya'
rd kitty

 
At January 15, 2007 5:13 pm, Anonymous Brian said...

Lovely tribute my dear to such a interesting man. I sense though, that even all of this is not what wanted to say, but merely a shadow or an echo of your true feelings.

Thank you for writing these loving words.

 
At January 15, 2007 10:59 pm, Blogger QUASAR9 said...

Hi annelisa,
So I take it you get your good looks from your mother.

 
At January 16, 2007 2:02 am, Blogger My Marrakech said...

What a beautiful post. So touching. It makes me want to write my Dad right now and tell him how much I love him. and maybe I will! Thank you.

 
At January 16, 2007 3:16 am, Blogger Mother of Invention said...

What a wonderful tribute to a fabulous dad! He did sound very happy even though he died young...only a few years older than I am now.

When he said that'll be nine pence, I think he was just pulling your leg to make you realize that he did it purely out of love...and there's no price tag on that. It is given as a gift. I think tht speaks the loudest for him and his kindness as a dad.

They both look like such kind genuine people. Do you think you look like your mom or dad? I think I can see your dad in you.

Hope he's enjoying birthday somewhere today!

 
At January 16, 2007 3:18 am, Blogger Mother of Invention said...

I meant to say "his birthday cake somewhere today"!!! I'm doing that after I'm in the land where you never have to worry about sugar!

 
At January 16, 2007 9:31 am, Anonymous Anonymous said...

My Dad died just over 15 years ago this March. He had such a happy life and was an evacuee who was packed off to the States as a child. We spent so much time togeather but I lost contact when I went to university. Soon after I got married but the hurdygurdy of everyday life kept us apart. I have some old photographs on the mantlepiece that look very similar to yours. After university and (eventually) when the kids got older my Dad spent a lot of time with me and the children. We had some wonderful times and my husband (at the time) and him got on marvelously. I'm sure my oldest boy is a bit of a lookalike. Every March I spend time thinking of him and going through the old photo albums. My only regret is that I and my siblings ended up torn apart over wills and legacy's after his death - which seems such a waste now and we still do not really talk. My husband ended up abandoning me as in a very shallow way he could not handle the grief I felt. The net effect was pretty awful and I have spent years trying to get over it. So now ehenever I feel alone I spend time with the thoughts of my Dad. Such a lovely man.

His eccentricites were many but underneath everything a lovely lovely man.

You've jogged some memories on a winters day.

 
At January 16, 2007 11:23 am, Blogger Mystic Rose said...

hi annelisa,
a wonderful and interesting post!
what a nice way of remembering him, and im glad you shared it with us.
looks like you had a fun and eventful childhhod! no wonder you are still child like in some ways!!

hugs!

 
At January 16, 2007 4:57 pm, Blogger Annelisa said...

Thanks R-D-Kitty! Sorry, I really must put some tissues in the sidebar sometime :-)

Yes, he was a fun dad. He was also very fiery and tempermental, yet also artistic too... as with all of us, there were many sides to his personality.

Two-Ton Tessie was a brilliant van. Dad gutted it and built all the seats, table (which folded down into a bed) and cupboards himself. He put in a gas stove and fitted a huge water bottle with a tap, which we filled at the corner hydrants found in many villages and towns on route.

The van was pretty much self-sufficient, and we indeed travelled like gypsies. I don't know if you saw my early post about my gypsy great grandmother? I didn't know at that time that my grandfather was trying to escape his roots. I only knew he was the manager of a really huge hotel (Le Golf Hotel, Le Touquet, France - destroyed in the WW2) and he always seemed so posh.

My dad also told me, when I was younger, that we were descended from the Earl of Montrose (Scotland) and Sir Francis Drake. Of course I believed this, and it was because of this that I started the family search many years ago. Although there were indeed Drakes and Grahams in the lines on dad's side, I never got it back that far... So, inconclusive.

I digress. Because of these claims to nobility, I'd always assumed there was a lost heritage somewhere. Turns out that the gypsy heritage was the one being buried! Maybe that was why dad had the wanderlust in him... But it sure was great! For three to four weeks every year we totally relaxed (with occassional blazing arguements :-) ) on the road...

Brian - you're very astute, and absolutely right, I did have a lot more to say, but decided just to try and stick to one or two things.... One day, I'll write a whole piece (probably not here) about my dad, and all he was to me. One day...

Quasar9 - Are you insulting my father? Or flattering me? :-D Must come over and say hello... I haven't had a lot of visiting time this last week or so... hopefully will soon!

Maryam - if one thing coming out of this post is that you write to your dad, then I'm glad I wrote it!

I did wonder whether I would end up being over-sentimental and gushy, because I'm really missing my dad at the moment. If I'd known how much I would miss him, I think I would have made more of an effort to keep contact before he wasn't there anymore.

MOI - y'know, I think you're right! I think that's exactly why he said it... he had a lot of faults, but the lack of love wasn't one of them!

Mum and dad were genuine, loving people. You always knew that they were up-front. There was an openess and honesty in all their emotions, conversations and way of life. God, I miss them!

I think I look like my grandmother on my mum's side... this is what everyone tells me, anyhow. And when I look, I can see it. Dad was an only child, so I have no relatives on that side to compare with... But, I'd be happy to resemble my dad (without a moustache and beard, as he had later in life :-D )

I'm sure he had a lovely cake, wherever he is!! (He did love his cake, and had to watch what he ate in his last few years... so I'm betting he's making the most of it just as you intend to!! :-) )

Hello Anonymous. Thanks for stopping and saying hello.

Unlike your dad, my dad never saw any of his grandchildren - something I'm very sad over, as he loved children, and I think they would have loved him.

I know what you mean about sorting out wills and possessions after a parent's death. When my mum had to move into a home a couple of years ago (Alzheimer's) we had to empty out her house... What an emotive time that was.

There were things of my father's, mother's and my brother's (he died over 10 years ago aged 38)... On top of the emotion of losing someone, the memories and what's done with the possessions can all be just tooo much. My sisters and I had a few extreme arguements at that time, and some stuff was said that 'cut to the quick'.

It took a long while to recover from that, and I reckon we wouldn't have done if our relationship beforehand hadn't been so strong. I think a lot of childhood stuff is close to the surface... even stuff you don't know that's there.

I'm sorry your husband left you while you were grieving, and at a time when you needed someone there. I guess there are a lot of people who just don't know how to handle grief - a big part of which is society's fault for making it such a secretive and taboo subject! :-(
But, that doesn't make it easier for you.

I hope, though, one day you might forgive him his ignorance... I truly believe that some people, until they've felt it themselves, just don't 'get it'. It's not their fault. They haven't been raised to know what grief is, and how that grief needs to run its course, however long that takes. It doesn't mean you can't go on with life, just that there's also this other side to you, where you miss a person whenever certain things are said, or certain memories raised...

I hope, also, that you now have someone - a friend, partner, someone- to share life with now!

I don't think of my dad all the time (usually have a lot else on my mind) but when I do, it's with affection, frustration (for not being here now) and with an uprush of memories... Now, I think of him as he was - good and bad - because that was the person who raised me to be who I am... My dad, who I love still, even though not here.

I'm glad you have such happy memories to jog!

Mystic - Thanks!

My childhood was definately unusual, and a lot of fun and good times were had. There were also many hard times (such is life), but I think you are right - my love of life not only stems from grasping what's left while here, but also from the passion for it I was witness to as a child.

Thanks for the hugs... hugs back!

 
At January 16, 2007 5:55 pm, Blogger Sanni said...

Sorry for being so late... I´m a bit sick at present... so I read this wonderful post about your Daddy while I´m in bed.

Thanks so much for sharing this beautiful tribute to your Daddy with us!

 
At January 16, 2007 10:32 pm, Blogger Annelisa said...

Oh dear, I wrote an answer to you earlier, Sanni... but guess what?! It's gone again!

Oh well, I came over to yours anyhow, and spoke to you there!

Hope you're keeping your feet up!

Big hugs!

 
At January 17, 2007 7:45 am, Blogger TopChamp said...

I'm glad that you have such good memories of your Dad.

This entry is lovely. It made me smile. I'll be back later.

 
At January 17, 2007 6:05 pm, Blogger Annelisa said...

Hiya Topchamp! Thought you were staying off blogging during the week???!!! :-D Ha ha! Didn't last long!

 
At January 19, 2007 1:02 pm, Blogger that frolicsome kid said...

Hey annelisa! I'm sure your Dad will be elated to receive this birthday pleasant surprise from you, if heaven actually has PCs. Nevertheless, I am really happy to read a post dedicated to your dad, on his birthday. Really sweet of you!

Did you keep the passports with you all this while? It's pretty old! =)

At least your dad died happy, albeit young. But wow, he missed travelling around Europe, huh? =(

His phrase is very catchy. "That'll be a ninepence".

Wow, his love is really everlasting! You have such a great father! And hahaha, I saw a bit of you in your mother's face!

Sigh, I hate to admit this, but I find myself undervaluing and under-appreciating my parents many a times. I feel so sorry for myself. But then, I don't know, I don't speak to them like how I speak to my friends. It's like... Oh, I don't know how to say...

I'm glad that I'm quite close to them despite them though. It's like without saying it out, there's this strong love that binds us kids together.

Okay, I know I don't make much sense, because I seriously do not know how to phrase out my inner emotions, but I hope you know what I mean, annelisa! Thanks for the blog post! =)

 
At January 19, 2007 6:44 pm, Blogger steve said...

I'm trying to catch up a little bit...I can't believe its been a week since i have been here... do you have any baby pics of yourself, bach before you had hair, that you could post and compare with your present day look? That would be fun, I think, as the infant brother in the pic I hads assumed was you. Very similar facial structure.

 
At January 19, 2007 11:11 pm, Blogger Annelisa said...

Reckon, if there'd been PCs invented in my dad's time, he would have used them for the pursuit of knowledge, and probably to keep in touch with people.... I have conjured up an image of him sitting uncomfortably, but determinedly, at the computer...

I have lots of old documents and stuff... things that've been passed on, and also documents (on an ancestor being accused of being a horse-thief; and another where an ancestor died of a 'lacerated' [cut] spinal chord, having fallen drunkenly off a speeding cart, and saying "I am dead".. interesting stuff!!) I not only like this stuff, but have developed a love of it since I did my family tree... I love the investigating and piecing together of lots of tidbits of information...

Don't you believe it about not travelling round Europe!! He was born in France, and we went back there as a starting point as many of our 'European' tours (course, it wasn't called 'Europe' then...) I'm betting, once free from physical restraints, he whizzed round all the places he'd dreamed of going :-D

Don't worry about under-valuing your parents, FK. That comes over time, when you realise what they went through for you. At your age, it's more natural to feel like they're trying to shape your life, or they have too much control, or they just don't understand you! :-) And, if you didn't feel closer to your friends than your alien parents, I'd be surprised!!
I have to say, I don't recall having a true understanding of my parents, until I realised they were actually human beings, with lives of their own... and it's not until you break free from them that usually comes. C'est la vie!

Just tell them every now and then you care, and mean it, and they'll be over the moon (take that from someone who knows! :-))

 
At January 19, 2007 11:18 pm, Blogger Annelisa said...

:-D Only one baby pic (about 2yrs old) that I know of, Steve... I'm not sure where it is at the mo. I'll post a pic of myself and my brother (the other died in infancy) and two sisters... you can guess which one was me!

 
At January 20, 2007 1:44 am, Blogger that frolicsome kid said...

Hahaha, thanks annelisa! =P

 

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