Today I’ll be hanging out in North West Scotland. Surrounded by beautiful mountains, rivers and wildness. I won’t be with my Dad on Father’s day but I’ll be thinking of him a lot. I wouldn’t be here if it weren’t for him. I’ll be toasting him with the single malt whisky he bought me a while back.
My Dad’s a kind, gentle man. Rarely a cross word uttered or voice raised. Not one to force his opinions on anyone or look for confrontation. A clever man, full of knowledge accumulated over a lifetime. A font of obscure information that often comes out of the blue. Able to source the most useful of items from his garage or shed at a moment’s notice. A lover of liquorice allsorts.
Throughout my life he’s been there in the background, an ever present safety net. There to scoop me up when something’s gone wrong, to work out practical ways to solve my problems, to gently encourage my love of the outdoors and the environment.
I think I spent more time with my Dad than most of my peers as a child. I certainly got more of him than my older brothers did (sorry John & Mike). Mum went back to work full time when I was 7 and, to make that work before the days of after school clubs, Dad was able to work flexible hours and get home to pick me up from school most days.
We watched after school cartoons together, he took me swimming, he was in charge of food some nights too. The infamous dad fry-up, curry and Friday shepherds pie are legendary in our family. He gently brushed my hair and put it in bunches. Dealt with my tears and tantrums when I just couldn’t get my head round my maths homework. When I fell off too many horses to count he picked me up and took me canoeing instead. He spent hours walking round woodlands in search of art projects with me. He introduced me to music. He packed up my room on my last day at university when I was too hungover to move, no judgment in sight. He talked work with me, even distracting me from the nerves of my wedding day by discussing the merits of anaerobic digestion in the car on the way to the venue.
It wasn’t until I became a parent that I really started to appreciate how much time and love all of that took.
Most Wednesdays and Thursdays he’d get home from work and immediately take me out swimming. A whole day at work, probably knackered but willing to whisk me away to the pool. We did a bit of swimming but my lasting memories of that are of fetching bricks from the bottom or seeing how far we could get down the 33m pool without coming up for air. The same often occurred on Saturday and Sunday mornings too. It engendered a love of messing around in water that’s carried on into the rest of my life.
As a teenager Saturday mornings were spent at the pool with our canoe club or, over winter, driving some ridiculous distance to find a river to kayak in in the cold and damp. Dutifully loading all the kit in the car and boats on the roof with never a grumble.
Summer holidays in my teens were spent in Scotland so that I could go sea kayaking with anyone willing to take me out. I have many happy memories of being out on the water with him, seals all around us, spotting huge jellyfish in the depths, drinking hot tea and eating treats on a beach we could only reach by boat.
All of those experiences have led me to where I am now. Without those experiences, gently encouraged and enabled by my Dad, I wouldn’t have changed career, I wouldn’t be helping others get into open water, I probably wouldn’t have taken some of the amazing opportunities at University or travelled as bravely as I did in Patagonia.
All of those things built resilience and an understanding of the world that I didn’t appreciate at the time but I do now.
So, thanks Dad you’re one in 7.7 billion and I love you very much. I’m so happy you’re mine xxx