Thursday 18 June 2015

A teller of tales

My dad was a teller of tales. He knew that the truth, the actual facts about anything, needed honing and shuffling about to make a story. He loved an audience. He’d sit at the head of the table when we had visitors and tell the same old stories, the ones that made Mum and me roll our eyes, because we’d heard them so many times, and because we were almost always the stooges. And sometimes Dad would slip in something new, and you’d listen as he told it, thinking ‘what’s this, I haven’t heard this one,’ and in the end it would turn out to be a joke embroidered with reality to keep you listening.

He was much in demand to give speeches at conferences. If his performance was anything like the speech he gave at my wedding, he deserved his reputation. Imagine the perfect father-of-the-bride speech. You get the silly stories and the little digs: at me, at my new husband. You get the references that take in every group in the room, so that we’re all in it together. You get his pride and his good wishes. I’ve got his speech on video somewhere, and now that he’s gone I’d like to find it, to watch him in full flow, notes he scarcely looks at in one hand, gesturing with the other, looking around to involve everyone in the room.

I get being a reader from my mum. She’s a book-a-day type reader. I’ll never keep up with that, but it was she who nurtured my love of books and my constant need for new and involving stories. Dad was never a reader. Reading fiction simply wasn't his thing. But I think perhaps I get being a storyteller from him. Certainly I feel I'm having a Dad moment when I’m telling my children about something that’s happened and I find I’m framing and adjusting the facts so that there’s a satisfying punchline. And when I'm writing and I realise that I’ve woven into my entirely fictional narrative some real event or experience which has been crying out to become part of a story, maybe that instinct comes from Dad too.

Thanks Dad. Miss you.

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