The Reason Why I Support Oxford in the Boat Race ...

19 June 2011

The reason that I chose to support Oxford in the boat race is because my dad did. I had, and still don't have any interest in the boat race, or indeed sport in any shape or form. But when that annual day came around and you had to opt for Oxford or Cambridge, I wanted to be the same as my dad, so Oxford it was.

My dad was a huge influence on me when growing up, and still is in some forms today. I think I am probably more like my dad than my mum in some ways; we're both nostalgic to the years we grew up in, he shaped my musical tastes with his 70's vinyl, we both have a mild case of OCD, we'd both sooner buy the Radio Times than the TV Times, we love Macaroni Cheese and detest milk .... I could go on.

My dad was the stricter of my two parents. I remember being banned from watching Grange Hill in case it should lead me astray (but that was nothing compared to the girl next door who was banned from watching Rentaghost in case it made her 'mad' ... yes, really. There was also the spell of not being able to play outside of our own back garden on a Sunday. Back then, Sunday was the grown-ups day of rest and they didn't want to hear children playing out in the streets. Fair point dad, I can see your thinking now. I never really questioned anything my dad said as I assumed, without question he was right. He's my dad and he knew the answer to everything. Now as a parent myself, I expect he was winging it at times like I do, but he never gave that impression and that in turn gave my childhood a feeling of comfort, warmth and security.

Through my childhood eyes I very much saw my dad as head of our family. He worked hard at his job doing shift hours and when at home he worked hard around the house. He was always doing something practical; gardening or battling with nature down the allotment, making homemade beer or working under the bonnet on string of 'unlucky' cars.

He is strikingly intelligent and has an appetite for knowledge and the arts. I don't think that rubbed off on me as I'm not particularly intelligent in any academic kind of way. My brother is more that way inclined - I'm creative. My head is too full of pictures, colours and patterns to hold onto any knowledge. I can't see it changing now. As children, my dad would instill into my brother and I how important it was to work hard at school and how it would go someway in shaping our future. I can see that now. My dad's education failed him and he wanted more than anything for us to succeed. I always wanted to please my dad and make him proud. A highly skilled job, native in several languages and a love of Shakespeare and Opera I don't have, but I do have a strong work ethic, which I like to think came from him. I still always push myself in everything I do, sometimes when I don't always need to. I wonder if it is something deep within me, an ingrained habit looking for 'approval', needing to 'please', wanting to 'step up and beyond expectation' from way back.

I know my dad is proud of me. He was proud when I got my degree and he is proud that, together with David, I have my own business. To me, he is slightly disillusioned: my degree is in Art and therefore creative not academic and our business keeps us ticking over - business woman of the year I am not. But maybe I'm just doing that 'pushing myself to the next level' thing again. See what I mean? But,  who knows it could have been much much worse if I had been allowed to watch Grange Hill.

My dad lit a lot of sparks in me that have made me who I am. Take his love of nature. I remember as a child looking at his collection of 'Observer's Books'. My favourites were 'The Observer's Book of Birds' and 'The Observer's Book of Wild Flowers'. My dad has always done his bit for the world of animal welfare. My first beloved pet was a cat called Dinkie. She was a kitten from a litter of stray cats born in one of the hangers at Heathrow Airport, where my dad worked. The cats were deemed a nuisance and were to be destroyed, so my dad bought one home. She lived a happy life with us for 15 years. When I was very young we lived on the top floor of a maisonette which had huge windows. There were lots of Dutch Elm trees around which homed a lot of birds and we'd sometimes have them flying into the glass of our windows causing themselves a little concussion. My dad pick up the dazed birds and would care for them until they were recovered. It's the kind of thing dad would do.

I wanted to find a photo of my dad with me as a child to put with this post, but I don't seem to have any (other than the one I opened my first blog post with). So I've used this picture of my dad, taken a few years back with Lily. Like me, she adores him. She hangs off his every word as I did as a little girl and I love seeing them spending time together.

And, for the record, yes I do still support Oxford in the boat race and will forever more.

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