I’m lying on my bed in my tiny bedroom listening to Roy Harper’s second album. I’m eighteen and full of angst and rebellion. My dad’s pottering about outside my window, scraping paint off the frame and repainting the window. Roy is singing ‘Circle’ and I’m listening intently to the lyrics:
“I had to pass all of my exams
The old man said I had to be the best one.
I had to do this and I had to do that
They really kept me under constant pressure.
And why aren’t you the captain of the cricket team?
Why aren’t you the genius of the class?
It’s about time you pulled your socks up me boy
Otherwise you’ll get a rude awakening….’
It was all very appropriate for someone taking A Levels and trying to break away and discover some identity and individuality.
It didn’t occur to me that my dad would actually be listening to the lyrics as well, but later he came and talked to me. He had listened to the words and taken them all in. I think they had hurt him. He seemed genuinely concerned that I was identifying with all this social rebellion and was feeling aggrieved at the way I was being treated. Did I feel that they had pushed me? Were they making undue pressure on me?
I reassured him that they hadn’t. Indeed quite the opposite, I would most probably have benefited from a lot more pressure from them. He seemed reassured. But I hadn’t been completely honest; I still felt the weight of expectation that was coming from my parents. They were desperate for me to excel and make something of my life. That was what I reacting to. My mum in particular saw me as a budding little genius. I was destined for big things.
These things were largely unspoken but I felt the pressure. In hindsight I can see that they gave me a remarkable amount of freedom and there was very little stress – but that was not what I was feeling at the time.
We did not have many heart-to-hearts, my dad and I. He was a quiet man who kept himself very private. It might equally have been my fault though. I don’t think I was in too receptive a mood for the best part of thirty years – by then it was really too late. I had my own life and it was very different to his. I had different ideas on what I wanted to do with my time. I have different expectations, values and ideas. He had to stand back and let me go my own way. It must have been very difficult. I’m finding it impossible to do the same. Watching your children making, what you consider to be, mistakes, is not easy.