Family Magazine

Reflections of My Father

By Mmostynthomas @MostynThomasJou
Reflections of my father

My father on holiday in the ’60s, a decade before I was born.

Can it really be that long?

Ten years ago today, my father died surrounded by his wife and daughters in a local hospice. He’d been living with cancer for nine months – and left this earth just three months shy of his 60th birthday.

I have many memories of my father, and in honor of his tenth anniversary, there are a few that I’d like to share with you.

My father was kind, courteous, modest, a little formal, good-humoured, patient, and eccentric. He was also very tolerant, a quality that must have come in very handy as the patriarch of a predominantly female family.

Together with my mother he made creative alchemy – from ties to quirky trompe d’oeil furniture and homeware to flying bird mobiles – although finance was his profession. He worked long hours in the City for many years, so he’d make his presence felt at the weekend or on Friday nights, when he’d bring home a giant bar of chocolate for all the family. (When I went to boarding school he continued the tradition to an extent, sending me 100g bars of Cadbury’s Dairy Milk or Bournville in the post every now and then up to age 15.)

The long working week – and of course that reticence – meant that my father never seemed to go much beyond a supporting role in my life. He was very good at it though; never took over anything I did as a child, but instead worked hard to foster my own budding creative exploits, be it film-making, visual art, or writing.

Reflections of my father

Another of my favorite pictures of my father from the ’60s. The comb-over came much later.

I probably inherited some of my idiosyncrasies from my father. Aged seven I watched him filling a skip with discarded pieces of wood from a DIY job on the tiles, fascinated by the distressed pastel paint tones some came in.

Reader, I am ashamed to say that the next day, I asked my father for a pink plank as a birthday present. It can’t have been lost on him that painting one specially for me was cheaper than a Sindy doll. (Mind you, he did make a meticulous wooden replica of the family home for me at Christmas that same year – one of his most painstaking pieces of creative DIY.)

“You are your own woman,” my father would say, the affection in his voice clearly reflected in his face. He wasn’t making it up.

Of course we had differences when I became a teenager. I didn’t agree with my father’s Catholic principles, although I could see that he was simply bringing to everyday family living a sense of morality that had been honed over generations of close-knit Mostyns.  Indeed I do think on some level he rather liked that I could be incredibly stubborn, just like him. Whenever I expressed adolescent defiance, he’d say with the dimples dancing on his cheeks, “You will always be my little Melissa.”

That was just one of many terms of endearment my father had for me.

“You are my favorite middle daughter,” he’d say on other occasions.
“But you only have one middle daughter!”
“Quite right,” came the assured reply.

As a child of the ’70s I was lucky enough to have witnessed what has been called the UK’s golden age of children’s television, enjoying programmes like Take Hart, The Adventures of Morph, Tiswas and Multi-coloured Swap Shop.

One programme I’d make time for was Screen Test, memorable mostly for Michael Rodd’s bouncy hair and the short films or animations made by children selected for national TV broadcast as part of a weekly competition. I’d watch week after week, envying those young auteursand wondering if I’d ever get a chance.

Reflections of my father

Screen Test in the ’70s, featuring Michael Rodd and that bouffant hair.

My father cottoned onto my new enthusiasm and bought a Super-8 camera which I used for various animated experiments, usually featuring Plasticine models, paper collages and hand-drawn sketches. He even built a wooden film-making workshop in my bedroom, complete with a simple light-box and primitive splicing equipment.

However excited I was by the prospect of making my own shorts, I found stop-motion animation agonizingly slow. So the rest of the family had a go with the camera, and my father even took it on our travels to France and Italy – which probably explains why some of my clearest memories of him are in fuzzy Super-8.

I keep rewinding to that comb-over, again and again and again. Following his marriage my father never saw a barber again, choosing instead to rely on my mother for his haircuts and laugh off others’ teases about his receding hairline. Those manoeuvres he used to do in the wind, to try and avoid the comb-over flying up! Once when my father was having an informal photo taken in the garden, a sudden breeze caused it to shift behind ever so slightly.

Upon seeing the developed print, my father’s luxuriant eyebrows took the form of praying hands. “The camera CAN lie,” he quipped.

However eccentric he was, my father introduced me to strong behavioural values that I always find helpful to remember in tough times. He was a steadfast man with steadfast beliefs, and I have him to thank for my portfolio career in the arts and media.

Ten years may have passed, but those Super-8 images I have in the mind of him will never stutter or burn out under a too-hot film projector. Here’s to you, Daddy.

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