Monday, September 7, 2009

Fathers Day - a Retrospective

My Dad and I spend every single Fathers Day in Kingston McDonalds, bright and early in an approximation of clean clothes, eating tediously compiled food prepared by pasty skinned children earning a minimum wage toiling to provide me with breakfast that looks nothing like the picture. The man who illuminates the Mcdonalds burgers is up there with the artisan who drew Michael Jacksons face on every frame of the 96 Brit Awards after the white light on silicon face made Jacko look like a dancing skull. It's not the food though, it's a tradition, and my Dad looks forward to it, and I guess I do too. Every year we get a little older and the people behind the counter get a little younger, and he picks over a copy of The Mercury just to curse all the people who got their letter printed instead of him. He sent 1ne 1nce to the Scottish broadcaster "Dougie" Donnelly in the early 90tys after "Dougie" had suggested that a player on Dads (and my) soccer team was a thug. He questioned the professional integrity of the broadcaster, and 2wo days later, got back a handwritten letter that was 10en pages long, refuting the claims, which to me just suggested "Dougie" had too much time on his hands. Still, "Dougie" was proactive, the Mercury didn't publish Dads letter. He mentions it every Fathers Day without fail, especially if some right wing philosophy slips through the editorial net. Someone wrote in and said the rain in Tasmania was not worth complaining about because it was cleansing. Well, didn't he go on about that, wondering what kind of idiot would write...my musings on my Dad as I study his furrowed teacherly brow are interrupted by the pleasant vocal tones of Misty. Misty is of course amazingly young and straight from a McDonalds recruitment poster. She has in her hands Dads coffee, which has taken so long to boil that if I was a talented and gifted comedian of Stewart Lee calibre I could come up with sort of cogent relationship between how long the coffee has taken to brew and an unrelated incident that also took a long time. Not that Dad would laugh anyway, he's buried in the obituaries of the paper - in itself a joke of some kind waiting to be developed, but Misty is impatient to serve the general public and the coffee is cooling in her perfectly formed young hands, and I must break my thoughts to take it from her, smile, and let her get on with the service standards she was born to spread...

My Dad incidentally logs onto the Internet and checks the obituaries in the Paisley Daily Express to see if his own Dad has died. They haven't spoken for 30ty years, and I think it was something to a christening shawl and yet at the same time nothing to do with the christening shawl at all. Like of lot of men of his age - him, the bloke across the road from us in Scotland, Rolf Harris on TV-AM - the most palpable frustration he ever showed that he and his Dad don't talk came when Mike and The Mechanics brought out "The Living Years", and he, like Rolf, burst into tears when he heard it. His Dad was typically brutal as most Dads of the era - certainly the 1nes who bob up in books that clutter up the shelves of my local bookstore - seemingly were. My only memories of my Grandad are very formative, of him bringing round piles of "Kevin The Kitten" books for me to read 1ne day or something like that. I've never spoken to my Grandad, never sat in a dimly lit fast food emporium with him picking him on errors of grammar. I'm not comfortable with small talk, but I'd like to ask my Grandad what it's like to live a life where pettiness and jealousy and stupid fights dominate your landscapes - a life lived in triviality, a life lived in arguments and petulance, where you know bowls scores from 1965 but not your own Grandchildrens birthdays. And he might have a perfectly good reason for the falling out that I don't know about, and he might say, well, it's fine to say I've lived in triviality, but what about you, you woke up today and threw a DVD box across the room violently because BMX Bandits was jumpy when you put it in. And I would say you are a 90ty year old man, what do you know about BMX Bandits? But we won't have that discussion obviously. And since I'm a place surrounded by cherubic children smiling up genuinely at their fathers - the plastic clown almost ruining it with his cheesy insincere Glitteresque smirk - I find it kind of sad. It also makes my decision when I was 6ix to adopt Whiplash from the He-Man cartoons as a potential alternate Grandfather seem somehow viable...

Dad always gets the same thing every year. In addition to a side order of political hectoring, he always gets a sausage and egg McMuffin without cheese. Every year, sausage and egg McMuffin, no cheese. Every year. Every single year. I have to go and get this mythical food source, because sausage and egg McMuffins pre cooked come with cheese, and Dads has to be specially made. Every year. So normally I'm standing in the queue for ages while snot nosed kids in tracksuits elbow their portly father in the ribs and wonder what's taking the Scottish eedjit in the fancily patterned jumper so long. I shrug meekly every year as if to apologize for my Fathers culinary taste. This time however, basic things are going horribly wrong. Coffee isn't brewed, hotcakes aren't hot, and as for things with no cheese...trying to piece all this together is a boychild, no bigger than a large coke, just as pale as Misty but a lot more ginger. His badge says Andy, his face says a swear word, and his mouth says standard McDonalds issue words of apology. Behind him brown shirted drones throw things in blenders and cookers and stoves and out the window in the desperate hope that somehow they will conjure up a muffin. Oddly, the 1ne thing on my tray while this chaos is going around me is a Sausage and Egg McMuffin without cheese. That was apparently the easy bit this year. It's ready to go, it's ready to be eaten, it's not as good as the picture but it's ready to be devoured anyway. I should if I was a fair and equitable son tell him that this year it was my order that held us up, that left him sitting on his own for ages while I hopped from foot to foot praying Kingston opens a Starbucks soon. Well, not that, maybe a nice independent coffee store with tasty pastries. But of course, I don't tell him that, when I get back to the table I obviously roll my eyes, throw the muffin in his direction and mutter darkly about people who don't like cheese. Misty meanwhile is throwing incredibly vile and unprofessional shapes in the kitchen as she takes charge and tries to fix the coffee and chip chaos that threatens to tear an entire world apart. She almost, almost, uses the c word, but it's a dreaded and awful insult to label someone in a time of crisis as "the cook" so she restrains herself, and tries to find out just where the hell my coffee is, my own personal fetcher laid bare by the strains of a Fathers day queue, a creation ripe for novelisation or a terrible Wayne Hope sitcom...

Truth is, my relationship with my Dad is what it is. Explaining every nuance is tiring, explaining how we got here, why we sit here, it'd take too long. My relationship isn't necessarily unique, or special, any more interesting to a casual observer than Mistys relationship with sanity or the ginger kids relationship with his virginity - I'm making an assumption of course. However what is interesting to me is that each year, we add a layer to the experience, some sort of private joke or dis-interested sigh is added to the mix, and in the car back to my place I'm able to say how his silly desire to not eat cheese (don't tell him) caused a perfectly pleasant young girl to lose her mind. Somewhere in a council flat in Paisley an old man sits in his chair watching Grandstand or Sky Plus, deprived of this interaction by circumstances so pointless it's frightening. And 1ne day, we just won't go - either he'll be too old or I'll have kids or a commitment and then 1ne of us won't be around forever, and that's that - our seat up the back near the demented grinning clown will be taken by another family who choose speed over culinary excellence. Maybe it'll be a young father struggling to calm his child down, or a father who can't find the words to tell his son he loves him, or a father and daughter that sit in perfect contentment. So I treasure the time we do have together, cheese or no cheese. Being Scottish, this happiness and treasured memory is shared by me slagging off his driving schools and wishing I was adopted, and him saying I am adopted and I was the silliest child in the Romanian orphanage, but hey, that's just us. I save the deep and meaningfuls for quiet time in between ripping open packs of Football cards on the floor, and trying to brush the taste of Mcdonalds out of my mouth intermittently, while at the same time yelling at my inept useless football team with flecks of Colgate bouncing off the bathroom mirror...

If someone was around to sing Magic Moments, I'd hit them for being ironic...

6 comments:

Baino said...

Sometimes it's what's not said that counts. Although you must be some tight arse to take your Dad to Macdonalds for breakfast! Jeez. You're fortunate Miley, you have a living Dad - shame about his Dad though, it obviously irks him . . Nurture your relationship while you can because I miss mine more than a quarter pounder with cheese and a chocolate thick shake on a long journey south!

Kris said...

I spent some of my Father's Day watching my kids get filled - allegedly - by Al Jazeera [English] TV harassing seagulls.

I'm hoping that it turns into a far more impressive anecdote that ventures into fatwa territory...

Good to see that the incident relayed in last year's Fathers Day McDonalds story didn't repeat itself.

Kath Lockett said...

"....our seat up the back near the demented grinning clown will be taken by another family who choose speed over culinary excellence."
Gold, dear Miles, gold!

And why a sausage mcmuffin anyway? Aren't they just reheated door mats? Bacon-n-egg every time, mate!

the projectivist said...

That was beautiful, Miles.
You made me cry.

Ann oDyne said...

Perry Como says:

Magic, moments,
Memories we've been sharin',

Magic, moments,
When two hearts are carin' . . .

Time can't erase the memory of,
These magic, moments,
Filled with love!

*goes off ... whistling*

Miles McClagan said...

It was his idea to Mcdonalds all those years ago, so the tightness of my buttocks is not in question. I think the chocolate thickshake is an undervalued drink by the way - not in McDonalds obviously, theirs is horrendous...

No, this year there was no swearing, and I'm glad on checking last years entry I was consistent in my feelings this year from last. I last harassed seagulls on the end of the pier about 2wo years ago, but alas I wasn't filmed, perhaps I was doing it wrong!

He likes what he likes. This is a man who has been known to refer to Sunday as "Boiled Egg Day"...he is a consistent man!

Thanks mate - I do what I can!

And what I can't do sadly is match the evocative tones of Perry Como. Such a jaunty man...